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by Suzanne Kuuskmae, posted by Deb Shaw

Olga Ryabtsova, Magnolia, silverpoint

Olga Ryabtsova, Magnolia, silverpoint, © 2019, all rights reserved.

Silverpoint is a traditional drawing technique first used by medieval scribes—silverpoint drawings of Old Masters can be seen in museums around the world. Some artists who worked in silverpoint include Jan van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, and Rembrandt.

Silverpoint is a metal media that leaves a mark on a prepared abrasive surface. It is known for its fine, delicate lines, as well as its high archival qualities.

Olga Ryabtsova will be teaching a silverpoint workshop at Destination: Art Studios and Gallery
Saturday, November 2, 2019
9:30 am – 3:00 pm

The cost is $85.00, with an additional supplies charge of $25.00, payable on the day of the workshop. Registration is online on the Destination: Art website here, and is now open. The workshop is limited to 13 participants.

All supplies will be provided for this class by the instructor, including: stylus with silver point, paper, and suggested subjects. You may also bring your own simple image if you wish.

Olga will demonstrate how to apply the ground, as well as how to make the delicate strokes that quickly build a beautiful drawing. The additional supplies charge of $20 is payable at the workshop directly to the instructor.

Destination: Art is located in old, historic Torrance at:
1815 West 213th Street, Suite 135, Torrance, California 90501, (310) 742-3192,

About the instructor

Olga Ryabtsova is a member of Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California (BAGSC) and serves as the Exhibitions Chair. She also belongs to the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) and serves on the Board. She has a Master’s Degree in graphic design and illustration from the Moscow University of Graphic Arts, has worked for international advertising agencies, as a photojournalist and a commercial photographer.

Olga has been drawing since she was a child. After moving to California in 2015, she became fascinated with the local native plants and botanical art. Olga works in many techniques, including watercolor, oils, etching, silverpoint and ceramics. She regularly teaches drawing and painting for children, and conducts workshops for adults.

by Deb Shaw

Melanie Campbell-Carter will be giving a presentation at the Natural History Institute entitled, “Scallywags, Gloryhounds, Visionaries and Conservationists: Stories from the Arader Collection” on March 21, 2019 at 7 pm (Arizona time).

The presentation is free and open to the public. Everyone can attend, since the presentation will be livestreamed at:

Images by Mark Catesby, one of the artists featured in the Josephine Michell Arader Natural History Print Collection.

Images by Mark Catesby, one of the artists featured in the Josephine Michell Arader Natural History Print Collection.

Melanie will share little-known histories about the fascinating people behind the Josephine Michell Arader Natural History Print Collection images currently on display in the Natural History Institute Art Gallery.

Her talk explores the larger-than-life personalities represented in the Natural History Institute’s art exhibit. “I kept finding plenty of scallywags,” Melanie reports, “and had to dig really deep to find conservationists!”

“One was a draft-dodger; one’s spouse was guillotined; quite a few were rebels; and it’s fair to say most of them were very, very stubborn. The more I learned about these people, the more I wanted to know! I am delighted to share a few stories and appreciate the art in a deeper context.”

The Natural History Institute is located at 126 N. Marina St., Prescott, AZ 86301, (928) 863-3232,,

Melanie Campbell-Carter

Melanie Campbell-Carter

About the presenter:
After retiring as a family practice physician in Texas, Melanie Campbell-Carter discovered her passion for botanical art and moved to southern California. Still a BAGSC member, Melanie moved to Tucson, Arizona in 2017, where she quickly became enamored of the plants of the Sonoran Desert.

Melanie’s art has been displayed in numerous exhibitions, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and St Petersburg, Russia to name a few. Her paintings are in permanent collections at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Kauai, Hawaii, and at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, Brody Educational Center in San Marino, California.

Melanie has recently begun a two-year group art project based on the life and botanical art of Sara Plummer Lemmon. (Mt. Lemmon in Tucson is named for Sara Plummer Lemmon.)


by Deb Shaw

There are still a few spots available for BAGSC’s first Basic Botanical Art Workshop: A Day of Skills and Techniques for All Levels. Join us on:

Sunday, January 27, 2019
9:00 am to 3:00 pm

at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

for a day of mini-workshops and fun exploring techniques and supplies.

Cost, BAGSC Members: $50
Non-Members: $60

Register online at:
Bring your own lunch or purchase from the Arboretum Café.

This day of botanical art is designed to allow participants of all levels an opportunity to enjoy a hands-on botanical art experience in different mediums. The day starts with a presentation about botanical art. Then, each participant can choose any combination of four (4) one-hour, hands-on workshops taught by skilled BAGSC instructors. Registration is for the entire day—no pre-registration for individual workshops is required.

Participants may choose to sit down with different artists to experience techniques applied to creating botanical art. Currently scheduled are:

  • Creating 3D forms by light to dark shading in graphite
  • How to do a watercolor wash
  • Easy color mixing in watercolor (NEW—just added!)
  • Dry brush techniques (NEW—just added!)
  • Using pen and ink in scientific illustration
  • Drawing with silverpoint
  • Color pencil techniques in botanical art
  • Labeling your painting with calligraphy
  • Creating 3D forms by light to dark in watercolor
  • How to draw a leaf in graphite
  • Using mixed media in scientific illustration
  • Graphite tips and tricks
  • Perspective for plants
  • Watercolor pencil techniques

BAGSC teacher members will be sharing their skills, displaying some of their works and bringing information. Currently scheduled to participate are:

  • Cristina Baltayian
  • Diane Daly
  • Akiko Enokido (NEW—just added!)
  • Sally Jacobs
  • Lesley Randall
  • Olga Ryabtsova
  • Gilly Shaeffer
  • Deborah Shaw
  • Ellie Yun-Hui Tu

All basic supplies, including paper and paint, are included in the price. Additionally, most artists will bring special supplies to share that can be used with their techniques. Participants are welcome to bring some of their supplies if desired. Please see the lists in the right-hand column of BAGSC’s website about the class.

Questions about the Workshop? Contact the BAGSC Education Chair.

by Deb Shaw

California Current, colored pencil by Nina Antze, © 2018.

California Current, colored pencil by Nina Antze, © 2018.

There are still a few seats left! Nina Antze will be teaching her color pencil technique in a two-day workshop at the Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance in February:

Non-Native Invasive Plants of the Madrona Marsh
Workshop in Color Pencil with Nina Antze
February 7-8, 2019

Madrona Marsh Preserve Nature Center
3201 Plaza del Amo
Torrance, CA 90505

$200 for BAGSC members, $250 for non-members

Learn about the non-native invasive plants at the Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance, California. Participants will tour the nature preserve and select an invasive plant to use as their specimen. Participants can remove as many specimens from the preserve as they would like!

Additionally, BAGSC members are invited to submit works for the exhibition “Non-Native Invasive Plants of the Madrona Marsh” to be held in the summer of 2019, opening June 1 and running until August. Nina’s workshop is a great opportunity to get your artwork started for submission to this important exhibition.
Exhibit submission deadline: May 15, 2019
Questions about the exhibition? Contact Olga Ryabtsova, BAGSC Exhibition Chair.

To see more details and to register for Nina’s workshop: go to BAGSC’s website at click on “Classes” and then on “Class details” under the workshop name, OR go directly to

by Kirsten Rindal, posted by Deb Shaw

“Using Light to Create Realism in Botanicals”, taught by Robert McNeill at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, October 3-5, 2018 was an amazing 3-day workshop!

Robert began with a thought-provoking quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “A painter should begin every painting with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where it is exposed to light.” We were all inspired by the meticulous approach and techniques, and how he used light to reveal the drama, depth, form, transparency and detail of the subject.

Snapshot's from Robert McNeil's workshop.

Snapshot’s from Robert McNeil’s workshop.

He discussed the importance of capturing the effect of light, how it requires controlled tone/value to describe the relative lightness or darkness of color, creating an illusion of form. When we perceive tones/values, they are always relative to each other and never seen in isolation. Therefore, simultaneous contrast is always at work. Being able to create and control tonal/value gradation in watercolor is an important skill to acquire, along with the ability to see them and record them accurately. This controlled effective tone/value can take your work to a higher level by creating “enhanced relations through convincing volume”. Robert’s painting of the Cardiocrinum gigantum was a perfect example of how a painting encourages the viewer to look closer by revealing detail that has been made more apparent by light.

During the workshop, Robert shared examples of his work to illustrate the process and techniques of using light to create realism. He stressed the importance of constantly analyzing the process as one worked. Generous with information, patient in answering every question, his enthusiasm, interest and support were always encouraging.

Robert reviewed ways to light your subject, explaining that correct intensity and direction of light for the subject is important to reveal aspects crucial to capturing its essence. He usually uses overhead lighting that is controlled. He noted that it is not always helpful to place subjects in strong light, as extreme contrasts can create more problems than it solves. His painting of Abies koreana ‘Carron’ beautifully illustrates how studying the play of light across all aspects of his subject creates a sense of drama. We were encouraged to think about lighting in the subject’s natural habitat, and what would be typical of natural lighting. It was suggested that we avoid overhead lights in a room, and also light from windows, keeping light consistent on the subject you are painting.

Documenting Stage:
Thorough and objective observation of the subject is key. Observe the subject from all angles to ascertain which angle would convey the most convincing nature of the subject. Carefully look for overlapping and foreshortening. (Taking photos as a reference is OK, but best not to rely on photos.) For details use eyes, and measure subject for 1:1 scale, carefully documenting information, as subject will change by growing, wilting or drying out. Observe the difference that the angle of light source makes upon subject for revealing visual strengths. Fifteen minutes were given to make three quick loose, linear drawings of our subject, the rose. Fifteen more minutes were given to make three more quick, linear/tonal drawings. Color matching was made at this part of the documenting process. He asked us to be mindful of the way colors are affected by the color next to it. Robert uses Winsor Newton transparent paints only, and always mixes his own greens and oranges.

Development Stage:
We began this part of the process by producing a full size 1:1 scale drawing, referring to documenting stage material to ensure accuracy. Robert shared examples of his work showing meticulous detail to be used as a reference for final painting. Next we were to make an accurate tracing from the drawing of our rose. The tracing was placed in a variety of positions before making a final decision and transferring it to watercolor paper. After transfer, it was advised to always re-work to produce more accurate drawing. He cautioned us about erasures on watercolor paper that can cause paper’s surface to breakdown. Robert also gave a tip about using a piece of silk and an agate to smooth a ruffled paper surface.


Lifting Preparation.

  • Winsor Newton Lifting Preparation may be used for ease in lifting paint for veins, etc.
  • Use 3 layers of lifting prep, allowing 2 hours of drying time in between each layer.
  • You may use lifting prep over layer of wash.
  • Best to only use in small areas, and be extremely careful not to go over pencil lines.

Ox Gall Liquid.

  • Mix 3 drops of Winsor Newton Ox Gall in ¼ cup water. Keep small marked water jar with this mixture separate from other water.
  • This mixture helps paint to flow easily.
  • You may use Ox Gall and water wash on paper first, and when slightly damp, add paint wash. Or, you may use Ox Gall and water and paint all at the same time.
  • Never use paint with Ox Gall for dry brush work. Keep paints and brushes used for dry brush separate.

Dry Brush Technique.

  • Using a Spotter, WN 000, Robert demonstrated stipples and tiny fine lines.
  • Robert used a separate plate with tiny dots of dry paint, moistening his brush with a damp sponge.
  • For texture, only hit the high points of the paper.
  • Can use damp brush on top of stipples very carefully.
  • It is important to avoid using one technique, rather use a combination of wash and dry brush. Continually analyze the process you are using.
  • Indian Yellow may also be used as a light glaze over finished painting…very carefully.

During the three days, we all talked about Robert’s useful ideas and techniques that made an impression on us. At the end of the class, works in progress were placed on a table for sharing. Robert emphasized the importance of seeing all work within the group as a valuable learning experience. Following are ideas and techniques that resonated with members of the class:

“I very much enjoyed learning how to make fast, free sketches while not looking for details, but instead seeing the overall shape.”
“Learning how to focus on the contrasts, especially the dark and light.”
“Watching Robert using a scalpel to release bits of dried paint from the paper surface.”
“Experimenting with Ox Gall as a wetting agent in the water jar, and learning how to use WN lifting preparation was very interesting and highly useful information.”
“Hearing the words: ’Slow down, think, organize and plan’ was a reminder to always approach work with pre-planned thought.”
“Importance of continually analyzing the process.”
“Reactivate the line after a trace to create depth as a reminder while painting.”
“Remembering to soften outside edges while keeping them sharp, yet light.”
“Using a damp sponge for moisture control when using dry brush techniques.”

The time flew by far too quickly! We are all grateful to Robert McNeill, both as a brilliant artist and as an excellent teacher. His meticulous attention to detail and thorough observation of his subjects are reflected in the light and form he achieves in his paintings. He inspired us to see the subtleties and nuances of light as we create art. Thank you also to the Education Committee for bringing him here, to Tania Norris for supplying the subjects, and treats, to The Huntington for hosting us, and to BAGSC.

by Jude Wiesenfeld, posted by Deb Shaw

Tacoma stans 'Yellow elder’, watercolor by Jude Wiesenfeld on 140 lb. Arches 11” x 14”, © 2018. Completed July 2018.

Tacoma stans ‘Yellow elder’, watercolor by Jude Wiesenfeld on 140 lb. Arches 11” x 14”, © 2018. Completed July 2018.

It’s not too early to start planning for next year!

Join BAGSC member Jude Wiesenfeld for her three-day Botanical Art Workshop: Watercolor on Paper, at the Desert Art Center in Palm Springs, California, January 25, 26, and 27, 2019. The cost for the three-day workshop is $200US.

This workshop will be an introduction to botanical art for everyone with some prior experience with watercolor. All participants will begin a painting while learning about the history of botanical art, basic plant and leaf shapes, creating studies and notes about a subject, and masking and composition.

Nandina domestica, Nandina, Sacred Bamboo, by Jude Wiesenfeld. Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches, 18.5" X 15”, © 2017.

Nandina domestica, Sacred Bamboo, by Jude Wiesenfeld. Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches, 18.5″ X 15”, © 2017.

This is not a BAGSC-sponsored workshop—enrollment is directly through the instructor. To enroll: email Jude Wiesenfeld and send a $50 non-refundable deposit (address will be supplied upon sign-up) by January 18, 2019 to reserve your spot. Payment balance will be collected the first day of the workshop.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima 'Pride of Barbados' by Jude Wiesenfeld. Watercolor on Kelmscott Vellum, 9" X 12", Completed March 2018.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Pride of Barbados’ by Jude Wiesenfeld. Watercolor on Kelmscott Vellum, 9″ X 12″, Completed March 2018.

The materials list is available on the workshop flyer, downloadable here.

The Desert Art Center is located at: 550 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA 92262, 760 323-7973. Directions and hours can be found on their website.

by Cristina Baltayian, posted by Deb Shaw
Cristina Baltayian’s botanical art workshops at the Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Garden begin again  October 2, 2018. These classes will explore colored pencils, watercolors, watercolor pencils, graphite, and some of us are exploring gouache, colored backgrounds, and more.

Regular classes will meet on Tuesdays. Registration is available on a monthly basis. Additional month-long sessions will meet in November and December, although there will be only three classes in December due to the holidays.

10am-2pm (includes lunch break) / Oak Room
$275 Arboretum members per month / $295 non-members per month (includes Arboretum Admission)

October           2, 9, 16, 23
November       6, 13, 20, 27
December       4, 11, 18 (only 3 classes – $205/$225)

Register online on the Arboretum website (scroll down to find “Botanical Art & Illustration” with links to the monthly registration).

Questions? Please call the Arboretum Education Department at 626.821.4623.

The Arboretum is located at: 301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007.

by Deb Shaw

Midnight (Eastern Daylight Time), August 31, 2018 is the last day to register for the American Society of Botanical Artists 24th Annual Meeting & Conference in St. Louis!!

Come spend time with fellow botanical artists, take workshops, and attend lectures. Spend quality time at the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the world’s top botanical gardens. Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest continuously-operating botanical garden and a National Historic Landmark.

The Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri will host “Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens, the Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial” exhibition of botanical art along with a companion, adjunct exhibition “Out on a Limb.” A reception for conference attendees will be held Thursday, October 11, and will also feature the slideshow of artwork from the 25-country Botanical Art Worldwide exhibitions.

To register, look at the descriptions and information on the ASBA website. Then go to the Conference Registration website to register. Scroll down on the registration site to see openings remaining in various workshops and presentations. There are a lot of openings left in wonderful workshops!

If you’ve already registered but would like to add a class, contact the conference registrar to request the additions to your registration.

by Deb Shaw

Li'l Stinky decided not to bloom after all, but provided a wonderful dissection opportunity! The Huntington team and the public got to see what's inside!

Li’l Stinky decided not to bloom after all, but provided a wonderful dissection opportunity! The Huntington team and the public got to see what’s inside!

We were all disappointed when Li’l Stinker, Amorphophallus titanum, or “Corpse Flower” failed to bloom last week at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The failed bloom, however, gave Jim Folsom, John Trager, and Brandon Tam the opportunity to dissect the bloom on Facebook Live to create an herbarium sheet (watch the dissection here on Facebook Live.

Then, lo and behold, not one but THREE more Corpse Flowers stepped up to the plate. Quickly dubbed the #TitanTriplets! All three plants, “Stink,” “Stank,” and “Stunk,” #CorpseFlowers can be seen in the Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science at The Huntington, along with a corm and a plant with a leaf. Daily updates, photos, and FAQs are being shared on The Huntington’s website.

“Stink” suddenly decided to bloom today! See it during public hours: 10 am – 5 pm. The two other #CorpseFlowers, “Stank,” and “Stunk” look like they have a few more days to go. But who knows…they might change their minds and bloom any time.

For more stinky resources (from The Huntington) #StinkyatTheH:

The Corpse Flower inspires creativity. Lindsay Brennan made (delicious!) Corpse Flower Cake Pops and brought them to Jim Folsom's Orchid Lecture for BAGSC members.

The Corpse Flower inspires creativity. Lindsay Brennan made (delicious!) Corpse Flower Cake Pops and brought them to Jim Folsom’s Orchid Lecture for BAGSC members.

The bloom (and smell) only lasts a day or so. If you’re coming to The Huntington this weekend to see and smell, be sure to stop by the Brody Botanical Center, Flora-Legium Gallery to see “Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens,” The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial, American Society of Botanical Artists, and “Amazing Trees,” the adjunct exhibition by the Botanical Artist Guild of Southern California (BAGSC). BAGSC artists will be on hand all weekend with drop in family activities and botanical art demonstrations. The exhibitions go through to August 27, 2018.

Another view of the chocolate Corpse Flower Cake Pops.

Another view of the chocolate Corpse Flower Cake Pops.

Deborah Shaw (L) and Tania Norris (R) took a few minutes to sketch Li'l Stinky.

Deborah Shaw (L) and Tania Norris (R) took a few minutes to sketch Li’l Stinky.

BAGSC member Tania Norris with her Li'l Stinky sketch.

BAGSC member Tania Norris with her Li’l Stinky sketch.

by Jude Wiesenfeld, posted by Deb Shaw

Lesley Randall with one Aristolochia gigantea flower. Photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2018.

Lesley Randall with one Aristolochia gigantea flower. Photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2018.

Lesley Randall’s workshop, held at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Acadia, was very informative, focusing on Aristolochiaceae, commonly known as the Dutchman’s Pipe Family of plants. Lesley began the workshop with a lecture on the origin of the Aristolochiaceae. They first appeared about 30 million years ago, when most of us were barely starting our careers!

We examined, both in hand and through our microscopes, the distinguishing characteristics to look for while drawing. Lesley encouraged us to write down measurements and notes on the specimens for future clarification in our drawings and to include for illustration work.

Aristolochea gigantea seed pod. Photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2018.

Aristolochea gigantea seed pod. Photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2018.

It was fascinating to see how the different techniques (stippling vs. lines) gave a variety of results. Sometimes a broken line worked better than an unbroken one! Lesley supplied great examples of this in handouts.

The final drawings are started with an outline and then the details are added with stippling. It is important to stipple with a purpose: i.e., namely to clarify a characteristic, show shape, create depth and/or show color pattern. Also, Lesley stressed how important it is to keep your paper, hands and workspace CLEAN.

Lesley encouraged us to research other artists’ work to learn about technique and mentioned Bobbi Angell as someone to study.

Two books recommended by Lesley Randall: "Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification" by Thomas J. Elpel, ISBN-13: 978-1892784353, ISBN-10: 1892784351; and, "Guide to Flowering Plant Families" by Wendy B. Zomlefer, ISBN13: 9780807844700, ISBN-10: 0807844705. Photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2018.

Two books recommended by Lesley Randall: “Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification” by Thomas J. Elpel, ISBN-13: 978-1892784353, ISBN-10: 1892784351; and, “Guide to Flowering Plant Families” by Wendy B. Zomlefer, ISBN13: 9780807844700, ISBN-10: 0807844705. Photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2018.

Lesley was a fantastic teacher and very generous with us all. I hope she will consider other workshops in the future.

[NOTE: click on any of the thumbnails above to view the images larger, in a slide show format.]

by Patricia A. Mark and Deb Shaw

Olga Eysymontt will be teaching two botanical art workshops this summer at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (LA Arboretum) through the Extension Program at Otis College of Art and Design.

The first is a two-day drawing and painting workshop, “Heirloom Tomatoes in Watercolor/Colored Pencil. The focus for this workshop will be techniques for conveying the perception of light and shadow, mixing color and continuous tone. Prior experience in drawing botanical subject matter is helpful. A supply list is on the Otis workshop registration site (included on the link below):
Heirloom Tomatoes in Watercolor/Colored Pencil
Saturday, July 7, and Sunday, July 8, 2018
9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Science Lab Classroom
Cost: $185
LA Arboretum & Botanic Garden (link to map)

The second two-day drawing and painting workshop, “Eggplants in Watercolor/Colored Pencil,” will be held in August. This workshop also will cover the techniques for conveying light and shadow, mixing color, and continuous tone. Changing the subject matter from tomatoes to a variety of eggplants allows exploration of different techniques and effects. A supply list is on the Otis workshop registration site (included on the link below):
Eggplants in Watercolor/Colored Pencil
Saturday, August 18, and Sunday, August 19, 2018
9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Oak Room
Cost: $185
LA Arboretum & Botanic Garden (link to map)

Both workshops will be held indoors at the LA Arboretum. Class details will be sent to registrants. There are still a few seats remaining. Take one or both classes!

Questions? Call Otis Extension at 310-665-6850, or email

by Suzanne Kuuskmae, posted by Deb Shaw

Suzanne Kuuskmae will be starting private botanical drawing/painting lessons next week in her expanded studio area. Destination: Art also has a beautiful exhibit, Spring Fling, on view this month, Thursdays – Saturdays, from 11am – 5pm, and Sundays, 12pm – 4pm.

Destination: Art hosts workshops in the gallery. On May 8, 2018 there will be a meeting and afternoon paint-in for the Paletteers Art Group. Information about classes, workshops and exhibit space for individuals or groups of artists is available on the Destination: Art website:

Destination: Art is located at 1815 West 213th Street, #135, Torrance, California 90501. Check it out!


by Arillyn Moran-Lawrence, posted by Deb Shaw

After choosing where you are going, find out what gardens are available to you. Choose at least three and label them:

  • Rugged (but wonderful),
  • Perfect (or almost),
  • Problematic.
Etlingera elatior, aka Pink torch ginger. Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens, Ginger and Heliconia Gardens, North Shore, Oahu. HI. Photographer: Arillyn Moran-Lawrence, © 2017.

Etlingera elatior, aka Pink torch ginger. Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens, Ginger and Heliconia Gardens, North Shore, Oahu. HI. Photographer: Arillyn Moran-Lawrence, © 2017.

I began studying endangered plants in Hawaii, when the ASBA Exhibition Losing Paradise?  was announced. I had three to four gardens I wanted to visit. One was the Lyon Arboretum, on the South Shore of Oahu, in the Rain Forest; Waimea Gardens on the North Shore of Oahu; and, Koko Head to the east of Honolulu. Ho’omaluhia on the East side of Oahu did not have endangered plants so I did not consider that garden in my plan. I also did not consider the small garden in Wahiawa nor several other gardens in downtown Honolulu. I focused on the three larger gardens.

I called the three major gardens ahead of my visit and contacted knowledgeable people with whom I made appointments. At the Lyon Arboretum I contacted Karen Shigematsu, Botanist. At Waimea I made an appointment with David Orr, Botanical Specialist. At Koko Head there was no botanist or specialist available. You are on your own with just the information on the plant labels in the specialized gardens.

These are three different gardens with three different personalities. This is true of all gardens all over the world. You can visit each of these three and decide on which one best delivers what you are looking for.

Rugged Garden Lyon, The Lyon Arboretum

This garden is very large and stunning as you walk out the backdoor of the Administration Building. It is rugged, however. Mosquitos and bugs like to bite you. Karen Shigematsu first showed me the nursery and then introduced me to the garden. The first garden has numerous plants to choose from. However, as you go deeper into the garden on the way to the falls you will find you need strong boots, a rain poncho, an umbrella and a map of the garden. Keep in mind that your cell phone may be blocked by the high mountains that surround the Lyon. If you have health issues you may want to check with the Administration Staff on the ability to make it to the falls and visiting the gardens along the way. There is a less difficult path close in area, to which they will direct you.

A back pack is the best way to carry items you will need to record plants of interest. Make it light as the trails are full of rocks and the heat or rain may wear you out. Rolling gear is only good in about a quarter of the Arboretum. There is no shuttle service, no food stands, and the toilets are in the Administration Building. You can buy t-shirts, books and more, in the Administration Building.

The Perfect Garden, Waimea

Arillyn Moran-Lawrence working on Stelechocarpus burahol, aka the Keppel Tree, while sitting on the steps in the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens, Malesia Gardens, North Shore, Oahu, HI. Photographer: Michael Tyau, © 2017.

Arillyn Moran-Lawrence working on Stelechocarpus burahol, aka the Keppel Tree, while sitting on the steps in the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens, Malesia Gardens, North Shore, Oahu, HI. Photographer: Michael Tyau, © 2017.

Waimea Gardens on the North Shore of Oahu is an example of the Perfect Garden. It has a retail shop, an outdoor restaurant, bathrooms, a shuttle to carry you to the waterfall for a swim, and gardens galore. All are scattered over this treasure of a garden on a paved trail with shuttles. The only problem is that the garden is in a valley and the cell phones do not work there.

David Orr, Botanical Specialist met me with a golf cart so we could cover a large area. He explained a great deal about the endangered plants and why so many are on the Red Lists. Hawaii has the most endangered place in the world, including animals, birds, insects and plants.

Ask if a guide is available to meet you on a special day, date and time. Carry bug spray, go in long sleeved t-shirts and long pants if you do not do well with bugs. Otherwise dress however you want. Any kind of shoes work in this garden. Have your small camera, iPad or cell phone with you. Carry a hand held battery charger with you as the gardens are superb and you will want many photos. If you find the perfect plant and don’t want to stand or sit on a rock go to WalMart and buy a cheap collapsible chair. You can always donate it and leave it behind when you fly home. Also, if you choose where you want to paint first and last you can then work on getting to the falls area and catch a ride back to the shop and restaurant area. One way is $5 and round trip is $10. There also are family rates available.

The Problematic Garden, Koko Head

Koko Head is an old volcano that is dormant. There is just the garden there and a gardner that is invisible. The last time I was at Koko Head you checked in with a man at a table at the entrance and you checked out when you left. There was no indication that any kind of help was available. I don’t know if the cell phone works well or at all at KoKo Head.

It is a long, hot dusty walk to the Hawaiian section, which is at the farthest point in the garden. Tackle this garden aggressively, but travel light. A small backpack with sketch pad, watercolor pencils and a water brush would be adequate. Be sure to take a bottle of water for you and your assistant. When you finally arrive at the Hawaiian Section, find your specimen, photograph your choices, and sketch and make color swatches. You can make notes about the plant from the ID labels that are below the plant. A red ID tag means the plant is endangered; a green/blue ID tag means it is not. Photograph the label so you have the information you need later.

The last time I was at Koko Head the garden was very young. I am sure you will find some nice growth there now. It is difficult to get to the plants at Koko Head, and there is no one to assist you. It would be difficult to work there alone. I fell down a small hillside in very soft dirt about 25 feet. I guess I could have been hurt but I wasn’t. However, a sprained ankle would have made it hard to walk a long way to your car.


  • Small camera, cell phone, iPad, small portable charger.
  • Sketch book, such as a Bee or Stillman & Birn, Mixed Media (both can accept watercolor).
  • Paper, 8-1/2 x 11 or smaller. Arches or Fabriano 300 lb watercolor paper can be bound into a book at Fed Ex or at an office supply store. These can be used for plein air studies in the field or in your hotel room/with photos from your iPad or cell phone.
  • Ruler, tape measure, water bottle, water brushes and three to four good watercolor brushes.
  • Pens that have their own ink supply (such as Copic, Zig or Micron).
  • Mechanical pencil.
  • Small travel palette. Know the paint that you have in the palette. You can always shop for more paint at your destination. I have two great art supply stores that I go to in Honolulu.
  • I have tried colored pencils. I find they break and you need a good sharpener. I like watercolor pencils because you can translate that color to real watercolor paint.
  • Tombow markers with brushes. They are very strong colors but I have found them to be fun to do quick sketches and to work with on the plane. They don’t cause any problems. I carry 12 – 15 in a plastic box.
  • A small folding chair. These can be found at Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Daiso, sporting/camping stores, any variety stores, or online.
  • Lightweight backpack. They sell some very nice lightweight backpacks in Honolulu. I bought a large one and a small-sized one made by Hawaii Island Spirit. I see them for sale in many places. If you plan on doing rugged hiking bring your own.

Things to Remember

It is not easy to work in a new environment with no desk, chairs, lighting or bathrooms. It is difficult to balance everything like paint, brush, water and paper when you are outside and the nearest place to put anything is the ground.

It also is dark in some gardens, and is hard to find what you are looking for if you have been directed to a particular plant. It can be wet and muddy.

Alpinia zerumbet. Shell ginger. Lyon Arboretum, Manoa Valley, Honolulu, HI. Photographer: Arillyn Moran-Lawrence, © 2017.

Alpinia zerumbet. Shell ginger. Lyon Arboretum, Manoa Valley, Honolulu, HI. Photographer: Arillyn Moran-Lawrence, © 2017.

You need a lot of things to make life productive so make sure you test things at home to see if they work for you. Get overly organized. Keep things light and manageable. If you have a collapsible chair, that is an advantage. If not, see if someone can lend you a TALL bucket.

Having someone to help you is advisable. You can always contact an Art Academy or High School and see if they have a list of students who want to make some extra money. Pay them well so that they will want to really assist you.

by Nina Antze, posted by Deb Shaw

Sketching Bonsai Workshop May 12, Douglas Charles © 2018.

Sketching Bonsai Workshop May 12, Douglas Charles © 2018.

The Northern California Society of Botanical Artists is holding a workshop taught by Lee McCaffree, “Sketching Bonsai in Pen and Ink.” The workshop has been rescheduled to
Saturday, May 12, 2018,  10:00am -3:00pm
in Menlo Park, California

Enjoy a day of sketching Bonsai trees among an extensive collection of plants in Menlo Park. Learn about the basic structure of this art form, and how to capture the essence of an individual specimen(s) in pen and ink. This workshop is intended to be fun and relaxing—depicting the trees overall design instead of the exact details. Everyone is welcome.

The cost is $30 for NCalSBA members; $40 for non–members. The workshop cost includes a donation to NCalSBA and the Bonsai Garden.

There are still a few seats available. To register, and for more information about the workshop (including a materials list), contact D. Hunter.


by Kat Powell, posted by Deb Shaw

Some of the workshop participants getting ready for a final critique with Carrie Di Constanzo. Photo by Teri Kuwahara, © 2018.

Some of the workshop participants getting ready for a final critique with Carrie Di Constanzo. L to R: Mary Jo Newman, Carrie Di Costanzo, Suzanne Bassani, Janice Sharp, Carol Readhead, Melanie Campbell-Carter, Kathlyn Powell. Missing from photo: Patricia Mark, Alyse Ochniak.  Photo by Teri Kuwahara, © 2018.

What a fabulous experience! We were honored to have the awe-inspiring Carrie Di Costanzo for a workshop on the use of gouache in botanical art. First of all, Carrie’s work is beyond exquisite — I suspect I was not alone in getting goosebumps while gazing at her originals. They are miraculous in their refinement and perfection. Although Carrie works her magic in other media such as egg tempera and watercolor as well, it is her masterful handling of gouache that we focused on for those wonderful three days.

We all had a choice of working on a large deodar cedar cone, kumquats on a branch, loquats on a branch, or tulips. One participant requested a cactus as a subject, and The Huntington very kindly supplied that subject as well.

Reviewing artwork with Carrie Di Constanzo. Photo by Kathlyn Powell, © 2018.

Reviewing artwork with Carrie Di Constanzo. L to R: Teri Kuwahara, Carrie Di Costanzo, Suzanne Bassani, Janice Sharp, Carol Readhead, Mary Jo Newman, Melanie Carter-Campbell. Missing from photo: Patricia Mark, Alyse Ochniak. Photo by Kathlyn Powell, © 2018.

Carrie demonstrated several ways of using gouache, as the medium is quite versatile. She showed her favored method of laying down a pale “wash” of her mixed paint that consisted of a highly controlled stippling using her amazingly fast feathery stroke of dilute gouache on a dry brush. Texture was instantiated from the start and retained throughout with this technique. Subsequent layers were laid down with generally successively more concentrated pigments with the occasional unifying dry brush wash over. She worked from light to dark in this method, somewhat reminiscent of watercolor.

She also demonstrated an approach using titanium white mixed to varying degrees into her colors to opacify and smooth the deposition of color and it had a depth and richness rivaling oils while retaining the luscious velvety matte surface of gouache. Indeed, in this approach, the handling is more like that of oils or acrylics and many renowned artists such as James Gurney use this method. [See some of James Gurney’s favorite gouache artists here.] Lights do not necessarily need to be retained and working dark to light is possible. Highlights and light structures such as Melanie’s cactus spines can be directly added on top.

Carrie showed us that gouache is like watercolor in re-solubility but has a higher pigment load, yielding greater opacity. It can be used in a watercolor way with wet, dilute translucent washes retaining the light of the paper, building up to a gorgeous matte depth of color. It can also, again, be used somewhat like oils or acrylics, with light pigments over dark. This allows for going over sections with many layers until one is satisfied, without harming the surface or looking overworked. Thus, you can push a painting further. One can also use gouache to exquisite effect on toned papers, like botanical artist Albert R. Valentien did. Carrie showed us how she creates a toned sheet for such an approach.

Carrie encouraged us to use the method that we felt most comfortable with and everyone had their own unique look to their paintings, and all were lovely. The medium was adaptable to each person’s individual style of painting.

A Little About Gouache:
Gouache has a history that goes back to the 9th Century. Illuminated manuscripts and Persian and Mughal miniatures were painted using opaque watercolors mixed with white or on white priming. Chinese white was also freely used in Western watercolors in the nineteenth century as “body colors”, distinguished by their beautiful precision (see, for example, the watercolor and body color work of William Trost Richards). For many subjects, such as landscapes, body color made it possible.

Zinc white (Chinese white) as a pigment had become available in Europe in the mid-19th century (although in use in Persia, India and China since at least the 12th century) and thus at least partially displaced the more opaque but very toxic lead white. It is no wonder that artists happily explored the possibilities of this new pigment! (Especially en plein air, once pigments were packed into tubes.) We are lucky to have access to nontoxic, very opaque titanium white (introduced 1921) as well as zinc white.

Gouache was favored by commercial artists during the twentieth century for its beauty, speed of drying, and matte surface which the camera loves — it is renowned for reproducing extremely well. It got a bit of a bad rap because of the fugitive quality of many of the paints then in use — pieces were made for the camera rather than the frame, so archival lightfast pigments were not always employed. Now, however, we have beautiful, fully lightfast gouache pigments available to us from numerous pigmenters. Also, the medium suffered some stigma in the pretentious “Fine Art” vs “illustration” controversy.

Technical instruction in gouache has become very difficult to come by over the last few decades, so I cherish the training we were so fortunate to obtain with a Master Artist like Carrie. I personally have longed for this type and quality of didactics for nearly half a century. Opacity is another dimension of control which enhances the ability to work the magic of mimesis.

Profound thanks to Carrie Di Costanzo, a real treasure both artistically and as a person, to the Education Committee for bringing her, to The Huntington for hosting us, to Patricia Mark for supplying subjects and to BAGSC for everything!

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