Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

ASBA Reed-Turner Artists’ Circle

The Reed-Turner Artists’ Circle and the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club are pleased to announce the 12th Annual Botanical Art Exhibition & Plant Sale at the Reed-Turner Woodland and Nature Preserve, 3849 Old McHenry Rd. Long Grove, IL (map). The exhibition is scheduled for May 20-21, 2017 from 10am to 3pm. It will feature original works, prints, cards and decorative items for sale. Admission is free.

The Reed-Turner Artists’ Circle consists of dedicated botanical artists from throughout the Chicago-area. The Group is guided by the parameters and goals of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA), one of the premier organizations promoting botanical art around the world. Consistent with ASBA’s mission, the Group works to further the interest in botanical art, conservation science, botany, and horticulture at the local level. The Group also strives to emphasize the beauty and importance plants play in our daily lives by increasing public awareness through education, promotion, and exhibition of its members’ art in collaboration with local institutions.

The ASBA Reed-Turner Artists’ Circle meets at the Reed-Turner Woodland and Nature Preserve on the last Saturday of each month from 9:30-11:30 am. Members of the public with an interest in botanical art are most welcome.

Learn more about the Reed-Turner Artists’ Circle

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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Located in Chicago, the museum strives to create relationships between nature and people through their education programs, exhibitions, citizen science projects and research.

    Plants in Pencil
    Learn the how to use graphite pencil to illustrate nature with Suzanne Wegener, freelance illustrator and the Nature Art Education Manager at the Morton Arboretum. Suzanne will discuss materials, techniques and introduce botanical specimens each week. Come for one session or attend all four sessions. Advanced students will be given additional specimens. This class will be offered as a Tuesday series and a Wednesday series.

    Tuesday Series
    September 9, October 14, November 11 and December 9. Cost: $30. Class hours: 1-4 pm. Register for the Tuesday workshops here.

    Wednesday Series
    September 17, October 15, November 19, & December 17. Cost: $30. Class hours: 6-9 pm. Register for the Wednesday workshops here.

    To register by phone, call (773) 755-5128.

This information can also be found at Classes Near You > Illinois.

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By Kathleen Garness
Guest Contributor

What can you do with a sketchbook and a bag of professional colored pencils?

Well, what can’t you do???

When the call came after the 2012 ASBA conference in Chicago, saying that I had just been awarded $1,000 to bring botanical art experiences and materials to underserved audiences, I was shocked to say the least! But excitement set in too, because this had been a long-held dream of mine. You see, botany hasn’t been part of a Chicago high school curriculum since 1965, the year before I started. And I felt cheated. I had really wanted to take botany in high school, and it was gone.

In the first part of the 20th century, botany was a standard item in the high school science curriculum. Noted Chicago botanist and Lakeview High School teacher Herman Silas Pepoon had written and collaborated on several botany texts, stunning in their depth of detail, for the Chicago public schools. But as a thirteen year old rising freshman, I didn’t know any of that yet, just that I wouldn’t be able to study plants as I had hoped to in ninth grade. That took the wind out of my sails, scientifically speaking, for much of the next forty years. While I continued to pursue art, I also felt adrift from my inner purpose.

But then I discovered the citizen science program, Plants of Concern, at the Chicago Botanic Garden. A new world of rare plant conservation opened before me, and inspired me to start drawing and painting again. As I became more involved with natural areas stewardship, my experience as a young person still haunted me – how many other young people were we missing in not having botany as a part of a standard school curriculum? Who would be the next generation of environmental leaders and field botanists if there weren’t any early experiences and classes to excite young minds?

So I wrote the grant, inspired by a ‘Why not?’ from Suzanne Wegener, Nature Arts Education Manager at the Morton Arboretum. And I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

This was what I wrote:

    Grant Activity Description & Details

    Description: Botanical Art Introduction for Natural Areas Stewardship Youth Programs
    Date/Timeframe: April – September 2013 – selected days within that timeframe
    Location: Volo Bog Youth Art Guild; Cook County Forest Preserves Education Offices

    Goals of Activity

    Direct Aims:

    To introduce new audiences to the use of botanical art to communicate scientific concepts – taxonomy, measurement, observation of species in habitat. (Examples of new audiences: people who enjoy drawing but aren’t familiar with plants, people who know plants but don’t know how to use drawing to communicate their understanding of same, and underserved high-school-age youth who will be enriched by both activities)

    To familiarize participants with basic botanical art techniques and terminology.

    To teach local flora with a view towards participants learning to understand the value of native versus non-native invasive flora and the value of biodiversity.

    Indirect Aims

    To have participants become more involved in natural areas preservation, restoration and/or advocacy.

    To nurture confidence in beginning artistic and scientific observation and documentation skills and encourage further participation in botanical art activities.

Our audience would likely be natural areas stewardship volunteers, high school students and the general public. I planned for two workshops of about 12 or 13 students each, for a total of 25 students. (I was pretty stingy about in-kind contribution expectations.)

But then when the funds were secured, I started calling around. And a very nice person at Dick Blick saw to it that they offered a better discount than anyone else I had contacted about it (Actually, they were the ONLY ones who offered a discount!). So instead of outreach to 25 students we would be able to provide outreach to 50! So I sent her a wish list and she sent me a quote. I started making color wheels – how few pencils could we use and still have the full spectrum we needed for the class? What brands? What colors? Sketchbooks? Tracing paper? So many decisions! Her first quote was $150 under the grant. I wanted the grant to exactly cover the materials. So I thought, just 50? What about 70??! I took a leap of faith that some in-kind donations would help offset any additional costs.

So there we had it. Seventy 25-piece sets of art supplies containing: Dick Blick and Prismacolor colored pencils, Derwent 4B and 4H graphite pencils, an inexpensive clickie pencil, kmg_ColoredPencils 2 a kneaded eraser, a metal single-hole sharpener, a 6” clear ruler in inches and metrics, a Dick Blick zipper pencil bag to hold all the loose bits, and a spiral-bound sketchbook. Oh, and a folder full of handouts addressing how to’s, basic botanical nomenclature and diagrams, a bibliography and a few of the plant family pages I had developed for the Field Museum.

We ended up presenting the workshop at seven different venues in three Illinois counties (Cook, Lake and Will). The venues were one art museum, three different nature preserve centers with a variety of amenities, two forest preserves (yes, you can do an art workshop on a picnic table!) and the beautiful Forest Preserve District of Cook County general headquarters.

When we draw something we see it differently; we develop a relationship with it. A deeper interest and understanding evolves of our subject born of the time it takes to look, explore, draw, look again, learn context. And this evokes something deeper, more spiritual even, in us, bringing a new respect for our floral subjects to our life. If we and others do not love nature, how will we continue to protect it? Drawing can be a wonderful ‘gateway drug’ to botanical art and, from there, possibly advocacy and stewardship!

The handouts were key – we were giving them the tools, but more importantly, the visual language to describe their experience. First they worked on their grey value scales. Then a color wheel, then a color grid, showing the many nuances of color available with layering and blending, using their colorless blender. After a break, they put their new understanding of the tools to use rendering a piece of fruit in full color. I brought pears, radishes, tiny oriental eggplants, mushrooms, knob onions – depending on what was available at the fruit market. Less than two hours into their first colored pencil lesson, the results were impressive:

kmg_FirstColoredPencilLesson 2

kmg_OutreachGoals 2

I think our outreach goals were met:


And an unexpected bonus was developing partnerships with area high school and college teachers, who were very interested in how the format of the class could be implemented in courses they were already teaching.

I’m already thinking about how I can do this again next year, and the next, and the next. The per-student cost was under $25, with professional-quality materials, donating my time and gas, still life materials and handouts. With what other introductory medium can you achieve such flexibility with comparable results? And what an enticing way to help people fall in love with plants!

There’s a part of me that hopes this concept will go viral.

What would you do if you believed you would not fail?

About Kathleen Garness
Kathy is passionate about plants and conservation – and getting the next generation to be enthusiastic about them too. She enjoys being ‘boots on the ground’, conservation-wise, and has been a steward of Grainger Woods, an Illinois nature preserve, since 2003. She teaches watercolor, colored pencil and book arts. She is the current Artist-in-Residence at the Oak Park Conservatory and was an exhibitor in the international exhibition, Losing Paradise? Endangered Plants Here and Around the World, created by the American Society of Botanical Artists. Kathy received the 2008 Chicago Wilderness Grassroots Conservation Leadership Award and has served as president of the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. A selection of Kathy’s regional plant family illustrations can be viewed on the Field Museum’s website.


Discover Plants of the Chicago Region

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Ask and the answer might arrive sooner than you think!

Readers looking for classes in the Chicago region have three opportunities to learn botanical art and colored pencil techniques this summer.

Kathleen Garness will teach three sessions of an introductory course about drawing plants in colored pencil. Participants will receive materials to take home with them, compliments of the Anne Ophelia Dowden grant awarded to Kathleen last Fall by the American Society of Botanical Artists.

Here is what’s new at Classes Near You > Chicago:

Kathleen Garness

Kathleen is a natural science illustrator whose illustrations are being used to illustrate a guide to common plant families in the Chicago region. Her work has been shown in many exhibitions and is also featured in the 2011 issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, an issue dedicated to botany, art and conservation.

Introduction to Botanical Colored Pencil

  • June 9, 2013: Volo Bog State Natural Area, Volo, IL: 9:30-3:00
  • June 22, 2013: Illinois Beach State Park Nature Center: 9:30-3:30
  • August 18, 2013: Lake County Museum, Wauconda, IL 9:30-3:30

Looking for classes near you?
Tell the teachers!

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classes_CarolWoodin Carol Woodin
A freelance artist for over 20 years, Carol creates vibrant botanical paintings on vellum. Her work is in public collections and in the private collections of Dr. Shirley Sherwood and Alisa and Isaac M. Sutton. Carol is represented by Susan Frei Nathan Fine Works on Paper, LLC.

    Slipper Orchids in Watercolor (on paper or vellum)
    GNSI Education Series Workshop at Reiman Gardens
    University of Iowa, Ames IA
    May 31 – June 3, 2013
    This four-day class includes a field trip and a lot of time in the classroom observing and painting potted native orchids. Cost: $510 GNSI Members, $545 nonmembers.

    Applications due May 15. Samples of artwork must accompany application. For more information and to register, visit GNSI’s website.

    Painting the Flowers of Summer, Watercolor on Vellum

    Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago, IL
    July 26 – July 28, 2013
    9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
    This class includes a demonstration of stretching vellum. Participants will select subjects from the garden and learn how to take a preliminary sketch to an advanced painting on vellum. Cost: $449 nonmember; members receive 20% discount. View Details/Register

    Botanical Painting with Watercolor

    Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge, MA
    August 22 – 24, 2013
    10 AM – 4 PM
    Come to the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts to take a 3-day Master Class and learn botanical painting techniques. Anemones will be the focus of this class. Cost: $290 nonmembers, $260 members.
    View Details/Register

This information has been added to the Classes Near You section for Massachusetts and Illinois.

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Attention Chicago-area artists, naturalists and educators! Discover a new opportunity for you to learn about botanical art in a casual and supportive environment.

Members of Chicago Botanical Artists would like to extend to you this personal invitation to join their monthly gatherings:

    Chicago Botanical Artists is a new group open to all, beginners through advanced, who want to sketch together, share works in progress and develop a supportive community that exhibits and educates. Starting on February 11, we will meet from 1 to 3 pm on the second Monday of every month at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago. We will sketch native plants in and around the Nature Museum’s gardens, working outdoors when weather permits, or indoors with specimens. There is no cost.

    To register: Email adultprograms@naturemuseum.org or call 773-755-5100, Ext. 5028.

This information has also been posted to Classes Near You > Illinois.

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Image courtesy of Kathleen Garness. All rights reserved

Image courtesy of Kathleen Garness. All rights reserved

This week we have the good fortune to learn from Kathleen Garness, a scientific illustrator in Illinois whose botanical illustrations are being used to encourage an interest in native plants in the Chicago area. Kathleen has graciously stopped by to discuss her current projects.

    : How did you become involved in the Chicago plant families project?

    Kathleen: I have become passionate about the need for natural areas restoration since joining the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern rare plant monitoring program in 2001. Plants of Concern (POC) uses a nationally-acclaimed systematic scientific protocol that records data about the species, its associates, threats to the population and land management history. Right now I am responsible for monitoring about 40 populations of 26 rare species at ten different sites in four counties in our region, reporting our findings to the Chicago Botanic Garden and the landowners.

    Why? Our rare, and even common, native species are being crowded out by non-native shrubs such as European buckthorn and herbaceous plants such as garlic mustard and teasel. Because of this, we are losing our valuable pollinators, and if we allow this trend to continue it will have disastrous economic and nutritional impacts on our well being, not to mention the tragic loss of so much of our botanical natural heritage.

    Several years ago I had been asked to consider “adopting” one of my monitoring sites, Grainger Woods, since it did not have a steward, and they hoped that restoration efforts would be able to keep it nearly pristine. Two years ago we achieved the highest level of natural areas protection afforded by the state. Now, over half of the site is an Illinois dedicated nature preserve. Grainger Woods has over 300 species of plants and is an important bird study area for Lake County IL, because the rare red-headed woodpecker has been known to nest there. One Saturday morning every month, in addition to our POC work (which may involve one or more extensive surveys per season per species and site) we clear the area of invasive non-native trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants.

    While the Chicago region is arguably the nation’s leader in natural areas restoration, our biennial Wild Things conference draws well over a thousand attendees from the region. Many volunteers lack a depth of botanical knowledge that, a hundred years ago, used to be an essential part of every high school curriculum. But now, this knowledge is in danger of being lost entirely. And many site managers and stewards don’t have the time to train their volunteers about the finer points of plant taxonomy, even if they felt it would be valuable. So one of the region’s leaders, Barbara Birmingham, a retired science teacher, has been trying to address that deficit by offering monthly field botany classes at her site every year for the past three years. She asked me to assist her in developing new materials, and since each month she focused on a different common plant family, and would be using these materials in coming years, I felt this was a worthwhile use of my skills and time.

    As the project evolved, we realized this could be useful region-wide, so I enlisted the help of many local scientists and stewards, emailing them the pages for their comments, according to their area of specialty. Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Conservation Manager of Regional Floristics, Susanne Masi, who co-authored The Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest, edited the Asteraceae pages; Stephen Packard, director of Audubon Chicago Region and Kenneth Robertson from the Illinois Natural History Survey, contributed to the Rosaceae; and many others contributed to the rest of the series. John Balaban, one of the original Cook County North Branch stewards, and Rebecca Collings provided dedicated support from the Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. We are more than halfway through the project, having completed fourteen of the twenty-six most common plant families here. (Rebecca and I first become acquainted when I was asked by their botanist Bil Alverson to assist with Keys to Nature Orchids.

    The Field Museum provided the template, which was consistent with the other Rapid Color Guides they had already developed. We worked together as a team to come up with the design and content for each page, which I wrote and illustrated. We chose species that restoration volunteers might easily come across, as well as a few that are invasive or of special concern, to watch out for and report. Since we have so much biodiversity in our region, it was hard to choose, and for that I was very grateful for the team approach. Some of the families, such as the gentians and arums, were able to be completed in one page — the others were just an overview. We also wanted to suggest some of the important ecological relationships plants have to animals and used Milkweed Metropolis as that one example.

    : What are the goals of this project? How do the project sponsors – The Field Museum – plan to use this information?

    Kathleen: We will be promoting the pages next February during the
    Wild Things Conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Field Museum will be giving their ecology students the pages as handouts this next field season, and providing the link to the pages so that folks can also access them via mobile technology such as smartphones or digital tablets. Stewards will be able to use them as handouts in their field botany walks and restoration instructions, too.

    And I feel a clarification is in order here – by no means are they intended to replace field guides or taxonomic keys. Rather, they are a quick visual way for folks new to natural areas exploration or restoration to begin to familiarize themselves with botany basics, not feel so intimidated by the diversity our area offers, and maybe eventually purchase a field guide such as Peterson’s or Newcomb’s. So they are intended to complement the use of field guides, providing a quick visual identification to family; from there an unknown plant can hopefully be keyed to species using a field guide or an online resource such as the USDA PLANTS Database or Flora of North America. The page set also includes a short glossary.

    : Do you envision other uses for this guide?

    Kathleen: We have shown them to regional scouting program leaders and

    Image courtesy of Kathleen Garness. All rights reserved

    Image courtesy of Kathleen Garness. All rights reserved

    high school science teachers, and some teachers are providing them to their classes for extra credit work. We would be thrilled to offer them to Mighty Acorns, a junior naturalist program sponsored by the Cook County Forest Preserve. Recently, the American Society of Botanical Artists graciously awarded me the Anne Ophelia Dowden grant for 2013, with which I will be able to offer art classes and distribute sets of materials, including these plant family pages, to five regional community centers, as outreach to underserved populations. These pages have sort of taken on a life of their own, now!

    : You have mentioned in the past that there needs to be a grassroots effort to help people “make the connection between plants and well-being.” From what you’ve observed through your work with the public, where would be a good place to start?

    Kathleen: Well, we’re hoping these materials will begin to assist with this! For the last twenty years or so, there has been a groundswell of interest in natural areas restoration, organic gardening, urban horticulture, even beekeeping, not just regionally or nationally, but worldwide. Well before this, the Midwest was blessed with being the epicenter of the ecology movement, through the pioneering work of famous naturalist Robert Kennicott, who worked for the Smithsonian Institution and was a founder of the Chicago Academy of Sciences; Stephen Forbes, who was the first head of the Illinois Natural History Survey; Henry Chandler Cowles, University of Chicago, today considered the father of ‘dynamic ecology’; Aldo Leopold; and the tireless May Theilgaard Watts, who was one of Morton Arboretum’s most famous naturalists. These intrepid naturalists got out into the field every day, marveled at the wonders of nature, made careful observations, and inspired several generations that followed. So this generation, I feel, is standing on the shoulders of giants, and we need to keep the momentum going – we need to get folks outside, to have them experience the beauty of nature firsthand on a regular basis, but also provide them the tools to really SEE and appreciate what they are looking at. That is the goal of my current botanical illustration work and I see no proper end to it. I hope artists and naturalists in other regions see the value in this and do it for their communities too.

    : You are working on another project in which economic botany and ornamental horticulture are the focus. What are the educational objectives of this project?

    Kathleen: The Oak Park Conservatory, where I am Artist-in-Residence until November 2013, has also engaged me to make similar materials about the plants in their tropical greenhouses. So far I have completed two sets – cacao and poinsettias – of the eight sets commissioned, and am now starting on the cacti and succulents. These are not family pages per se because each set’s scope is broader than just one family. I also interact with the Conservatory visitors, show them how a botanical artist works, chat about the various collections if they’re interested, and will hopefully complete my tenure there with an exhibit of new watercolors!

    : You are doing wonderful work, Kathleen. Thank you for spending time with us this week.

More About the Field Guide

The pages of Common Plant Families of the Chicago Region are standard 8.5″ x 11″ pages and fit easily into a 3-ring binder. Since they are a standard size, the pages are also easy to laminate. Users of this guide may be interested in creating their own color-coding system while learning the features of each plant family (similar to what is used in Botany Illustrated).

Featured in this guide are the following plant families:

  • Apiaceae (Parsley Family)
  • Araceae (Arum Family)
  • Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)
  • Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)
  • Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)
  • Fabaceae (Legume Family)
  • Gentianaceae (Gentian Family)
  • Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
  • Liliaceae (Lily Family)
  • Onagraceae (Evening Primrose Family)
  • Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)
  • Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
  • Rosaceae (Rose Family)
  • Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon Family)

A glossary of botanical terms is also included with the guide.

The guide Common Plant Families of the Chicago Region is available online for free.

About Kathleen Garness

The botanical/scientific illustration certificate program at Morton Arboretum was the turning point for me. While I had painted watercolors of tropical orchids for many years previous, the classes at Morton refined my pen and ink skills and fueled an interest in learning about and documenting local native species.

I really enjoy my work as a volunteer natural areas steward for Grainger Woods. My two passions – preserving habitat and documenting native species – seem to feed off each other. In 2008 my colleague Pat Hayes and I were surprised with a Chicago Wilderness Grassroots Conservation Leadership Award for our work in developing educational materials for youth as part of the national Leave No Child Inside initiative.

What feels like an eon ago, I served as board member and president of the historic Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, and am still currently active in several local and national arts organizations. One of my most exciting opportunities, though, was the acceptance of one of my paintings into the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew Gardens, London, as part of Losing Paradise? Endangered Plants Here and Around the World and in the 2011 edition of Smithsonian in Your Classroom.

I am the mother of one son, Ian Halliday, who encouraged me in this work by buying me a Wacom tablet one year for Christmas when he saw me laboring over my other avocation, the illustrations for the Little Gospels, published by Liturgy Training Publications for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd curriculum. I still have to figure out how the Master’s in Religious Education and 20+ years teaching Sunday school figures into the artist side of me, but it all seems to fit somehow!

Additional Information About Plants of the Chicago Region

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