As Winter Turns to Spring

The Nature Artists’ Guild’s 2021 Winter Encounter wrapped up at the end of February, and here are the final contributions to the project.  Many thanks to all who participated – there have been numerous comments from members mentioning that their fellow artists’ work brought them cheer and a sense of connection throughout the winter.

  • Marlene Vitek painted four panels representing views of the seasons through her tall narrow windows.
  • Jean Black completed a realistic branch of oak leaves.
  • Kathy Belletire used watercolor, pen, and India ink to study a frozen little wren that had nested near her home in southern Illinois in previous years.  On a brighter note, Kathy is hearing a sure sign of spring, the spring peepers peeping!
  • Carol Cooley attended on online class about painting birds in watercolor, where she created tonal studies as well as a color wheel used to practice color mixing and the use of complements to create shadows.
  • Karen Johnson continued her practice of visiting and sketching prairies. On one of her trips to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie she hoped to see some bison, but a small bird turned out to be the featured wildlife of the journal that day.
  • Nancy Wu created a wonderful way to remember the trolls at The Morton Arboretum with her sketch done in sepia ink from a photo taken before the trolls were recently disassembled. She added a dried cup plant and Catalpa tree details to fill out her journal pages.

Please click on any image for a larger version and the artists’ name.

Tomorrow, March 4, 2021, An Intimate Relationship with Colour with Margaret Best

Internationally renowned artist Margaret Best will present An Intimate Relationship with Colour for members of the Nature Artists Guild online, March 4, 2021, beginning at 7 pm.

Crocus watercolor painting and supplies. Copyright Margaret Best. Used with permission.

Working primarily in watercolor, Margaret has explored and studied the color system developed by early-nineteenth-century natural history artist, traveler, and adventurer Ferdinand Bauer.  Margaret will share some of her fascinating findings as well as “touch on how to make good colour choices for an effective palette.”

Natural History Museum, London, on Ferdinand Bauer –

The painter went to extreme lengths to recreate the true colour of specimens, which he noticed begins to fade soon after animals and plants die.

Rather than hurry his work or rely on memory, Bauer developed a colour referencing system in which he assigned each shade a four-digit number and meticulously recorded the various codes for each specimen.

Bauer could then complete full watercolour paintings at a later date. As a result, his illustrations are vibrant but accurate depictions of the organisms in life.

Duck billed platypus, c 1803 Ferdinand Bauer, Natural History Museum, London

Instructions and a link for attending this live online meeting were emailed to all members of the Nature Artists Guild on February 26, 2021. Please click on images or highlighted links to learn more about Margaret Best or Ferdinand Bauer.

Who Has a Houseplant Handy?

Nature Artists’ Guild members recently received an e-mail with links to various free online instructional art videos.  Some of the videos are presented by Strathmore Artists Papers, and one of their contributing artists, Cathy Johnson, has created a series called “Watercolor Sketching”.

In her short video, Watercolor Sketching, Part 1, Cathy uses nothing more than a potted plant and a few watercolor supplies to create a wonderful journal page. Beginning watercolor students will gain valuable skills in less than ten minutes, and even experienced watercolorists may add to their knowledge just by watching.  Please click on the highlighted link or the image to view.

Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are encouraged to share an image of their results as part of the 2021 Winter Encounter.

From Watercolor Sketching Part 1, Watercolor Journal Page with Cathy Johnson.  Please click on image to be directed to the video.

One More Week of the 2021 Winter Encounter

Here are a few more wonderful pieces of art by members of the Nature Artists’ Guild as we go into the last week of the 2021 Winter Encounter.  Susan Stachovic used a photo of a bird to inspire her work done in colored pencil and watercolor.  Jean Black shared her painting of a frequent winter sight, and Karen Johnson added to her journal with views of the prairie completed en plein air.  Please click on any image for a larger version and the artist’s name.

Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are welcome to join in any time before the end of the month and contribute photos of their work by March 1 to share on this website.

Winter Sketches Just Barely Beginning to Show Signs of Spring!

There is more than a foot of snow on the ground, temperatures have been dropping into the single digits, and icicles hang from the roofs, but Spring is nevertheless on its way.  Even though the official start of the season is weeks away, members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are seeing and noting some of the first promising signs in their sketchbooks.

Red-headed woodpecker sketchbook pages, copyright Kathy Belletire.

Kathy Belletire lives a bit farther south than many members and is seeing some of the birds that will reach us soon.  She used a field guide to fill out the details of the red-headed woodpecker that visited her oak, but was unable to confirm the identity of her mystery bird.  Jean Black continues to share her observations of the natural world, and Jill Spealman braved the cold to record a budding elm after being motivated by online nature-journaling classes by Carrie Carlson and John Muir Laws.

Thank you to all of the artists who have shared images throughout the 2021 Winter Encounter.  Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild are invited to join in any time throughout the month. Please click on any one of the images for a larger version and the artist’s name.

Winter Sketching Continues

There hasn’t been much outdoor sketching going on lately for members of the Nature Artists’ Guild, but comfortable indoor sketching continues.

Jean Black sketched the visitors to her balcony and Marlene Vitek took note of the contrasts between the scenes inside and outside of her balcony window, as well as the variations in icicles. Lisa Kanellos sketched a mink skull that she received through a monthly subscription service for prepared animal skulls (please contact Lisa for more information about this service.  Her contact information can be found in the guild’s Yearbook.)

Mink skull sketch, copyright Lisa Kanellos

The Nature Artists’ Guild’s Winter Encounter continues through the end of February.  Members can join in any time and are encouraged to send in their images.  Please click on any image for a larger version and the artists’ name.


Margaret Best Presents An Intimate Relationship with Colour on Thursday, March 4, 2021

With the snow falling and temperatures near zero, it hardly seems possible that spring blooms could be not many weeks away!

Pulsatilla patens, Prairie Crocus, copyright Margaret Best.  Used with permission.

Renowned artist and educator Margaret Best is well versed in the subtleties and surprises of nature in different climates and seasons from having grown up in South Africa, to now residing in Nova Scotia, and from traveling and teaching worldwide. Her botanical art can be found in private collections around the world, as well as at the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation of the Carnegie Mellon University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Margaret will share some of her research into the innovative color system used by prolific illustrator of plants and animals in the nineteenth century Ferdinand Bauer in an online program for Nature Artists’ Guild members, An Intimate Relationship with Colour, on Thursday, March 4, 2021 beginning at 7 pm.

Please click on an image or on one of the highlighted links to reach Margaret’s website, where you can learn more about her life and art and enjoy images of her stunning paintings.  Nature Artists’ Guild members will receive by email, within the next few weeks, a link and instructions for attending the online program.

Crocus watercolor painting and supplies. Copyright Margaret Best. Used with permission.

From the Middle Triassic until Now, Tonight at 7 for Nature Artists’ Guild Members

Illustration of the oldest known dinosaur relative. Copyright Marlene Hill Donnelly, Field Museum. Please click on the image or this link for a news article about the discovery.

How do you accurately (as possible) illustrate the oldest known dinosaur relative and its habitat using only fossil records from 243 million years ago?  The Nature Artists’ Guild is excited to announce that the speaker at tonight’s online program is likely the only person in the world who has done just that!

This evening, February 4, 2021, beginning at 7 pm via live video, artist, educator, and scientist Marlene Hill Donnelly will share stories of some of her unique and fascinating experiences over the course of her career as a scientific illustrator for the world-renowned Field Museum.  Marlene often illustrated plants and animals that lived millions of years ago by creating her own models based only on fossil records and scientific knowledge.

Marlene has also worked as a freelance artist for the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Smithsonian Institution, HarperCollins, and the Honolulu Zoo, and has taught various botanical and scientific illustration and art classes at The Morton Arboretum and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Nature Artists’ Guild members were sent an email on January 28, 2021 with a link and instructions for joining the meeting.  Any members who did not receive the link and wish to attend should contact Jane Kellenberger as soon as possible.

More Winter Work by Members of the Nature Artists’ Guild

Nature Artists’ Guild members continue to practice their art and observation skills during the 2021 Winter Encounter.  Beata Nowak worked from a photo she had taken of some eagles at a local rookery, Dorothy Duffala worked along with an online video to paint her poppies, and Laverne Bohlin painted from her car at a trailhead in New Mexico.  Kathy Belletire sketched and painted a visiting “plague” of grackles and Jean Black sketched a pair of cardinals observed through her window. Marlene Vitek and Lisa Kanellos worked from found objects, and Marlene, who also worked from a photo, remarked that she is “so glad that I am doing this – really need a push sometimes to get to work! Once there, I am so glad I did something.”

Please click on any of the images for the artist’s name and the title or description of the work.  Members are invited to join in at any time throughout the month.  Details for participating are in the January 16th email sent to all members.

The Views are Quite Delightful

Oh, the weather outside may be frightful, but the views are quite delightful!

Nature Artists’ Guild member Laverne Bohlin’s view from her car in New Mexico may be vastly different than what we see from our windows in Chicagoland, but she shows us that a small watercolor or acrylic painting, a colored pencil, graphite, or ink sketch, or a photograph for future reference material are all quite possible from the comfortable confines of the automobile.

With the recent snow creating a winter wonderland, today may be the day to try sketching from the car, with just a few art supplies, a warm drink, and a safe and scenic place to park (including your own driveway if you’re still snowed in).

Piedra Lisa Trailhead, watercolor, copyright 2021 Laverne Bohlin