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Enchanted with squash blossom buds; drawing by Constance Sayas —Image courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens

The Story of the Botanical Sketchbook

A sketchbook passed within the Denver Botanic Gardens' School of Botanical Art & Illustration reveals the personal way people view nature. 


In January 2013, a blank 7.5-by-11-inch hardbound sketchbook, housed in a reindeer-hide box, began a one-year journey. Every few days, the book was passed, hand to hand, among 76 students and instructors in the Denver Botanic Gardens’ School of Botanical Art & Illustration. Each artist sketched one page. “There were no guidelines,” says Dr. Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, the manager of the school. The final product, Practice Makes Perfect: A Botanical Illustration Sketchbook, was released last month. The full-color, hardcover collaboration starts with a Christmas poinsettia on page one and finishes with a scientific look at pollen on page 76. Hjelmroos-Koski says such diversity is what makes the book complete. “There is one page with a couple of chickens and a horse,” she says. “The [sketches] didn’t need to just be plants. It was about what was important to the artist in nature.” Of the 500 copies printed, more than 350 had been sold by the beginning of December; the public will be able to buy copies ($90 each) at the York Street gardens until the final book is claimed.

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