Friday, January 16, 2015

WOMEN ARTISTS: Maria Sibylla Merian

The 1st artist in my series of Women Artists --


Here are 10 Things to know about Maria Sibylla Merian, along with 10 examples of her work:

1 - Maria Sibylla Merian was a German-born naturalist and scientific illustrator.  In fact, she is rated as being one of the greatest ever botanical artists and one of the first naturalists to study insects. 

Her hand-colored engravings are as important to the history of science as they are to the history of art.  She is especially known for her documentation of butterfly metamorphosis.

Fearless, adventurous, and ahead of her time, she made a unique contribution to the visual understanding of flowers and insects in the 17th century.  

2 - Merian was born in Frankfurt in 1647.  Her father, the Swiss engraver and publisher Matthaus Merian the Elder, died when she was 3.  

Her mother married Flemish flower/still life painter Jacob Marell, who noticed his stepdaughter's talent and encouraged her to draw and paint -- even helping with her artistic education.

3 -- It all started with Merian's boundless enthusiasm for flowers and micro-creatures.  At the age of 13, she painted her first images of insects and plants from specimens she had captured.  

She says she "collected all the caterpillars I could find in order to see how they changed".

4 - At the age of 18, Merian married Marrel's apprentice, Johann Andreas Graff, who also specialized in flower still lifes.  

The couple moved to Nuremberg, had two daughters, but were divorced some time during the 1690's. 

5 - Merian published her first book of natural illustrations, Neues Blumenbuch, or New Book of Flowers -- in 1675, at the age of 28.

These are flower studies of incomparable elegance.  The illustrations were also used as pattern books for painting and embroidery.

The book was so popular that it had to be reprinted.  

6 - Merian was one of the first naturalists to observe insects directly, which was contrary to the way that most scientists worked at the time.

In 1677, she published her 2nd collection of engravings, "The Caterpillar, Marvelous Transformation, & Strange Floral Food".  

She carefully studied living examples of 186 kinds of European moths and butterflies, recording their appearance and activities at various stages in their life cycles.  She demonstrated the life cycle of the butterfly and how it transforms from a caterpillar into a butterfly.  

Her detailed illustrations provided a wealth of new information for the scientific community, and her classification of butterflies and moths is still relevant today.

7 - In 1699, at the age of 52, she took on a more exotic project, when she sailed with her daughter to the Dutch colony of Surinam in northern South America -- where she spent two years compiling a study of insect life-cycles and habitats there.  

While there, she traveled around the colony and sketched and catalogued the indigenous plants, animals, and insects.  While there, she also criticized the treatment of the natives and slaves by the Dutch planters in the colony.

In 1701, malaria (possibly) forced her to return to Holland.

8 - After she returned, her vividly descriptive and scientifically accurate engravings documenting her research were published. Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, published in 1705, was an impressive volume of her watercolor paintings and useful commentaries.

This was her major work on insects (and the first work on the natural history of Surinam).  This was a fantastic world of wonders in watercolors, full of accurate detail and minute renderings of butterflies, beetles, and insects.

9 - Merian's legacy was her important contributions to both art and science -- through her original observations about the natural world, conveyed in elegantly composed and beautifully detailed illustrations.  

She is considered among the most significant contributors to the field of entomology.  Because of her careful observations and documentation of the metamorphosis of the butterfly -- her work disproved the then-popular theory that insects were born by spontaneous generation.

10 - Shortly before Merian's death in 1717, her work was seen in Amsterdam by Peter the Great.  After her death, he acquired a significant number of her paintings, which to this day are kept in academic collections in St. Petersburg.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I'm excited to be offering a Watercolor Workshop in Long Beach, CA, in March!

Please e-mail me, if you would like to sign up for this workshop:

or leave a comment below.


I will also be offering a 2-day beginner workshop 
in February
at my home/studio in Durango, Colorado . . . 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WOMEN ARTISTS - Exciting New Yearlong Project for the Blog

The 2015 theme for The Painted Prism is WOMEN ARTISTS.  This will be a yearlong project (and hopefully, beyond that).  This project is unique, because I will be creating a series of posts for the blog, that feature a different woman artist each month.

Women have been creating art -- remarkable artistic contributions -- since the earliest time, but they haven't always received recognition and have, in many cases, just been left out of the art history books.  

Many (most?) of the women artists that I will choose will not be known to you . . . 

Each month, I will introduce you to one of these women, and also show you some of her work, of course. During the rest of the month, we will see what we can learn from this artist.  I will create and post a lesson and/or project/tutorial, based on this artist's work.  

During the month, I will also be creating my own paintings, which will be influenced and inspired by our feature artist, and I'll show you behind-the-scene pix of that process.  

These women are not all watercolor painters (in fact, most are not); however, we can still learn so much from them.  I'm hoping, and expecting, that even my workshops this year will be greatly influenced by these women.  

I hope you enjoy this ongoing project, because it could easily last for 4+ years -- there are that many wonderful women master artists!

Friday, August 22, 2014

BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK: My 2-Day Workshop in Ohio

Here are some scenes from "Watercolor & Wine" - my recent 2-day workshop at the Wolf Creek Winery in Norton, Ohio:

It turned out to be a wonderful venue for the class, and all 11 of us really enjoyed ourselves.  After painting Sunflowers and Grapes all day, we gathered outside of the Tasting Room at the end of each day, to sample some of the Wolf Creek wines and critique and share our paintings.


Soundtrack is "Follow the Sun" by Xavier Rudd and "August" by Tim Janis.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Workshops Filling Up Fast!

I'm excited to say that both of my upcoming workshops are almost full!  In fact, a few of the days of my September workshop are completely full.


In less than 2 weeks, on August 12 & 13, is my Ohio workshop, "Watercolor & Wine".  It's being held at the Wolf Creek Winery in Norton, Ohio -- and I have a great group of 12 already signed up.


And, in less than 2 months, Sept 12-15, I will once again be hosting my annual Watercolor Workshop here in Durango, at my house/studio.  

Days 2, 3, & 4 are completely full, but there are still a few spots open for Day One.


I'm sorry if you wanted to sign up but didn't get around to it in time.  You can get on my waiting list, however -- if you send me an e-mail.  Then, I'll call you if a space opens up.  

Thanks to all involved for the great response this year!!!  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Announcing My 9th Annual September Workshop in Durango

I'm excited to announce my 9th annual Four-Day Watercolor Workshop, to be held in my home/studio in Durango, Colorado -- on September 12-15, 2014.

All skill levels are welcome, although the First Day is recommended first, if you are a beginner.

The Price includes a gourmet lunch and beverages, every day.

To reserve a spot in this year's workshop (for 1, 2, 3, or all 4 days), please e-mail me at


Day One:   For the Beginner
Day Two:  Water & Reflections
Day Three: Glass & Mirrors
Day Four:   Floral Bouquets on Aquabord

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Announcing My Upcoming Ohio Workshop: WATERCOLOR & WINE in August

I'm excited to be teaching my 3rd Annual Watercolor Workshop in Ohio!

This year, it will be in August and is being held at the Winery at Wolf Creek, in Norton, Ohio.  How fun is that going to be!

We'll be learning different watercolor techniques and will paint a different project each day.

As always, there will be lots of instruction and individual attention -- with plenty of time to paint, and maybe do some wine tasting, too.

It is always a friendly and positive atmosphere at my workshops, and this year, we will have the added inspiration of the winery.  We'll have a critique and discussion at the end of each day.

So, come and join me for this workshop -- and get ready to stretch yourself, and even surprise yourself!

If you have any questions or need more information, contact me here, or e-mail me at