Van Hoosen Farm Project – Wildflower Illustrations

Early in 2019, I was contacted by Flutter & Wow Museum Projects about creating some original wildflower illustrations as part of a newly redesigned pioneer family exhibit at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm. The Taylor-Van Hoosen family, who lived on this farm for several generations, is the focus of the exhibit and, in particular, their two daughters, Alice and Bertha. Both women were encouraged by their progressive father, Joshua Van Hoosen, to pursue higher education and were among the first women to graduate from the University of Michigan in the late 1800s. (Taylor-Van Hoosen-Jones Family History.)

The book, The Petticoat Surgeon, written in 1947 by Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen, tells the story of her amazing life. In this memoir, Dr. Van Hoosen discusses her childhood home and grounds and how they influenced her. Among the descriptions are mentions of various local wildflowers/plants/trees. Flutter & Wow proposed having original, botanical illustrations created by a local illustrator to be included as part of an interactive exhibit panel. They searched online for a local botanical illustrator and my name popped up!

I was absolutely thrilled to be part of this project and happy that we could work out the details of my contribution. With the Flutter & Wow staff, I gathered information on twelve different botanical subjects and created 5.5″ X 5.5″ original drawings of each. Pencil drafts were approved by Flutter & Wow and then I rendered them in both pen and ink and colored pencil on Fabriano hot press watercolor paper.

Plants included in the list were marsh marigold, maize, bloodroot, elderberry, Michigan lily, tamarack (tree), black walnut (tree), wild grape, hepatica, lady slipper orchid, teaberry and wood sorrel .

Here are all twelve drawings, all together!

As projects go, there are always adjustments and lessons learned along the way. When the drawings were finished, Flutter & Wow was still in the process of finalizing the look of the whole exhibit. We tried several adjustments to my scans, but ultimately, they decided that they needed a different look to the final drawings.

Fear not! Fortunately, I had scanned in the pen drawings before adding color and so with minimal clean-up, I was able to provide them with my line drawings so that their in-house designer could add digital color to match the rest of the exhibit. Whew!

My pen and ink scans, all cleaned up and ready for digital color.

The final exhibit will not be fabricated and installed until later this year (and that may be pushed back due to COVID-19.) However, I am so pleased to have had an opportunity to contribute a small part to this exhibit about the lives of this extraordinary family.

Sketchbook Exchange – Round 3

The Nature Miscellany Sketchbook Exchange began a third trip around the world in 2017. Since life gets in the way for many of us, the sketchbooks took a leisurely time to go to each participant and finally made their way back to the original owners in 2019.

I was pleased to have a chance to draw many of my favorite botanicals for the other participants. Apologies for the dark photos. I just took some quick pictures before sending them on their way.

I began the sketchbook with some beautiful gerbera daisies and left room on the facing page for each artist to sign as they completed the book.
I added a few more colorful bits, a petunia and a dahlia, before I sent this one off.
I finally had a chance to draw the Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) in April 2017 for the first book I received.A walk through my favorite place, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, in August 2017 inspired me to tackle Showy Tick-Trefoil from the Great Lakes Garden for the next sketchbook.
The hostas in my garden turn wonderful shades of copper, yellow and green in autumn. I didn’t have time to finish the detailed color pattern in October 2017, but I sort of like it better this way.
The famous Peony Garden at the University of Michigan inspired this rhododendron drawing in May of 2018.
August 2018 brought the ripe berries and green leaves of the Solomon’s Seal from a late summer walk through Matthaei.
Finally, looking for winter inspiration, I went to Matthaei’s conservatory and found this beautiful, purple orchid (Laelia anceps) in January 2019.

When my own book made its way back to me, I found it filled with gorgeous drawings from my artist friends. (note the pen and ink pine cone – I forgot I had done that one in my book before it left!) I think the next round is on hold for the foreseeable future, but I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in such a wonderful project. It has kept me looking for new ideas and pushing myself to try new botanical subjects. A huge thank you to my fellow participants. It is an honor to have your work in my books!

Science Olympiad and Scientific Illustration – continued!

So it has been…a little while since I last wrote. Ok, about 3 years, but who’s counting? You might be curious to know if I took a break from art during that time, but no! Life became busy on many fronts, and I did not get around to posting updates to the blog. However, I have had a number of artistic efforts going on over the last few years, and I would love to tell you about them!

Let’s start with Science Olympiad. When I last wrote, I had participated in the inaugural Open Events Scientific Illustration table. It was such a hit that we were able to continue at Open Events in both 2018 and 2019.


One major highlight of our 2018 table included having scientific illustrator John Megahan, from the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology, join us. John was gracious enough to bring his portfolio and spend a few hours chatting with students and parents about his work combining science and art. It was fantastic to have another professional illustrator interacting with the kids!

Scientific Illustrator, John Megahan sharing his portfolio.
John Megahan showing my daughter, Norah, the details of a project.

As usual, lots of kids and even parents came by the table to try their hand at drawing the plants, skulls, and other natural science objects. They experimented with various types of pencils, technical pens, and colored pencils.

Two Science Olympiad participants doing a great job sketching a pine cone and seashell.
Flowers were a big hit as well.

It was a busy, exhilarating and exhausting day, but one filled with lots of art and, I hope, some inspiration for the kids who came by.


We continued the Scientific Illustration table at Open Events in 2019. As usual, I brought my own sketches and projects to share. I feel strongly that the unfinished sketches are so important for people to see. This helps them to understand that drawings are a work-in-progress and don’t just jump straight from the artist’s brain to the page! I added some new skulls from my own collection, including an American crocodile, which gave more variety and interest to the table.

We had many fantastic drawings come from the day and so rather than write more, I will let the artwork speak for itself!

The crocodile skull was a big hit!
Great observations of a lotus seed pod.
The bumpy starfish was very popular as well.
Seashells are always a good go-to sketch subject.
Plants, plants and more plants! I really enjoyed seeing the use of color this year.
This young lady spent a long while perfecting her observations and working on the gorgeous purple blossoms on this plant. Great job!

So what about 2020? Well, as we all know, 2020 has been a dramatic, unconventional and unsettling year, primarily eclipsed by the global pandemic of COVID-19. Everything after about mid-March was canceled, including Science Olympiad. Though sad to miss out on this wonderful event, the health and safety of our communities is clearly much more important. Here’s to hoping for a return to Science Olympiad in years to come. In the meanwhile, keep drawing!