​Conference Review

Portfolio Sharing

Water bear photomicroscopy class

Triple Falls watercolor -Frances Topping

Ron Miller discusses space art

Techniques Showcase with Nancy Hart

Techniques Showcase with Karen Ackoff

Blue Hills Sunset - by Bruce Kerr

Skinny Dip Falls, ©2017 Daisy Chung

Asheville Science Museum tour - how the moon works.

Triple Falls, ©2017 Frances Topping

Banquet gathering

Vireo Sketch, digital ©2017 Bruce Kerr

Silent Auction

Cthulhu Cap at the Auction

GNSI Board

Drum circle party

Our Week In Beautiful Asheville, NC

— Linda Feltner

Coming from hot and dry Arizona, the heady aroma of GREEN was like a tonic — evocative of the verdant woodlands of my childhood. Our host campus, Warren Wilson College, provided a charmed atmosphere where forest and buildings intertwined. Distances from auditorium, cafeteria and classrooms were minimal, where birdsong and lush garden plantings along the pathways invited us to linger. Many a member was seen crouching to examine an insect or blossom, or peering upward into the canopy.

The Blue Ridge Mountains’ elevation provided pleasant temperatures and cool evenings for most of the week. Members jogged, walked or strolled the campus trails, and shared photographs of their discoveries along trails and streams flowing alongside the campus. They didn’t have to walk far to have the peace of the forest surrounding them and opportunities for sketching ranged from salamanders to bears. This set the stage for our official welcome to Warren Wilson College, near Asheville, North Carolina.

On Sunday, the GNSI Board of Directors gathered for their traditional meeting for the entire day, benefiting from the opportunity to be together to discuss Guild business. Attendees arriving on Sunday were invited to participate in a special event, the Collaborative Mural Painting Party, organized by Jennifer Landin, our excellent Conference Chair, who is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. [The mandalas and Jennifer’s description of this project occupy pp 26-27 of this issue.]

Sunday evening’s Portfolio Sharing (photo on pg. 19) is often considered the unofficial kick-off of GNSI conferences and has become one of my favorite events. The bright and spacious Canon Lounge contained long tables to display the impressive array of members’ portfolios and sketchbooks. This opportunity to share one’s work, peer through pages or scroll through screens provided insight into the diversity and innovation of our members. At its peak, the room was filled with discussions about work, projects and publications. This event gave us introductions to new colleagues and renowned illustrators that inspire us. Our members are among the best to share their expertise, inspiration, challenges and innovations with others.

The core conference encompassed Monday through Wednesday. Each day began with an array of plenary speakers addressing our assembly of 167 attendees, 33 guests, representing five countries. Dr. Amy Boyd, Professor of Biology, welcomed us to both Warren Wilson College and the biodiversity of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our curiosity for the region was kindled by her article in the GNSI Journal (Vol. 49(1), 2017).

Ron Miller (top left), the renowned astronomical artist, entranced us with the rich visual paintings that shaped our earth-bound vision of space (and his secret use of smoke bombs!). Robert Johnson shared his development of his signature art style. Nancy Lowe showed us how collaboration is applied with artists and scientists to develop curiosity and creativity through the AS IF Center. John Pickering of DiscoverLife.org and Save All Species Initiative outlined an extensive study with moths to understand factors that affect these communities.

Paula J. Ehrlich inspired us with a narrated short video from the E.O. Wilson’s Biodiversity Foundation and described the Half-Earth Project as a call-to-action for protecting half the Earth, one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time. Todd Witcher’s Discover Life in America All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory fascinated us with the scope of research discoveries.

Core conference afternoons were filled with lectures, presentations, panels and the ever-popular Techniques Showcase (above). Impressive collections of topics left us wishing that Britt Griswold (the Great Big Deal) would construct a cloning machine. Numerous distinguished speakers and valuable topics left us wanting to attend multiple lectures at the same time. Our Programming Co-Chairs, Elizabeth Morales and Peter Green, along with Robin Carlson, spearheaded an exceptional lineup of presenters.

I considered listing the array of presentations as well as individual praise for their contribution to our education, but the list is long and praises widespread. The depth of this year’s presentations, lectures and panels surpassed many expectations. Choices were tough between digital and traditional techniques, including ZBrush, 3-D Modeling, Acrylic and Colored Pencil, and Scratchboard. Science topics provided inspiration through water bears, solar eclipses, botany, veterinary medicine and paleo reconstructions. To this, add business marketing, teaching scientific illustration and social media. The scope of presentations was valuable to our members who requested funding from their institutions, and those who qualified for academic credits for attendance.

The GNSI 2017 Annual Exhibit Reception was held at the Holden Arts Center on Monday evening. The exhibition showcased 67 framed illustrations juried from 164 entries by 99 members. The exhibit can be viewed on the GNSI web page. This reception was jam-packed with lively conversation and provided a chance to observe in detail the diversity of work created by our members. During this event, members voted on their favorites in both color and black and white categories. The People’s Choice Awards occupy pages 16-17 of this issue.

The Techniques Showcase has become a classic event and provided the opportunity to ask questions of those who generously shared their techniques, experience and advice. Demonstrations ranged from exquisite traditional to elegant digital techniques, presented by Trudy Nicholson, Rhonda Nass, Carol Creech, Cheryl McCutchan, Quinn Burrell, Karen Ackoff, Nancy Hart, Matt Patterson, Charlotte Ricker, Nicole Wong and Kapi Monoyios.

Tuesday evening’s GNSI Auction proved to be another memorable evening. Two auction segments provided ample opportunity to scoop up some cool items and savor humorous entertainment. The silent auction included collectibles from the estate of our beloved John Cody, out-of-print books illustrated by Trudy Nicholson, and cropped selections of the spectacular Santa Cruz Chalk Mural! Our hosts for the highly enjoyable live auction were Smokey Bear (Dave Clarke), John Norton in his signature tropical shirt, and the ever-anticipated entrance of the Appalachian Crow (Sara Taliaferro). Highlights of the live auction include an exquisitely sculptured cicada brooch by Karen Johnson, a cephalopod/Cthulhu cap complete with tentacles (pg. 23), Ikumi Kayama’s knitted salamander mittens, an original scratchboard by Trudy Nicholson, a watercolor preparatory study by myself, and Amy Gagnon’s swallows and coconuts. We were once again privileged to close the evening with John Norton singing The Element Song.

The Annual Banquet concluded the core conference. The Banquet was a special occasion to show appreciation to the volunteers and to present GNSI’s most cherished awards. Our volunteers often work in the background and are unknown to most. These special people donated small, medium or large amounts of time that when put together, make GNSI conferences so successful and fulfilling. This year’s conference utilized the skills of over 40 volunteers. The Guild thrives on a foundation of volunteers, and during the banquet, the gifts and applause are heartfelt appreciation of their contribution.

A new award was created especially for Britt Griswold. The Great Big Deal Award was established with sincere as well as heartfelt humor. Amelia Janes told the story of how high status and honor led to the birth of the moniker a “Great Big Deal”. We recognize that the success of many past conferences rests on Britt’s shoulders as well as his current service to GNSI as webmaster, committee advisor; and whose service continues to be extensive and profound. We sought to present him with a special award that is uniquely Britt. The hat embroidered with GBD will be a reminder that we consider him a Great Big Deal.

The GNSI Distinguished Service Award was given in recognition of long-term dedication and work within and on behalf of this organization. In consideration for her service on the GNSI Board, her conference involvement, her GNSI Chapter work and countless behind the scenes efforts and connections, it was with great pleasure awarded to Amelia Janes. An excerpt from the award announcement: “As President, she served thoughtfully and without fanfare, helping the organization to refine its vision and strategic work, quietly working behind the scenes to strengthen our working relationships within the organization.” An article about Amelia receiving this award is found on pp 14-15 of this issue.

The evening’s events continued in the Pavilion, where we enjoyed the organic music of a Drum Circle, facilitated by Larry MacDowell. West African type of drumming with traditional djembe and dunun drums and other amazing instruments provided intertwining rhythm and an overall creative experience where everyone was invited to participate. Many members joined the drumming or shook authentic rattles to create music that was spontaneous and energizing. “It’s good for our procedural and detail oriented brains to have some wide open creativity in whatever form.” said Amelia Janes.

Workshops and Field Trips filled the remaining days. While the core conference provided back-to-back presentations and inspirational concepts accompanied by scribbled note-taking, and left us with mind-boggling take-home messages, the rest of the week allowed us to slow down and immerse ourselves in another aspect of education and inspiration. Some opted for intensive training in digital and traditional illustration techniques. Others were absorbed into drawing live animals in the classroom and farmyard, or explored the countryside, concentrating on sketching and photography. These opportunities to hone skills with in-depth study provided learning opportunities often unavailable to members. They were very popular and filled up quickly. Comments extolling the benefits exemplify the quality of these workshops and field trips.

On the flight home, I reflected the same thoughts as my first conference, years ago. I was impressed with the collaboration and dedication to produce meaningful educational opportunities. The breadth of experience generously shared by our members continues to astound me. Conferences are one of the best ways to be more involved with the Guild, and we’re always looking for more helpers with small, medium or large volunteer contributions.


Renders of 3D Digital Virtual Heart, with David Mauriello

“It was incredible how much detail he was able to capture in his render, and I was especially inspired when he always over-renders his project beyond what his project requires so that the assets will become even more versatile if needed in the future…. It was interesting to learn that a lot of 3D animation skills also translate to the 2D animation that I am used to.”
— Daisy Chung

Next generation of educational materials for veterinary medicine, with Brad Gilleland

“The way that the VetLab uses computer technology for teaching is truly innovative…. They’re working on a virtual reality walk-through of the circulatory system and developing methods to use Augmented Reality in laboratory settings.”
— Cheryl McCutchan

Painting with Colored Pencils, with Scott Rawlins

“I learned how to look at the subtle color changes on the surface of a bing cherry and try to discern how to convey that, and how to use those colors to expand the texture, contour, and intriguing depth of color to create a small illustration of one cherry that speaks volumes of what I was seeing and, while doing so, enjoyed and profited by every moment of it.”
— Trudy Nicholson

Photomicroscopy water bear Lab, with Paul Bartels

“He is such an enthusiastic scientist and appreciator of the microfauna. His excitement and energy were contagious. In his talk, Dr. Bartels talked about how he works with his students to discover new species. What a wonderful experience for the students!”
— Ikumi Kayama

Beyond Anatomy: Creating Creaturely Characters one can Believe In, with Terryl Whitlatch

“She is an excellent and very personable speaker, and I was planning to attend her presentation regardless of whether it was a repeat of last year’s or not – and it was not!”
— Scott Rawlins

Live Birds in the Classroom (with Linda Feltner) and Live-and-(almost) Loose Animals (with Nancy Halliday)

“I’ve been making a point of sketching every day since I came back and it is paying off already.”
— Lore Ruttan

“Live animals are great at reminding you that they are all individuals, and even the familiar can surprise you.”
— Valerie Hayes

“For me, it was a delightful experience to see up close so many fascinating and beautiful creatures and to marvel at so many artistic interpretations of them.”
— Nancy Halliday

Beautiful, Luminous Grays with Patricia Savage

“As a result, I’ve changed out some of the colors that I’ve been using in my sketching kit and it’s been so much less frustrating!”
— Karen Johnson


Top: Sunday evening portfolio sharing. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Bottom right: Triple Falls watercolor sketch. ©2017  Frances Topping

Bottom left: Professor Paul Bartels gave a 2 hour lab tour and demo in the Photomicroscopy lab. Photo ©2017 Taina Litwak.

Top Left: Plenary talk by Ron Miller: Illustrating the Universe: Stars, Moons and Galaxies. Ron Miller is author of The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era and The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System 3rd Edition completely revised. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Top right: Techniques Showcase: Nancy Hart teaching mixed media: pen, ink and watercolor. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Bottom Right: Techniques Showcase: Karen Ackoff teaching egg tempera. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Top Left: Blue Hills Sunset ©2017 B Kerr

Top Right: Skinny Dip Falls ©2017 Daisy Chung

Bottom: Cory Van Auken leading a museum tour. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Top: Triple Falls ©2017 Frances Topping

Bottom: Banquet. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Top Left: Vireo Sketch, digital, ©2017 Bruce Kerr

Top Right: The Silent Auction included pieces of last year’s chalk murals. Photo © 2017 Taina Litwak.

Left: Cthulhu Cap at the auction modeled by Lore Rutan. Photo courtesy of Marla Coppolino

Below: Drum circle party at the Pavilion. Photo ©2017 Carolyn Martel

Bottom Right: The drum circle. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

GNSI Board at the Banquet, left to right: Vice-President Ikumi Kayama, Past-President Amelia Janes, Treasurer Karen Johnson, Education Director and President -Elect Sara Taliaferro, Outreach Director Diana Marques, Membership Secretary Daisy Chung, Recording Secretary Cheryl McCutchan, President Linda Feltner. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold

Above: Tardigrades;

©2017 Robin Carlson

Top Right: Opossum sketch done in Live-and-(almost) loose animals workshop; ©2017 Jay Rasgorshek

Right: Blue Ridge Mountains ©2017 Karen Johnson

Drum circle in the Pavilion after the banquet, inspired and organized by Paul Fetchco. Photo ©2017 Britt Griswold