Art at the Desert Museum

I am getting ready to travel south from British Columbia to Tucson Arizona!

For the month of May 2023,  I will have opportunities to explore the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum with my sketchbook in hand, learning everything I can about this amazing place! It will be a wonderful retreat, with time to really focus on art, nature, and conservation.  

I am looking forward to participation in activities at the Art Institute, where I will be sharing my love for art, with other like-minded creatives. The mission of the Art Institute is:

“Conservation Through Art Education”
— art related to the appreciation of our natural environment.


Spring Catalogue Link

1. Art for Curious Optimists

Neilson's workshop is intended to support people in exploring mindful, reflective and playful processes to support a rewarding personal art practice. We will share ideas about strategies for using sketchbooks and experimental art folders for drawing, writing and collecting inspirations. Learn about icebreakers, transformations and exploratory activities that enable us to trust the process without fear or self-consciousness.

Art for Curious Optimists

1. The Optimists will be "curious researchers!" Starting with observation, we respond to nature, including awareness of micro and macro connections. Asking questions and testing possibilities begins the exploration. We can focus on basic patterns and symmetries we notice around us and we can also explore patterns that happen naturally with the art materials themselves. We will start the research like scientists but respond with empathy and creativity as artists!

Part II - Follow the Wandering Line

2. For part of our day, we will let the ink flow and the brushes dance! This activity will begin with a more physical response to the art materials, starting with ink.  We will experiment with flow, including subtle floating inks for backgrounds or inspirations, but we will also explore ways to integrate imagery into our work.

What to bring?

If it is not too hot outdoors, we might be able to spend part of the time collecting inspirations in the museum, so it will be helpful to come prepared with sketchbooks and basic supply kits that you can use in the classroom or also carry with you. Your supply choices will be personal, and it is not necessary to buy new materials. The following list includes some examples that I like to use, but we will talk more about personal choices of materials in the class.  

Sketch Kit Examples - Supplies

- sketchbook - mixed media paper or cotton watercolour paper is ideal, but bring whatever you have

· Any black permanent ink fine point drawing pen and/or even a rolling point black ballpoint. 

· soft coloured pencils.

· soft graphite pencils (2B is a good basic) for graphite sketching, or HB is good if you only want something easy to erase just to get compositions started. Pale blue or pale green pencil crayons can also be good for first steps finding shapes for drawings.

· a sharpener or knife is helpful. Please make sure your shavings are carried away with you when working outdoors.

· a white eraser and/or a kneaded putty eraser

Optional personal kit extras depending on your preferences:

- Some loose paper for test swatches or wet backgrounds that you want to dry separately outside your sketchbook.

· a compass could be helpful for the curious optimist group members

· a clear ruler (or a metal one, or even a straight edge)

· pencils of varied hardness (i.e. F, 4B, Blackwing 602, etc.)

- a camera or your phone can be helpful for collecting inspiration, noticing interesting details around the museum.

Extras for people who like to use wet media:

· a small watercolour and/or gouache paint kit and brushes. You could start with a size 8 round, a one stroke or flat for mixing, plus other favourites of your choice

- sumi brushes, bamboo pens or other personal favourite tools for interesting mark making

· small container or two for water to carry outdoors

· lightweight palette or even a couple of small dishes or recycled container lids.

· squeeze bottle or dropper and/or spritzer. You can use a pipette or small syringe instead of a dropper.

· a rag or wrist band (a cut off sock will do!) to dab your brushes

Dress for Comfort!

Walking shoes, sunhat, sitting mat, sunscreen, snacks, etc. 


Feedback Form Link:  

Workshop feedback would be very helpful. Thank you so much! There will also be a link for optional image sharing. See you then!