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Botanical Portraits: Plants of the High Desert – G190644

Workshop ID: G190644
Dates: June 23 - June 29
Price: $675.00 - $1,540.00

Ghost Ranch’s 21,000 acres host a surprising diversity of native plants. Join botanical artist Helen Byers this week to draw them artfully and accurately. We’ll work in layers of colored pencil to achieve effective values, textures, and detail. Daily instructional demos and personalized attention. On relaxed evening field walks, gather specimens from which to work indoors in the mornings. Afternoons offer free time to continue working independently, explore more of the Ranch, or visit local sites. A list of needed supplies will be sent to registrants. All levels are welcome.

Prickly Pear Cactus © Helen Byers 2017


Package Price
All Inclusive, Double Occupancy: Private Bath$1,540.00
All Inclusive, Double Occupancy: Shared Bath$1,465.00
All Inclusive, Double Occupancy: Communal Bath$1,195.00
Camping RV$835.00
Camping w/Electricity$795.00
Rio Arriba Commuter$675.00
Helen Byers

Helen Byers is an award-winning artist and educator who was born in Brazil and grew up in Mexico and the California Bay Area. She earned graduate degrees in English at UC Santa Barbara and later


Download and Print Welcome Letter: Byers – Botanical Portraits

Botanical Portraits: Plants of the High Desert

Instructor: Helen Byers

Start Date: 6/23/19, End Date: 6/29/19

Check-In Begins at 3:00pm at the Welcome Center on 6/23/19. Dinner 5:30 – 6:30; Orientation 6:45 pm

Invitation: This year, treat yourself to an unforgettable week of botanical drawing with me in Northern New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment”! The spectacular 21,000 acres of Ghost Ranch (former home of Georgia O’Keeffe) host an inspiring diversity of botanical subjects. All levels welcome. Bring a friend!

Learning Outcomes: Helen’s in-depth demos, informative handouts, and individualized instruction will help you to: identify native plants; practice close observation of botanical subjects with the help of magnification; learn an illustration technique combining colored pencil and watercolor; refine your realistic drawing skills.

Course Schedule:
Mornings (9:00-noon): Classroom work.
Lunch break: (noon-1:00 pm)
Afternoons: Enjoy free time to continue working independently, explore more of the Ranch, or visit local sites.
Evenings (after dinner, approx. 7:00-8:00 pm): During relaxed field excursions, we will gather specimens from which to work in the mornings.

Instructor Background: Helen Byers is an award-winning botanical artist and educator who has taught at Ghost Ranch since 2005. Currently she also teaches at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and Tower Hill Botanic Garden (near Boston). Her botanical drawings and paintings have been included in numerous national and international juried exhibitions. She is a member of the Rocky Mountain chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists.

Materials: Download the Materials List by clicking here: Byers – Botanical Portraits.


Materials List

  • Good paper: Fabriano “Artistico” or Arches HP (hot press) watercolor paper, 140 or 300 lbs, one or more full sheets (22”x 30”) cut into quarters, OR a block of Fabriano HP or Arches HP, 140 lbs, 9”x12”
  • Tracing paper (9”x12” or 11”x14”)
  • Graphite pencils 2B & 2H
  • Faber Castell Polychromos “Artist’s quality” Colored Pencils (See NOTES*) (Please sharpen pencils before class.)
  • 8 Faber Castell Albrecht Durer “Artist’s quality” Watercolor Pencils (See NOTES**)
  • 1 Prismacolor Colorless Blender Pencil (Dick Blick #20508-1010 or -1020)
  • Round water brush, such as Sakura Koi, size 6, medium (Dick Blick # 09094-1020), OR similar water brush by Niji, OR pointed round watercolor brush, size 4 (can be synthetic) plus small water container
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Factis BM2 Mechanical Eraser (Dick Blick #21597-2020)
  • Tombow “Mono Zero” Elastomer Eraser, 2.3mm (Dick Blick #21576-9330)
  • Magnifying glass (3” or wider)
  • Manual pencil sharpener (See NOTES***)
  • Ruler (see-through plastic, 6” or longer)
  • X-Acto knife (with #11 blade)
  • Artist’s tape (1/4” or ½” wide, preferably white)
  • Paper towels


  • Sketching paper (9”x12” or 11×14”), such as Strathmore Drawing 400 Series, “Smooth” surface, 80 lbs. (Dick Blick #13651-1023) OR similar. Just make sure it isn’t rough. If you prefer sketching on tracing paper, you won’t need this.)
  • Drawing support: piece of ¼” thick Foamcore cut to 12” x 16” (OR Jack Richeson Hardboard Panel, 11”x14”, OR similar)
  • Digital camera or tablet (very useful)
  • Cordless task light (Daylight and Ott Light are good brands.)


* For their hardness—necessary for the colored pencil technique I teach—you will need Faber-Castell “Polychromos” Colored Pencils. For best results, please do not substitute other brands.
I recommend the following 21 colors, which will serve as a good basic set for continued botanical drawing. (For more savings, through, the “Polychromos” Set of 36 is a good alternative, & the Set of 24 is okay.)

                        # 205 Cadmium yellow lemon

                        # 107 Cadmium yellow

                        # 183 Yellow ochre

                        # 187 Burnt ochre

                        # 115 Dark cadmium orange

                        # 121 Pale geranium lake

                        # 190 Venetian red

                        # 125 Middle purple pink

                        # 194 Red violet

                        # 136 Purple violet

                        # 120 Ultramarine

                        # 153 Cobalt turquoise

                        # 157 Dark indigo

                        # 278 Chrome oxide green

                        # 167 Permanent green olive

                        # 168 Earth green yellowish

                        # 172 Earth green

                        # 283 Burnt sienna

                        # 175 Dark sepia

                        # 273 Warm grey IV

                        # 102 Cream

  • To go with the Faber-Castell “Polychromos” colored pencils above, I recommend Faber-Castell “Albrecht Durer” Watercolor Pencils in these colors:

                        # 107 Cadmium yellow

                        # 120 Ultramarine

                        # 121 Pale geranium lake

                        # 125 Middle purple pink

                        # 115 Dark cadmium orange

                        # 167 Permanent green olive

                        # 136 Purple violet

                        # 283 Burnt sienna                 

*** Manual pencil sharpeners are not all created equal, especially for colored pencils! Small, good, inexpensive ones include Faber-Castell models (such as the “Grip Trio Sharpener,” Blick #21430-1004), designed for regular and thicker pencils. My favorite larger model is the Rapesco 74 Sharpener (available through

Art Supply Stores

This online source offers great savings—often 50% or more:

If you haven’t time to shop early: Artisan is a good local art supply store in Santa Fe & Albuquerque that carries most products on this list.

Please note that our workshop price structure packages your tuition, course materials, lodging and meals together in a single rate. Prices are presented for each of the types of lodging available for the workshop you select. Some art workshops will have an additional list of course materials and supplies that can be purchased or you will be asked to bring with you.
  • Note:  Some courses (especially studio courses and plein air painting courses) can carry an additional material list or expense.
All rates are Per Person, Double Occupancy unless otherwise specified. Single Occupancy: Single occupancy rooms may be reserved for an additional $50 per night when space is available. The fee will be charged when space is confirmed. Single occupancy lodging is generally not available during June and July. If you are a single person and do not specify a roommate, a roommate of the same gender will be assigned to share your lodging space or you can request the single occupancy and be charged the supplement of an additional $50 per night (based on availability). For more information or if you would like to attend this workshop, but do not need lodging, please call the Registrar's Office at 505.685.1001 or 505.685.1001 ext 4155 or toll-free at 877.804.4678 — available SundayFriday8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. MST.

Three ways to register:

  1. Download printable registration form and mail to: Ghost Ranch Registrar, 280 Private Drive 1708, Abiquiu, NM 87510. OR scan and email your completed form to:
  2. Register by telephone at 505.685.1001 or 505.685.1017 or toll-free at 877.804.4678, ext. 4155 or ext. 4121 — available Monday-Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. MST.
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