John James Nature Sketch Contest

John James Nature Sketch Contest (April 26 to May 16)

Contest Description:

Our namesake, John James Audubon, achieved great status as a naturalist, scientific observer, and artist during his lifetime from 1785 to 1851. To celebrate his 235th birthday (this Sunday, April 26), we are hosting an online “John James Nature Sketch Challenge.” Nature journaling can be an amazing way to reconnect with the great outdoors—it requires contemplative time observing wildlife and plants, as well as taking field notes and sketching what you see. Submit your favorite nature sketches for the chance to win a complimentary, one-year Denver Audubon membership and a customized box of organic Colorado native plants.

Need some inspiration? Review some of Audubon’s famous works and check out John Muir Laws.

Meet the contest judge:

Audubon volunteer, Charlotte Ricker, teaches for the School of Botanical Art & Illustration at the Denver Botanic Gardens and has worked as a consultant for a variety of organizations across North America.  She has worked as an architect and had the privilege of creating illustrations, graphics, and murals for interactive exhibits in museums, aquariums, zoos, and nature preserves. 

Examples of Charlotte’s beautiful work:

What types of sketches are we looking for?

Subject matter: Artwork may depict your unique vision of nature and can either be a finished piece or a looser field sketch style. We want sketches of Colorado native birds, plants, insects, or combinations of all three. Examples of subject matter might include (but are not limited to):

  • Birds in their natural setting, including a landscape background
  • Portrait of a bird, or birds with no background
  • Field sketches or nature journaling pages that illustrate your observations of nature 
  • Colorado landscape
  • Drawing of birds at your feeder or in your neighborhood
  • Native plant(s) and their pollinators (bird or insect)
  • Botanical illustration of a native plant

Media: You may choose to depict your subject in black and white or color using a medium of your choice including, but not limited to watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, graphite, oils, pastel, or mixed media. Sorry, but we are not accepting digital artwork or photos, entries must be created with your hands.

Judging criteria: Our judge is looking for accuracy in capturing the species, artistic vision, composition, technique, and creativity.

Contest Rules and Registration:

  • The contest is open from April 26 to May 16.
  • You may submit up to three entries.
  • Participants must be age 18 and over.
  • Register online and pay the $10 registration fee (per entry) or call 303-973-9530 to pay over the phone (additional donations greatly appreciated).
  • Once registered, take a photo of your sketch and email it to When you email your entry include:
    • Your first and last name
    • List the species that your sketch captures.
  • You must email your submission by midnight on Saturday, May 16, when the contest and registration will close.