John James Nature Sketch Contest Results
To honor our namesake’s 235th birthday, we hosted an online “John James Nature Sketch Challenge” from April 26 to May 16. Denver Audubon volunteer, Charlotte Ricker, served as our highly qualified judge. Charlotte 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. To select winners, she said she was looking for accuracy of the species, artistic vision, composition, technique, and creativity.
Fifty-one entries were submitted, and we can’t stress all of the talent and beauty we saw. Charlotte said, “Wow, what a tough choice! Each submission showed a love of nature from the artists’ unique perspective, and I applaud the energy and enthusiasm that each of you applied to your observations of nature, and to executing your artwork.” We’ve posted all of the submissions at the end of this post so you can see what a difficult time Charlotte had.
Winners receive a complimentary, one-year Denver Audubon membership and a customized box of organic Colorado native plants. Congratulations to Dorothy De Paulo and Suzanne Stutzman! Charlotte explains why she selected each below.
I chose Dorothy DePaulo’s piece, as her wonderful storytelling captures a tender moment between this Great Blue Heron pair. Her careful attention to detail brings this scene to life, from the texture of the bark in the woven sticks that make up the elaborate nest, to the carefully placed feathers that describe the heron’s breeding plumage. The artist has shown scientific accuracy in the anatomy of the birds, as well as accurate colors. The scene shows a nice balance of warm and cool tones, which is pleasing to the eye. Her clever use of negative space results in a strong composition suggesting the openness of the grand Colorado sky and focusing our attention on the two birds. The low angle view immerses the viewer in the scene by placing us right in the nest with the pair. Her piece shows a strong sense of light on form with bold shadows and highlights communicating the time of day and adding drama to the scene. Dorothy is successfully using contrast to create a sense of depth, establishing a clear distinction between the foreground and background. Congratulations on creating a beautiful piece of nature art!
With the wide variety of beautiful submissions, we selected a second piece for the competition that uses a nature journaling/field sketching style to tell an engaging tale of how humans and birds can successfully coexist. Suzanne Stutzman’s series of sketches, diagrams and humorous, informative text express her curiosity as she observes the activities of a Red-shafted Northern Flicker over time. Her sketches show the Flicker from multiple views, including unique vantage points as she imagines the scene from inside the nest box. Each journal page has been thoughtfully composed to support the story, from the technical drawing of the bird box complete with dimensions, to the energetic page of sketches showing the main character’s interaction with a pesky squirrel. The story arc builds as we’re taken through the Flicker’s challenges to find a nesting spot, and concludes in a touching moment when the babies hatch from their shells on Mother’s Day. Suzanne’s clever approach to documenting her observations creates an intriguing storyline and expresses a true sense of wonder about the natural world.