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Writing and Art Nature Retreat

Schedule and location

Saturday, February 22, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Thornhill Education Center

Fees and Registration

$95.00 member
$112.00 nonmember
(Fees include admission to the Arboretum)
This program is sold out. Please email the registrar at registrar-ed@mortonarb.org to be put on a wait list.

Course description

Spend a day immersed in nature with guided writing and art workshops. Set aside time to disconnect from the day-to-day and focus on connecting with the natural world through writing and art. Morning and afternoon sessions will explore nature journaling, sketching, paying attention, creative writing skills, and more. Choose the sessions that interest you most! Throughout the day, you will learn from professional writers and artists, enjoy lunch (included in the cost of the program), take in the wintery surrounds of the Arboretum, cozy up by the fire with a warm beverage, and explore nature with fellow creatives.

Morning (8:15 to 10:15 a.m.)
Session 1: Paying Attention with Cindy Crosby What does it mean to really pay attention? Develop your observational skills and apply them to your writing.

Session 2: Ephemeral Art as Meditation with Brenda Spitzer Create temporary works of art from found materials such as sticks, seed pods, leaves and more. Find joy in the process of creation and learn to celebrate the impermanent, ephemeral nature of life.

Midday (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
Session 3: Writing the Landscape with Cindy Crosby Let the landscape guide your writing. Instead of imposing your ideas on the landscape, let the land do the talking! Learn to take cues from what you see and get it down on paper.

Session 4: Zoom in, Zoom out: Winter Watercolor with Brittany Caldwell Observe trees from opposing perspectives and capture how far-reaching the possibilities can be. Create two small nature scenes: a winter skyscape and an intimate winter detail. Beginners can follow closely along with the instructor, learning brush techniques and color mixing, while more experienced artists can take the principles of perspective and apply them in their own composition.  

Lunch Break (12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

Afternoon (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.)
Session 5: Give Life to Your Writing with Cindy Crosby Specific, descriptive language is the key to vibrant writing. Learn how to bring life to your writing through effective description… without going overboard!

Session 6:  Nature Journaling with Carrie Carlson Use sketching and words to capture snippets of nature in your journal. Learn how journaling can help you form a deeper connection with your surroundings. Practice simple techniques to develop your sketching and observation skills.

Course number



Cindy Crosby is the author, co-author, or contributor to more than 20 books; her most recent is "Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit" (with Thomas Dean). She is also the author of "The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction" (Northwestern University Press). Cindy received her Masters in Natural Resources from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2014, and  is a trainer for the National Association of Interpretation, helping naturalists and cultural history interpreters become certified as guides. She is the steward for the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, and coordinates dragonfly monitoring programs at the Arboretum, and Nachusa Grasslands in Franklin Grove, IL. Cindy blogs weekly at "Tuesdays in the Tallgrass at Wordpress", and speaks and teaches in the Midwest on natural history subjects. Read more at www.cindycrosby.com.

Brenda has been guiding Forest Therapy walks at The Morton Arboretum since 2015.  She is also an assistant trainer and mentor for The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.  She has been a member of The Morton Arboretum and volunteer since 1994.  She has earned certificates in Botanical Art and Illustration and Natural History.  She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Art from Northern Illinois University and a Certificate in Sustainable Landscapes from College of DuPage.

Carrie Carlson is a Chicagoland native.  She earned a BA in Biology and Art from Luther College (Decorah, IA), an MFA in Scientific Illustration from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), and an MA in Printmaking from Governors State University (University Park, IL). Since 2001, she has been a full-time high school educator in the south suburbs of Chicago where she has split her years between the science and art departments; teaching Drawing, Painting, International Baccalaureate Visual Arts, as well as Biology, Biomedical Sciences, and Horticulture.  She also teaches a variety of adult art courses at the Morton Arboretum including linoleum block printing, drawing birds, and field sketching. Carrie exhibits nationally and internationally.

Brittany Caldwell is a painter from Illinois and a 2011 University of Illinois at Chicago graduate with a Bachelor in Fine Art. Her teaching career began in 2017 when she focused on acrylic painting for children and adults in Sheridan, Wyoming. Western wildlife and urban structure both influence her artwork. Brittany currently specializes in watercolor painting of birds, trees, and animal portraiture. Soft color gradients and repetitive line-work stand out in her compositions. She enjoys sharing artwork on social media where she records painting live while talking about color-mixing and problem solving within the creative process.

"Watercolor can layer and bloom in surprising ways, trust its behavior." Brittany's goal as an instructor is to provide open communication about what artists confront while creating."

Course details

Notes: This class will be held indoors with short outdoor activities, weather permitting. Dress for the weather, and be prepared to walk short distances on wood-chipped trails. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. Limit 35

Arboretum class weather, cancellation and refund policies