Natural Approaches to Bountiful Health

A Guest Article from Dr. Stephen Devries
Why would a successful cardiologist at a university medical center with a 9 month wait-list for patients leave his practice to start a nonprofit? That’s the question we put to Dr. Stephen Devries. Dr. Devries is the director of the Deerfield-based nonprofit Gaples Institute, and our upcoming speaker at our Brushwood Healthy Happy Hour scheduled for May 26th.

In over 25 years of practice I’ve seen too many patients with serious heart conditions that could have been avoided with greater attention to nutrition and lifestyle. The problem is that physicians just don’t receive the training they need to effectively guide patients toward healthier lifestyles. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on high tech procedures and medication — that was true when I was in training and it’s still the case today.

That’s why I left the practice that I loved to make an even bigger difference in my work as director of nonprofit Gaples Institute (named after our co-founder). The mission of the Gaples Institute is to advance the role of nutrition and lifestyle through education and advocacy. We are supported in our mission by our Gaples Institute Advisory Board that consists of nationally recognized leaders in education, science, and policy, including Adele Simmons.

The Gaples Institute has two target audiences:

 1) Health professionals: the Gaples Institute developed an award-winning nutrition continuing medical education course, now with more than 1200 registrants, that recently became a required course in its first major medical school;

2) Community members: we developed another award-winning nutrition learning program provided as a service by the Gaples Institute, used by adults as well as secondary schools, and soon to be released in Spanish.

My work focuses extensively on community education to help promote awareness of the untapped power that individuals have over their health, which is the theme of my upcoming talk for the Happy Hour Brushwood presentation on May 26, “Natural Approaches to Bountiful Health.

You can learn more about Dr. Devries, as well as the mission and activities of the nonprofit Gaples Institute here.

Featured Artist: Stephanie Bird

At Brushwood Center, we are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by doing what we strive to do year round: build a community around nature and the arts. To help lift up the struggling arts community during this difficult time, we are highlighting a different nature-inspired artist each week and sharing their story with you. We encourage you to reflect on the impact of art in your life, and look for ways to support artists in our community.

This week, we are featuring Stephanie Rose Bird – an award winning artist, arts educator and author with a passion for the natural world and plants in particular. With a bold cacophony of colors, Stephanie captures the life force she sees emanating from her garden in her art. Her work is a vibrant celebration of the power of plants to feed our bodies and heal our souls. We love its boundless expression of joy as the shapes dance and leap off the page.

Stephanie Rose Bird on her work:

“As a child, I moved from an urban environment to a rural one and it changed my life forever. Growing up in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, living in a wetland, among forest creatures and lush vegetation continues to inspire and inform my work. I began working as an artist utilizing the landscape. Many of those early paintings where of the lake on which I grew up. Later, I went further afield and painted the local fields and barns of Salem County. Then I turned inward to still life. Utilizing the tomatoes and eggplants that give New Jersey its name, the Garden State, I found a subject matter that continues to stimulate my imagination.

I went on to become an author, again sharing my passion for nature, while hopefully inspiring others to engage. My books center on herbalism, aromatherapy, healing and plant life. I was brought into the realm of herbalism from my interest in art and craft. I make soap, paper from plants, and my own paint, at times, derived from sea creatures, roots, herbs and minerals. Now I live in the Midwest and have found fresh material from which to work. My recent art has returned to my favorite topics: flowers, fruits, vegetables and landscape specific to this area. I never paint from photographs, preferring instead to work using direction observation from life. I enjoy my daily struggles which capture the specific light conditions of the day, wondering if it will be windy, warm or too cold for work outside.

I utilize a variety of different materials to explore my subjects including sumi-ink, India ink, oil pastels, chalk pastels, conte crayons, aquarelle pencils, oil and acrylic paint. What intrigues me so about plants and the land, is the energy and power they have over us all. They shape and mold us, whether we are aware of this power of not. I make a deliberate attempt to convey the power and wonder of nature in my paintings and drawings, inviting you as a viewer to take a closer look.”

“Nature surrounds us and has an enormous effect on our psyche, outlook and daily life. I like the heliotropic nature of plants, which shows clearly that they are alive and on the move. I am inspired by the various abilities of plants, flowers and trees historically, in folklore and in our contemporary lives. I believe in the healing power of plants and like to try to capture some of that energy and magic in my paintings.”

An Interview with Stephanie Bird

View Stephanie and fellow artist, Gabriella Boros discussing “The Healing Power of Plants” at their 2019 Dear Earth talk.

Follow Stephanie Rose Bird Online

You can learn more about Stephanie’s artwork and books on her website. You can also keep up with her by following her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Featured Artist: Peggy Macnamara

At Brushwood Center, we are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by doing what we strive to do year round: build a community around nature and the arts. To help lift up the struggling arts community during this difficult time, we are highlighting a different nature-inspired artist each week and sharing their story with you. We encourage you to reflect on the impact of art in your life, and look for ways to support artists in our community.

This week, we are featuring Peggy Macnamara – an artist who combines a loose, vibrant watercolor style with a scientific study of insects and animals. Serving as the Artist-in-Residence at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History since 1990, Peggy has traveled with scientists all over the world to paint nature and illustrate conservation efforts. Through this work, she has published 4 books in collaboration with museum scientists through University of Chicago Press. Recently, her eye has turned to creatures living under the water, resulting in gorgeous depictions of sea dragons and fish. When the world reopens, you can enjoy Peggy’s paintings at the Field Museum, where they are on display as part of the permanent collection. For now, we are delighted to bring them to you here.

Peggy Macnamara on her work:

“My work is about the study of nature. I hesitate putting myself in such a grand tradition, but there it is. I admire those that have gone before and find myself studying old techniques while pushing in new directions. Like the scientist, who builds on the knowledge discovered before him, artists seem to emulate and eventually grow into the concerns of their time. I believe that by looking carefully at the entirety of nature I will learn to see better and gather an understanding of how things work. And hopefully pass on this wonder in my work.”

“Thirty years ago, I went to the Field Museum in Chicago to draw the Hoffmann Sculptures in order to improve my drawing skills. There I found endless subject matter, a community, and a purpose for my work. I moved from Oriental artifacts, to birds, mammals, reptiles and insects, drawing daily from the exhibit areas. I wandered through hidden areas of the museum painting oddities like tiny Tibetan statuary and the South American Shrunken heads. I eventually moved behind the scenes into the collection areas where I did the “Illinois Insects” and “Architecture by Birds and Insects”, “Migration” and “Peregrine Return” books with University of Chicago press. This adventure carried me outside the museum to collaborate with scientists in Madagascar, Africa, Central and South America, Alaska and other places enabling me to contribute to conservation efforts.”


Get Peggy’s COVID Coloring Book

Peggy created a Complimentary Coloring Book to help you get through this difficult time. Paint while you stay at home. Art is Meditation. You can download it here.

Watch Peggy in action as she paints “Three Owls”


Follow Peggy Macnamara Online

You can learn more about Peggy’s artwork and books on her website or watch her draw and paint on her amazing YouTube channel. You can also keep up with her by following her on Facebook or Instagram.


Featured Artist: José Guadalupe Adonis González Rosales

At Brushwood Center, we are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by doing what we strive to do year round: build a community around nature and the arts. To help lift up the struggling arts community during this difficult time, we are highlighting a different nature-inspired artist each week and sharing their story with you. We encourage you to reflect on the impact of art in your life, and look for ways to support artists in our community.

This week, we are featuring José Guadalupe Adonis González Rosales – an educator, environmental leader and artist who explores the connection between nature and his Latinx culture. Jose’s passion for this work led him to found Latino Outdoors, a unique national Latinx-led organization, working to create and support a network of ambicultural leaders in the outdoor, conservation, and nature movement. His artwork combines traditional and modern styles and themes of nature and plants to explore his identity as a “Conservationist/Environmentalist, Chicano, and Educator.”


José González on his work:

I would like my art to serve as a tool to convey, deliver, frame, and engage with narrative in mind, combining my love for culture, environmental issues, and education. I am influenced by a range that includes the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) aesthetic as well as manga, cartooning, and children’s book design. Each piece tells a story in regards to a mestizo identity, whether the fullness of being Latinx, the the intersection of Latinx culture and nature, the outdoors, and conservation.

Nature inspires me because it provides abundant opportunities, invitations, and challenges for creative work with its models, metaphors, and response. My creative work is an expression and reflection of Nature as muse.

Check out José’s collaboration with Patagonia about how nature can connect us to our roots.


Follow José Online:

You can learn more about José’s work by visiting his website or keep up with him online by following him on Twitter or Instagram.