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.

Featured Artist: Shilin Hora

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 Shilin Hora – an artist that not only makes art about nature, she makes art WITH nature.

A mixed-media collage artist, Shilin’s work revolves around seeds she finds in nature – the small, often overlooked kernels of life all around us that hold the potential and future of all plant life on earth. Through her work, she puts the spotlight on these tiny treasures, creating what she calls “Botanical Boxes” – a unique blend between natural history specimen collections and fine art museum displays that celebrate and showcase the “need for the seed” as objects, and emphasize the historical, scientific, artistic, and cultural importance of each seed.

In these boxes, she suspends individual seeds on a grid of thin filament in an arrangement of color, texture and shape that gives each seed it’s moment while also creating vibrant, visual relationships between the different seeds. Shilin takes care to make sure the viability of each seed is kept intact by using reversible and eco-conscious glues and mounting methods. Because of this, the seeds never lose their potency or potential for new life.

“The natural world and the environment inspires me because it is ascetically so beautiful, curious and mysterious. There is so much to discover, learn from and share still! Did you know that each rose of Sharon tree seed has over 50 small hairs on it?! Also, nature is super inspiring to me because it is the Great Giver, always giving and providing never asking for a thing in return. Much like a parent that gives and gives out of love, the earth gives and gives freely every day; water, wood, minerals, plants for food, air, warm sun…the list goes on.

As humans we receive most of or all of our wealth from nature and we don’t think twice about it. It’s crazy that we each have a choice to protect our natural world and give back but some of us choose not too; It’s the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein syndrome I guess. With my work I hope to showcase the aesthetic beauty of seeds and botanical litter-fall in hopes to to convince folks to preserve, conserve and fall in love with our beautiful, ever giving, natural world.”

Shilin Hora on her work:

My childhood was spent navigating between the neighboring peach orchard, grape vineyard, and corn field in St. Joseph, Michigan. As a teen I worked for my grandfather as a hired-hand on his blackberry farm and Christmas tree farm. I remember then being drawn to the magnificent micro world of botany that I still know and love today.

Undergraduate fine art studies took me inside the sculpture and printmaking studio at Grand Valley State University (B.F.A. 2001), where I developed my craft for collecting and illustrating nature. I learned to observe with intention and perfect the art of “seeing nature” through extensive botany collections and botanical illustrations. Here is where I learned the significance of the seed and learned to “hear” the voice of nature.

I care about the environment and its direction. I add value to the world by leading folks back to an appreciation and reverence for nature through beautiful botanical artworks. My dedication to craft and curating content that speaks about nature’s value is what makes me most proud and it’s what sets me apart from others.

Follow Shilin Hora Online

Join Shilin on a virtual tour of her incredible work here.

You can learn more about Shilin’s work and purchase her prints by visiting her website or learn about her workshops and community engagement with Grow Studio here.  You can also keep up with her by following her on Facebook or Instagram.

Earth Day Video Contest

Congratulations to our Video Contest Winner: Braden Wallenkamp

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Brushwood Center invited our community to share their gratitude for nature during COVID-19 through our Earth Day Video contest.  Our team was delighted by the submissions we received, and are so excited to share the winning submission “Earth Day Gratuity” by Braden Wallenkamp.

Braden is an Environmental Studies student at Lake Forest College. Her video includes footage from her family’s travels abroad in Ireland, Scotland, and Ecuador mixed with views from the woods near her family home in Wisconsin. This creative project was a way for Braden to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day with her family and share those joys with everyone who loves the outdoors. 

Special thanks to the runner-up submissions from Hannah Matthews and Jessamyn Lopez, both of whom created wonderful videos exploring the peace and joy we can find in spending time outside in nature during quarantine.   You can view Braden, Hannah, and Jessamyn’s beautiful tributes to Mother Earth through our YouTube playlist below:

Watch the Earth Day Video Finalists

Thank you to our contest sponsor:

Special Earth Week Message: Featuring Sibylle Szaggars Redford

Sibylle Szaggars Redford is one of our world’s most passionate and influential environmental artists, and founder of The Way of the Rain. Brushwood Center could think of no one better to spotlight for Earth Week. As our global community faces unprecedented challenges, her message of collective action resonates like never before and is beautifully communicated through her performance art and rain paintings.

Sibylle Szaggars Redford and Robert Redford were honored at Brushwood Center in 2018 as the Smith Nature Symposium Environmental Leadership Award Recipients.

Sibylle Szaggars Redford

Sibylle Szaggars Redford has dedicated her life’s work to creating art informed by her spiritual consciousness of our connection to life, the land, and the world by raising awareness of our environmentally unsound practices. Szaggars Redford is a German born multimedia environmental artist whose artwork has been exhibited throughout Europe, Monaco, Peru, Singapore, Japan, Suriname and the United States.

Having worked as an environmental artist for almost four decades, her desire is to create art that transcends words, languages, cultures and politics. Szaggars Redford creates art in order to speak to a deeper universal consciousness that’s connected to and dependent on the earth and its environments.

Her stunning Rain Paintings are watercolor paintings that tell the story of changing rain patterns resulting from climate change. Rain literally acts as her collaborator as she places her paper outside for the rains to shape her watercolor pigment compositions.

In 2015, Szaggars Redford founded The Way of the Rain, a nonprofit organization with the specific purpose of developing, producing and performing educational and artistic performances – themed and designed to promote public awareness to support the protection of our Earth.

The Way of the Rain has performed across the globe, collaborating with organizations dedicated to protection of the planet, including Brushwood Center. 

A Special Gift from The Way of the Rain

This Earth Week, take time to reflect on the importance of nature in your life by watching The Way of the Rain’s inspiring multi-media series “Reflections on Earth”. This series of videos, updated weekly and curated by artistic director Sibylle Szaggars Redford, features stunning nature imagery, soothing music by world renowned composer Tim Janis, and stirring spoken word performed by Robert Redford. 

It is the goal of The Way of the Rain to inspire, encourage and keep alive the beauty and dilemma of our Planet Earth, especially during this world-wide pandemic. Take a moment while we are all confined to our homes and allow the breathtaking images and soothing music to gift you a much needed escape. Subscribe to the video series here.

“Nature is my spiritual connection to life, the land and the world, and Nature is my guide and inspiration in creating art,” Szaggars Redford says. Pictured here with her Rain Painting Silk.
At-Home Art & Nature Activity for Families

This week, we take inspiration from Sibylle Szaggars Redford’s work and will make our own rain paintings!  All you need is paper (printer paper, paper plates, and coffee filters all work well), water-soluble markers, and a spray bottle or dropper.  Create a drawing with the washable markers; try overlapping your colors a bit for better end results.  Using your spray bottle or dropper, create “rain” over your drawing (or, if weather cooperates, use real rain outside!). The more rain you expose your work to, the more blended and unique your piece will become.  Allow your piece to dry before moving, and then find the perfect place to display your new art!

Featured Artist: Carrie Carlson

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 one of our favorite nature artists, printmaker Carrie Carlson. Carrie has been a regular feature at our Holiday Art Markets and group shows over the past several years, and we adore her vibrant, modern style. In addition to being an accomplished artist, she is an educator and scientist, and a staunch advocate for nature and the environment.

Tulip, watercolor
Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland by Carrie Carlson

Carrie’s Artist Statement:

“As a scientific illustrator, art and science are tightly twined together in my life and I am inspired to celebrate this through landscapes, botanical studies and portraits of nature’s smallest objects and winged creatures. I hope to reveal a bit of the wonderment I find in simple subjects by drawing attention to something beautiful or unique about them that might normally be overlooked or taken for granted. I am especially interested in raising awareness about issues faced by threatened or exploited populations, be they human, bird or bumblebee.

Field sketching is a cornerstone of scientific illustration. I cannot imagine visiting a local zoo, much less traveling abroad, without a sketchbook. Travel and field sketching generate a deeper appreciation for humanity and the planet. The act of drawing forces us to slow down, to notice, reflect, cherish, and consider… What I gain from these experiences is a passionate environmentalism and driving responsibility to speak up for under-served populations. Through my artwork, I pray my steady, hopeful voice brings greater attention to how we can contribute to solutions and healing.

If field sketching sparks new awareness and intimacy with the natural world, then creating finished prints satisfies an eagerness for studio challenges. I greatly enjoy learning the age-old processes of traditional printmaking. Relief printing, linoleum block in particular, has been an especially satisfying outlet for my creative energies.”

“I once heard a pastor say, “Ecology is Doxology,” and that pretty much sums it up for me. My spirit finds hope and courage, learns patience and grit, experiences joy and community most clearly out in nature. I’m inspired to raise awareness and advocate for environmental causes.”
Watch Carrie in Action

Want to try your hand at coloring one of Carrie’s prints? You can download a copy of her print, “Reverie,”:

Download Carrie’s Coloring Page

Follow Carrie Carlson Online

You can learn more about Carrie’s work and purchase her prints by visiting her Etsy shop or her website.  You can also keep up with her by following her on Facebook or Instagram.

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Robin’s Nest by Carrie Carlson

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), an MA in Printmaking from Governors State University (University Park, IL), and she recently began a PhD in Art + Design Education at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, 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.

Featured Artist: Heeyoung Kim

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. This crisis is heavily affecting arts organizations and artists, as major art festivals, fairs, performances, and exhibitions that provide critical support and income are canceled or postponed. To help lift up the arts community during this difficult time, we will be 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.

For our first spotlight, we are featuring our internationally-renowned artist in residence, Heeyoung Kim. Heeyoung has been part of the Brushwood family since 2011. She began with her first solo show, and soon after started teaching her weekly classes at Brushwood Center.

Tulip, watercolor

In the spirit of natural history artists of the past, award winning contemporary botanical artist Heeyoung Kim documents and depicts native plants of prairies and woods in Midwestern USA. Giving priority to rare and endangered species, she also paints common ones when they have high ecological value. Rare orchid species are also her favorite painting subjects. Believing that humans can only survive when plants and pollinators thrive, Kim actively engages with locals to draw public attention to plant conservation through her exhibitions, talks at garden clubs, or nature and art related activities with students. Founder of Heeyoung Kim Botanical Art Academy, Kim is an internationally renowned botanical artist and instructor. She teaches the ancient art form of scientific plant illustration at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods.

“Everything in nature leaves me in awe, large or small, floral or faunal, living or non-living….. I am always awakened and amazed by the beauty and perfect design of every part of Mother Nature, and I strive for expressing my enlightened self in art.”

Free Tutorial for Brushwood Followers:

Heeyoung has generously provided two free monarch butterfly coloring pages for Brushwood members to print out at home!  Simply follow the link to her online store and enter the code “BRUSHWOOD” at checkout to download.  You can also follow along with her step-by-step coloring tutorial on YouTube! 

Watch Heeyoung’s Coloring Tutorial
Download Coloring Pages

Follow Heeyoung Online

You can learn more about Heeyoung’s classes, view her portfolio, and purchase her work by visiting her website.  You can also keep up with her by following her on Facebook or Instagram.

Heeyoung’s Most Recent Exhibitions

5th Annual: Enriching Life – Botanical Art Exhibition, Heeyoung Kim & Brushwood Botanical Artists. November 24, 2019 – January 12, 2020 at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, Riverwoods, IL.

Heeyoung Kim: New Works – Orchid Watercolor Paintings. July 25- September 7, 2019, Joel Oppenheimer Gallery, Chicago, IL.

Botanical Art Worldwide, America’s Flora: Linking People with Plants through Botanical Art. 2018 – 2019, 4 venues in the United States.

Transylvania Florilegium, The Prince of Wales’s Botanical Art Documentation of Transylvania, Romania: May 23 – July 31, 2018, Embassy of Romania, London. Kim’s three watercolor paintings are included in the royal collection.

Ready, Set, Sew: Brushwood Center’s COVID-19 Face Mask Drive

Never underestimate the power of community in a time of crisis.  Artists and volunteers from Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods are rising to the occasion to address the dire need for face masks across Lake County’s healthcare community. With the help of mask-making kits from Brushwood’s Art Supply Exchange, more than 1,00 masks have already been distributed to hospitals, clinics, and assisted living centers.

What Brushwood Center is Doing:

Many local healthcare providers face a serious shortage of protective face masks in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. As an organization dedicated to wellness that partners with multiple health care organizations throughout Lake and Cook Counties, Brushwood Center is mobilizing its community to meet this need.

Through online coordination of local artists, volunteers, and community partners, and with the material supplies from their very own BASE (Brushwood Art Supply Exchange) Brushwood is assisting in supplying much needed face masks. To date, kits to assemble well over 1,400 face masks have been distributed, and more than one thousand finished face masks have been delivered to healthcare workers in need. Mask fabrics represent the vitality and community spirit of the Chicago area, ranging from sports team patterns to cheerful spring flowers. Mask donation recipients include Vista Medical Center in Waukegan, Fenix Family Health Center in Highwood, Lake Forest Northwestern Hospital, Cedar Lake Assisted Living in Lake Zurich, Advocate Lutheran General, and the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. 

“The need for protective equipment is urgent, and Brushwood Center’s community of artists and volunteers have really stepped up to the challenge. People are excited to help. Volunteers do the sewing, and we make sure the masks are delivered to the places that truly need them.” Catherine Game, Executive Director, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

How You Can Help:

For those who would like to contribute to support our healthcare heroes, all you need is basic sewing knowledge and instructions for mask sewing which are available on the Brushwood Center website The materials needed are simple cotton fabric, elastic/fabric ties, and sewing equipment.

Donate your sewn masks to Brushwood Center’s front porch in the donation bin. Their mighty team of volunteers will handle the donation pick-ups and delivery to healthcare centers. Please email us at or message us via Facebook when you have dropped off your masks so we can track quantity.

Drop off between sunrise and dusk on the Brushwood Center front porch: 21850 North Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, IL.

It’s okay if there are small differences between masks. There are many instructional videos available online as well that you can reference.

Throughout our area there are other organizations with similar mask drives. Wherever you choose to put your energy, just know that it is appreciated.

BASE (Brushwood Center Art Supply Exchange)

BASE is a creative reuse center operated by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods where your unwanted art and craft supplies can find new life.  BASE provides materials, tools and education at very low-cost to the public, and free to educators and community partners. BASE remains closed due to COVID-19 through the end of April.