About Us

Christine M. Dewees

Media: Colored pencils, acrylics, pen and ink, nature printing using fabric and fabric paint.

I have always loved plants, especially the intricate details of flowers. When I returned to college at UC Davis after our children entered school, I wrote my own major in Botanical Illustration, thinking it would give me a career compatible with motherhood. I did some drawings for professors’ projects after graduation in 1982. Eventually I returned to school again to get a certificate in Graphic Design from UC Davis Extension, completed in 1989. That led me to a job with a graphics designer, but computers were just becoming popular, so the need for old-fashioned graphic artists disappeared. I also worked for a landscape architect. I loved drafting the “before” garden plans, but computers took over that job too.

My first real scientific illustration job came by surprise in 1991. A friend saw a UC Davis Arboretum brochure I illustrated while a student in the Graphics Certificate Program and that led to the most amazing job I could imagine. A genetics professor at UC Davis was making a harpsichord from a kit and wanted the soundboard ornamented with all his favorite flora and fauna. He wanted the plants he had worked on in his career to be featured around the “rose” of the soundboard. He also wanted an unusual assortment of other illustrations, including a scrub jay with a valley oak acorn, baby California quail running after their mother, poison oak, a banana slug, and his cat, Veronica, chasing a butterfly!

For the harpsichord painting I used acrylics, painting directly on the Sitka spruce soundboard, which was about three feet wide and six feet long. There was another section to be painted later, where the tuning pegs would be installed. This called out for illustrations that twisted and curved around the pegs, hence a snake, a newt and a grape vine. In the finished harpsichord the paintings are covered by the strings and tuning pegs, but I took many photos before that happened.

In 1999 a friend from the Graphics Certificate program asked if I could do pen and ink illustrations for the Integrated Pest Management program. They put together Pest Notes on various plant diseases and pests of interest to the public in California. My illustrations had to hold up when the Pest Notes were photocopied, so the media had to be only pen and black ink. I use a paper-like film called Dura-lene for a clean, crisp look.

A woman who worked in the IPM program asked me to draw turf grasses for a website she was putting together in 2002. It would include a key to help interested people identify the grasses in their lawns. I drew seventeen different grasses and many detailed drawings of identifying features. There are amazing details in grasses! I used white coquille board with a pebbly surface, and a black colored pencil. When I used the right touch, the effect was of stippling without the need to ink in hundreds of dots.

Chris and I have been married for more than 40 years but I don’t touch fish, so when he got involved in fish printing and I tagged along to the annual Nature Printing Society workshops, I was delighted to discover that the participants print flowers and plants as well. They use paper, but also print on fabric, which can be made into useful items instead of art for the already crowded walls of our house.

At the North Carolina workshop in the early 1990s I learned how to print plants on fabric using a German fabric paint and custom-made German brushes, taught by an inspired free spirited German woman who said “Don’t just paint the leaves green. Look for the other colors in them, or add a bit of contrasting color here and there.” This had a freeing effect on me, the detail-oriented Botanical Illustrator. With fabric paint, it’s hard to be too precise.

I printed local flowers on two strips of muslin and made them into valences for a bedroom. When we went to the workshop in Sitka, AK, I made two more valences for another bedroom. When we went to the New Zealand workshop I took ready-made napkins and printed various local ferns on them. I also printed a shirt for myself of leaves I found fallen on the trails we hiked. When our grandchildren came along, I printed little flowers on baby clothes.

I’m hoping to do more colored pencil illustrations of flowers just for fun in the future.

Christopher M. Dewees

Medium: Gyotaku, or Japanese fish printing

I was first introduced to the specialized medium of fish printing (gyotaku) by Tom Sharp in 1968 when we were graduate students in fisheries biology at Humboldt State University. Tom had seen a demonstration and we spent much of our free time exploring fish printing methods and materials with fellow fisheries students. This served as an excellent diversion from our studies as well as a way to earn a few dollars to pay the rent by selling prints at fish festivals and in shopping malls! I then continued to print fish in Chile during our two years of Peace Corps duty.

Since then I have continued to pursue my understanding of the printing process as well as the fish and fisheries themselves. I earned a Ph.D. in Ecology at U.C. Davis. I was the Marine Fisheries Specialist at UC Davis since 1972, serving as a link between the University of California and the state's commercial and recreational fishing industries. My research focus was on marine fisheries management. My job as well as my passion for fishing brings me in contact with a lot of fish to print.

Over the years I’ve developed contacts with other printers. In the mid-1970s Eric Hochberg, Jr., myself, and a Pennsylvania botanist Robert Little put together the Nature Printing Society. We expected to attract 15 or so people with similar passion for nature printing. Little did we know that the Society would soon grow to over 300 members from around the world.

Doing this sort of specialized art has led to a stream of humorous and weird experiences. People have:

  • Brought me their deceased goldfish, eel, and koi for memorial prints;
  • Tried to buy the painted fish rather than the print at demonstrations;
  • Landed a 300 pound marlin on a Mexican shrimp boat and expected me to print it immediately;
  • Flown me across Kodiak Island to print a freshly-caught 265 pound halibut on an Alaskan beach with the sun setting, tide rising quickly and mosquitoes biting fiercely;
  • Unplugged our freezer (by our kids), which resulted in a load of fish silage for me to discover two weeks later.

My gyotaku style is traditional and delicate. I like to emphasize the structure and movement of the fish and shellfish. In recent years I have been doing more indirect printing which allows me gain more control of color and even finer detail. Every type of fish is quite different and requires a different approach.

If you are curious, my han, or "chop" is the Japanese character for "orphan" or "lonely one", which is what the name Dewees means in Dutch.

Solo and Group Exhibitions:

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington DC
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
Gyotaku-no-kai, Tokyo
Wrubel Gallery, The Nature Company, Berkeley (solo)
Kaiser Center, Oakland
The Naturalist, Davis (solo & continuing display)
Pt. Reyes National Seashore (solo)
The Ren Brown Collection Gallery, Bodega Bay (solo & continuing display)
Archival Framing Gallery, Sacramento
Art by the Sea, Auckland, New Zealand
Higashimatsuyama Gallery, Japan
Plumshire Inn, Davis (solo)
Thomas Oldham Gallery, Sacramento
Sutter Club, Sacramento (solo)
Pence Gallery, Davis
Solomon Dubnick Gallery, Sacramento
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Davis International House (solo, June 2008)


President Francois Mitterand, Paris
American Fisheries Society, Washington, DC
Dr. R. Enos, Davis, CA
Dr. T. Thompson, Wheatland, WY