Art at the Aquarium

Explore the Aquarium while honing your artistic skills. Spend a day – or several – with a local artist, observing animals and capturing their behavior in watercolor, pencil, or on camera… all in the warmth and comfort of the Aquarium!

Improving Photography (Beginning and Intermediate Level)

January 20th – 10 am – 3 pm

$45 ($30 for Aquarium members)

Photo by Kristin Pless

Age 12 and up

Explore photography basic as well as refining the photographic process by discussing lighting in different situations, building a cohesive body of work, and improving content and messaging while exploring the Aquarium’s exhibits. A camera with manual camera functions is required. You can bring your own laptop for image viewing; however, software will not be covered in this course.

Instructor Kristin Pless photographs landscapes, combining historic and contemporary processes to create her own sense of ethereal space. She was raised on a farm near Redwood Falls, Minnesota, and received her BA from Montana State University and her MFA in photography from San Francisco Art Institute in May 2007. She currently teaches photography at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Participants who are not already Aquarium members will take home one free Aquarium admission pass to return and work on their craft.

Register for Improving Photography

Registration Closes January 13.

Drawing Animals with Colored Pencils

February 24th – 10 am – 3 pm

$45 ($30 for Aquarium members)

Age 14 and up

Illustration by Kathy Raue Maas

Learn to draw animals from life in this day-long workshop from Kathy Raue Maas. Observe the animals at the Aquarium and make sketches that will become references for a colored pencil drawing. The class includes a review of basic drawing principles, observing light and shadow to create form and the fundamentals of color and composition. Through a series of demonstrations and exercises participants will learn to “paint” with colored pencils – layering and blending colors to create depth and volume. All skill levels are welcome.

Required Supplies:

  • Soft lead pencil for sketching
  • Hand-held pencil sharpener
  • Kneaded eraser and white vinyl pencil eraser
  • All-purpose drawing paper pad (similar to Strathmore 400 or 500 series); a 9×12″ pad is sufficient for class projects, but any size is fine
  • A few sheets of tracing paper (no smaller than 5″ x 7″)
  • Colored Pencils*
    • *I suggest the use of Prismacolor Premiere colored pencils. They are a high quality, moderately priced brand of colored pencils and are readily available at art & craft stores, university book stores and online. Faber-Castell and Derwent pencils are also artist grade pencils. NOTE: Do not purchase “student grade” or “scholar” colored pencils; the lead is hard and not suitable for blending.
    • A 12-pencil Prismacolor set is fine for this class. These additional colors (available at craft stores) would be valuable: Indigo Blue 901, Tuscan Red 937, and Crimson Lake 925.

Participants who are not already Aquarium members will take home one free Aquarium admission pass to return and work on their craft.

Register for Drawing Animals with Colored Pencil

Registration closes February 17

Nature-Inspired Watercolor

Wednesdays in March (7th, 14th, 21st, 28th) – 4:30 – 6:30 pm

$75 ($60 for Aquarium members)

Painting by Maury Aaseng

Age 16 & up

In this class, illustrator and watercolorist Maury Aaseng shares his method of painting in watercolor images that are inspired by the natural world. Using the Aquarium’s exhibits or drawing from the flora and fauna of the Minnesota landscape, learn to create beautiful watercolors that capture the essence of our region’s ecology. This class will take you through the process of sketching, designing and painting a composition that is unique to each participant. The first class begins with an overview and focuses on finding your subject matter, sketching and designing a composition. Subsequent classes will focus on demonstrating various watercolor techniques and developing your own personal work of art. If your enthusiasm for art is matched by your interest in nature (or vice versa!), please join us!

Required Supplies:

  • Watercolor paper pad (9×12″ or 11×15″ preferable)
  • Watercolor paints (any quality welcome, pan sets or paint tubes)
  • Brushes
  • Pencil
  • Plastic palette (store-bought or plastic lids from home)
  • Stiff art board or cardboard, must be at least same size as watercolor paper

Helpful but not required:

  • Sketch pad
  • Old toothbrush
  • Micron art pen (fine-tipped)
  • Digital camera

Participants who are not already Aquarium members will take home three free Aquarium admission passes to return and work on their craft.

Register for Nature-Inspired Watercolor

Registration Closes March 1.

Magic Smelt Making

Tuesday, April 3

Drop in any time: 10:30-11:30 am, 12:30-1:30pm, and 3:30-5:30pm


In this free drop-in program, join UMD students in the creation of magic smelt puppets and crowns in the spirit of the Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe‘s annual parade!

Questions? Contact Alexis Berke at or (218) 740 – 2013.