Art Institute Instructors

Headshot - Ned Aldrich
Ned Aldrich

For over 25 years, Edward Aldrich has constantly strived to create art that speaks to the wonder of the natural world as well as the sheer pleasure of painting. Aldrich is dedicated to reaching beyond the rendering of wildlife and the natural world; his belief is that conveying the inherent being of an animal is integral to his art. The viewer is drawn into a scene not to simply look at and appreciate it, but feels he or she has actually witnessed the wonder of wildlife. His style breathes life into his subjects and conveys the feeling of actually being there. Aldrich's precise brush technique and sense of light and composition place him in the tradition of the past masters of 19th century Britain such as Sir Edwin Henry Landseer.

Aldrich graduated from the Rhode Island School of design in 1987 and has enjoyed a very successful career in wildlife painting. He paints primarily in oil and travels the world to view, sketch and photograph his subjects. He paints a broad spectrum of wildlife and its varied habitats, but prefers the cats, North American wildlife and birds.

As an accomplished painter, Aldrich has received numerous awards, and his work has been exhibited in major shows throughout the country. Aldrich participates in annual shows such as "Small Works, Small Wonders" at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum; "Western Visions" at the National Museum of Wildlife Art; the Buffalo Bill Show at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY; the Oil Painters of America Annual National Show; and the "Birds in Art" at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum, to name a few. The artist has also had fifteen one-man shows in his career and is represented by seven galleries throughout the country.

Aldrich's book, "Drawing and Painting Animals," features over 100 of his paintings and drawings. His outstanding art has been featured in numerous articles in national publications such as Southwest Art, Wildlife Art, American Artist, Art of the West and others. Edward Aldrich's dynamic images are exhibited in galleries in the United States and in Canada. The artist and his family reside in Colorado.

Headshot - Guy Combs
Guy Combes

Guy Combes, born in Kenya, is inspired by the rich mosaic of biodiversity of East Africa. His career began on the heels of his father’s reputation as an internationally renowned artist. A retrospective of Simon Combes’ work at the Hiram Blauvelt Museum in New Jersey provided Guy his first break into the world of wildlife art with an artist’s residency.

He has been published by Greenwich Workshop and is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and Artists for Conservation. He has exhibited at the San Diego Museum of Natural History, The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, Nature in Art in England and numerous other locations. Today he welcomes new ground and seeks an audience unfamiliar with his legacy, both in fine art and in the world of conservation.

Headshot - Andew Denman
Andrew Denman

Andrew Denman is an internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.

Andrew Denman began teaching at the age of thirteen when a Junior High School Art teacher asked him to co-teach an afterschool art class for grade-schoolers at a local art store. Discovering a natural aptitude for working with budding artists, he continued to teach group classes until the store closed some years later, by which time he was offering regular private art instruction to a number of talented children and teens. Denman still gives private lessons to artists of all ages and has also taught large groups in a workshop setting, most notably in 2006 when he was the featured acrylic painting instructor for the Annual SKB Foundation workshop in Wyoming. Additionally, he has delivered numerous lectures on art and art marketing at a variety of venues in the US and abroad.

Headshot - Kenny Don
Kenny Don

Kenny Don has been a professional photographer for 40+ years. His expertise includes inspection & assembly industrial photography, mineral, wildlife, nature and landscapes. He has 40+ years experience as an electronics technician and 25+ years in building and testing digital imaging systems. He is currently employed at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory Infrared Group as a Technical Support Specialist — Electronics where he builds cameras for astronomy applications.

Kenny is a Desert Museum volunteer with more than 6,000 hours of photography on grounds. He is also an official photographer for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show® at the Tucson Convention Center, a Canon educator, and has multiple publications and awards.

Headshot - Kim Duffek
Kim Duffek

Kim Duffek has been fascinated by nature and art since she was a toddler being awed by the rainforest of Hawaii as a toddler, and wandering the Tallgrass prairie region of Illinois as a child. Tucson became her permanent home after finishing a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and a B.F.A. in Studio Art at the University of Arizona. She worked full-time in free-lance drafting, illustration and art for about a decade before joining ASDM's Botany Department in 1992. She has worked for 21 years as a horticulturist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and volunteered as a docent there for 5 1/2 years prior to her employment. Whether painting wildlife art or illustrating books, including children's books, or writing or teaching, she is in her creative element.

Headshot - Linda Feltner
Linda Feltner

Linda M. Feltner is an award-winning nature artist and educator. She combines the creativity of artistic design with strict standards of scientific accuracy, into what has become her trademark. Her expertise includes painting and drawing, teaching national workshops, and maintaining her flourishing freelance business. Linda has ben an instructor for the UW Scientific Illustration Certification Program, and has taught for the Art Institute of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum since 2008. Linda’s aim is to provide a spark--to awaken curiosity and invite questions, to promote an appreciation for the complexity of nature and to foster a desire to protect it. She is a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation and the Society of Animal Artists, and is President (2016-2018) of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators.

Headshot - Janie Gildow
Janie Gildow

Janie Gildow is a graduate of the Ohio State University and recipient of the Martha Holden Jennings Award for Excellence in Teaching. She earned Signature status in the Colored Pencil Society of America and has received national and international awards for her colored pencil work.

As a professional artist, her work has been published in more than ten books, including The Best of Colored Pencil.

She is the author of Colored Pencil Explorations and co-author of the Colored Pencil Solution Book, both by North Light.

As an instructor, Janie has taught art to students in the public schools and colored pencil workshops for adults in cities throughout the United States, and also offers online lessons from her website to a student base worldwide. She has been an instructor at the Desert Museum Art Institute since 2003.

The colored pencil is perfect for Janie's detail-oriented realism and she often combines other mediums with it in order to boost its color and effects. She believes good art is a result of thorough planning, creative expression, strong composition, and a competent handling of the medium — and she enjoys sharing her knowledge and expertise with her students. Her classes are conducted in an encouraging and relaxed atmosphere with a combination of lecture, PowerPoint, examples, demos and handouts.

Headshot - Rachel Ivanyi
Rachel Ivanyi

Combining a love of nature and science with the power of observation, Rachel Ivanyi has been a core instructor for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute program since 2004. Rachel has taught a wide variety of nature art classes, with focus on scientific illustration, watercolor, pencil, pen & ink, and mixed media since 1996. Rachel Ivanyi is a freelance, natural science illustrator, who works on a variety of natural history subjects. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of California at Davis and Graduate Certification in Natural Science Illustration from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Although Ivanyi originally aimed for a career as a wildlife vet, she soon realized that she preferred drawing animals to treating them medically. Her work can be found in a variety of textbooks, science magazines, children’s books and field guides. Her clients include National Geographic, Scientific American, McGraw-Hill, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. A recent project involved creating over 60 images for use in the Kansas City Zoo’s new Helzberg Penguin Plaza. Illustrations included coral reef fish ID’s, the world’s 18 penguins, and a life size leopard seal, to name a few.

Headshot - Ada Koch
Ada Koch

Raised near Wilmington, DE, Ada Koch won early scholarships to the Delaware Art Museum before studying in Washington, DC and Chicago, IL. Later studies with David De Rousseau of the KCAI and personal studies in the museums of Paris and Rome preceded Koch's exhibitions in various galleries and museums of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Florence, Italy. She has been invited every other year to the Biennale Internazionale (a juried show in Florence, Italy), and was just invited to the premier of the Effetto in Merido, Mexico as part of the United Nations Dialogue Among Civilizations. She currently teaches art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Holy Name School and privately at her studio in downtown Kansas City. Ada is active with several local art organizations including the Kansas City Artists Coalition (board member for 12 years) and the Kansas City Arts Council. Her art is in collections both corporate and private throughout the United States and as far away as Germany and Switzerland.

"I have always preferred the artist's sketch rather than the 'finished work', since a sketch provides the freedom and movement that show the artist's true style. My work provides numerous layers and media but maintains the freedom, fluidity, and fresh playfulness of the sketch; this imparts my passion by showing a quick emotional awakening."

Headshot - Susan Morris
Susan Morris

Susan Morris has a B.A. in Painting & Drawing from Brigham Young University, and her professional associations include: National Watercolor Society, Signature Member; American Watercolor Society, Associate member, and Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild, Signature Member & Saguaro Fellow. As an artist, she has a strong sense of composition and design, uses rich, bold color, dramatic lighting, and infuses the visual effects of texture in her art. She presents a nostalgic perspective on the past as she takes items that are no longer commonplace and tells their story. Besides its creation, Susan shares her love of art by teaching. She keeps a good balance between the studio and classroom time. She works with students of all ages as she, introduces grade-school children to nature journaling and scientific illustration, teaches watercolor skills to youth summer camps for teens, is a guest lecturer at universities, is a popular teacher in adult community education, teaches workshops, and has been a faculty member of ASDM Art Institute since 2010. Susan is personable and very patient as she works with her students. She creates a comfortable environment, and uses PowerPoints, demonstrations, handouts, and individual attention to share her knowledge of art, and its tools and techniques with her students. She works in and teaches a variety of mediums, but watercolors are her chosen professional medium. She has received numerous awards, including national and international awards for her watercolors, and her work can be found in galleries, museums and private collections across the west and has shown internationally. Her work can also be found at

Headshot - Catherine Nash
Catherine Nash

Specializing in Japanese and Western hand papermaking, encaustic painting and mixed media drawing, Catherine Nash is a teaching artist who balances her studio work with artist-in-resident teaching, lectures and workshops across the United States, as well as in professional studios and universities in eight European countries, Australia and Japan. Faculty member of the ASDM Art Institute since its inception, some of her favorite media to teach are drawing, watercolor painting and mixed media. Nash says, "I am truly jazzed by inspiring beginning and more advanced artists to create without fear while learning to truly draw what they see."

Nash has just published an e-book entitled Authentic Visual Voices that, through 28 international one-on-one interviews, explores how artists find their ideas. Her personal artwork has been included by invitation into numerous national and international exhibitions, most recently in England, Bulgaria, and Australia. The landscape, aesthetics and cultures of Japan, the rich gradations and spaciousness of Scandinavian summer night skies, experiences with Native American friends and her explorations into the wilderness of the southwestern deserts have deeply influenced and informed her work. She is a longtime resident of Tucson.

Headshot - Becky Neideffer
Becky Neideffer

Becky Neideffer is an artist with a life-long passions for art, she has worked in all mediums, but prefers soft pastels and colored pencils. Her art is realistic with an emphasis on light in both mediums. Her paintings are predominately landscapes but include still life, animals, figurative and floral subjects. She is a self-taught artist and has studied basic design, anatomy, landscape, charcoal, watercolor, pen and ink, conte, pastel and oil with professional artists. Workshops include Richard McKinley, Maggie Price, Doug Dawson, Stephanie Birdsall, Albert Handell, Phil Starke, Ned Mueller, Larry Charles, Linda Lucas Hardy, Pat Averil, Ann Kullberg and Cecile Baird.

In January of 2010, she founded the Tucson Pastel Society which has now grown to over sixty members. They have a general meeting once a month from September to May featuring demonstrations, competitions and instructional information on the business of art. During the season, they also meet twice a month to paint “en plein air” at various locations in Tucson and Southern Arizona. They share a passion for pastels.

She is President of the Tucson Pastel Society, a member of the Sonoran Plein Air Painters, the Pastel Society of America, the Tucson Colored Pencil Artists Association and the Colored Pencil Society of America, national and state district #212.

Headshot - Jay Pierstorff
Jay Pierstorff

Professional Photographer, Jay Pierstorff has spent over three decades in photography including portraits, weddings, commercial and industrial images in both still and video. Today, Jay helps people improve their photography and digital image editing with a number of popular classes geared for photo enthusiasts of all skill levels. Originally born in Idaho, Jay lives year round in Tucson, AZ where he also volunteers at the Desert Museum as a Docent and Raptor Free Flight Narrator. In addition he also works on various photo/video projects.

Jay specializes in teaching digital cameras and media as they bring new power and possibilities to image making. Jay's classes take advantage of the "learn by doing" approach including the popular "Behind the Scenes Photowalk." The Desert Museum provides many unique opportunities for photo enthusiasts to practice their craft while taking classes at the Art Institute.

Jay has experience as a professional photographer, videographer, photographic retoucher, photo lab, sound reinforcement & audio recording technician and professional musician. He brings many traditional skills to modern, digital processes. Jay graduated from the Glen Fishback School of Photography in Sacramento, CA and learned photo retouching at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.

He has worked in photo, video, audio production, computer graphics, website design and other digital media.

Jay's work can be seen by visiting or contact him at

Headshot - Robert Renfrow
Robert Renfrow

Robert Renfrow is an artist who uses photography to interpret the world around him. As an instructor he believes that self-expression and exploration are the essence of photography and a technical command of the camera is simply a means to that end and is not an end in itself. While teaching, Renfrow helps his students to find their unique voice through the medium of photography.

Renfrow attended the Kansas City Art Institute graduating Salutatorian with a B.F.A. in Photography/Video in 1988. He was then awarded a merit Fellowship to attend the University of Arizona where he received an M.F.A. in photography in 1991. He is co-founder of the nonprofit organization Art Research Tours and International Studios, and taught university summer classes for many years at their Florence, Italy studio. Robert is also on the Teaching Artists' Roster of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. He teaches workshops internationally and has been teaching photography for the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute since its beginning. His works in photography and video have been shown in numerous exhibitions internationally. Websites: and

Headshot - John Schaefer
Dr. John P. Schaefer

John P. Schaefer is President Emeritus of the University of Arizona, where he had an active, 21-year career in teaching and research. A conservationist and avid birdwatcher, he helped organize the Tucson Audubon Society and found the Nature Conservancy in Arizona. In addition to his academic and conservation work, Dr. Schaefer enjoys a reputation as a skilled photographer. He and Ansel Adams founded the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in 1975. Dr. Schaefer is the author of three bestselling books on photographic techniques, and his photographs have been featured in Arizona Highways and many other publications. In recent years he has concentrated on photographing cacti, plants and flowers. Dr. Schaefer is also an amateur astronomer, a classical music lover, collector of southwestern art, and father of two wonderful daughters.

Headshot - Sharon K. Schafer
Sharon K. Schafer

Sharon K. Schafer has a varied background ranging from painter and photographer, to wildlife biologist and river guide. Now as a full-time artist, she combines two loves - Nature and Art.

She is a signature member of both the international Society of Animal Artists and Artists for Conservation. Her wildlife paintings are sought after by collectors and displayed in museums across the country. Throughout the world, Schafer shares her artistic talent and passion for the wildlands by teaching art and nature-related classes and lecturing extensively, and tirelessly, about the stunning beauty and amazing diversity of life on our planet.

She earned her degree in Wildlife Management at Humboldt State University, in northern California. Subsequently, she worked as a field wildlife biologist for the Soil Conservation Service, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Bureau of Land Management.

In an effort to combine her interest in art and science, Schafer founded Skydance Studio in 1998. With her studio, she has dedicated herself to the creation of images that promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the beauty and diversity of the natural world. Her sense of adventure and unflagging curiosity about the natural world has led her to every continent and to the very ends of the earth, where she has worked extensively as an artist, photographer, and videographer in the Arctic, Antarctic, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands.

Headshot - Cathy Sheeter
Cathy Sheeter

Cathy Sheeter is quickly becoming known as one of the premier wildlife and western scratchboard artists of today. Cathy was born in 1979 and grew up in a very remote town in Eastern Oregon, where she was immersed in a community with small town values, rich in ranching, agriculture and open spaces. Animals and the western lifestyle continue to be central components of her life and the focus of much of her art. While Cathy chose to major in animal sciences in college, she never stopped creating art in her free time. In 2002 Cathy moved to Colorado, where she still resides.

Cathy's primary choice of mediums is the non-traditional scratchboard. Scratchboard is regarded by many artists as one of the most difficult mediums to master as it requires excellent drawing skills and attention to fine details. Cathy also enjoys working in graphite pencil, oil paints, color pencil, and pastels from time to time..

Cathy is a founding member and one of the first juried in 'Master Members' (MSA) of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (founded 2011). She continues to promote and push scratchboard into top wildlife and western art shows nationwide. She has been invited to exhibit her work in many prestigious museums throughout the US as well.

Cathy first started exhibiting her work and entering national juried shows in 2008. That same year Cathy also applied to the prestigious Society of Animal Artists for membership and was delighted to be selected as a signature member (top membership ranking) on her first try. Continuing her journey into the professional art world her list of awards continues to grow each year, as does her list of top tier exhibitions that she is invited to participate in. Her work can be found in private and corporate collections throughout the US and Canada. Cathy's professional associations include: Master Member (and one of the founders) of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (ISSA), Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA), and Associate Member of the Women Artists of the West (WAOW).

Headshot - Gale Sherman
Gale Sherman

Three of Gale's grandparents were artists (a designer, a painter and a sculptor), while her mother, an occasional painter, instilled Gale with her love of art.

She began teaching school when there was an explosion of artists beginning to make a living by illustrating children’s books. She started collecting and immersing herself (and her children) with the best of the best. Picture book illustrations remained her focus during her teaching career and then as an early childhood librarian for 23 years. She also was an instructor of children’s literature at the university level, wrote about illustration in library journals, and co-authored books including Worth a Thousand Words: An Annotated Guide to Picture Books for Older Readers (Libraries Unlimited, 1996). She was a member of the 2001 Caldecott Award Committee, selecting the most distinguished American picture book for children published that year.

In the 1990s she started studying drawing. After moving to Tucson, she took classes at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute and earned a Nature Art Certificate. Her work has been featured in several juried shows and she is the co-founder of the Starr Pass Art League.

She has been happily caught up in the world of Zentangle® art and is a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) who draws on the traditional 3.5”x3.5” tiles as well as on gourds and other surfaces. As a CZT she can combine her love of art and of the Zentangle Method with her Zen meditation experience and her decades of teaching all ages from babies to university students. She teaches group and private classes in the Zentangle Method in her art studio, as well as homeless women in a local shelter.

Headshot - Rhonda Spencer
Rhonda Spencer

As a resident of Tucson since 1960, Rhonda Spencer's love, appreciation, and understanding of the amazing flora and fauna found in the Sonoran Desert is artfully communicated through her photography. A self-taught photographer and artist, her photography has been published in a variety of venues, including magazines, books, calendars, brochures, and advertising materials.

Rhonda has been a photographer for the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum since 2005, and her work can found in many of the Museums publications as well as the ASDM Digital Library.

Examples of her nature photography can be viewed at

Headshot - Rick Wheeler
Rick Wheeler

Rick’s art education includes studies in drawing and painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was awarded a scholarship to attend, as well as illustration courses at the San Francisco Academy of Art University. He holds an A.A. degree in graphic design and a B.A. degree in Fine Art from Prescott College, Arizona. He works in a variety of media, including acrylic, oil, watercolor and the unique technique of scratchboard. Likewise, his subject matter covers a range of interests, including landscape, wildlife, and figurative.

As a freelance illustrator/graphic designer, his work has been contracted by U.S. National Parks and Monuments, including Grand Canyon Association, Canyonlands Natural History Association, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Arches National Parks, as well as the Bureau of Land Management. His gallery work has appeared in several group exhibits, including Artists for Conservation juried member’s exhibit (2012, 2014, 2016-2018), the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (25 year member), and the Mountain Oyster Club annual juried exhibit (2016-18). He was selected to A Century of Sanctuary: The Art of Zion National Park, 2008 earning a “Juror’s Award.” He was also invited to participate in the annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art for five years, 2009-2013, and will be again in 2019.

Rick’s other interests include teaching at the Art Institute wing of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (now in his 14th year), as well as at Prescott College (Tucson campus), the Tubac School of Fine Art, and the Community Performance and Art Center (Green Valley, AZ). His work is in the permanent collection of Grand Canyon National Park, St. George Art Museum (UT), Sonoma State University (CA), as well as several private collections.

Silhouette Icon