General Artist Information

Name: Barbara and Beverly Benda
Art Discipline: Visual Arts
Grade Level Preference:  K-12
Geographic Availability: Throughout North Dakota
Fee per-residency: $5,000 (average)
Phone Number: 218-443-1126 (Barbara) 701-610-9529 (Beverly)


Barbara Benda holds degrees in Elementary Education and Art Education from Moorhead State University, Moorhead, MN. She taught for 11 years in Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools and 20 years in Fargo, ND. Her last 8 years were spent teaching middle school Art in Fargo. She has been creating art for several decades, specializing in sketching, watercolor, and acrylic painting. Since 2014, Barbara has been teaching independently in a variety of venues. From teaching community education sketching classes to her five-day Beginning Drawing and Watercolor workshop, she has dedicated her career to helping others develop their innate artistic talents. Beverly Benda worked as a Licensed Registered Dietitian in her professional career. She added life coaching certification and public speaking training to her skill set and is currently the owner of My Coach Bev, a life and wellness coaching service. As Barbara's teaching assistant, Beverly utilizes coaching skills to assist reluctant learners. Beverly has been creating art for many years, specializing in watercolor and acrylic mixed media collage. In 2023, Barbara created “Birds in Art” an original drawing and watercolor curriculum for a ND Council on the Arts 5-day Artist in Residency in Hankinson, ND. This curriculum combines learning basic sketching and watercolor skills with the art of birding and the active discipline of observing nature. The success of this original curriculum has led the Benda Twins to pursue more opportunities to share their love of art and birds with children of all ages. 

Teaching Philosophy 

Painting and drawing has been a part of the Benda Twins' lives since they were young. They did not have art education in school until the 9th grade but once given the opportunity, they exhausted every art class in the high school curriculum. They are lifelong learners and continue to expand their skills through professional classes and workshops in watercolor and acrylic painting. Barbara and Beverly have been selling art for many years, specializing in watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media collage. In 2020, they established a home-based art gallery, Double Trouble Gallery in Moorhead, MN, where they display their artworks and participate in public sales events such as the FMVA Studio Crawl and seasonal art sales events and sell privately by appointment. Barbara has been accepted into and received awards in both local and national juried exhibitions and has held solo exhibitions across North Dakota. Barbara and Beverly held their first joint show of over 50 paintings entitled Twintuition in 2019 at the Red Door Art Gallery in their hometown of Wahpeton, ND. The Benda Twins are members of FMVA (Fargo-Moorhead Visual Artists), Red River Watercolor Society, and the Red Door Art Gallery in Wahpeton, ND. The Benda Twins continue to share their love of art through creating, teaching, and coaching students toward success. They are excited to share their original Birds in Art curriculum with students across North Dakota through ND Council on the Arts grants.

Sample Residency Information

Residency Title:  Birds in Art

  • Objective: Students will develop drawing and painting skills through studying birds, inspired by John James Audubon's work. They will learn contour line drawing, basic forms, and value to create lifelike sketches of birds, culminating in a final artwork. The course also aims to foster an appreciation for birdwatching and sketching in nature as lifelong hobbies.

Number of Sessions: 5 working sessions


Students will  use contour line, basic forms, and value to sketch birds. They will learn about the artist John James Audubon and how he studied birds without a camera and created a body of artwork called Birds of America. Students at different grade levels will complete an artwork of a variety of bird species, using sketching and watercolor techniques. Students will be invited for after-school birding walks to learn to discern sounds, follow birds, and spot them in their natural surroundings. A sketching class called, “Let’s Sketch Birds!, will be offered one evening to teach staff and community members. Life-long sketching of birds in nature is the ultimate goal of this residency.

Short Lesson Plan

Session 1 (Day 1) - Introduction to Bird Sketching

  • Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Focus: Introduce schedule for the week and featured artist, John James, Audubon and Birds of America book. Discuss the importance of observing nature and how artists like Audubon studied birds without modern technology. 
  • Activity: Start sketching technique called blind contour drawing using 3D objects. Teach modified blind contour and use of line through observation of lemons and other objects. Teach students how to feel “space” on their paper. Explain why blind contour works in terms of their brains. 
  • Materials: Pencils, sketchbooks, sharpeners

Session 2 ( Day 2) - Basic Forms and Details

  • Focus: Review the previous day's work. Introduce the concept of basic forms to keep drawing in proportion and introduce bird species with website
  • Activity: Draw spheres, ovals, cones, cylinders, and cubes. Draw a bird form using basic forms, then contour lines, then details.  Hand out tracing paper for students to analyze the chosen bird species for their grade level. Show bird video of their bird ( and discuss what they notice about sound and behavior. Begin specific lesson for that species using basic forms and contour line, then details. Hand out several watercolor papers to practice drawing then use erasers to erase basic form lines. Teach how to sign name. Collect these to use on Day
  • Materials: Pencils, erasers, sketchbooks, sharpeners

Session 3 (Day 3) - Exploring Value

  • Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Focus: Teach the concept of light and dark (value) to create depth and drama. Show how varying the pressure on the pencil can create different shades.
  • Activity: Students practice adding value to their sketches to bring out the form and texture of feathers, creating a more dynamic appearance. Explain that shading is not needed for watercolor painting, only contour lines. Show slideshow of JJ Audubon’s birds and explain how he stylized his birds after he understood how to draw them realistically. Discuss how he could do this without a camera. 
  • Materials: Pencils, erasers, sketchbooks, sharpeners

Session 4 (Day 4) - Introduction to Watercolors

  • Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Focus: Introduce watercolor techniques such as wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, and drybrush, and oil pastel. 
  • Activity: Practice basic watercolor techniques. Demonstrate how to mix colors to achieve desired hues. Teach graded wash to create various values. Teach how to make tree forms using oil pastels. Make tree forms, then paint over lines to understand resist. Hand out sketches on watercolor paper and have students practice painting with step-by step directions. Use oil pastels to create tree forms if desired, or students may choose to paint them with smaller brushes. 
  • Materials: Watercolors, brushes, watercolor paper, supports, masking tape.

Session 5 (Day 5) - Final Artwork

  • Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Focus: Combine the week's lessons into creating a final artwork. Emphasize the use of sketching techniques and watercolor to bring the bird to life.
  • Activity: Students create a final artworks of the bird for their grade level, applying all the techniques learned throughout the week. Teach how to sign name. Show how their final work will be matted and displayed. Show “Birds by Barbara” slide show of birds photographed in only ND, SD, and MN and encourage students to go out in nature to observe birds.
  • Materials: Pencils, watercolors, brushes, watercolor paper, supports, masking tape, mats and cellophane wrappers. 

Extension Activities:

  1. Birdwatching Walks: Schedule after-school walks to practice bird spotting and identification, enhancing students' observation skills.
  2. Community Sketching Class: Offer a one-evening class, “Let’s Sketch Birds!”, to teach staff and community members basic bird sketching techniques.


  1. Encourage appreciation of nature and art.
  2. Develop basic sketching and painting skills.
  3. Promote lifelong engagement with birdwatching and observational sketching.