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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora


Sanguinaria canadensis

In thinking about what my painting would be for the America’s Flora - Botanical Art Worldwide, my mind circled around the Minnesota native ephemerals that take my breath away each spring. Two of these, with which I am most intrigued, are in my garden. They are jack in the pulpit and bloodroot. The shady place where I grow them is underneath a crabapple tree and it’s always 'iffy' as to how well they will come up, from year to year. Some years, three to four jack in the pulpit come up, but, unfortunately, they rarely reach the robust stage where I would want to paint them. This past spring was no different. When my bloodroot comes up I am always amazed at their delicacy, persistence and fascinating leaf structure. I also feel that it is a less well-known plant in the botanical art world and so it appealed to me as good subject to explore and present in a painting.

At that time I had been thinking a lot about Albrecht Dürer’s The Large Piece of Turf, 1503, watercolor and gouache on paper, and also, Tuft of Cowslips, 1526, gouache on vellum. These two paintings were rattling around in my brain for different reasons. The Large Piece of Turf has always intrigued me with its exacting draftsmanship, soft and multiple greens and the intimate space that is held for these common and overlooked plants. Tuft of Cowslips was intriguing because of its golden glow, the plants fullness and the environment that is held by the plant. At that point, though I knew the image of Tuft of Cowslips, I had not realized that it was also a work of Dürer’s. When I searched for it and, happily, found that the painting was by Dürer, everything began to click in place for the bloodroot painting.

While researching, photographing and observing my plants throughout the spring, things continued to solidify. There are many reasons that I love this plant and found exciting while studying it. For each flower that pushes through winter's detritus, beside it grows a single stem supporting a single super-veiny leaf. The leaves' underside has deeply raised veins in a boxlike formation. When really young, the veins and stem of a leaf can appear as a beautiful purple color. The two stems are succulent, fleshy and have a translucent quality to them, with a beautiful color shift from rusty and winey purpled reds near the soil, up to golden orangey yellow, and to even bright chartreuse, at the base of the flower or leaf. When young, the solitary leaf curls around the budding flower and its stem, as if protecting it from the elements. Then, as the flower develops and grows taller, the leaf grows taller and larger, opening like a solar panel gathering energy from the sun to fuel the flower's growth. By the time the flower drops its petals and forms a seed pod from its swollen pistil, its leaf is rather large (about six inches, in my plant's case) has nibbles and tears out of it, flattens and is smoothed out. It continues to collect energy for the red roots below the soil. The name bloodroot comes from the blood red juice in its root, which used in natural healing. Thus far I haven’t dug up any of my plants to study their roots and I didn’t feel the need to include any in my painting.

I wanted my plants to hold an intimate grouping and also compose the flower and leaf pairs in a way that would represent some of the plants' life cycle. Each pair was drawn separately, compiled and composed on the 9”x11” piece of vellum. I love how the color change in the vellum lightens in the upper center suggesting an opening sky behind the plants and the way the shape of the darker colored areas of the skin mimic the round and deeply lobed shape of the delicate bloodroot leaves. I brought in an assortment of dried leaves, sticks, spent pine needles and fallen seeds to study and compose in a way that the viewer can move through the piece, with the different elements around the base of the plants. Near the end of the painting I began to notice that a lot of these elements were appearing in pairs. I saw that I had unknowingly painted multiples of twos: two larger leaves, four small leaves, two linden bracts, two hackberry seeds, two thicker twigs, two pine needles, four spent crabapple flowers, eight petals on the open flower and two fallen petals. The only break in this pattern is the single unidentified seed that I pulled from my garden and placed near the hackberry seeds.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I found it fun to contemplate that a secret layer of interest exists in my painting and that it complements the quiet, unimposing nature of the bloodroot plant itself.

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Read more about this artist’s work: Out of the Woods

Worldwide-Medved Lufkin-Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis


Watercolor & Gouache on Vellum

11.5 x 8.5

©2017 Linda Medved Lufkin

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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