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HomeAmerica's Flora-Martin,Vanessa



Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora

Showy Milkweed

Asclepias speciosa

Living on the Colorado high plains in Aurora, I get much of my inspiration and material for my artwork on my daily walks. I am fortunate to back up to the Plains Conservation Center that stretches across 1,100 acres of dedicated open space. I like to take a walk just about every day and often will see prairie dogs, pronghorn, coyotes, rattle snakes, red-tailed hawks and an occasional glimpse of the resident bald eagle family. The flora on the plains can easily be overlooked as it isn’t particularly showy or lush, especially in the fall and winter. The semi-arid environment can be harsh so one must look closely to appreciate the beauty of the grasslands.

On one of my walks during the late fall, I was searching to find a dried specimen of some sort that I could take back to my studio to work on for my next illustration. I had recently completed a painting of Yucca pods and wanted something similar in color and textural interest. It was the showy milkweed that caught my attention. I found a patch of them near a drainage way that provided the extra water they like. The spiny seed pods had opened earlier in the season and all of the seeds had blown away. The thick and broadly oval leaves had curled and twisted on the stem, frozen in time.

As I did with my illustration of the Yucca pods, I enlarged my depiction of the dried milkweed stalk. I wanted the viewer to see up close the intricate spiny texture of the seed pods and in contrast how shiny and smooth the inside of the pods were. It was my desire that someone looking at this illustration would come away with a realization and appreciation that plants can be just as beautiful and interesting in their last cycle of life as they are in full bloom. 

I generally like to make a subtle statement with my art. The soft color palette using sepia and golden browns set the quiet mood I like to portray.  I enjoy gnarly, twisted old and withered material because it shows so much character. When someone tells me “I never realized how interesting this plant was until I saw it up close”, I have accomplished the story I was trying to tell.

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Worldwide-Martin ShowyMilkweed

Asclepias speciosa

Showy Milkweed

watercolor on paper

26 x 19-1/2

©2015 Vanessa Martin

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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