Susan at work in the Herbarium at the Desert Botanical Garden
Susan Ashton is a botanical artist living in Phoenix, Arizona.
She received Certification in Botanical Art and Illustration from the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden
in 2010. She has exhibited at the Kolb Studio at the South Rim of the Grand
Canyon and has had a solo exhibit as well as being a featured artist at the Cathedral Center
for the Arts in Phoenix.
She has also contributed to the Grand Canyon Project which is documenting the rare
or threatened plants of the Grand Canyon.
Susan has been drawing and painting most of her life,
despite little formal instruction. Until recently her only art training was
grade school art classes in her native Rhode Island
and art electives taken while studying Anthropology/Archaeology at Beloit College
B.A 1970. The college art classes were disappointing, however, since they
didn’t teach techniques – the trend of the time was to turn students loose to
“create” without much guidance. Art became an evening recreation, doing small
works in pen and ink with watercolor for herself and for friends. Her
scientific drawing skills were first developed illustrating archaeological
artifacts before and during college, at the Haffenreffer
Museum in Bristol,
RI, and the Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit. These skills
proved useful doing drawings while cataloguing the museum collections for the Lynn Historical
where she worked as the museum curator and assistant director after college.
After joining the Society for Creative Anachronism in 1976
she found her artistic talents in demand doing heraldic art, and she taught
herself calligraphy and medieval style illumination to do awards scrolls.
Medieval art became Susan’s specialty for a long time, far outliving her
association with the SCA.
With her husband, Susan moved to Phoenix
in 2003, joining the Desert
Botanical Garden that
same year. Living in the southwest with its magnificent scenery and unique
vegetation, combined with her life long interest in natural history and
horticulture made her want to capture what she saw in art. Painting the natural
world would also provide a break from the physical demands and detail inherent
in her medieval art. In 2006 Susan decided to try a class at the Desert Botanical
in botanical painting with acrylics. This
experience was much more satisfying than her college art classes. In
decided to try a class in the specialized technique of botanical
which she found very rewarding. This led to further instruction at the
other media, including graphite, pen and ink, and colored pencil. Later
2008, with the encouragement of her instructors, she joined the
program for botanical art and illustration sponsored by the DBG.
work on the Grand Canyon Project, researching and illustrating rare or
threatened plants of Grand Canyon National Park, were part of her
Study project for certification. Recently Susan has been working on
scientific illustrations in pen and ink for publications, including new
species. This specialized form of botanical art requires careful
measurements and microscope work. Susan finds it a bit ironic that
botanical art can be just as detailed
and physically demanding as her medieval art. Susan is a member of the American Society of
Botanical Artists (ASBA) and the Southwest Society of Botanical Artists
All art on this web site is copyrighted by Susan Ashton, 2011.
For information contact SAshtonArt@cox.net.