Chronicle: Saguaro Bloom: Part I

It’s that time of year when Saguaros grow buds, bloom and then fruit.  Usually all of this happens many feet up in the air and one can only guess what really goes on, but here on the slope of the hill, we watch the mystery unfold from just inches away.

It’s 9 AM by the time I get going and the sweat is already beginning to pool…I know, blah, but you’ve got to love it if you want to get anywhere in this plein air business.

Start with a line drawing.

Begin filling in some of the larger shapes. I tend to work up one color at a time, all over.

Here is the (fast and dirty) 2 hour result including all of the colors I ended up using. Perhaps next week I can save time knowing this palette although I hope to be adding more color as the buds…blossom.

Excursion: Patagonia Nature Preserve

We delighted in the sun-drenched, cool, crystal-clear morning.  As we approached our first location, a Blue Heron stood before us on the path…good luck omen.


Some quickly get down to business.

Leia works in traditional oils.

Loisanne, watercolor.


Lory works in pastel.

Others prefer to explore more, traveling deeper and deeper into the preserve. It takes will power to stop and draw!

Lynn, charcoal and Sara, ink.

Mikaela, charcoal.

Marge usually works in acrylic but decides to try watercolor.

Lunch brought relaxation and discussion of the mornings’ work.  Lory fortifies us with super dark chocolate, yay!

We explored the Cienega loop trail in the afternoon. The trail surrounds a natural spring which makes the area lush, dense and smelling of spearmint which grows there in abundance.

To get to our location we walk up and down the elevated Railroad Trail. Little greeters meet us on the handrails.

Yes, javalina and snakes love this place too…

Some look out from the dense foliage, while others turn inward, catching focused and filtered light.

Leia looks out.

Lory frames the scene with expressive trees, pastel.

Thumbnail Queen tries woodless colored pencil.

  Mikaela catches light with charcoal.

Loisanne captures the cottonwood quality, watercolor.

Lynn works on an enormous burl.

Karen’s intimate and whimsical watercolors.

Sara’s prickly poppy pastel.

Thanks again to all for coming and sharing your work with others’ through this post. I hope you’ll be inspired to make another trip to the preserve, remember your passes last for one week. Better yet, make an overnight of it at the Inn in Patagonia!

Chronicles: One potato, two potato

The drawing board in the “kitchen studio”


Potatoes have long inspired.  They tend to sit around, are quickly inedible and then forgotten in the dry desert winter.

Neglect leads to terrific biomorphic-complexity. I like to imagine them as mini-wildernesses to explore.

I elect to make a study of growth/gravity with color and biomorphic abstraction as theme/concept.

Begin with cool and warm studies, then six complementary dyads.




Great practice. Starting to feel like some kind of marathon…almost there…


Red-orange/ Blue-green


These are about 7×9 inches, pastel and charcoal.  I consider this is a practice exercise which develops composition, technique, color, and basic drawing skills.

Patagonia Reconaissance: Space, Light, Color

Patagonia Nature Preserve

(vermillion flycatcher)

At first the complexity can be overwhelming  but after exploration, themes emerge. Choosing a theme will help direct your experience. Thematic choice will inform your process and enable composition and subject to present more clearly.

Here are some themes which emerged as I explored the site.





Water is fundamental to the entire preserve.


Notice how value and color relate.







See you there!

Chronicles: Eyerye

This year I put in overtime for the Spring Bloom. Iris’s (eyerye?) need some TLC at the right time. Come February I was out there in the mud, digging them all up, separating, fertilizing, watering, wrenching my back (never dig “mud”), hobbling around. Now witness PAYOFF.

Jefe of the Iris.

They match?!

Now, to draw these suckers…can she do it? Maybe better to paint them. Whatever-it will be fast, they are almost gone already!