San Rafael Valley, AZ: Plein Air Sketching


We are down south in ranch country for a day of plein air sketching. Today our goal is to explore this region and find 2 to 3 spots to sketch. A sketch takes about 20-30 minutes. If a site is memorable enough, we’ll come back for a more in depth study for a longer duration.


So many choices! San Rafael Valley is first on the list.



M. Milstead, San Rafael South, pen and colored pencil sketch



Inge demonstrates an important key to plein air…less is best. Check out this tiny watercolor set, perfect for gathering color and light data on site.


Julie uses charcoal to demonstrate the tonal quality of the landscape.


Our second spot is Bog Hole, a prime wildlife viewing area and headwaters of the Santa Cruz River.


Little dry…


DSC_0001 2

M. Milstead, Bog Hole Crust, pen and colored pencil sketch

Many a rustic fence and ranch to draw.


San Rafael Valley is under 2 hours southeast of Tucson just east of Patagonia. From Tucson, travel east on I-10 to HWY 83 Patagonia exit. Drive South on Scenic Highway 83 to Sonoita, turn right on 82 to Patagonia. Just inside Patagonia, turn left on Harshaw Road to San Rafael Valley. Harshaw Road is mostly dirt, off roads are high clearance. Even if you can’t make it to the Valley, this entire route is so scenic, almost any pull out will do for sketching. Take advantage of this wonderful winter weather and low rich light to get out and capture the natural world.


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