Plein Air Sketching: San Rafael Valley and Mowry, AZ

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We are continuing to explore this valley and watershed of the Santa Cruz River, a major source of water for southern Arizona. These big healthy Cottonwoods are tapped in, sucking hundreds of gallons a day. This experience is particulary aural, as wind sweeps through the branches from across the plain. There are many birds and a Red Tail Hawk nest way up in the top of one.

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Main reason for this spot? Shade!

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Interesting how value planes shift out here. The sky darker than the ground and the tree lighter, glowing.

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M.Milstead, Vaca Cottonwoods, ink

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“Car Drawing” is another way to beat the sun.


After being in the exposed valley, we opt to head to the eastern slope of the Patagonia Mountains. We see small ranches in the trees. Near the ghost town site of Mowry we meet resident artist and rancher Robert on the road.

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M.Milstead, Soapy Waters, ink

Windmills have a special historical charm…this one has a solar panel attached to it.


As we head home in the late afternoon, the mountains light up with the most saturated oranges and yellow greens (lots of lichen)….alak, alas, we must paint this too!

Until next time, safe and happy plein airings to you.

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