Opening! TPAPS Agua Caliente Show: February 14, 11 AM

1f139b41-122c-4345-baa2-7db70b1efba5 Tucson Plein Air Painters Society is having a demo (Walter Porter at 8 AM) and wet paint sale and opening at 11 AM at Aqua Caliente Park on Valentines Day!  If you want to see live action painting, the latest in plein air and find out about the best painting spots near and far, make a plan to come by.

Continue on down for a few selections of one-shot plein air:

I’ve spent this winter with friends in Saguaro Park East. I like the afternoon light there best.

We cruise the loop road until something looks good. Sometimes we must perch right next to the pavement, endangering our lives! Such are the sacrifices of the plein air habit. Skies are moody with winter storms. Light is dramatic and fast changing. DSC_0533 2


Desert View, 8×8, oil, 2015, M.Milstead

At other times we hide-out in the shade of ancient rock tumble/uplift. DSC_0612 DSC_0607


Desert View 2, 8×8, oil, 2015, M.Milstead

There is always an expressive Saguaro in view to lend a vertical element to the composition. This is one composition-rich landscape. DSC_0610 DSC_0619


Desert View 3, 8×8, oil, 2015, M.Milstead, (Winner)

We’d love to see you (this winter has been especially good for plein air)….but, if you can’t make it for the opening, stop by another time. The water levels at Agua Caliente are back up, ducks and other birds and waterfowl are present and you’ll be sure to have a relaxing yet stimulating time.

Tiny Scorpions

I’m writing about some of the art and artists in our show at Tohono Chul this winter, December 2014-March 2015.

Charles “Chip” Hedgcock is known for his photographs of bugs.

I first met Chip when he visited an elementary school where I was teaching. He came to show Cynthia’s 5th graders live bug specimens to draw and learn from…oh, to be a fifth grader that day.

Fast forward four years and Chip is finding the time to join Tumamoc Sketchers.

I met up with him one morning to observe his process.



He uses different photographic processes to explore this place. On this December day, he makes an outdoor lab at the midway point up the Hill.


Things haven’t changed much…Chip, circa 1980 (Bronco ’68).

Making coffee, Quitobaquito springs. ca 1980

Photographic processess are intensive (extensive), requiring specialized equipment; darkrooms, labs, computers etc. but this project happened almost exclusively here, on top of an old cooler.


He placed creatures found on site onto old exposed photographic paper. The paper was discovered in the Tumamoc Desert Lab. He protected the specimens with clamped-down glass. He used the suns’ light to expose the paper further while the specimens blocked the light.

The exposure lasted all day.

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While walking the tiny scorpion exoskeletons to their spot on the top of the cooler, a gust of wind took one of them off the paper and onto the pavement…lost, impossible to find.  But, with soft eyes and a little bit of faith, the tiny one was located, replaced, and joined to make the three necessary for a more dynamic composition.



Chip and resident geologist, Owen Davis.


Come see the results and learn more about this unique process at the Tohono Chul entry gallery. See the Tiny Scorpions.


And don’t forget, Tumamoc Sketchers is free and open to everyone. We meet once a week to draw, paint, sketch. Then we talk a little bit about what we did that day, that’s all, you just have to show up…..and up and up.


Find the link to Tumamoc Sketchbook in the menu on the right. Join the mailing list to receive updates and times.

Tumamoc Hill at Tohono Chul Park: Art, Culture and Science


Tumamoc Sketchers featured in the book, “This Piece of Earth”, are showing in the entry gallery at Tohono Chul this winter. NOW. The book is comprised of Poetry and Images made on Tumamoc. (It is available for purchase at Antigone’s Book Store on 4th Ave and the Tohono Chul Gift shop in Tucson, AZ or online thru amazon of course).

5 diverse visual artists are showing: Chip Hedgecock, Kathleen Koopman, Meredith Milstead, Paul Mirocha and Barbara Terkainian. Photography, graphic design, installation and found sculpture, painting and drawing, and illustration. It is a cohesive show nonetheless. Tumamoc as Muse. Many thanks to Curator, James Schaub.



Following is a peek into my process and inspiration for the image below called “Tumamoc Texture: Botany”. It is impossible to read in this tiny picture and you must see it right up close.

Please come see the show!


I’ve been slightly obsessed with the passage of time and square and grid formats.


I change media depending on how I want to talk about what I’m observing. In this case it’s black and white, pen and ink, of textures generated from botany in various stages of dying (or living) on Tumamoc Hill. The above grid is one of a series of “Tumamoc Textures”. It is freehand, made mostly on-site.

Flanking my artwork is Kathleen Koopman’s circular impressions on paper.

DSC_0673pens of choice for this project

This is how “Tumamoc Textures” started:

Aside from my predilection to look down a lot, I began to notice that there was ALOT of texture on the Tumamoc ground…way more than “normal”. I like to think that the more visually complex something appears, the more excited the connection between the eye-brain-mind, thus stimulating and strengthening neural networks…which has to be good for you, right? I am not a neurologist but looking at a plant has got to be better for your biology than looking at, say, the sidewalk.  Plus, this is nature-made, not man-made, and nature is profoundly more complex than man. Complex=good. ( but then man is nature made too which makes him infinitely more complex than what he can make aside from a sub-atomic particlesplittersupercollider which is pretty complex-but, what do I know? Slippery slope. Best to stick to drawing textures…many men, over time.)

While walking I noticed metal frames placed strategically on the Hill, for future signage, and I liked the way the sign-holes framed the ground. I felt compelled to fill the empty rectangle.

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I thought it would be a good idea to let the sign-holes determine which textures to capture from Tumamoc….sort of like a collaboration with something incapable of collaboration




… but it wasn’t (a good idea) and I  ventured away from the corralled textures to hunt down wilder specimens.

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Many ink drawings later I was able to choose a collection which represented the most iconic textures of Tumamoc, for me, and perhaps others too, maybe, hopefully, I wouldn’t doubt it, you decide.



Central square as it hangs in the gallery. Notice the little words and numbers? They show date of drawing and sequence and sometimes the time of day, or the name of the texture or species of plant, if I like the way it sounds or whatever comes to mind while drawing.


After getting my feet wet with botany, and discovering many more categories of visually different types of texture on T-Hill, I felt directed to make a few more grids which I’ll show later. For now, I’d like to talk more about this show, so the next few posts will focus on other work from the Hill.

Stay tuned.