HOTA Tour Sat/Sun April 14, 15 10-4PM

Hello All!

I’m on the Heart of Tucson’s Artist’s Studio tour this weekend. Please stop in to see the latest. A lot of new creations; small plein air oil paintings, colorful collage, large oil and acrylic abstract paintings, and encaustics, all priced reasonably!

Bush in Bloom, Cornville, AZ, plein air, oil on linen, $50

Bush in Bloom, Cornville, AZ, plein air, oil on linen, $50

See the add in Zocalo magazine and online for my location.

I look forward to seeing you and catching up!



Bloom du Jour

Summer Plan: Record Saguaro bloom on the Hill.

A grandiose ( carnegiea gigantea ) plan.


Looking for a bloom at eye level, Yes!

Plans: Easy to intend, difficult to execute.


You can see things turn bluer at the very end when, in the studio, I work the drawing and pick up different colored pastel sticks, probably because my studio light is too cool…Good reason to work outside, en plein aire, aka. on site. I must confess, you can see it here, I’m one of those people who has to do it outside or else…I loose it. So, back outside we go!

Will consider this one a “warm up” as it is overworked and lacks joie de vivre. Plus, such a composition with so much to absorb and interpret on site, requires some training, like for a marathon.

It is in a good spot, with shade for sitting, and a nice flat rock to sit upon! (I will show you the shade, and the rock, next time). Could not do this without shade, or water, don’t forget plenty of fluids! And a hat, don’t forget a hat, and lastly no polyester fabrics, deadly, those. Don’t forget, uh, braincells will be sacrificed and skin cells too. C’est la vie.

Back to the drawing board, as they say…

The Tumamochian Chromatosphere

Winter Mondays on Tumamoc. Afternoons in the Chromatosphere.

(By the way, Chromatosphere, while not entirely made up, is, in this case, to reflect a sphere-place of colored light, call it poetic, artistic license.)

This post covers work over about a month around the Winter solstice. Paul and I took pics to document.

Tumamoc Hill is an outdoor studio where I actively observe the changing seasonal light as it reflects off of plants, rocks and buildings. Tumamoc as muse to the outdoor painter, color-gatherer. Tumamuse.

As the sun lowers towards solstice, the color cast goes to orange, then red. As I see it.

March will bring back the blue (and yellow). Up and down the rainbow we go.


Pre Solstice Saguaro. Hooked by yellow-green.

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Then, post Solstice, orange.







And on into cool red shadows.





After all this hunting and gathering, I spend some time in the home studio remembering and exaggerating light effects observed on the Hill. I naturally surprise myself…perhaps you, too.

You can view “Red Winter” at Tohono Chul Gardens this March-May 2016 in the Tucson Plein Air Painter’s (TPAPS) Group Show in their Entry Gallery.

Solstice Gallery

Sonoran Sunset_oil on canvas_Meredith Milstead

Sonoran Sunset, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead

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Red Winter, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead 

Low Light on Tumamoc_Oil on canvas_Meredith Milstead

Low Glow, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead


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.

Plein Air: San Xavier del Bac at Agua Caliente Park


Summer is a great time to paint in this area but, early. We head south out of town on the I-17 to San Xavier del Bac, “The Dove of the Desert”.

The church glows in the morning sun. We arrive before the tourists and vendors, and work in the shade of the vendors’ ramadas-typical Tucson style.

It is quiet with a few locals coming to early morning services.


The shade is a bit spotty, not the best for painting, but the sun is hot enough already to plant us there. We both begin with toned canvas.


I see yellow undertones with cooler shadows and warmer highlights.



San Xavier Morning, oil on canvas board, 10×10, M.Milstead


Gay pans out and really gets the essence of the”dove”, strong and bright in its desert environment.  It stands out. A unique feature of Tucson’s rich cultural heritage.

Gays painting of “The Dove of The Desert” is on display for sale at the Ranch House Art Gallery at Agua Caliente Park until July 30.

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The Dove of The Desert, oil on canvas, Gay Scheibl, $300 framed.

Take a morning off to visit the Art Gallery. Tuesday-Saturday 9:00 am-2:00 pm.


In this spectacular setting at 12325 E Roger Road, Tucson, 85749. (bring your paints!)


Don’t miss this special show of Tucson’s Treasures!  Exhibiting Artists, in addition to Gay include; Lee Ackermann, Laurie Williams and Joyce Nelson. All work affordably priced, for sale.  TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY ARE THE FINAL DAYS.




Plein Air: May on Tumamoc

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It all began with this idea to record the changing light and color of Tumamoc Hill. It took a month and many paintings but I think there’s something educational here.




In this beginning phase, I’m just showing up on the Hill without much of a plan but to paint the same scene at different times of day.


My plein air set up; a pochade box mounted on a camera tripod. Standing.



My palette is limited to complementary pairs keyed to an overall color cast or “hit”, say blue or orange. It becomes impossible to avoid the blooming palo verde. They glow a luminous lemony yellow. So, I have to put yellow in each painting, in addition to the complementary pair; three color limited palette for each painting.



Later Afternoon:


I’m churning these out and slowly coming up with a better plan for what I think might make an interesting statement about color/light on the hill. This is a (the) process.

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We gather to assess our work during these plein air sessions. Talking about what you are doing helps you to figure out just what it is…that you are doing (or making or thinking or feeling).


The group offers suggestions for presenting the work up to this point.


After deliberation I decide to paint another series more specifically about shifting light and color on Tumamoc.


I’ll call this initial arrangement, “The Yellow Month”, after the plethora of yellow blooms during May and their subsequent fading .

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What I really need is more consistency with fewer variables. I decide to do one painting every hour for one twelve hour period. I’ll use only two colors plus white for each painting. Each painting will have a different complementary combination. I’ll key the color to a reference point, say, the rooftop. At the beginning of every hour I will take the color wheel and hold it up to the rooftop and spin it until I find a close enough match. Matches are difficult to find so I end up using a process of elimination more often than not.

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6 AM, go!


8 AM: Blue-Violet and Yellow-Orange.



11 AM: Blue and Orange



5 PM: Red-Violet and Yellow-Green


I made some reference cards to help out with seeing color mixing potentials. This really helps me to compare different color combo’s to find a more likely fit. Color is relative/relational.

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I finish up at 6 PM and try some different arrangements for the twelve pieces in the Tumamoc Library building.


Should I divide the day into three parts?


It ends up like this, all twelve presented in one rectangle. Titled, “One Day on Tumamoc”.  I rotated the paintings, reorienting them. This way the emphasis becomes light and color instead of twelve views of the same scene. More abstracted, less representational. At first it can be confusing and even irritating to look at this piece but if you stare and unfocus your eyes, “soft eyes”, you may begin to get an overall “feel” of space and subtle color shift.  I like the way this turned out because it makes me look longer…

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But, this still isn’t enough. I want to use more color, so I take all of the pigments I decided upon in, “One Day… ” and set up for another series.


Looks/Feels pretty yellow-orange this morning.



While I was away, Owen set up his time lapse camera in my line of sight. Luckily I have now painted the scene so many times, the ladder is easy to ignore.


Besides, company is fun. All this time painting on Tumamoc enables me to interact with the scientists and other artists who work up here. Check out for more  information. Also UofA sciences website.

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Here is my predominately yellow-orange morning. I used sixteen different hues in this painting. I could not have achieved this complexity of color and light without practice with over twenty-one  paintings of the same scene already. I should add, color is partly subjective, so I would not expect for anyone else to come up with the same color choices, although it would be interesting to discuss and deliberate…

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Moving on to painting number two. My plan is to make four paintings today: Early and mid morning and early and mid to late afternoon.


But, I get distracted. Maybe it’s the heat, but suddenly this ladder and saguaro juxtaposition is fascinating …

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Now, I really am going gaga. It is 105 degrees and I am feeling…pink!


After a cool down I get back to the task at hand and complete the day with just three paintings of the original scene.

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Late afternoon is red and violet.

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What next? I retreat to the studio with a (my) painter’s palette for Tumamoc. I use this palette for several abstractions based on still poignant memories of being there on the Hill and sensations, thoughts and feelings experienced. This is the most fun!


I mix up the palette and get to work on another series of three.


This is number one. You can see the rest at the end of the Project Gallery.  I think I’ll try this process out in a different place/geographical location and see what happens, how different will it be? What new experiences await? What new discoveries will be made? Always an adventure!

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  Project Gallery

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The Yellow Month, oil, M.Milstead



Color Signature for The Yellow Month, oil, M.Milstead

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One Day on Tumamoc, 30×40, oil, M.Milstead



Color Signature: One Day on Tumamoc, oil, M.Milstead

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Three Lights of Tumamoc: Morning, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead

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Three Lights of Tumamoc: Midday, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead

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Three Lights of Tumamoc: Afternoon, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead



Color Signature for Tumamoc, oil, M.Milstead



Redhouse, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead

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Darkcolumn, 10×10, oil, M.Mlstead


Lightway, 10×10, oil, M.Milstead



Seeing The Santa Ritas: Opens Saturday, October 5, 6-8 pm at The Drawing Studio

If you’ve been following the plein air posts here over the past few months you’ll know we’ve been painting out in the Santa Rita Mountain Range south of Tucson a lot.


Valerie paints on Mount Hopkins.


Meredith paints on Mount Hopkins.


Katrina paints in the watershed.


Gay paints on Box Canyon Rd.

As plein air painters and artists, we are inspired by the beauty and diversity of these mountains and we’d like to keep it that way. Some of our paintings, and the works of others,  were selected for “Seeing The Santa Ritas”, which opens October 5.

Come see!