STORIES FROM THE WOODS XXIII ~ Saguaro National Park Drawing and Painting

SAGUARO NP Painting  Saguaro National Park, Arizona

I had a lot to learn about the Sonoran Desert life and the iconic Saguaro Cactus – since I had not drawn them before. For me as an artist – I need to understand how things are structurally underneath the surface and why they are that way – before I can properly draw them convincingly !

Realizing that the ultimate scene of Saguaro National Park was obviously the Saguaro cactus in its element – I had only to study, read, explore and examine first hand – all I could about the life and growth of these wood-skeleton desert trees. They are remarkable up close as they throw up their arms to greet you but watch out for their prickly spines ! The largest cactus in the U.S., the Saguaro live up to 200 years, can grow up to 60 feet high and can weight thousands of pounds when they are full of water inside. Saguaro cactus provide food and housing to many of the desert wildlife and if that’s not enough – they bloom with flowers on the top of their arms !

After exploring the highlights of this National Park – it was easy to find this ultimate scene and start drawing. The drawing is the backbone of the painting, literally. The oil paint hangs on the believable skeleton structure of the drawing – so the drawing needs to be strong and compositionally correct to support the passion of paint ! This is why I spend so much time on creating the drawing. This is when all the decisions are being made.

If you want to understand an artist – look at their drawings. When in Rome – my eyes feasted on the original drawings of Leonardo da Vinci – I grew as an artist just being near such greatness! I draw in charcoal – which is both commanding and forgiving. At first I sketch in what my focus is – what I most want to bring attention to. Then I build the rest of the composition around that primary focus. A strong drawing is the beginning of a powerful painting.

The foreground of this composition – portrays the exquisite relationship as the Palo VerdeTree is protectively nursing the young “spear” saguaro. The primary focus points to the the mature Classic Saguaro cactus – whose 5th arm is growing – indicating that it is nearing 200 years old. Other indicative desert plant life such as the prickly pear cacti, cholla and ocotillo are also represented.

When the drawing has everything in its proper place – creating a dynamic composition that draws you into that world – then it is time to create in color.
Color is about the vibration, heat, emotion, passion of the subject being portrayed. Painting with color at the end of my brush is intensely exciting for me – there is no more thinking or mind involved – in fact it is all about leaving reality behind and being willing to transcend beyond comprehension – submitting to the Spirit – the higher being inside me that naturally resonates with the ultimate – allowing my spirit to manifest the ultimate personification.

It’s exciting when I surprise myself – after finishing a painting – to see that it took on its own life – because I did not limit it by my preconceived idea – but let it show me how it was to manifest. When I create this way – it is thrilling – like letting go of the reigns of a horse and letting it take you there !

To see National Park Paintings created on the QUEST – Go To: Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach