Editor. Note: Artist Fitz Maurice has set out to paint live at all of the US National Parks. She will be submitting her stories from the road to StuNewsLaguna from time to time.
Saguaro National Park: a drawing and painting quest
Story and photos by FITZ MAURICE
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.
Fitz Maurice on her quest to paint in all the US National Parks, here in Saguaro
Realizing that the ultimate scene of Saguaro National Park was obviously the saguaro cactus in its element, I read, explored and examined 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 US, the Saguaro live up to 200 years, can grow up to 60 feet high and can weigh up to an amazing 5000 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 the ultimate scene and start drawing.
The drawing is the backbone of the painting, literally. The oil paint hangs on the 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.
“Saguaro National Park, Arizona” oil painting by Fitz Maurice
The foreground of this composition portrays an exquisite relationship, as the Palo Verde Tree is protectively nursing the young “spear” saguaro.
The primary focus points to the mature classic saguaro cactus, whose fifth arm is growing, indicating that it is nearing 200 years old. Other indicative Sonoran Desert plant life, such as the prickly pear cacti, cholla, and ocotillo are also represented in the painting.
If you want to understand an artist, look at their drawings. When I was 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. When the drawing has everything in its proper place, it creates a dynamic composition that pulls the viewer into that world.
Then it is time to create in color. Color is about the vibration, heat, emotion, and passion of the subject being portrayed. Painting with colors 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. I feel I am submitting to the Spirit – the higher being inside me that naturally resonates with the ultimate. This connection allows me to manifest the ultimate imagery.
It’s exciting when I’ve surprise myself after finishing a painting. I can see that it took on its own life because I was not limited it by my own preconceived ideas. I let the painting 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 some of the newest National Park Paintings created on the quest, go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 S. Coast Hwy.
FITZ Maurice has been on a quest to paint ‘live’ in every national park in America. She is now in her fourth year. Totally committed to help promote and protect the parks, the artist is traveling by truck and trailer to each park. Hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene, she’ll finally set up with portable easel and oil paints. FITZ sets out to capture in paint the wonders that make each national park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world.To see her National Park Paintings visit: www.nationalparkpaintings.com