Category Archives: Paintings

WILDFLOWER SEARCH

I had a wonderful time at the Tucson Festival of Books. I sold about 24 books and about 75 notecards. But the main joy was talking with friends new and old. It was especially fun showing people mock-ups of three new books I am working on:
1. Glorious Grasses (with Jim Verrier)
2. Small Wonders (tiny, nearly invisible flowers)
3. An illustrated guide to the Santa Catalina Mountains – using my paintings to illustrate various parts of the range.

Here is one of the paintings for the book. It is of Windy Point, 14 miles up the Hitchcock Highway, with a great view to the South and West, an ideal place to watch the sunset.

Sunset at the Windy point

Recently I had the pleasure of doing a plant walk with Bruce Homer Smith, who has developed an excellent website where people can easily look up wildflowers growing in California. Here is a link to his site, which has more than ninety-five thousand pictures, about 4248 of them taken by me (marked with an FR). Since it has been such a dry winter, we did not see many plants in bloom, but had a lot to look at and enjoy in Molino Basin.

Bruce Homer Smith and Rosewood

Here is his web site:
PlantID.net

AS OLD AS THE HILLS

I was working on my new book – “An Illustrated Guide to the Santa Catalina Mountains” and wanted to know just how old these mountains are. Different books gave different dates. My favorite article was: “A Guide to the Geology of the Santa  Catalina Mountains, Arizona”
by John v. Bezy of the Arizona Geological Survey, which taught me that this is not at all a simple question. The oldest rocks (called Pinal Schist) in the Catalina mountains date back 1.65 billion years.

The process that started to shape the Catalina mountains as we know them went through several phases. The main upheaval that forms the core of the mountain range goes back about 35 million years in the Cenozoic age when the super continent known as Pangaea was further separating and the Atlantic ocean was being formed.

There was more development 26 million years ago, and again 15 million years ago.

This means that this wonderful mountain range has been in the process of construction for twenty million years or more. And it is still changing. I seem to have read somewhere that it is still growing about an inch every hundred years, but have not been able to confirm that. In any case, it is a work in progress.

And as the mountain range itself evolves over the centuries and millennia, the plants that call it home have also been changing. For example saguaros arrived after the last ice-age which ended about 11,700 years ago.   We have the privilege of coming to know some of the plants that flourish here now. Who knows what the future holds?

Look for me at the Festival of Books at the University of Arizona Campus  –

March 10, 11 booth 254.

Panoramic View of the CatalinasThis painting is for the cover of my new book, and shows a profile of the mountains viewed from the South. The range is about 20 miles wide and a mile and a half high.

AND THE RAINS CAME

Day after day the weather forecast had said that there was zero chance of rain in the next few days. And then the rains came. It has already rained for three days and now the forecast shows possibility of rain (if only 10% or 20%) for several days in the future. What a change this brings to the desert and the mountains! It also lifts our spirits.

Yesterday Steve and I headed for the mountains, undaunted by the forecast. As we drove north on Houghton Road, we saw something neither of us had ever noticed before. It was a cloud shaped like a rolled-up white blanket, stretching for almost twenty miles along the front range of the Catalina Mountains. You can see a portion of it in the center of this picture.

Cloud sausage

We drove up the highway and sure enough were soon in the midst of the blanket. We emerged after about three miles at Molino Canyon Vista. We parked the car and caught the view looking back at the cloud, as seen in this photograph.

Above the sausage

We then walked along the path and turned around to see the little waterfall running at full tilt. I call this “Hidden Falls” because almost as soon as the water goes over the lip, it drops behind a large boulder, splashing into a pool at the bottom. The falls have been bone dry for about five months, so this was special.

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls 3
Here is I one of the watercolors I have painted of this interesting little cascade.
In two weeks, March 3, our son Owen and I will be at the Contreras Gallery (110 E. 6th St., Tucson)  from 6 to 9 pm, for an opening of a show of our art work. The show runs the month of March, and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am.- 3:30 pm.

We are only three weeks away from the Tucson Festival of Books. I will be sharing a booth with the Arizona Spiritual Growth Foundation, and will be autographing five different books (Mountain Wildflowers, Mountain Trees, More Wildflowers, The Art of Effective Preaching and a book I illustrated, Bo and the Fly-away Kite.) I will also have a dummy copy of part of a book I am currently working on, which is a guide to the Santa Catalina mountains with my watercolors as illustrations.

Look for me at the Festival of Books at the University of Arizona Campus  – March 10, 11 booth 254. And enjoy the change in the weather.

Dry spell

We are getting toward the middle of February, and the rains have not come. Every day I look in the newspaper for the four-day forecast, only to find zero chance of precipitation in the near future. This is fine for many things. People are enjoying the mild Winter weather, there are no weeds in our yard, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, but the flowers are few and far between.

In this part of Arizona the spectacular shows of Spring flowers come only after Winter rains. Last December we had just over half an inch of rain. In January about a fifth of an inch, and nothing so far in February.

On a recent walk in Molino Basin I did see the Cottonwood trees in bloom, plus a tiny cluster of flowers on the Gumhead (Gymnosperma glutinosum), and a barely visible Biscuit Root (Lomatium nevadense) just about one inch high.  Normally I would expect to see as many as two dozen species in bloom this time of the year.

So now I hike to get photographs which become the basis for my paintings. I am getting ready for a show at the Contreras gallery in Tucson in March (opening reception March 3), so I am content, though I do like to have clouds in many of the paintings, and these are very scarce.
Rose Canyon Lake

Rose Canyon Lake in the Catalina Mountains

Lizard Rock

Lizard Rock

BLISS IN THE STREAM BED

As the seasons progress into winter, Ed and I are always delighted to see flowers in bloom. This week we were at 6000 feet in the Catalina mountains. It was a beautiful day and the temperature was very comfortable. We went to Chihuahua Pine picnic area, where the Mexican Jays (Aphelocoma ultramarina) were keeping their eyes on the picnic tables hoping for scraps of food.
Mexican Jay
We walked up the stream bed, through the tunnel under the highway, and further into the Hitchcock Campground area. On the way we saw a number of Goldenrod plants in bloom (possibly Solidago missouriensis).

Goldenrod

In the dry stream bed most of the Hummingbird Trumpet flowers (Epilobium canum) were gone, but we recognized the plants, and did see some of their spectacular flowers.

Hummingbird trumpet PL

Epilobium canum 7 k

We could smell the presence of Mountain Marigold (Tagetes lemmoni), with its yellow flowers and orange centers. Most of them had finished blooming, but the fragrance is in the leaves and we were aware of them as we walked past whole clumps of them.

Mountain marigold

Just under the tunnel we saw the familiar Alligator Juniper tree (Juniperus deppeana), in a very unfamiliar shape. Note how the trunk is mostly smooth, with a strip of bark running up the left side. We wondered how the horizontal ridges had formed. There were needles, so the tree was still alive in spite of having lost so much of its bark.

Alligator juniper lumpy

I continue to work on paintings for the upcoming show in March, 2018. This watercolor is  a view on a ridge looking North, with a circle of stones evidently used as a fire pit.

On the Ridge

LATE BLOOMERS

We are getting toward the end of the year. Day-time temperatures in Tucson are still in the 80’s and 90’s. At our house we have had only a tenth of an inch of rain in the last ten weeks. We are still able to hike in the mountains. To our amazement we are still finding plants in bloom, even though at over 8000 feet the thermometer drops to near freezing at night.

Here are some of the plants we have seen:
Red Penstemon –  Penstemon barbatus (just one)

November Penstemon

Hooker Evening- Primrose – Oenothera elata var.hirsutissima (only one)

Evening primrose

Western Sneezeweed – Hymenoxys hoopesii (a few)
Sneezeweed
Wheeler Thistle – Cirsium wheeleri (several, in a much deeper purple color than we normally see in the Summer)
Thistle
Bitter Dock – Rumex obtusifolius (There is a lot of this non-native plant, but the flowers are so small that it takes work to find if it is actually in bloom)

Yellow Salsify – Tragopogon dubius (Just one – Even in mid-morning the flower had not fully opened)

In the colder weather I am taking fewer trips to the mountain. This has left me time to work on the book “Small Wonders” which is now in the hands of my editor. That is a big relief. It will have over 200 species in it. And now, with fewer hikes, and the manuscript of that book off my desk, I am devoting myself to painting. Here is one of them. These are being done for a show at the Contreras Gallery in Tucson in March 2018.

Spring Sentinel c

THE RAINS CAME

For the last week the Catalina Mountains have been closed to all but emergency vehicles as firefighters struggle with a fairly large fire. In the last 12 hours over an inch of rain fell on our property, and probably a lot more on the mountains, so the fire must be well under control. It has been just two months since we had rain. We have had to fill our bird-bath every day, which means that the hot sun has evaporated an inch of water in twenty-four hours. If you multiply that by the number of days, over five feet of water has evaporated since the tenth of May. It is a wonder that any vegetation has survived.

Here is a picture of the Brittlebushes in our back yard. It will not be long until they revive and turn green again.Brittlebush in back yard

 

In spite of two months without rain, the Desert Milkweed (Asclepias subulata) in the same back yard is in full and glorious bloom.

Milkweed in back yard

Ascleipias subulata 7b home

With the mountain closed, I have done a few watercolors. Here is one showing a view from Oracle Ridge,. The area caught in the sunlight is the Reef of Rocks.

Reef of Rocks in the sun b

Now that the summer rains have begun, we can expect a profusion of wildflowers in the mountains.

Art and Life

It is still cool in the mountains, though the valley temperatures are close to one hundred degrees. On a recent trip I started on a trail out of Marshall Gulch only to find the trail blocked by four fallen trees. This was a reminder to me of how much we owe to those who maintain trails. Without maintenance, most of the mountain trails would be impassable in a few years.

MG trail blocked

On a recent walk on Oracle Ridge in the Catalina Mountains, Ed and I were struck by the beauty of the Parry’s Agave, sending up sturdy flower stalks. We also noted something neither of us had seen before, the male flower cones of the Ponderosa pine opened to release pollen. We had seen them in their tightly closed form, with their beautiful scales. On this trip we saw how the cones expand to release pollen, seen as pale yellow dots on the picture.

Agave parryi 3

Agave parryi 1 stalks

Pinus ponderosa 7 m

Pinus ponderosa 9 m

My friends Hilary and Andrea took me to Oracle State Park. One of the nature trails afforded a view of the historic Kannally Ranch House in the distance. I took a photograph and later did this little watercolor of the view.

Oracle State Park wc

Speaking of watercolors, on Saturday, May 6, 2017, the Bear Canyon Library in Tucson will feature a show of three nature photographers, Brian Gersten, Tom Trebisky and Leslie Eguchi, plus six of my plant portraits, done in watercolor. This one is of the Canadian Violet (Viola canadensis). The opening reception is from 3 to 4:30, and you are all welcome.

Viola canadensis new

Watercolors

February is a quiet month for  wildflowers, so I have been putting my energy into working on my new book, tentatively called: “Small Wonders” in which I show enlarged pictures of tiny flowers that are rarely noticed. I am up to page 150 out of a possible 200.

In addition I have been working on watercolors for an upcoming show with our son, Owen at the Contreras Gallery in Tucson. The opening is next Saturday, March 4 from 6 – 9 pm. Here is the invitation. I would love to see you there.

dual_invitation2
And here are some of the paintings.
c-Snow at Loma Lind

c-Patagonia gold

c-San Rafael Valley
Many wildflowers have started blooming, and soon they will absorb much of my attention.

A CAMOUFLAGE SPIDER AND A CHILDREN’S BOOK

Recently I was exploring the area south of the Santa Rita mountains with my friend, Jim. We were particularly interested in grasses, but kept coming across other plants of interest, including this one with the yellow flowers (Melampodium). When I processed the picture I noticed what seemed to be a yellow flower right at the base of the stem. Then I zoomed in and found it was a spider! I believe it is a Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia). Years ago I was processing a picture of a Bouvardia plant, and found one tucked in among the red tubular flowers. It seems that this particular spider does not make a web. Its color enables it to perch unseen on a yellow flower and just wait for insects to land on it. Maybe this one was trying out a red one to see if that would also do the trick. These spiders also come in white, and can change color to match the flowers they visit.

melampodium-longipes-3

melampodium-longipes-spider

yellow-spider

Recently my old friend, Virginia Ames, published her charming book: Bo and the Fly-Away Kite. She is old in two senses. I have known her for many years, first meting her in 1982 – 34 years ago. Now she is 102. And this is her first children’s book which I was honored to illustrate for her. She is an accomplished water-color artist herself, but chose to have me do the illustrations. It is unique in having the text in three languages, since the story includes three boys – English speaking, Spanish speaking, and O’odham speaking. Here is the link on Amazon.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Bo-Fly-Away-Kite-Virginia-Ames/dp/1533561524/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475246820&sr=1-7&keywords=virginia+ames#reader_1533561524