Category Archives: Paintings

Coming Art Show

This past summer I worked intently on a series of paintings for a show coming up in February, 2014 at the Contreras Gallery in Tucson. The show opens on February first, which is coming up very fast. I am glad I have already done the bulk of the paintings. It has been a special treat to return to trying to capture this inspiring landscape. It is also a challenge is to take a fresh look at this very familiar natural wonder.

Here are four more paintings:


Catching the First Rays


Coming Back Up




Toward Evening


I have been continuing to create watercolor paintings of Grand Canyon for a show at the Contreras Gallery in Tucson opening on February 6, 2014. This is the most recent one, done from a photograph taken early in the morning. I enjoyed the diagonal slope of the foreground cliff and opposing diagonals of the canyon shadows. I also appreciated the way the trees and other plants hang out over the canyon, so I called it “Life at the Edge.” The image size is 10″x8″.

I started working on another painting, and when I had done the drawing realized it was taken from a spot only a few feet away from this painting. This shows how much I liked the view! The final effect will look very different.

. GCLife at the edge


A few days ago I went to Arizona Lithographers and picked up their 2014 calendar. I knew that they included one of my paintings in the calender, but wanted to see it in print. This is part of the back of the calendar with  a portion of the August page from a painting I did of Seven Falls in the Catalina Mountains (the painting on the right in the middle row).









Yesterday Ed and I decided to revisit a trail I have hiked many times. It is a section of the Arizona Trail (a trail that goes from Mexico to Utah, a total of about 800 miles.) We drove to Molino Basin in the Catalina Mountains, and set off across the road and toward the east. It was cool with light breezes. This late in November we did not expect to see anything in bloom, but right away we saw several camphorweed plants with a few blooms (Heterotheca subaxillaris). Then one lone wire lettuce (Stephanomeria sp.), and several turpentine bushes (Ericameria laricifolia) loaded with flowers.

Turpentine bush



The leaves of the Turpentine bush smell like – you guessed it – turpentine.




It took us a while to realize that there was another plant in full and glorious bloom, one of my “invisible” flowers. We were not sure of the exact species, but it is one of the euphorbias, possibly Spurge (Euphorbia pediculifera). The plant was very dry and somewhat shriveled, and it was not until we got home that I could see that it was really in bloom. In fact it was loaded with blossoms, each one very minute.

Euphorb bellota saddle1

Here is the plant seen from above

It is about 6 inches across








Euphorb bellota saddle5

Euphorb bellota saddle2


Here I am holding two little branches of the plant. If you look closely you can see the individual flowers.






This is one flower greatly enlarged (the actual flower is less than a tenth of an inch wide)

There is a lot going on in this tiny flower.





The hillside we climbed is covered with shin daggers (Agave schottii). There were no flowers, but plenty of flower stalks, and some of them sported little baby agaves – pups – plants that were starting to form on the mother ready to drop to the ground and assert their independence. Neither of us had ever noticed shin daggers sprouting babies like this before, though we had seen other agaves that have this skill.
Bellota view
Our turn-around point afforded us a view to the south of Agua caliente hill, and behind it the Rincon mountains. It was a truly gorgeous day, and another delightful hike.


Ed and I hiked yesterday along the Douglas Spring Trail at the East end of Speedway Boulevard in Tucson. It was a beautiful day, cool, with a good breeze blowing. We saw only one plant species in bloom, Burroweed,(Isocoma tenuisecta). Most of its flowers had dried up.

Isocoma tenuisectaPL









I did notice that some of the Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) bushes had flower buds. This reminded me of the time several years ago, when I was looking to find the plant in bloom as an illustration for Charlie Kane’s book, “Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest”. I started looking in February,  and it was already too late. The plants had finished blooming. I had to wait 11 months to try again. So here I was in November, and the male flowers were already in bud. I found some female plants with the remnants of last year’s fruit on them.


Simmondisa chinensis

My painting of Jojoba for Charlie Kane’s book



Recently I have been reading – “Among Whales” by  Roger  Payne (1995). In it he describes the devastation in the whale population caused by whalers from all over the world. He points out that many whales are hunted for their oil. Sperm oil comes from sperm whales, and is inedible. It is not really an oil, but a wax, and was used as a lubricant for fine machinery. It was found that the plant we were looking at today, Jojoba, produces nuts rich in the same liquid wax that is found in sperm whale oil. Since they have been able to grow this plant in desert areas, it has provided an excellent substitute for sperm oil, and in so doing has saved many of the world’s whales. Evidently it has many uses, including skin care, detergent, fuel, disinfectant and perfumes.

We stopped along the trail to look at a Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). It was about 15 feet tall, but instead of coming straight up from the ground as most of them do, it came out from the base at an angle, and then pointed to the sky. On closer inspection we saw that the base had once supported one of the saguaro giants of the desert. In this picture you can see the base, the ribs of the decayed part of the plant, and the still-living arm.

Saguaro stumpSaguaro tall




It is very unusual for a Saguaro to grow an arm at the base. We wondered if a near-by Saguaro fused with it, or whether it grew a basal arm when the main trunk began to deteriorate.



We came across some Desert oregano (Aloysia wrightii). Their leaves were very much shriveled but still contained the fragrance for which this plant is famous.











At our turn-around point we wondered where to sit and enjoy a snack. Seeing nothing on the trail we walked down a stream bed and found a cool area out of the wind.

Ed among grasses







After a very pleasant respite, we rose to go and then noticed, just a short distance south of us. a rock with lichen shaped like a target.



We don’t get many fall colors in the Catalina mountains, but you can find them along stream beds, especially high inn the mountains where the Big tooth Maple provides the best examples. This painting shows a riparian area with a huge Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), among other trees.


fall sycamore