I was truly inspired by the spectacular show of Palo Verde trees blooming this spring in Tucson. I can see why it is the state tree of Arizona as it totally dominates this part of the Sonoran Desert. This is one of a series of Palo Verde paintings that I've painted since then. I paint all I can on location, and also take a ton of photos for later work in my studio.
One of my favorite places on earth is Saguaro National Park West near the Tucson mountains. It is a truly magical place. Palo Verde trees are a nurse plant for saguaro cactus. Saguaro seeds often germinate under the tree and are protected from harsh sun and temps until the cactus is large enough to survive on its on. Thats why you often see a saguaro and Palo Verde together.
Tumamoc Hill is one of my favorite places to paint. It is a Sonoran Desert preserve, historical landmark, and archeological preserve surrounded by urban Tucson. I've been going up to Tumamoc Hill regularly to make quick on-location paint sketches. In these sketches I am paying close attention to getting the subtle colors of the "desert palette" which I can only get from on-location painting. Even the best reference photos distort the true colors of the desert. This is a studio painting using my on location sketch as reference.
I'm continuing a series of small still life paintings. This one is a small metal shaman figure I bought in Ouray along with some of my milky quartz crystals. I like the almost pure black and white values in this one. Just a little burnt umber and a tiny bit of yellow ochre for the wood table.
Its monsoon time in Tucson. Amazing storms with high winds, lightening and precious rain. Its really my favorite season here. Everything springs back to life after the very hot and dry early summer. Here are a couple of monsoon sketches. Both casein on panel - 5x7 inches.
One reason I love living in Tucson is that the Gem and Mineral Show comes to town every February. Amazing rock specimens from all over the world all come almost to my doorstep. I have collected a lot of interesting crystals, minerals and objects de arte over the years. Below are a few recent still life paintings with some of my quartz crystals and Zuni fetishes.
Acrylic on panel, 8x10
Geode slice and Fetish
Acrylic on panel, 5x7
Jet Black Bear Fetish
Acrylic on panel, 5x7
Acrylic on panel 5x7
Something that has always bothered me about acrylic paint is that it is a bit translucent. Its hard to get really opaque brush strokes without getting into heavy imposto. I love painting with gauche and casein because the paint can be very opaque. This is really helpful for doing fast sketches and on-location plein-aire painting. With acrylic its hard to get the same opacity. Recently I had one of those "duh" moments and realized that I should quit fighting the translucency of acrylics and embrace it. So I started using glazing medium and soft water washes to build up layers of paint. This technique gives me complete control of luminosity, color and value in my painting. It is definitely not a spontaneous type of painting, but for for me is more like a zen meditation, allowing me to merge into the painting and fine tune it. I've found that I like casein and oils for a more spontaneous approach. You can see that style in my on-location Tumamoc sketches done in casein, and the cactus flowers done in oils.