One of the most artistically inspiring and intriguing places that I love to visit is Phoenix Arizona. I head north of the city up into the mountains to hike where the most stunning scenery can be found. I am always surprised by the abundance of the local botanicals. Ornate trees, bushes, grasses and flowers are everywhere. Plus an amazing variety of cactus; giant Saguaro, Agave, Yucca, Ocotillo, Teddy bear and Buckhorn Cholla, Barrel, Organ Pipe and my personal favourite Prickly Pear cactus. If you are lucky enough to be there during the spring season you can catch Prickly Pear cactus in all its blooming glory with it’s yellow, orange or pink flowers sprouting from the edges of its paddle like pads. Such a contrast to have in one plant, waxy tissue thin vivid coloured flower petals right up against all those needle sharp spines.
I like to take tons of photos of them before the light changes knowing that I will be reviewing them back at my art studio. It’s a delight to relive my trip as I go through all those photos while looking for the best ones when I am back home. I loosely based my painting on the photo below. First in light pencil I drew out the image on my dry watercolour paper. I decided to simplify the elements of the cactus so as to turn the focus onto those gorgeous flowers. Then I used a fine permanent black ink line to render down my final drawing.
Now it gets really fun! I wet my paper and then launch in big juicy puddles of watercolour onto it. Pinks in the areas of my flowers, greens and yellows for the pads and purples for contrast. I let those colours roll around the paper as I tip it to aid in the process. The colours spread and defuse and become soft and gradated. I leave it to completely dry then return to start the next stage. I gently wet each individual area to drop in more colour and carefully drag the paint up to the edges of the ink line. Each layer must be dry before I can add more colour. Watercolours are marvellous for creating luminosity with each transparent layer you add. Lastly I rewetted the background area and painted in some more colour, soft blues and greens. Then for texture I dropped in some pink splashes. I feel the finished painting ‘Prickly Pear Cactus’ was a great success and such a joy to do. It was intriguing to work in such a large format with those bright colours that really pop.
I am thrilled to see that this is my blog number 30! It seemed to happen so fast. Writing these blogs has been a helpful anchor for me during these months of uncertainty and upheaval. Thank you for reading them, I so enjoy sharing my thoughts, tips and techniques with you weekly and I will continue to do so. To all my fellow artists and art lovers wishing you Happy Holidays.
To see this finished original watercolour painting ‘Prickly Pear Cactus‘ close up and for more of my paintings available for sale please go to my original art watercolour and acrylic galleries on this website. This painting and others are also available in 5″x7″ art cards.