My artistic heart so loves my travels to Phoenix Arizona and its wonderful desert environment! It’s a thrill to experience that hot and crystal clear atmosphere giving you views for miles, with sights of gorgeous sunsets and fabulous flora and fauna. My adventures while there were full of hiking and photographing the wondrous sights I encountered. There are so many various kinds of stunning cactus to discover that I find endlessly intriguing. All those incredible shapes and colours, filled with beauty and danger. It’s always a thrill to recreate them in my watercolour paintings.
During my visits I have been lucky enough to see a myriad of bird species including harris’s hawk, gila woodpecker, cactus wren, greater roadrunner, harrier hawk, great horned owl, a variety of hummingbirds and surprisingly an osprey. Plus local wildlife; a squadron of javelina, a rattlesnake (yikes), a bobcat, scorpions (more yikes), desert hare (jackrabbits), a coyote, and a herd of elk (they were at the rim of the Grand Canyon).
The illustrator in me likes to stylize the look of local plants and wildlife when I am creating my paintings. My goal is to always have strong design elements and interesting compositions in my work. Often my approach involves completing my initial drawing in light pencil then I’ll use permanent black ink to draw line work on top. That gives me a crisp and graphic effect. Once that dries I then lay in the many layers of watercolour paint after.
In the cases of my watercolour paintings, ‘Gambel’s Quail’ and ‘Gila Monster Lizard’, seen below, the actual black outlines are done with a dark created from a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt umber watercolour paint using a fine tipped brush. Gambel’s quail are the most adorable little desert creatures. They are fast and busy sweet looking wee birds that scurry about on the ground in the most cartoonish manner. Their tiny chicks are unbelievably adorable trailing behind their parents like little windup toys. After seeing these marvellous birds with my own eyes I was inspired to capture their energetic essence. I also wanted to highlight their delightful plumage and bright eyed expression. So cute! The background environment I created of distant mountains and cactus using a lot of earth colours is indicative of the area I saw those birds in. It’s a beautiful and rustic area north of Phoenix in the mountainous region. Even though this location is so close to the big city it’s still very rural with the desert wildlife being abundant there.
In contrast when composing my watercolour painting of the poisonous Gila Monster lizard, seen above, I chose an aerial view looking down as they are ground dwelling reptiles and that is how you would encounter them. I was drawn to the lizard’s fabulous patterning of contrasting stripes and vivid colours. I took artistic license with the background here and had some fun by adding a scattering of various local cactus species I had encountered; saguaro, prickly pear, yucca and barrel. I kept the background colour a soft cool grey to make the lizard’s warm colours really pop.
As we are about to enter 2021 I want to wish you all, fellow artists and art lovers a very happy, healthy and harmonious New Year!
To see these finished original watercolour paintings ‘Gambel’s Quail’ and ‘Gila Monster Lizard’ close up and for more of my paintings available for sale please go to my original art watercolour and acrylic galleries on this website. These painting’s images and others are also available in 5″x7″ art cards.