Plein air in Tucson

Saguaro In Plein Air.  Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Saguaro cactus plein air, painting outdoors, in watercolor. Click on image to view larger

For spring break, we took the kids to Tucson where we did tons of fun things, including rock climbing for the kids, biking for several of us, and painting and visiting botanical gardens for me. This was my second attempt at plein air painting, or painting outdoors, and I went out four times on the trip, but this painting was the most successful. I got the basics down while I was outdoors and then the following week worked on darkening areas and putting a pale bluish wash over some of the limbs to make them “fall back” in your vision to bring others forward. Also lifted up some paint to lighten areas because in keeping track of everything going on, including paint drying even faster in the sun, I didn’t keep the lighter areas as well as I needed.

All in all a very good learning experience. I’m definitely going to try more plein air painting because I remember all the sights, smells, sounds, of the experience when I look at the painting.

Saguaros are the signature plant of the Sonoran desert and they are amazing creatures, reaching great heights over decades (they are very slow growing), in the harshest desert climate. They provide shelter and homes to birds and animals who nest in holes created by other animals. They grow an inch or two in the first decade; the “arms” don’t start branching out until they are 50 yrs old. This one was over 6 ft tall in the front yard of the house where we stayed. There’s tons more info at the link if you’d like to learn more about these really cool large cacti.

Photo taken at the  Tucson Botanical gardens

Saguaro and tree interlocked

Here’s a photo I took at the Tucson Botanical Garden (neat place if you’re visiting!) where you can see that the saguaro has grown up interlocking with another tree.  Often saguaros spring up beside a “nurse” tree that helps protect it from the elements.

Here are some more beautiful cacti photos from the botanical gardens.  Click on them to view larger if you want to explore.

Feel free to share, reblog or comment! I’d love to hear from you and thanks for stopping by..

photograph of cactus

Photo of Mexican Fire Barrel cactus at the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Cactus photo

Photo of golden barrel crest cactus from Mexico

Cactus photo

Didn’t catch the name of this type of prickly pear but I loved the light catching the new growth

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4 thoughts on “Plein air in Tucson

  1. Wow, how beautiful! Reminds me of the cactus that use to stand tall in my grandmother’s backyard in Sun City… There’s just something about the desert. I love going to White Tank mountain (near Luke Airforce Base) to hike. You see many of these scenes. 🙂 Thanks for sharing..

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