Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Saguaros - and NO I Don't Get Tired of Painting Them!

Hello everyone - sorry I've been a little absent.  I tend not to blog like a madman.  I prefer to write something when I actually have something to say, rather than all to the reams of drivel and blabber floating around out there on the internet. 

This week I am working on a new 30 x 40 of Saguaros on a hillside of blooming brittle-brush.  This painting, and a legion of others that are sitting and drying in the studio gave me the idea for this blog post - some thoughts about one of our great Arizona icons, the Saguaro cactus. 

Since we are planning a saguaros show of my paintings at the Marshall-LeKAE Gallery in Scottsdale for March of 2013, I thought it might be nice to reflect a little on the giant cactus that has been so much the centerpiece of countless paintings by me - and other Arizona artists. 

I remember once talking to Max Mikesell, who formerly ran the Max Gallery in Tucson some years back, and I remember Max saying that it seemed to him that some artists who paint saguaros hadn't even looked at them.  Almost as if they had some general idea of what a saguaro should look like; two upturned arms, very "roadrunner and coyote" kind of landscape stereotype.  And he mentioned that even though my saguaro themed works weren't strictly realistic, they still showed evidence that I had taken some time to look at them...and indeed I have.

What is most important if you are an artist painting Saguaros is the realization that they provide on of the most prominent verticals in a landscape dominated by big skies, small, round trees, and huge horizons.  Saguaros cast your eyes up to the vertical, and thus balance a landscape much the way that a pine tree might well do back east in the woods.  But the cool thing about saguaros is their amazing shapes and individual character.  I've told people that they might well be one of the few plants that I think actually have personality.  You see them swell with the summer rains.  You see them hold up and hold firm when monsoon storms rip through the area.  And you see them lord over the landscape like giants - standing tall and proud even in the hottest, most brutal parts of Arizona summer.  I have called some among the series of saguaro paintings that I've done "Giants of the Desert", and it seems to me that they are indeed giants who stand over us in the fiery heat of our surroundings.  When you come to know them and the fact that they grow so slowly that they are frequently 50 to 75 years old before they even sprout a single arm - you then realize that in mature saguaro forests, you may be looking at 150 or 200 year old plants.  Plants whose duration dwarfs the lifetime of humans.  I remember a biologist saying that was one of the problems of long term saguaro studies; that it is hard to study them in a sustained way because that might take three generations of scientists.  Imagine...

(I'll note for the record also that people still get a laugh at me because I have the habit of saying "Sa-Guaros" with a hard "G".  Whereas most of the locals say "sah-wa-ros".  Oh well, I didn't grow up here, and some habits die hard.)

For me, I guess it's fair to say that I've set myself up and studied them as intently as Monet did Rouen Cathedral, or his poplars.  I have never gotten tired of looking at them, and always been keen to understand the unique personality of the plants as I studied them.

I love the world in all it's landscapes and variety.  But there will always be a soft spot in my heart for these wonderful "Giants of the Desert."