The Arizona Desert

While on summer breaks from art school, I usually visited my mom in Scottsdale, Arizona. One of my favorite things to do there was to sketch the desert landscape on the north end of town. My mom and I avoided the heat by rising before dawn, then drove to East Dynamite Boulevard in north Scottsdale, to some of the most beautiful desert I’ve ever seen. With foldout chairs and plenty of drinking water, we planted ourselves in a comfy spot, and as I drew, we would talk away the morning.

After we sat fairly still for a time, little critters like lizards and roadrunners would emerge and scurry past us, and we kept aware for the occasional snake or scorpion. Daytime temperatures often soared past 110°F (43°C), leaving precious few hours in which to draw before the eventual retreat to air conditioning.

The afternoon heat sometimes gave way to thunder and lightning storms that first brought a wall of dust, then drenching rain clouds that flooded the area. I love the smell of the desert after a rain storm because the wet dirt and plants emit their own unique scent or fragrance.

I’m not the only one who appreciated this part of the Arizona desert: Frank Lloyd Wright built his home and studio, Taliesin West only a few miles to the south from where this was drawn.

This sketch was one of many I did nearly 20 years ago. It was drawn in pencil on a Grumbacher Omni sketchbook with natural tone pages.

10 thoughts on “The Arizona Desert

  1. Ah, Arizona has such gloriously alien flora. You captured it really well all those years ago. I only live in a “semi” desert out here on the Front Range, so a “full-blown” desert is a real treat to see.

  2. Hi Laura! It’s so good to hear from you! I love the desert and so did my mom. I can still remember those peaceful mornings drinking coffee, talking, and sketching away. I use to live in Both Denver and Boulder (back in the 1970s!), so not so far from you. Thanks for the nice comment!

  3. Thanks Michael! Yes, this is one of my favorite old sketches. I felt like pulling it out because I’ve never posted it before but also because these late summer days are when my mom and I went out sketching together. Great memories. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. What a nice memory of time spent with your mom. Fun to see how your sketching style has changed over the years!

  5. Yes, my sketching style has changed, that’s for sure! I really had a great time sketching with my mom out in the desert. It’s times like these that people don’t realize how special the time is until it’s gone. But at least I have both the memory and the sketch.

  6. Thanks Vicky! Since I went to high school and college in Arizona, I have many memories there too. I love the desert and hope to someday do some more drawing there. I bet the place you were married near Superstition Mountain was really beautiful too!

  7. Beautiful drawing Richard, you captured the broken grand saguaro very well. Lots of rain here in Tucson, that beautiful aprés rain smell is most likely the creosote bush. It’s a very clean perfume. I admire the fact you get out early to draw. I’m a wimp with the heat. I’ll wait until November. 🙂 beautifully rendered.

  8. Thank you Suzé! I bet you are right about the creosote bush. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Arizona during a monsoon season! I love the early morning in the desert as it just wakes up. Also the sunrises are stunning too! November is a great month (I was born in November) but it’s so far way! I hope you’re getting out some where to sketch while the heat is on.

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