Contact me by email: or telephone 520-682-2837

'In any land what is there more glorious than sunlight! Even here in the desert where it falls fierce and hot like a rain of meteors, it is the one supreme beauty to which all things pay allegiance ... The chief glory of the desert is its broad blaze of omnipresent light.'
-John Van Dyke

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Arachnids of Arizona - my second photo collage poster

This poster was more challenging than the beetle poster because I know much less about spiders than about beetles. I also included other Arachnids because I wanted some variety of body shapes and positions.

The other very time consuming problem was that I rarely photograph spiders on white back ground. Usually I leave then in their webs or running across the soil where I find them, I just crouch close and shoot my macro photos.  So I had to clean away the back ground, using the antiquated Microsoft Digital Image Standard 2006 Editor. I have photoshop elements. I found it more cumbersome for this task.

Spiders do not only have 30 percent more legs than beetles, those legs are also sporting lots of hairs and bristles that cannot be neglected. But I learned to carefully and tightly cut around those gawky appendages because there was no way to reach a pleasing arrangement without overlapping them in many places.

 I am glad that I tackled this challenge. Over the last 10 years, I had accumulated, and with the help of the experts identified, hundreds of  photographs of AZ spiders.  Now I could finally make some use of those photos besides just accumulating them in my Flickr Arachnid folder.  In the process of designing the poster I learned a lot about the diversity of our spiders, the multitude of different families, characters that identify them and some typical behaviors.

Now, a not even a couple of weeks after the poster was first shown on Facebook, the first order from the poster printer has arrived and is sold out, shipped all over the US. Thank you to everybody who ordered one!  Of course it came again with template and list.

At the last minute I decided to change the title of the poster, It is now called Arachnids of Arizona to better match Beetles of Arizona.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tucson's Hispanic heritage

In 1991 I was invited to work at the physiology department of the University of Tucson. So I arrived with mostly professional interests to do research and teaching at the Medical School. But I became immediately fascinated with the multicultural aspects of the Old Pueblo. In fact, it was the warm embrace of both the Native American and the Hispanic communities that made me feel welcome, comfortable with my artistic pursuits and soon opened the way to galleries and art shows.

Of course I responded with many paintings of beautiful people and colorful traditions. I am now reviving those paintings that are still very dear to me in several series of artists greeting cards. The Folklórico and Mariachi set is the first one.

Each set of 7 cards with envelopes comes in a clear box that features the image above at its back.  The set costs $ 20. (plus shipping and tax if appl.) 

Monday, November 2, 2015

One more Cat Comission

My clients who ordered the pretty cat-with-daffodil-portrait liked it so much that they came back for a painting of another one of their beloved cats. Again in their beautiful garden. It's so different from our desert setting here in Arizona, it reminds me of our garden in Germany. The sweet-faced Mia was set off nicely by flowers.  For the male tabby Aldo, rock garden and blue spruce seem a fitting back drop.

Maybe you enjoy a step-by-step  view of the new painting. Tabbies present the most difficult painting problems - I was trying to find a balance between looseness and enough detail to make him recognizable.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Summer of Bugs

This was a summer full of Nature Festivals and Bug Safaris. I did not get a lot of painting done. But I was preparing about a dozen powerpoint presentations about insects for those events. I am finding that there is a lot of creativity going into the design for all those slides that I use in those talks. I just finished the title slide for my Arizona Beetle talk at Sabino Canyon on September 30. 
It is a collage of many of my beetle photographs on white background.

When I posted it on FaceBook it got a lot of great comments and also  requests for prints. So right now I'm looking into an affordable way to print it as posters. 

 I am also offering a limited edition of this piece, done on my Giclee printer. These prints are 24 by 30 inches, on heavy acid free paper and printed with archival pigment inks. The edition will be 100, signed and numbered. Each print will sell for $60.


I got so many requests for posters that I inquired into having them printed: This 18 by 24 in version will cost $20 plus shipping in a tube. I'll order them if I get at least 10 orders.


more then 10 are ordered, so if you want one, e mail me very soon, please

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Toads all around - the monsoon is coming

Here in Arizona we are anxiously waiting for the beginning of the monsoon. We already have high humidity, dust storms, dramatic clouds and black skies at times. But no real measurable rain yet, at least not on the west side of the Tucson Mountains. Of course, the wildlife around us is waiting more eagerly than we humans with our access to CAP water and ground water delivered from every faucet. Amphibians like toads, frogs, and spadefoots are hidden under ground during the dry season and emerge when water might be available. They need to keep their bodies moist because their skin is quite permeable - they breath through it and can absorb, but also loose, water. Even more than the adults the eggs and larvae of amphibians (tadpoles) depend on water. Some of our desert species are masters in utilizing very temporary puddles that only lat for a few days for their offspring. Those species, like red-spotted toads and spadefoots have produced quite a lot of offspring last year. But the big Colorado River Toads, or better now Sonoran Desert Toads (after their western most populations are disappearing) need more than just a puddle, they need at least a small pond to mate, lay their strings of eggs and for their tadpoles to reach maturity. Nevertheless, we have at least half a dozen of those prehistoric looking giants between our and our neighbors property. The probably have not bred in decades. But the individuals survive and eat  bugs nightly under all our porch lights and my black light. (read more about them in my nature blog)

Sonoran Desert Toad step by step.  The subject seemed to be great for some wet-in-wet but then I had to fuss around too much to make it recognizable (flash photos don't make good references!). Next time I'll find something with more light/shadow contrast range and side lighting.

Below, another study of our big, often vilified Sonoran Desert Toads. They can be several decades old and put on a lot of character over time. I like painting realistic wildlife, but I don't like painting cute images. The toads allow me to practice portrait skills without having to strive for conventional beauty. I kind of enjoy that...

First a fluid, warm under-painting where I'd like a little glow. The background was inspired by the dark monsoon skies that were so promising (no measurable rain yet). layered washes to flesh out the body, preparing some of the texture of the warty skin, last, adding some calligraphic detail. Not finished yet, though.

Last touches: softening the calligraphy to model the form of the face. Loosing some edge on the left. Hoping that the face will push forward that way and the line of the back retreat.

I hope you enjoy my ugly friend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Too many Monarchs?

There can never be too many of those amazing long distance travelers in nature. But in a painting, too many repetitive elements can be a composition nightmare  I tried to organize a limited number of cut-outs that I could move around to evoke the image of those millions of butterflies resting in the branches of sunlit trees during their winter in Mexico.

After reaching a promising composition that way, I photographed my collage and then tried out backgrounds that I painted in a photo editing program.

Then I transferred the arrangement as a pencil drawing on my watercolor paper. Since countless little white spots are characteristic for Monarchs, I used liquid mask to preserve them.

The masking allowed me to freely apply washes that were meant to give the impression of sunlight breaking through the branches of conifer trees that the Monarchs rest on in huge numbers during their winter in Mexico.
Then every butterfly was carefully painted, but with running, dilute pigments that hopefully evoked both the natural color and pattern of the Monarchs and the play of the sunlight among them.

The final painting turned out rather like I had imagined it in the original, but was very difficult to reproduce. I had this problem before with paintings that contain a lot of orange and blue/turquoise. Those complements seem to fight each other on the computer screen. I hope they will not be to difficult to reproduce as giclee prints.

The painting was of course inspired by the famous migration of the Monarchs that takes them over the course of several generations all the way from Canada to Mexico and back, an enormous feat for a weak little insect. As the numbers of Monarchs had declined alarmingly over the last few years (they seem to be recovering somewhat this year) the Monarch has become a symbol of the beauty and the fragility of our natural world. I hope that the media hype that singles out the Monarch will not obscure that the threat to the natural system is not limited to Monarchs and Honey Bees. The ecological system as a whole is in need of protection, from Climate change to habitat destruction to the overuse of pesticides. I hope that the growing awareness does not end with concern just for this flashy poster species, but that the public understands that all species have their roles because the stability and flexibility of our complex natural system is best guaranteed by high diversity.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Glorious Cactus Bloom

A rainy winter gave us annual wildflowers in many parts of the desert. It also made the cactus blossoms larger, brighter, longer-lasting ... just immensely paintable. 
I needed new original paintings for the upcoming Phippen Show in Prescott. So after finishing some commissioned landscapes, I went into the backyard, to our Cholla patch, for inspiration. 

Blossoms and Spines, watercolor 15 in x 21 in, framed 24 in x 30 in

Here is another one, this time in steps. I paint slowly. A painting takes several days. Washes need to dry completely before another layer can follow. I also often need to give it a break to come back with a fresh approach. When nearly done, I photograph and manipulate the photo. Changes I like I apply to the painting itself.

And a larger view of the finished piece - some painters say it's difficult to be sure when to stop. I do not have that problem. I know when I'm done and mat and frame as soon as the moisture is evaporated.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Last show of the Season!

An art show at the location where this painting was done! It was not on my schedule, but when the promotor called, I could not resist. At the Oxacan Village in North Scottsdale. I'll be there this weekend, April 18 and 19.

Intersection of Pima Rd and Pinnacle Peak Rd, look for white tents and red/white balloons! The weather will be gorgeous, so come, see us!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I used an old calendar photo by a friend of a friend (Stan Keiser) as the inspiration for a spring watercolor of a non-Arizona animal. I loved those Red Foxes when I lived in Europe. But I think for my painting it's definitely better to stick to fresher, directer impressions.
Framed in a nice natural wood frame that picks up Foxy's coat it looks very nice now. 
See more of my wildlife images here

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Montezuma Quail

I have my prints in a little gallery in Patagonia, close to Nogales AZ. The area is biologically so rich (one of the most diverse in the US) that it attracts birders, researchers, conservationists and also hunters.
In grasslands and canyons, there are several indigenous species of quail plus the Bobwhite that was released from captive bred stock.

Now my gallery asked for the most typical one, the one that has been used as the logo of several birding festivals ... but also the most tricky one for a watercolor painter. It's the Montezuma Quail. The male's head is over-sized and looks nearly disk-like in profile, but most of all, it's the high-contrast grey and white spotting of the chest and the gold and dark fish-tail pattern of the back that characterize the birds. Not an easy task for a watercolor painter.

On the other hand, our facebook group Birding - Arizona and the Southwest offered plenty of great reference material, especially the photos by Peggy Coleman and Tony Battiste.
Anticipating substantial 'up-tightening' while painting the feather details of the male, I tried to tie the birds into the background and model the shapes somewhat before starting on those spots. No further painting before it's thoroughly dry after this.

I know that I have a hard timekeeping patterns from becoming too regular and repetitive if I tried it freehand. So I took the time for a careful and detailed drawing. Then I loaded a big brush with a nice point to get all the dark of the chest down quickly without interruption and so the paint stayed wet enough that I was able to float in pigments that could nicely spread out.

After completing the dark spots of the back and wings, I applied a deeper gold colored wash, letting the brush pick up some of the darker pigments from the spots to soften them and lifting some pigment to lighten areas that received the most light from above. Trying to keep it soft and edge-less there. 

Some harder edges and contrast in the foreground were necessary to push the birds back into the painting. And of course some feathers and eyes for the female - also grounding her on those great sturdy feet. All birds in the chicken family prefer running to flying and have the feet for it!

The finished watercolor will be framed in a 16in by 20in  frame and will be exhibited for the first time at my next art show in Gold Canyon in 2 weeks. The Patagonia gallery of the Creative Spirit Artists will receive gallery-wrapped canvas giclee prints and matted paper prints in several sizes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A very nice show put on by SAACA

Shows that don't allow tents can be challenging and I usually stay away from them. But if done just right, they can also integrate artists and surroundings to form a great experience for everybody. The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance succeeded with their  show at La Encantada in the Tucson foothills. Of course, the very friendly weather helped. Some visitors stayed all day Saturday and showed up again on Sunday, bringing kids and dogs and lots of interest in art.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

photo by Doris Evans

Thursday, January 15, 2015

First Painting of 2015 - Mia with Daffodils

Another commission - and again, a cat. This time I had nice photos to work with. I would have liked a larger format than the quarter sheet that the client wanted.

The cat was to be in a natural setting and one of the photos showed her with daffodils, and what's nicer for a spring time painting? But the pretty tortoise shell cat was staring out of the photo in a rather non-committal way, so I first planned to establish a focal point for the cat's eyes in one of the flowers ... but the cat might have looked cross-eyed because it's sitting so close to the flowers. I liked a slight tilt of the head anyway, and definitely some open daffodils instead of the bunch of buds.
I decided on a simplified the background, keeping the deep forest greens to support the outdoor scene and provide some contrast to show off the cat, but with some of the reds and golds of the tortie's fur mixed in to keep some unity through-out the painting.

When I thought I was done I noticed that the dark part of the cat's shoulder ended just behind the central flower. Somehow the flower seemed to lie flat against the cat. Letting a bit of the dark fur show on the right side of the flower added the needed dimension and depth.

If I had taken the photo, I would have chosen side lighting with a clearer direction and more shadows. (Easy in Arizona's clear sunshine). But it was interesting to work from photos that were obviously taken in much more diffuse lighting conditions. Thus, three-dimensionality is more difficult to achieve but the colors are more true.
Another critical look at it tomorrow, and then it should be ready to be shipped to its owner.