mouseover any illustration tagged "sketches" to see the original drawing



When in AZ we went on a hike up into the hillside behind the house. Along the path there were quite a few little cairns, piles and stacks of stones that other people had made. I paused to sketch a few.
I don't know when I've ever drawn a bunch of rocks, before!


palo verde

I was intrigued by the Palo Verde trees we saw in AZ. These are short, stocky little trees with green bark and foliage so small they look like just bare twigs unless you get close
There was another kind of tree about the same size that also had tiny, hard-to-see leaves but dark, nearly black bark. They all looked dead unless you got a closer look. I think those were Mesquite.


segmented cholla

This was another cactus I found intriguing. I think it's either a Buckhorn or Staghorn Cholla. It grows in segments, that branch rather evenly, and looks pretty brown and dull. You have to look close to see the spines.
The end of the branches bulge out into the fruits and I'm guessing that's where it flowers, too. But I didn't see any flowering so couldn't identify them more specifically.

My sketches of this one are just the general shape and growing habit (of the one in the front yard at the house we visited), it doesn't have a lot of definition- for example, the stems have an interesting texture with even bulges rather like a quilted jacket or old-fashioned upholstery with lots of buttons in it! (except of course these have spines). Search out images with closeup of buckhorn cholla and you'll see what I mean.



One of my other favorite cacti were the Agaves. I don't know the name of their varieties, but this one was a pretty blue-green with faint horizontal stripes on the leaves, and tiny spines on their margins.

These two pups were growing near the big one pictured above.
There was another plant with small, dark low-growing leaves hardly noticeable because the bright red flowers carried above them so attractive.



The chain-link Cholla cactus develops clusters of hanging fruits and segments drop off which can grow into new plants. The spines are dangerous to feet. It's also called the jumping cholla.



My favorite cactus was the Ocotillo. Wikipedia tells me this is not a true cactus. It dries out to seemingly-dead brown stems with spines, but when rain comes small round leaves emerge all along the stems. It flowers with bright red feathery blooms, one atop each stem. The plants were just starting to bloom when we saw them (but not the individual in front of the house which I sketched).


prickly pear

One type of cactus we saw a lot of in the desert was the Prickly Pear. There were smaller ones with a darker green color and shorter, denser spines and also pretty purple ones.
Some of them had curiously oblong triangular shaped pads, instead of round.
I didn't see many of these but they looked very alien.


stout cacti

There were lots of short, fat cacti in AZ. Some are barrel cactus, with bright flowers on top. Others I thought were baby saguaros, but not sure. Some had pink flowers, others yellow, I assume depending on the species although I don't know the difference.
These are not really striped, I was trying to sketch the definition of the ribs.



I am trying to catch up by posting something from the desert trip every day. I'd never visited an actual desert before, and the landscape in Arizona was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. The plant life in particular felt very alien. Most singular were the Saguaro cacti. I sketched quite a few of them.
A bird perched on one (I think it is a Gila Woodpecker).
Quite a few had curving arms and we amused ourselves imitating and anthropomorphizing their gestures. I learned that these curvy arms are caused by frosts, which kill the plant tissue so the arm will collapse. I suppose if the cold doesn't kill the entire cactus outright, it will start to grow upwards again in the proper temperature range, and thus create the curve.
This funny one we thought looked as if it had rabbit ears.



I have been busy. This is Thor.
He travels with my sister, for the past thirteen years.
We were in the Arizona desert, and I did much sketching.
Unfortunately I don't have a working scanner right now, and photographs make less-than-desirable quality pictures to show. But I still want to have them here, so will post and perhaps improve later.



the most curious thing about the pronghorn antelope, I find, is that it really isn't an antelope at all. It is the only surviving member of a family of mammals unique to America- the others all being extinct. And its existence supports the fact that prehistoric cheetahs once roamed North America- the only other land mammal faster than a pronghorn is the African cheetah; it evolved to escape a speedy predator that is no longer here.



bassett hound
and chihuahua
sketched from photos by Keith Kimberlin in a board book my little girl loves. Because the puppies are so cute!


african wild dog

also called the cape hunting dog