Painting Cacti

This is my fourth winter of living in the desert area of ​​Yuma, Arizona. I have grown to love the stark mountains here, but cacti are what really fascinate me. They certainly are a lot of fun to paint.

Our yard is a desert landscape consistent of rock with many different types of cacti. In our area there are hundreds of varieties of cactus which come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Even the prickly spines are different lengths and colors with different cluster types too.

I often paint from photos that I have taken. Lighting produces many different colors depending on what time of day you take the picture thereby producing different effects.

I have painted cactus using both watercolor and acrylic paints. The spines are a challenge since they come to such fine points. Sometimes they are dark and at other times very light – colors vary. When using watercolor a watercolor pencil can be used. With acrylics I use water to thin down the paint and then use a thin rigger brush.

Cacti lend themselves very well to different size frames rather than the standard 16 x 20 or 20 x 24 inch frames. 16 x 26 and 18 x 24 inch frames are other sizes I have used with much success. Of course the desert skies are spectacular and the stark Gila mountains generally provide a spectacular background. A baby cacti nestled close to the mother can add interest and variety. I look forward to spring each year when the cactus start to bloom. Although the blooms on most cacti lasts only for a day, each variety has different size, shape and color blooms that offer wonderful painting opportunities.

These are the reasons I love to paint cacti.

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