Archive for the ‘Tucson Botanical Gardens’ Category

Kinda Sorta a Year of Sadness……

Cactus Fountain

Cactus Fountain

One of the most restful places in Tucson for me is the Tucson Botanical Gardens. There is this metal sculptural fountain of various kinds of cacti that is so spectacular. I don’t know how many times I have snapped pictures of it; I never tire of the photos, and it is fun to manipulate them on the computer. Surprisingly I’ve only been there twice this year, both times in the spring when most of the gardens are in bloom. It was also a time of severe depression and sadness. I think the family deaths from last year began to finally catch up with me…anger primarily, and then sadness.

The depression stuck around for a long time, and I realized I needed to get a different kind of medication. I would sit and play solitaire for hours on end, not doing any sewing or anything beyond the basics. One of the side effects – on the good side – was the fact that I completely slowed down. I spent most of the winter and spring in first gear, and sometimes it felt like reverse. Vacation was wonderful, but coming back to a long siege with pneumonia derailed me again. I had a couple weeks before Thanksgiving I felt like I was at least in fourth gear, getting a great amount done, but then the sadness struck again with Thanksgiving, as it always does at this time, commemorating my dad’s sudden death 39 years ago. It was harder to get over things this year, but I am slowly working my way back into fourth gear.

It has also helped to have an endocrinologist who actually felt my thyroid, determined there were problems just from my symptoms, and then had tests and an ultrasound done to confirm everything. It will take a while to get better, but at least, after nearly two decades, I have a doctor who is willing to listen and try alternative approaches.

Overall this year I have not felt productive, not like the last two years of retirement have been. And yet I have made deadlines, the business has had the best year ever, and my own skills continue to improve. So I have to look at that and ignore the fact that some days nothing got accomplished except getting dressed. As is my usual self, I am looking forward to the new year and new projects, finishing some old one, enjoying the 60s (turning out to be a pretty good decade), navigating Medicare and health care, and not feeling guilty when a day passes and all I have done is read a book – or write on the novel.

Last January I only had 200 blog entries to go till I hit 1000, and then I basically stopped writing. I’ve done very few entries this year, and I’ve also read very few blogs this year. Part of me feels guilty, and the other part of me is lashing me with a wet noodle and saying “stop it – no need to feel guilty.” So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it……

Spring in the Desert


Spring has finally come to the desert. It was a very brown winter season, but I certainly know how fortunate we have been, compared to the rest of the country! Here are some pics from our latest trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Color galore!





















































Winter in the Desert, Part 2


Yup, we do things differently in the desert, especially in the winter. I remember my first teaching job on the island of Hawaii – after living in Vermont and going to college in upstate New York. I am used to snow…and Christmas in Hawaii was definitely different! The desert carries its own beauty – beyond the warm weather that makes January and February so wonderful.

We went to our favorite spot, the Tucson Botanical Gardens, last week on one of our warmer days – been a really cold (unusually so for so early). I had about 40 pictures on my phone, and I sent them to myself this morning, only to find that about half of them never came through as attachments….and of course I had deleted them already, so I guess I will just have to go back and take more…..But I missed the picture of the broken mosaic piece wreath – really quite unusual and different.

The Gardens suffered a huge freeze last November, as did the rest of Tucson. Last spring we began to see the effects of the freeze, but it was very obvious on this visit – I hadn’t been since the irises were in bloom last year. There are wide expanses of open area, as all the dead plants have been cleared, and replanting is underway. Also being added is a lot of rock from around southern Arizona, which is adding some additional texture to the gardens.

We stopped at the little cafe to see about coffee and hot cocoa, and to my delight one of my algebra students from The Art Institute was running the cafe – she’s a culinary student, and the soup was amazing!

Towards the back of the gardens is a nice restful little spot, with this wonderful fountain. It’s been cleared of a lot of cactus growth, so it’s looking kind of sparse – and you can see the neighbors.

This is the first we had seen this cactus – and believe me, the Gardens have many species. This is Texas Sunset – love the banding on the cactus.

Either the yucca or aloe family, love the color and texture –

Lots of cleared area, and yet still so serene. Notice the decorated tree.

Look at the naturala shine on the leaves, plus the glorious sunlight.

My most favorite fountain in the gardens.

Nad my favorite bench, the subject of a lot of digital images I’ve created.

An uncropped picture of my bench, with the remaining pomegranates left on the tree.

Love the little sprouts on the main trunk.

A lot of color in containers throughout the gardens.

Hand-painted tiles around the remaining cattle pool. The bench is of horseshoes.

No idea what it is, but I love it.

Another great example of color and texture in the containers.

I love this “living frame,” succulents all around.

Work in Progress

I’m looking at this coleus, which is from a picture I took several years ago at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and I wish I could remember how I did it…..I need to find the original psd file and see if I can backtrack on it. I am enjoying getting back into playing with Photoshop at least once a week. And I have loads more pics, as we spent yesterday morning strolling the gardens. I have a show in mind called Digital Desert, where I use all local pictures of the desert that have been manipulated in Photoshop. I think that will become a “work in Progress” for the new year. I even have the name of the person to contact about a possible show. As I think about it now, I could put a small pic of the original shot on the intro card, and then display the newly manipulated image. Hmmmm……

There’s been lots happening here. The major work in progress is a business piece – we have been invited to participate in Stash Fest, a fund raiser for the La Conner Quilt Museum in La Conner, Washington, on March 31 and April 1. We will be bring a LOT of marbled cotton and silk with us, so we have started already to make fabric…and run into a couple of road blocks. One, the BOLT of fabric we bought at a wholesale price, after trying a sample to see if it would work – doesn’t. Between getting the sample, trying it, ordering and waiting for the bolt, and then trying two marbling sessions, we’ve ended up with a lot of remnants and nothing for the northwest. So we kind of lost December for production. We have ordered our usual pima cotton and are awaiting its arrival. We will probably get one marbling session in this month to finish off a custom order and hopefully begin to create what we are going to need for La Conner. In the meantime, lists are made, labels done and ready to go, folding organized, bins for storage and traveling set up. So we are slowly getting ready.

I promised a reveal of the small log cabin winter quilt. Really enjoyed making this one, and I’m looking for what I can do for the spring quilt – need to get the fabric made, and I need to get at least one of the two big art projects completed and ready for photography. So here’s the little wall hanging:

The other big stuff I’ve been working on are two entries to a major art show. I am progressing, and I’m pleased with what’s happening. I just started a new shading on the bigger rocks yesterday, after trying some ideas. No question that the shading has really added to the depth of the piece, as well as add needed dark values. I noticed that I was being too controlled in doing the shadowing, and nature isn’t perfectly symmetrical. I need to “rough up” those shadows, as well as bring in some additional other “shadow” colors. I also realized I want to get a foot with a larger plastic opening, so it’s easier for me to see where I’m going. I went to the local Bernina dealer (there are several in town), and once again this particular store just manages to make me feel so stupid when I go in. I was told “that’s not how you thread paint.” Well, that’s how I’m doing it, and I like the effect, so spplttttt……(how do you show a raspberry emoticon?)

There is still a long way to go, and I have another piece ready to go, so I have to get busy!


Photoshop Friday – Ginko Tree

I haven’t had a chance to do too much with playing around with the latest group of pictures from the Botanical Gardens, and there’s so much I need to plan out for these pictures. So today, after sorting through slides and doing some general organization, I decided to play.

We have one lone ginko tree at the Gardens, and it was nice and yellow when we were there over Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t realize until I was looking at the photo that I had gotten some shafts of sunlight. Here’s the original, which I really like.

I didn’t realize that there were some surprises in the upper right corner as a result of the sunlight.

I love the shadows of the ground cover in the background. But you know me, I’m not content to just leave a picture alone, especially since I have plans down the road for some of these pictures. So….

I don’t remember what the filter was, but it’s even more ethereal.

Now back to the whole shot….with a bunch of filters……I’m really partial to the sponge….

…but then I went very abstract…..

…again, very Asian in its simplicity, and I can see it in fabric……

Some other Photoshop Fridays you might like:


October – some of my favorites

Friday Photoshop – on Saturday….

You might remember this zentangle from last week, and I said I was dying to try some Photoshop effects with it. Well, here’s one night’s work this week, in between grading linear graphs – this was MUCH more fun!

I love them both – they are each so different. This week I have been roaming the net looking for zentangle patterns. I hadn’t realized that part of this art is set patterns that enable you to really “zen out,” as I put it, into the drawing mode. I’ll have some new zentangles up on Sunday for my week of Art Every Day Month, plus on Tuesday’s Top Ten I’ll list a bunch of the sites I’ve found.

This week also saw me playing with some of the new photos from the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Here’s the original of the one I started play with:

This metal fountain is part of the Zen garden, and one of my favorite places to sit and be with nature. I was able to capture water movement in this one, which I really liked.

One of the things I have been doing in my attempt to create some collages is using my magic wand and capturing several sections of the photo, ragged edges and all – gives it more of a water color effect, which I do like. Here’s what I captured from this photo:

I love this just the way it is, but I kept going….Here’s the marbled fabric I chose to go in the background.

I know what you’re thinking…but wait, there’s more……

Same fabric photo, but with a gradient overlay that brings it closer to what I’m after with the fountain. Now I’m putting them all together….

First blend – I like it….

Second blend…hmmmmm……

This is the final, which I think I really like. I’m torn between the first one and this one. I’ll probably do prints of both! Weigh in – let me know which one you like the best!

Photoshop Friday – Desert Botanicals


I haven’t done a lot lately with Photoshop Friday, and as I was thinking about it, I wanted to see the body of work I have completed that I call my Desert Botanicals series. I have been preparing cards for a November show and realized the images really looked good, so that prompted me to look at some of what I consider the “finished” ones.

Last spring was a gorgeous one in the desert, and the ocotillo were in full bloom. This was some “playing around” with a couple of gradients.

We had a blooming palo verde in our back yard, to which I added some background in a marbled fabric. Reminds me of a sunset.

This is some kind of orange succulent from the Desert Botanical Gardens with a grdient applied to it. I am really drawn to black and white.

This was one of my first “successful” manipulations of some succulents. I was just learning a few different tools and stumbled on this finished product. I do enjoy the “mysteries” in Photoshop.

This is my newest, and I’m not sure it’s a “done deal” yet. I love the small ginko tree at the gardens, and I played with the background with some brushes.

I love my garden bench. I have this in several iterations, this one with the fresco filter, for more of a “water color” effect.

This is also in several iterations. The blossom is from a pic hubby took about 5 years ago from some spring plants. That one bloom brings such depth to the piece.

This is another version – with a very different feel to it.

One of my favorites, of an aloe plant superimposed on the grate from one of the drainage areas in the Gardens. I added a “pattern” of marbled fabric to the grate.

Another favorite,  a composite of three different images, part of my playing around to make collages.

This is the one I actually printed – I LOVE that thistle leaf.

Another early one I really like. Even with all the filters, you still get the effect of cactus spines.

This is developing as a nice body of work. I am researching developing and printing these as a collection, even licensing them – one of the many things on my “to do” list. I interested in your comments – what do you like, what would you like to see more of, and any other suggestions.


Botanical Gardens – Part 2

Still lots of photos from Thursday’s trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Plus some cool art the kids at school have done, and lots of great images from a bookbinder’s convention here in Tucson. All in good time…….To recap, I was looking for texture, color, interesting combinations, trying some new things for framing beyond centering items, and playing with my exposure settings. No color touch-ups.

Pineapple rooted and growing – I will need to try this.

I love the orange against all that green.

This is one of the more successful pictures of this fountain I have gotten – you can see the water dripping.

I love the variety of greens as you head up to the sky, with the first pomegranates.

Interesting lines with the stones.

My zen garden – one of my favorite spots in the whole garden.

Another shot of the zen garden.

Great leaf, lots of greens – and so big!

I really like the composition of this one – I’d like the purple to be stronger.

I love the light and shadow in this one.

Great lines…..

Spider plants

These look so velvety.

More fence throughout the garden.

I want to take the gate and work with it some more in a collage.

Let me know what you think – ideas, suggestions, improvements……….

Photo Friday – The Botanical Gardens

It is so good to be back doing some photography, some Photoshop, and just generally playing around. Hubby and I went for a two-hour stroll through the Tucson Botanical Gardens, since it now is mid-80’s, and you can be out and about and not feel like you’re burning up.

Took the camera and just looked at texture and framing. Color has not been adjusted at all. I did play around a bit with exposure…discovered that on the camera, so had to try it out.

It always amazes me that no matter how many times I go to the Botanical Gardens in Tucson, I always find something new.  Yes, it’s still comparatively green here in the desert, even in mid-October. Take a look, and let me know your favorites. What would you change, which ones do you like, what suggestions do you have for framing?

So what do you think?

Photoshop Friday

I have finally been playing around with tutorials on the Photoshop site, National Association of Photoshop Professionals. There are over 1000 tutorials, a mine of activities to try. If you can work and teach yourself, this is absolutely wonderful. This is the original from a spring photo shoot at the Botanical Gardens. It’s already been cropped to emphasize the flowers. I decided to work just with gradients this time to see what would happen.

This has a nice other-worldly feel to it in the lower right corner. It has taken me a long time to get comfortable working with gradients. At first I started with a gradient on a whole image, and then I realized I could take part of an image, snap it to a new layer, and apply the gradient to that part only. With this flower image I decided to work with the whole image for a change.

I tried an additional gradient on top of this one and am generally pleased with the result. I like the addition of a little bit of blue in there. I have discovered that I can keep copying layers and apply more gradients on top of other gradients and then eliminate what I don’t like. The freedom to experiment this way is wonderful – not like the way so many of us learned art – we rarely started something over again, after all our efforts. This way, even with the effort, I don’t mind eliminating what doesn’t work. I realize I have still learned from the exercise.

For this last one I hid the other gradient layers and tried something totally different. I don’t think it’s as effective as the others. I like the play of colors, but I don’t care for the composition of the photo now – the emphasis on the flowers is gone. But I’ve learned….

Photo Friday

I’ve decided to keep myself on track and do a “Photo Friday” to stay focused on my Garden Fantasy idea. This shot of a hibiscus was in the butterfly exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens this past January. I’ve never seen a two-tone hibiscus, and I’ve loved the flower since living in Hawaii. I’m amazed at the number of plants in Tucson and the desert. The detail and layers within this flower are amazing on their own. I love this photo, but I decided to try manipulating, mostly to practice with Photoshop.

I’m getting pretty good at selecting portions of a picture to put on a new layer and just work with that. This layer makes the flower look like there are more layers to the flower than there actually are. I played around with some of the options, most of which I didn’t like. But I did finally fnd a gradient I liked….

The details on this flower are just amazing. The center and the stamen are so clear – I particularly like what happened with the gradient to add the blue into the center.

Finally I decided to look at changing the background, which I had already lightened from the mostly black original. I liked it lighter, and now that I know how to manipulate filters for a background, I am quite partial to the sponge effect.

Not a wow, but I’m enjoying the practice.

THoughts on Gardening

I am not a gardener. Never saw the appeal in gardening – too much dirt under the nails. Walk around and look at plants? You must be joking. Did planting in Phoenix around our house, but caliche is an interesting clay to plant in. Had a nice backyard in Tucson at our house, but never did much with it.

Now I can see the appeal. We spent another morning at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and it’s just gorgeous in spring. Now I understand the appeal of just walking and looking, especially here in the desert. I had no idea just how many different plants that flower are planted here from South Africa and Australia. The blooms are so different.

The iris garden is almost in full bloom, with not a tiny iris to be seen. I find myself staring at the mix of colors and the changing textures. The garden has become a kind of art walk for me. I notice things I’ve never seen before. We’ve been to the gardens probably 5 times in the last two months – each time there are new things – blooms, budding cacti, trees – that I haven’t noticed before.

Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way about the importance of regular artist’s dates. This has become a regular date walk. Jasmine smells today, two weeks ago alive with the scent of orange blossoms. The saguaro hotel with the birds flitting in and out, the cactus blossom loaded with feeding hummingbirds.

I need to be sure that in developing this “Garden Fantasy” show that I balance the flowers – not just what I see and like from the East, but the unusual variety that is Tucson. Maybe I need to change the name to “Desert Fantasy” to capture some of the surprise people have at seeing some of these plants in the desert.

Agua Caliente, Mata Ortiz, and the Gardens

What a glorious day! Even though it started with an MRI, we ended with a great walk through Agua Caliente Park, a series of small ponds and a wonderfully restored 50’s ranch house. There also is a wonderful little gallery there, and we try to check each month to see the new artist. We are scheduled as the artists in 4 years – never too soon to start planning! The weather also was amazing today – why we come to Tucson for the 70’s and gorgeous blue skies! We also looked at an exhibit of Mata Ortiz pottery at the Tohono Chul park – rapidly becoming another favorite haunt, but we keep forgetting our camera each time we come!

I spent last night going through iPhoto at the shots Dean has taken at the Botanical Gardens. There are some pretty great ones, so I pulled those up and started doing cropping – in most cases I think the cropping made for a more interesting picture. Now I will slowly play around with Photoshop to see what I can create for my Garden of Fantasy, one of the shows I would like to see get curated.

So here are some of the ones I have chosen, along with some comments about some of them. I haven’t really decided what to do – this right now is a lesson in working with Photoshop and learning more – and hoping for a few “a-ha’s” along the way.

I’m quite partial to these daisies, especially with the lines of shadows running diagonally through the picture. There’s straight, round, diagonal – a nice mix of shapes. And the close-up of the flower centers has gorgeous details.

I love cyclamen, but I can’t grow it! This is (I think) spectacular for the water drops – taken by me on an early morning at the Gardens after a rainy night. You don’t find dew often here in the desert!

With my new backyard, I plan to have lots of agaves and aloes. This one is huge, so I am aiming for the smaller type, but I love the blossoms.

Butterfly Magic at the Gardens – the orange amid all that green is beautiful.

This is a really intriguing plant – it’s as tall as a tree, with a trunk like a tree, but with succulent leaves. I cropped out a lot of the background to get a better focus.

This color is spectacular. I’m curious if I can improve on it….

To see this in person just takes your breath away. I’ve started “roughing up” the background to accent these petals even more.

I absolutely love the mix of colors in this – these are pitcher plants – carnivorous plants that eat bugs. They are intriguing-looking plants.

This photo doesn’t begin to do justice to the red of these leaves. That will be my challenge.

I love this one – nice mix of colors.

Garden Fantasy, continued

I really want to work again on Photoshop and increase my skills. To this end I want to work on a series of actual images from the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and create a kind of fantasy garden. I looked at a show hung in one of their galleries, and the images were beautiful colors, all taken at the Gardens, but nothing really spectacular. I’m hoping to take the Garden a step in another direction.

The original photo at the left is of an ice plant, a succulent in this area. We had lots of them on our yard in Phoenix many years ago, but none as healthy as these. Dean did an amazing photo of these. I tried cropping, but I still like it just the way it is. I started playing with some of the adjustments, especially gradients (I really love gradients, and they do so many cool effects). I have learned how to get certain sections (based on color) onto different layers and then adjust them that way. There are about 5 gradient layers to this one, and I really like the “ice” effect to go with the “ice plant.”


Last fall when we went walking in the Botanical Gardens, there was an absolutely beautiful coleus plant in a pot. I sat and sketched for a bit, trying to get the wonderful purples within the veining, without much luck. That was the picture I pulled up to work on this evening (before I head to bed to nurse this cough). I’ve tried a few different croppings and realized what I don’t like about them. I settled for this one to play with.

Since I’ve learned about layers and all the effects, I can try new things and “turn them off” when I want to try something else. It certainly frees the creativity. Then I can also combine some of the layers for even more effects. All of this in preparation for a page on the website of garden photos.

This is a couple of filters combined – ink and accented edges. This is on top of various gradients that I’v already tried. I’m partial to this – I can see it made into fabric – check out They’ll print custom fabric, and it’s pretty reasonable. I’ve actually seen (and grown) coleus in these colors.

This one reminds me of some of the older fabrics used in Hawaiian shirts. I got quite a few of those effects with the gradients. Also – great possible fabrics. With the bottom one, again very Hawaiian – I can see it in a typical Hawaiian applique. I tried a film grain and cutout filter combined for the effect.

ass="level-0" value="113">Tim Gunn
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