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Desert Tortoise by Andrew Denman
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"The Elder Statesman from Arizona"
16 x 20" Acrylic on Cradled Board
Desert Tortoise

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I have had the great privlege to see desert tortoises in the wild here in the Sonoran Desert, but the inspiration for this painting came from the actual model, our next-door neighbors’ thirty-plus-year-old tortoise, Waldo. Desert tortoises spend much of their lives hibernating in burrows during cold weather, and even when they are active, they can be hard to spot due to their terrific camouflage. Waldo has a very large network of tunnels under our neighbors’ garden shed into which he frequently disappears, so you can imagine “Where’s Waldo?!” is a common refrain.

I have babysat him in our garden many times when our neighbors’ daughter visits with her pit-bull. It’s unlikely the dog would show any interest in Waldo, but they don’t want to take a chance with their long-time pet. So he comes and explores my yard where my own little dogs (buddies of Waldo for going on five years now) delight in following him around but never harass him. It is a great joy to see him in the morning motoring about the garden, munching the leafy greens I leave out for him, or sampling the many native plants in my garden. His favorite is the desert Globe Mallow (a common part of their diet in the wild), and he seems especially fond of snacking on the flowers. The colors of this favorite desert tortoise food were my motivation for the background colors. Mallow bloom with the spring and summer rains, hence the steely grey background, reminiscent of a stormy sky, and the soft sage greens and apricot oranges echo the colors of the Mallow’s leaves and flowers.

The real joy in this piece was exploring the textures and patterns of scales and shell. These animals carry an air of antiquity about them, something of the prehistoric, and it was that sense of age and gravity that I most wanted to communicate. The title, “The Elder Statesman from Arizona,” is a cheeky little nod to the longevity of these marvelous creatures. If you live in the state of Arizona and want to add a desert tortoise to your family, you should know that it is illegal (and ill-advised for the health of the animal) to harass a wild desert tortoise, and it is certainly not permitted to take them from the wild, but the Department of Fish and Game has an adoption program that enables AZ residents to keep a non-releasable rescue. If you are interested in providing a quality home for one of these ambassador animals, you can reach out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum that implements the adoption program.

















Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, a California –based, internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.
All artwork and text featured on this page and throughout this website is protected by international copyright laws. Use of these images or text is prohibited without the express written permission of Andrew Denman.