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Saguaro Cactus by Andrew Denman <Back to Thumbnails "Saguaro Study #2"
5 x 5"
Acrylic on Watercolor Board
Saguaro Cactus in Red-Violet & Moss Green

How to Buy, general info

One of the first things that attracted me to the landscape of the Sonoran Desert was our most iconic plant species, the Saguaro cactus. For several years I drove from California to Tucson twice a year to teach workshops at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and I would always get excited when I spotted the first saguaro from the highway. With their “arms” enthusiastically in the air, I always felt as if they were welcoming me home with a big hug.

My earliest experience with these cacti was shaped by Looney Toons cartoons, in which Bugs Bunny or Willie Coyote would, while fleeing a foe or hunting a nemesis, hide behind one of these great succulents, arms comically held up like a criminal surrendering to the police to mirror the plant’s shape. Or Yosemite Sam might jokingly point a gun at a saguaro and shout “Stick ‘em up!” The reality of these plants, I quickly discovered, went far beyond the simplified, cookie-cutter shape that is so readily identifiable to everyone, whether they have seen one of these cacti in person or not.

Very few plants provide such a ready template for anthropomorphization. With their strangely human shape, they can look like stern sentries, excited children, two people hugging, or an old man dragging his suitcases through a hotel lobby. They can grow in dense group where they suggest a chattering cocktail party, or singly on a barren hillside or plain where one can’t help but perceive them as lonely. Some are fat and healthy, others water-starved and thin, some lush and unblemished, while others are so riddled with woodpecker holes they look as though they have been sprayed with machine gun fire.

For years I have been ruminating on a series of artworks exploring these iconic plants, and this little series of studies is my first foray. Among the things that most fascinate me about saguaros, are the negative shapes their often crisscrossing arms cut from the surrounding space, and that is the focus of these small exercises. I decided to play with non-objective palettes in an attempt to encourage viewers to appreciate these plants more for the abstract beauty of their lines and the shapes than as natural historical subjects. I’m still not sure yet where this series is going or if and when the idea might crystalize into some larger paintings, but then, that’s the point of experimenting!

Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, an Arizona–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.
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