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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora


Carnegiea gigantea

To draw the saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, for “America’s Flora, Botanical Art Worldwide” was an easy choice. The saguaro is a regal and iconic cactus specimen whose habitat is the Sonoran Desert in the Southwest United States, where I live. In fact, it is native only to a small portion of the Sonoran Desert and is a protected species. In Tucson, there are two Saguaro National Park sites where the density of these giant cacti is remarkable. Specimens can grow forty to fifty feet tall and have several arms, or branches. The flowers are quite sturdy and occur across the top of the main stem and the arms. They bloom at dusk one day and remain open through the next day. The saguaro flower is the state flower of Arizona.

Many of my drawings are in pen and ink. Not only do I enjoy using the medium but it lends itself to illustrating the sharp spines, as well as the soft texture of the plant surface. In many instances I like to describe the colors of the specimen, as in this one where the creamy white petals are in contrast to the yellow-orange flower centers and several shades of green in the buds and plant body. This I do in watercolor.

The drawing has a purposeful vertical alignment and the image rises from the bottom edge of the paper to capture the columnar nature of the plant. It is always a challenge to find a specimen that you can see the top of. This particular one was on a relative’s property and I was able to climb a ladder to study it, take photographs, and revisit it whenever necessary.  

The saguaro truly represents the grandest flora of the American Southwest.


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Read more about this artist’s work: Out of the Woods


Carnegiea gigantea


Ink and watercolor on paper

18 x 12

©2017 Joan McGann

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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