Painted Trees, Roadrunners, and a New Princess

Painted Trees
Painted Trees as an art project

Creative Adventures Beyond the Garden: Painting Trees and Roadrunners

I must admit that I don’t spend much time outside in my garden in August. Very quickly I become a sweaty mess and the heat sucks out all my energy. So, I turn to other pursuits to occupy my time. This month I’ve painted trees, had a chance encounter with a roadrunner and welcomed a new princess.

Discovering the Artist Within: Painting Trees on Canvas

While I usually indulge my creativity out in the garden with design, I had an opportunity to channel it onto canvas. It was during a team-building event for my husband’s work.

Blank canvas for the Painted Trees

The event was held at an art studio that hosts group art painting sessions. As I approached the blank canvas, paint brushes and paint, I felt a combination of excitement and apprehension. I’ve never painted on canvas before and the last time I’ve put brush to an easel was in kindergarten.

Background sky for the Painted Trees

The instructor stood in front of the class, and we were to replicate a particular painting. There was an example of the finished piece of art, and the instructor guided us step by step. She began painting her blank canvas and showed us how easy it is to create a design.

Painted Trees, Roadrunners, and a New Princess

It was enjoyable, and I’m living proof that you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the experience. However, as a certified arborist, I did feel a little bit of pressure when painting in my trees. I reminded myself that this was more impressionistic art.

A Close Encounter with the Southwest’s Speedy Icon: The Roadrunner

Roadrunner sighting

A couple of days later, I was visiting my niece at our local hospital. I was lucky enough to spot a roadrunner walking toward the front door. We don’t see them very often where I live in suburbia, so I stood and watched what it was doing.

Here is a roadrunner up close

Because I just recently taught a class on gardening for birds at the Desert Botanical Garden. I was full of facts about this type of bird, which is a member of the Cuckoo family and I started reciting them to my husband who was watching the roadrunner with me.

The roadrunner is an attractive bird

For those of us who grew up watching the cartoon feature Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner, the coyote never seemed to catch the roadrunner. However, in reality, coyotes can reach a top speed of over 30 mph while roadrunners can only run up to 15 mph.

Roadrunners are found throughout the entire Southwest and are spreading as far to Louisiana – so now you have two fun facts to share with your friends.

Here is the roadrunner in all its glory, what a beautiful bird

Here is a photo of another roadrunner that I spotted several years in front of a hospice facility, coincidentally across the street from the same hospital. You’ll notice the red and blue coloring on the side of its head, which is visible during mating season.

I’ve watched these large birds run and catch lizards and snakes in the desert, and it’s always a treat when I get to see them up close.

Celebrating a New Arrival: Welcoming a Little Princess

a new baby

Hospital visits aren’t typically fun outings, but the exception is when you are visiting new parents. My nephew and his wife just welcomed a precious little girl into the world, and I am now a great aunt. We have had eight boys born into the family, yet only one girl in the past 25 years, so we are so excited to have another “princess” to love and dote on. Bring on the pink!

In a few short weeks, my focus will once again be in the garden, but for now, I’m enjoying the cool indoors. 

How about you? Have you ever gone to an art studio for a painting class or seen a roadrunner up close?

Twinkies, a Princess, Turf, Seedpods, Root Rot, a Puppy, a Shower & Thanksgiving

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
16 replies
  1. Linda Larson
    Linda Larson says:

    Very Cool! I was startled once by a road runner chortling away, saw him at the DBG. Didn’t know they made such sounds.

  2. Robin Ruff Leja
    Robin Ruff Leja says:

    I’ve definitely never seen a road runner here in the Midwest, but I have been to several of those painting classes. As a matter fact, I’m going to another this Tuesday. I am no artist, like you, I learned that the instructors walk you right through it and anyone can achieve success.

  3. Louise
    Louise says:

    Congrats on your princess and your painting.

    When I first saw a road runner I was shocked and disappointed. As crazy as it sounds now I really believed they were bright primary colours, like in the cartoon. I mean cartoon cats of my xhildhood were black and white, like real cats, cartoon pigs were pink, little fluffy cartoon birds were yellow like chicks in real life…I think I can be forgiven for assuming the cartoon road runner would be close in colour to the real bird.

    I can remember arguing with my husband, saying no way, that little brown thing that just dashed across the road CANNOT be a road runner.

  4. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    You did very good with that painting. I used to tole paint and took some classes where I painted on canvas. It can be a lot of fun.

    I live out of the city limits and see roadrunners often. We also hear coyote serenades at night so our roadrunners are often quite careful not to get close as they must avoid a lot of predators here. But I have taken some nice shots in the past when younger ones would get close to me. They are fun to watch, except that they also will eat other birds chicks!

  5. Ray
    Ray says:

    I once saw a roadrunner on my neighbor’s roof. After disappearing for a moment, it reappeared with a sparrow in its beak.

  6. Linda
    Linda says:

    A roadrunner came into my little courtyard. Next thing I knew, he was gulping down a small male finch! He gobbled the little guy down and regurgitated him several times before finally keeping him down. Talk about “red in tooth and claw.”

  7. L. Johnson
    L. Johnson says:

    Which studio did you use? Would you recommend it? I’m going to organize another paint party for my office, but the place we went before is now closed.

  8. Sandy Smith
    Sandy Smith says:

    Hi Noelle, This year we have 4 RR who visit us daily if we’re home. In fact we named them as they’re quite different if you look carefully. ‘Big Daddy’, the largest; ‘Milen’ (stands for Millennium); ‘The Young One’, for obvious reasons, as he chases anything that moves; and the youngest, smallest one we call ‘Blue’, his feathers have a blue cast, which is unusual. There are differing opinions about the why the red and white eye comes out. Audubon and Cornell Lab say it happens when “they get excited, chasing prey, for example”. But, I guess it can happen during mating, grin (have never observed that myself ;p) Yes, they often try to eat young quail, but quail parents are quite aggressive in defending their young. Sparrows however are not as smart, easier pickings. Sometimes when a RR does get a goodie, he does a combo of running & spreading his wings fully to gain loft (We say, Weeeeeee) it’s hilarious, Just picture, run run run weeee!

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