The Making of a Cactus Queen

cactus queens by ans taylor
The assortment of Cactus Queens keeps growing!

During my last shows, I have been often asked about my obscure encounters of prickly plants, beautiful ladies, and Arizona wildlife. So this is the little story about how the first of my ‘Cactus Queens’, was born:

When we had just moved back from Japan with the military we enjoyed a few months in the southern part of the state, before finding our house in the central Arizona mountains. I was delighted to start exploring our new home, which is of course considerably different from my birthplace in Bavaria, Germany (if you’re thinking quaint medieval houses, green vineyards and castles, you’re thinking correctly!).

Inspired by the desert vegetation and wildlife, I started drawing mustangs, wrens and rattlers. During my research for background facts, in the unsought depths of the internet, I stumbled upon an obscure cigarette campaign of the 50s. It portrayed the substantially awkward looking ‘Cactus Queen’, adorned in a spiky barrel-cactus bikini.

You will rarely see an Arizona resident going about their business in a prickly pear skirt.

The campaign seems to have been no success (hmmm!) and the uncomfortable bikini photo motivated little more than an eyebrow raising exercise. The Beauty Queen’s title kept floating in the back of my mind, though.

If you were anything like me as a child, maybe inventing wild fantasy stories to go with the countless princess-drawings you were filling your desktop paper with was one of your favorite past times as well? I was able to sit there for hours, drawing and making up all the characters for my elaborate plots (I am sure the stories were highly innovative and conclusive!)

Mini Ans drawing to escape the reality of 70s wallpapers

This habit sticks to me to this day. I’m painting the stories I make up and I’m making up stories to the things I’m painting. And there’s that mysteriously promising Cactus Queen title stuck in my head….

So a real Cactus Queen, what would she be like? Of course she would be wearing her cacti with pride, and certainly less gingerly than her beauty queen counterpart. A queen of spikes and prickly things, she would be at home between saguaro and prickly pears. A crown of beautiful saguaro flowers adorns her head. Soon cacti began sprouting generously from her hair. Holding audience, she would be courted by the inhabitants of her empire, javelina, coyotes and wrens. And in the background the sculpted pillars of the Sonoran Desert would serve as her audience hall.

The first two Cactus Queens with model Annie. Still somewhat behaved!

And, best of all, painting Cactus queens would enable me to combine the many beauties of the desert and it’s inhabitants in an oil painting!

I hope the fascination of the Arizona desert will grip you and the desert divas will inspire your fantasy…
I’ll continue this series introducing my newest Queens next week, so check back with me :). The largest Cactus Queen currently in work is about 70” and there will be more to come!