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Whoever said the desert is brown and dead has never seen Paige Poppe’s watercolor paintings.

Poppe, who grew up in the Grand Canyon State, began painting while in college. What started out as a means to pursue creativity has blossomed into a full-time career as an artist, designing stationery, pins, stickers, prints and much more. Her aesthetic is unmistakable, featuring bright colors to capture the dynamic structure of desert flora and fauna.

Arizonans may have seen Poppe’s work in boutiques around the Phoenix area, including La Grande Orange, Changing Hands Bookstore and West Elm, but her designs are also sold in California, Texas and Minnesota too. Recently several of Poppe’s creative works became available in the Garden Shop, which has been a dream for Poppe—a longtime lover of the Garden. We took some time to connect with her on what it means to have her works featured in the Garden Shop and why the desert has become her muse.

How did you get started in your artwork?
Funny enough, I started by painting on skateboards. I had always been creative and loved to paint and craft, but this was my first pursuit in having a reoccurring art practice. I was in architecture school at the time, and while that was a creative major, I needed a creative hobby that was more loose and relaxing. My passion for painting bloomed, and eventually evolved into my desire to have a more signature style rather than being known as the girl who painted on skate decks. This desire coincided with my rediscovery of watercolor, which I had first picked up at age 12 but fell out of practice with, and a new appreciation for the desert. Watercolor was the perfect medium to pursue my ideas through, and it was around March 2015 when I felt that I had finally tapped into the art I was always meant to create.

What is it about the desert that inspires your vibrant artwork?
My appreciation for the desert hasn’t always existed within me. I once found it brown and boring, and couldn’t wait to explore a new state when I went off to college. It took time away for me to realize the beauty of our landscape here in Arizona, and when I returned one spring break from college, I saw the desert with new eyes. Now when I see the desert, I can barely turn off my excitement and ideas, because I’m blown away by the beauty. What I once found brown, I now find so colorful—you can find the entire rainbow within the desert, which is why I’ve named my signature collection “Technicolor Botanical.”

What are some of your favorite desert plants to paint and why?
I am drawn to painting saguaros, ocotillos and organ pipe cactus. Desert plants are so sculptural to me, which makes them very interesting subjects for my art. Lately I’ve been fascinated with creating ocotillos, because I find that I can create a lot of variety in the way I draw and paint them. They are sculptural and interesting when viewed from afar, but equally as interesting up close with their harsh splitting barks that contrast the vibrant blooms that hang from the top.

Can you remember your first memory from the Garden?
I was lucky to visit many times for school field trips, and was always happy to go. I appreciate it even more now. One of my favorite memories from recent years was observing a roadrunner. They are so rare to spot and don’t usually linger long enough to watch them, but I had the best time seeing one at the Garden.

Tell us how the Garden has played a role in your artwork and career.
I have always enjoyed working from photos when creating my art, so the Garden is a wonderful place for me to spend a day, gathering photos, sketches and notes. I can then later review whichever plant or composition I am drawn to at the time and really dive into the details and exploring the nature. Each visit to the Garden is always exciting and surprising, and it feels like you’re visiting old friends and observing how they change with the seasons.

The Garden Shop features several of your pieces. What has that meant to you as a local artist?
Having my artwork available in the Garden Shop is so special and mind-blowing. The Garden is an Arizona treasure, and I love knowing that locals and visitors alike are spending a lovely day at the Garden, and then can find a little treasure of artwork in the shop afterward to take home and remember their visit. The Garden was also well-loved by my Grandma when she first visited Arizona, and it was a spot she always raved about.

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