Since I had the paints out for the Expressive Flowers project, I jumped in and did the sunset cactus painting I've been wanting to do. I used literally the exact same paints as for the flowers, just replacing the green with black. Here's the finished artwork:
Sunset Desert Painting
Materials: watercolor paper, acrylic paint, paintbrush
Place a piece of watercolor paper vertically on your work surface. At the bottom third of your paper, use the purple to create some mesas (the flat-topped, steep-sided hills common in the American Southwest).
Without cleaning your brush, pick up yellow paint and create horizontal streaks on the top 2/3 of the paper. Add some pink to the brush without cleaning it first and add more streaks. Continue adding and layering colors. Do not clean the brush in between. Use yellows and oranges to paint streaks over the very top of the mesas to allow them to recede into the distance. Clean the brush and let the paint dry.
Use purple paint to redraw the mesas. This time, make them slightly smaller and a different shape from the previous time. You want just a hint of the previous mesas showing. Always use horizontal strokes.
Without cleaning your brush, add black paint and color the foreground. Leave the tops of the mesas purple.
Now add some saguaro cacti. Remember that less is more in a desert landscape. I added a total of four - a tiny one near the horizon, two medium size ones a little closer, and the largest one the furthest forward.
The final step is to use straight black paint to create suggestions of rocks, bushes, and tumbleweeds in the foreground. No need to agonize over how to do that. Random strokes will read correctly as part of the desert landscape.
Have fun! This is a very forgiving project and an excellent choice for beginning painters of all ages.