Peaceful Desert | Oil on Canvas | 30 x 24 inches | 2024


Naomi Brown deeply savors the austerity of the Southwestern landscapes found in California’s Mojave and Arizona’s Sonoran deserts. She celebrates these settings in paintings that might, at first glance, appear to be photorealistic, verging on cinematic. Her outlook has the power to open viewers’ eyes to scenes they might not consider. “People don’t understand the desert unless they take the time to be here and be present,” she says. “Only then do you see the beauty of it. That’s what I always want to portray as faithfully as I can in my artwork.”

Brown achieves this goal in part because she has lived her whole life in the desert. She was born and grew up in the Mojave Desert town of Twentynine Palms — named for the number of Washingtonia filifera that were counted by a surveyor at a nearby oasis back in 1855 — near the northern edge of Joshua Tree National Park and just about an hour’s drive northeast of Palm Springs. “My parents still live in the house where they brought me home from the hospital, filled with original art by local desert painters,” Brown says.

Today, the artist lives and works in Queen Creek, Arizona, about 45 minutes southeast of Phoenix, on three saguaro-studded acres gazing north across a 10,000-acre regional preserve toward rugged San Tan Mountain. “I can just go out to my backyard and paint,” she says.

Wondrous Desert | Oil and Acrylic on Canvas | 36 x 24 inches | 2024

Yet, painting was not an early calling for Brown, who originally dreamed of being a marine biologist. Almost entirely self-taught, she had her only formal art instruction during a one-semester watercolor class she took at the age of 20 while studying at Utah Valley Community College in Orem. “I got an A and thought, wow, this is fun. It helped me understand that painting was something I was capable of doing.”

That ability came in handy between 2005 and 2006, when, to help support her two young daughters, she painted 100 small watercolors and sold them on eBay. Her confidence grew, and she entered a work that was accepted into the National Parks’ Arts for the Parks annual show. She remembers at that moment thinking to herself, “I could do this professionally.”

Arizona Sunset | Oil on Canvas | 40 x 30 inches | 2023

Eventually, Brown transitioned to acrylics, and more recently, she’s added oils to her repertoire. Whatever the medium, however, her canvases — created directly, usually with no preliminary drawings or sketches — possess an immediacy of the two Southwestern settings she has long loved. “I just go back and forth,” she concludes with a laugh, “from this desert to the other desert.”

Brown is represented by Signature Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and The Marshall Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. She will also exhibit work during Small Works, Great Wonders at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from November 2 to December 1; and during American Miniatures at Settlers West in Tucson, Arizona, February 8 to March 1, 2025.

Based in San Rafael, California, Norman Kolpas is the author of more than 40 books and hundreds of articles. He also teaches nonfiction writing in The Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.

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