Draw Joshua Tree

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Hello and welcome to our Mojave Desert directed drawing brought to you by Joshua Tree National Park.

Today, we're going to be drawing the Mojave Desert which is a desert that exists only in the United States. It is special for lots of reasons, but I say the Mojave Desert and not Joshua Tree National Park because the Mojave Desert is bigger than the park. So we're going to draw characteristics of that desert that you will see not only in Joshua Tree National Park, but in other areas where the Mojave Desert exists in parts of Arizona, Nevada, Utah in other parts of California. The colors we're going to start off with today are Black, Green, Red, Brown, Yellow, and orange.

We're just using a regular piece of paper on a nice white clean side.

Take all of your colored pencils off your paper except your brown, we'll start with brown today and we're going start off by drawing our ground surface. Take your pointer finger and put that right in the middle of your paper, and then take your brown and make a little dash about an inch below your pointer finger. Then we're going to connect that dash onto either side of our paper, and that is going to be our ground surface. Now the Mojave Desert is identifiable by lots of things, but primarily by one living thing, and that is the Joshua tree. So take that pointer finger again and lay it on top of that dot, and we're going to use that pointer finger to trace a trunk of a Joshua tree. You don't need to trace your whole finger, just up to kind of where your fingernail is. Connect it to the ground and kind of make the top a little even. Now we're going to draw our branches off of the trunk of the tree.

The first branch is going look pretty normal. Just two parallel lines coming off the right side of the tree. The second branch is going to look more crazy looking, more like a Joshua tree, so we're going to zag it to the left and then zig it up.

Create two more parallel lines to the left and up so that is branch #2.

Branch #3 is going to zag down and zig down again. Kind of like an elbow pointing down.

Joshua trees look a lot different than many other normal or deciduous type of trees you might see where you live or pine trees.

If you live with evergreens, it's kind of a wacky looking tree.

Now we've got our trunk and we've got our branches. Now let's grab our green and do some leaves. Joshua Tree leaves are very long and spiky, so I do them as kind of a layer of explosions kind of like that. So that's one layer of explosion.

I'm going to do a second layer of explosion. Then I might even add some more green spikes in there. Now these leaves are very long and pokey and that helps them retain moisture in this hot and dry climate. If you've ever been near a Joshua tree, probably accidentally backed into one, and they will make you bleed, they will spike you.

Let's go ahead and do this top branch again. I'm going to do mine like another series of explosions, like a star. Add another layer of leaves on there.

Think that one’s pretty good. Now the third branch is a little different. I'm going to draw a straight line a little bit above that third branch, and I'm only going to do explosions underneath that line. We're going to put something special in this area here. So we want to make sure we leave that open, but go ahead and give your tree lots of living leaves around the bottom of that half circle there.

Let's go back and grab our brown and draw some dead leaves. Now, Joshua Tree leaves, when they're alive, they're pointing up toward the sun, but when they die, they don't fall off the tree. They actually lay flat against the tree. So with brown, we're going to add some little downward spikes and create a layer of these dead leaves. I like to do the edges first and then go on the inside of the branch, but you can do whatever you want as long as it looks like we've got a bunch of dead leaves laying against the tree.

This creates a protective coating on this Joshua tree for a couple of reason. Again, like the leaves have the special strong spiky adaptation to help prevent evaporation of water out of the leaves, this covering of dead leaves helps to prevent water from evaporating out of the trunk of the tree where water is stored.

Now that is for hot days, but the Mojave Desert is a high elevation desert, which means it exists at several 1000 feet above sea level, about 3000 feet above sea level or higher, and at a higher elevation like that, we're essentially in the mountains and it snows. What these dead leaves also do is they help keep the tree trunk a little bit warmer than the surrounding air, preventing water inside the tree from freezing.

But how does water get into the tree in the first place? Through the roots! Keep that brown and we're going to draw some roots underneath the bottom of the tree.

The roots of the Joshua tree are kind of like the pencil that's in your finger. If you roll that around in your finger, or if you have a crayon, you can feel the width of that pencil or that crayon. It's very kind of thin, and the Joshua tree roots are like that. They're very thin and stringy, almost, and they extend around the base of the tree, they only go about 10 inches or so deep. We're not drawing deep, deep, deep roots here. We're keeping them very close to the surface, and that is going to help this tree absorb any little bit of water or precipitation that may fall on the ground, either as snow or as rain. So make a nice, almost like a mop, underneath that Joshua tree.

Now let's talk about reproduction. Joshua Tree reproduction and baby leaves. Baby trees (excuse me). There are two different ways that a Joshua tree can reproduce. The first is what we normally think of as plants reproducing, and that's by seed. So grab your black and we're going to go over to the right side of the picture and draw an oval right on the ground. That is our Joshua tree seed. They actually are very black. They're very easy to pick out among the the brown and green things on the ground. And then I'm going to grab my green and let's add some little spiky baby Joshua Tree leaves on to that.

So that's seed production. But Joshua trees can also reproduce by growing sprouts off of their trunk. So on the left side of the tree. I'm sorry, off of their roots. We're going to add a little baby tree growing off of the roots. This is a clone, so this only ensures that this tree as a whole will survive.

This is a genetically diverse new plant and this is what scientists want to see when they are evaluating the health of the Joshua tree population.

Plants growing by seed is what is going to ensure a genetically diverse future for these plants for hundreds of years. So let's go ahead and grab our black again and talk about where seeds come from.

Seeds originate on a part of the plant that grows only in the springtime, and that is the flower. So with my black, I'm going to go up to this part of the tree that we left blank and I'm going to draw a pile of circles, like a pile of snowballs, if you will. Some people think it looks like a pineapple.

Each of those circles represents a single Joshua tree flower. Now those flowers are not necessarily white like the paper, so I'm going to grab my yellow and just really lightly shade in those flowers. They're not really yellow, but they're not really white. I just wanted to look a little different than the white of the paper. Now, in order to get from the flower to a seed, the flowers inside the Joshua tree have to be pollinated and there's only one insect species that pollinates Joshua tree flowers. That is an insect called a Yucca moth and I'm writing this down because it's so important to include in our drawing. Y U C C A Yucca, M O T H moth. Now the Yucca moth has these special mouth parts that allows it to go into the flower, collect pollen, fly to another flower, and stuff that pollen into the pistol of another flower, ensuring pollination. And it does that because it also lays its eggs in the flower. And as the seeds are developing some of those seeds are food sources for the Yucca moth caterpillars.

You can't have the moth without a Joshua tree. You can't have a Joshua tree without a yucca moth. So that's why we're including them on our drawing. And we're going to draw these really easily. I call them flying V’s. So just pull it a couple little flying V's on your flowers and a few flying around your picture because they are imperative to the future of the Joshua tree. We like to see their life cycle coincide with that of the Joshua Tree.

Now let's go ahead and start some animals. So I'm going to keep my black and the first animal we're going to draw is a Jack rabbit. We're going to draw that just to the right of our Joshua tree on the ground surface. So I like to start with about an inch above the surface. I'm going to draw kind of a longish Oval. This is going to be our rabbit’s head.

Let's go ahead and go about halfway on the back of the the UM rabbits head and we're gonna draw a curved line to the ground. That's the back of the Jack rabbit.

We're going to go ahead and go a little bit up that back and go 2 humps for the hind legs. And then we're going to go a little bit up that foot and draw kind of the beginning of its body. Let's go ahead and stick one leg out on the ground and behind there draw another leg that's kind of behind that first leg. And we're going to reconnect that body up to the rabbits head.

Let's go ahead and give that rabbit too little rabbit eyes and a little rabbit nose you can put throw some whiskers on there if you'd like.

But it's not quite a Jack rabbit yet, is it? It is missing a tail. We can give it a little tail. These are called black-tailed Jack rabbits.

But what it's missing are the ears. So we're going to make nice big, exaggerated ears on our Jack rabbit. We're doing that because the ears are incredibly important to the survival of the Jack Rabbit. Now, if you think about humans, when we are outside and we get too hot, our bodies sweat and the evaporation of that liquid off our skin is what helps keep our body temperature at 98.6 degrees. If we get too hot or too cold, we get sick. If you think about your pets, if you have a dog or a cat, they will start to breathe heavily if they get too hot or pant.

Rabbits maintain their body temperature through blood passing through their ears, so we're going to grab red and we're going to add some little blood vessels in those ears. As blood circulates through those blood vessels, it releases heat to the air and that's what helps maintain the rabbits body temperature during the hot summer days. Let’s shade that in a little bit with pink.

Now another way the rabbit says cool is by spending most of its time in the shade. So we're going to add some camouflage to this rabbit.

I'm going to take my black and just really lightly, lightly, lightly lightly shade over the entire animal in black. That's going to help camouflage this animal in the shadows when it's under rocks or underneath the shade of Joshua trees. And then we're going to add some brown as well. So again, just shade over that and this is going to help them hide amongst the brown sand and soil and roots and trunks of trees and plants.

Now keep that brown, because the next animal we're going to draw spends most of its time under ground, so we're going to start this off by drawing an oval close to where we drew our seed. This is going to be the burrow opening of our desert tortoise so you can kind of fill that in getting a little lighter.

Then draw kind of a tunnel looking shape down here.

And then let's go ahead and draw our tortoise. So our tortoise is 1/2 circle. We're going to give that tortoise a little tortoise head.

Give him little tortoise eye and the tortoise mouth. Now tortoises are vegetarians. They do not eat meat, so they have kind of grinding plates in their mouth that helps them to grind up the vegetation that they eat. We can give our tortoise a little tail.

Let's give them some tortoise looking feet, and then we'll go ahead and add some scales on the shell. While these scales are called scutes so they are like for your fingernails, they actually grow wider as the tortoise gets older.

Now these tortoises spend 90% of their lives underground, can live to be very old near 100 years old. But the depths to which they live underground is amazing. I'm going to grab my black for this. They can dig three to six feet underground. Three to six feet, and they dig that deep with their gnarly toenails. So I'm going to keep that black. I'm going to add some really exaggerated toenails on here. They have five toes per foot so draw those toenails real close together.

Make sure to make them nice and exaggerated. Because that's what helps that tortoise get deep, deep, deep underground, helping it to not only stay cool in the hot summer, but also protecting it from predators like coyotes or other animals that might be either trying to eat the tortoise or even trying to eat baby tortoises, or the eggs that tortoises lay.

Then let's go ahead and draw my favorite animal. I'm going to keep my black and my favorite animal is going to go on the left side of the Joshua Tree, this is a Gamble’s quail. This is a ground dwelling bird that has a little feather on its head. That is one of the cutest things to see running around the Mojave Desert. The way I start off, we're going to draw the adult bird 1st. Mine kind of looks like a ghost racing through the desert almost, we'll give him some little birdy legs.

We want to give it a short black beak. These birds eat seeds and their beaks are perfectly designed for pecking the meat out of various seeds, like Joshua Tree seeds. We'll go ahead and give him some pretty eyes and a little feather. Now, I said him because we're also going to add some colors to him. I'm going to take my orange and I'm going to do a little color on the top of the head and a little orange on the belly with bird species, the males of the species. The fathers are the ones who have the most ornate plumage. And so we're we're going to draw that just because it's a little more interesting than the female. And then we're also going to give this some camouflage with our black. So just like with the rabbit, we're just going to lightly shade over that. We don't want to make it dark. We just want to give it some camouflage so that this bird can hide under the shade of rocks and other planets.

One of my favorite parts about this bird is not only seeing the adults running around, but seeing the babies run around.

00:17:55.580 --> 00:17:59.550 Shoup, Alison L Gamble’s quail can lay between 10 and 15 eggs at a time. Although many of them end up as food sources for other meat eaters, plenty of them do hatch. And when you see them, they're often running around in a line right behind the adults. So we're going to add two baby quail and I do that by drawing two half circles. Going to give those little half circles legs.

Let's give them a little feather on their head and then again camouflage them with the grey. Now I mentioned that there are predators that like to eat the eggs of the quail. One of those predators are snakes, so grab your green and we're going to draw a rattlesnake now.

This rattlesnake has a triangular shaped head because they are venomous. They have their venom sacks in their cheeks. I'm drawing this right below the quail, almost like this stalking the quail. We'll give it some eyes and you actually can grab your red and give it a little tongue. Snakes like to use those tongues to help navigate their environment.

I like to put two little parallel lines on the bottom of the head here and the neck. And then we're going to do kind of an S shape coming out from one line to a point. Take that shape back, follow the S shape and connect it.

Now this is a Mojave green rattlesnake. Since it's a rattlesnake, we can add some little rattles to the tail here, and just kind of make give that a little covering.

These also have kind of diamond dish shapes on their back. So let's go ahead and add some diamond shapes.

There are a lot of myths around rattlesnakes. One of the main ones is that you can tell the age of a snake by the length of its rattle. Well, the snake gets a new rattle every time it sheds its skin and snakes will shed their skins sometimes more than once a year. If there's a lot of good things to eat, if there's lots of good rodents and other, you know, maybe bird eggs around, they'll grow really fast and have to shed their skin multiple times. So that means sometimes snakes could get more than one rattle annually, a year.

But rattles also will break easily. The rattles are pretty fragile, so they can often snap off of the snake as it's slithering through the desert, so being able to tell the age of a snake by its rattle is a myth. Another myth is that rattlesnakes are aggressive and there are certain species that are, but for the most part out here in the Mojave Desert, snakes want to be left alone. They know they can't eat you, and so they're not going to use their precious energy and venom on a human when they can't fit you into their mouth. They're going to save that for things that they can actually eat.

Now there's another plant I want to draw. We're going to draw in this little corner here, so keep your green. And this plant is a cousin of the Joshua tree. It's called a Mojave Yucca.

The Mojave Yuccas have very long leaves, so I'm going to draw these leaves coming out of the ground. Kind of like long and we're going to try to draw them in somewhat of a circle shape. We can add some more leaves close to the ground.

They are similar in that they have the spiked leaves like the Joshua tree. They are also similar in the way that they flower. So I'm going to grab my brown and I'm going to draw just a little stalk coming out of the center and then we're going to take our black just like we did with the flowers on the Joshua tree, and we're going to make a small collection of circles.

For these flowers, like the Joshua tree, let's take our yellow and just lightly shade that in. So it's not yellow yellow, but just a slightly different color than the surrounding paper.

Now another cool thing about the Yucca plant is it's important to Native Americans.

Joshua Tree is the ancestral homeland, or the Mojave Desert in is the ancestral homeland, to four different groups of Native Americans, the Cahuilla, the Mojave, the Serrano and the Chemehuevi. And we like to thank them for being such great stewards of the land from time immemorial, so that we can now learn from it and learn about these very important plants and animals.

This plant was important to them because a lot of it was used. The flowers could be eaten. The leaves have these brown strings on them, so I'm going to use my brown and kind of create these little dried strings around the edges and these little fibers that could be harvested from this plant would be woven into rope or netting, shoe bottoms, you name it, whatever use could be determined. It was made out of that and then we can add some roots down here, too. Another name for this plant is a soap weed. So the the roots could be dug up and boiled and made into a soap like substance for cleaning. So it's a very useful plant. Now, in order to have a full Mojave Desert landscape, we need to add some geology as well, so grab your red and we're going to add some of our boulder mountains on the left side of the paper. We want to make them rounded because they've been eroding and weathering for millions of years. I'm using red because there's a lot of minerals in here that contain iron. Iron, as it weathers, it rusts. It goes from black to red.

Now I'm just going to kind of do, I'm not going to color this completely, but I'm going to just give it a little squiggly pattern here.

This is a type of granite called Monzogranite, and like I said, we're using our red because it does appear to have kind of a pinkish, orangish, reddish hue from all of that weathering iron.

These are the kinds of rocks that people come to the park from around the world to climb, but we have another type of rock that makes up a different type of mountain in the park and this is a metamorphic rock called gneiss. So I'm using my black for this and I'm going to start behind the tree here. And this is just going to look like your typical mountain… give it a little peak and then trail off to the side.

Now there's a lot more dark minerals in this rock. It tends to look darker from a distance.

With this black again, I'm just going to give this a different pattern than what we gave our Monzogranite earlier, just so that we know it's a different type of rock. If you never remember the type of metamorphic rock as gneiss, at least you know, because of the color differences in the pattern differences. It is two different kinds of rock.

Then the last thing I want to add on our drawing is a title. This is a nature drawing and it's always helpful to write down important words and phrases to help you remember. So you may pick whatever color you want. I'm going to use my orange because I haven't used it very much and I'm going to label my drawing at the bottom of the paper.

MOJAVE Mojave… Desert is DESERT.

Again, I say Mojave desert, and not just Joshua Tree National Park, because Joshua Tree National Park protects two different types of desert, the Mojave, as well as the Colorado. The Mojave Desert is where Joshua trees exist. Now, just to give you a quick glance at what these things look like in real life and compare them to your drawing.

[shows pictures] Joshua tree. Some roots from the Joshua tree. You can see how thin they are. The flowers that we drew.

Here is our Jack rabbit with those blood vessels in the ears. Our desert tortoise with those toenails to dig so deep into the ground. Quail.

Our rattlesnake, this is a different type of diet of rattlesnake. This is a diamondback, but you could still see that triangular shaped head and those rattles.

So thank you so much for participating in this directed drawing and I hope you enjoy further exploration of Joshua Tree either online or in person one day. Thank you.

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28 minutes, 8 seconds

This video demonstrates how to draw a scene of the Mojave Desert within Joshua Tree National Park.

Last updated: July 12, 2023