I best know Carolyn Schmitz for her greeting cards, which I eventually started to put up in frames because they're so lovely. They show various desert animals wearings hats and jewelry made out of desert elements: cactus, ocotillo, wildflowers, rattlesnake skin, and the like. The concepts are full of whimsy and yet there is realism in the detail with which she portrays the animals and the elements, especially given that she chooses a wide array of plants for the hat-making materials.
Published in 2019, her book, The Wild Hat: A Fable of Fashion Intrigue in the Desert, contains 45 of her paintings along with a story about how all of these animals came to array themselves in such fanciful accessories. So it's halfway between a coffee table art book and a storybook. Just the thing for adults who still love whimsy.
The story is simple; the text is more about describing the persona of each animal and what the various parts of their accessories are made from. You can go back and forth between the text and the image to find the devil's claws, rattlesnake weed, globe mallow blossoms, ladybugs, and scorpion tails. I said that this book was for adults, but this would be fun to go through with children, too, and help them find each element.
With the greeting cards, I just like to see how they look. But with this book, I found myself more wondering which animal I was like, which persona I matched. While we'd all perhaps love to be the dancing Gila monster, maybe I'm more like the javelina girl who found her beauty. Sometimes I feel like the striking, walking-alone jaguar but maybe I'm actually the "shy and pale" fox who surprises everyone with accessories of colorful visibility. Am I the free-spirited gray fox who decides not to come out lest he be spotted in his blue colors, or simply the mule deer who is somehow soft and striking and defensive all at the same time?
I love Carolyn Schmitz's style because it expresses love for the desert and also interacts with the desert in a unique way. So these paintings are wonderful as Southwestern artwork but also beautiful pieces on their own. Whether you choose to get the book or maybe just buy a card for yourself or for a friend, these images certainly bring smiles.
You can find Carolyn Schmitz's book, cards, prints, and more artwork on her website at desertdada.com.