Art Breaking

Art Breaking

Hidden in the Hills studio tour gives guests an in-depth look at local creatives

By Sue Kern-Fleischer


Like a geode, the artistic gems of the North Valley are hidden inside. You have to crack the surface to see all the treasures. Luckily, art collectors and those seeking original holiday gifts can get inside the proverbial geode during the 22nd Annual Hidden in the Hills artist studio tour and sale, in which local artists — some with national acclaim — will open their art studios and invite guests to watch them work the last two weekends of November.

A signature event of the nonprofit Sonoran Arts League, Hidden in the Hills (HITH) is Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour. This year’s event features 174 artists at 44 studio locations throughout the scenic Desert Foothills communities of Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.

The free, self-guided studio tour offers art enthusiasts a rare chance to observe artists at work in their private studios, which are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16, 17 and 18 and Nov. 23, 24 and 25. Each studio also has one or more guest artists who will demonstrate how they create their art while displaying and selling their work. 

Wild About Animals

Renowned wildlife artist Linda Budge of Anthem returns to the Hidden in the Hills tour for her 15th consecutive year. Only this time, instead of opening her home studio as she did for so many years in Cave Creek, she will be a guest artist at J. Bruce Studio #4, where she will exhibit a variety of oil paintings and a new book, All the Dogs I’ve Known.

Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Budge became fascinated with animals during summer trips to her family’s cabin in Brighton, where she would draw and paint rabbits, chipmunks and other forest creatures. At home, she made frequent trips to the Hogle Zoo primarily to visit Alice, an Asian elephant who often made the newspapers for her emotional outbursts.

“I would eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, throwing her all the crusts, thinking that one day I would own an elephant,” Budge recalls fondly. “That never happened, but I did have an opportunity to visit Africa’s Serengeti during migration several years ago, thanks to a special tour coordinated by Phoenix Zoo’s President and CEO, Bert Castro. It was the trip of a lifetime!”

While that trip was inspirational, the North American big game animals found in Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona have been Budge’s main muses.   

She has tried painting with acrylics and even dabbled with creating bronze sculpture, but she prefers painting with oil. She starts by sketching on her canvas, and then she puts thoughtful consideration into composition and design before she begins to paint. “Each new painting is a challenge, a new problem that has to be solved,” she says.

While she works from her reference photographs for accuracy, she has the experience, knowledge and expertise to move an animal’s head, twitch an ear, or change the stance to capture the attitude or expression. “Ultimately, I want people to feel like they can walk right into the scene,” she says.

Budge’s work has received numerous prestigious awards, and many of her paintings are housed in permanent museum, library and corporate collections. “Linda’s work radiates empathy and painterly grace,” says HITH marketing chair Carole Perry, a glass artist who has opened her studio to patrons for all 22 years of the tour. “I think it’s the emotional power of her paintings that really speak to collectors. She has an uncanny ability to bring animals to life with her paint brush.”

One of her highest honors was a painting commissioned in 1983 by the State of Wyoming as a gift to the late President Reagan. The painting of antelope hung for many years in the living room of the President’s California residence. It was moved by the President himself to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, where it remains to this day.

Crazy for Gold and Gemstones

Donna Law’s passion for creating art also began as a young child. She credits much of her inspiration to her father, Bruce Law, a fine wood and stone sculptor who has sold his work all over the world, and at 82, is still sculpting. But rather than follow in his footsteps, Law is a master goldsmith who creates contemporary, fine jewelry featuring precious and colorful gemstones.

An Arizona native, Law has called New River home for decades. Her parents bought property there in the 1970s, before the roads were paved. She spent a few years living in Phoenix and then the Pacific Northwest before moving back to New River, where she enjoys the serenity of the desert.

Calling her father “a driving force” in her career, she has fond memories of family camping trips and hikes where she would discover beautiful fire agates, rugged rocks and on a good day — gold.

“My father was also a prospector, and he’d enlist our help in digging at various sites. It was fun recreation for us, and Dad always promised to buy us a milkshake when we got back to town,” Law says.

She was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged her to pursue her passion, and at 17, she had a unique opportunity to work as an apprentice under master goldsmith Andres Foldes of Mesa. That training catapulted her career, and she has been creating original, one-of-a-kind earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces ever since.

While she can work with any metal, she prefers gold because of its malleability. And while she appreciates diamonds (she has been working as The Diamond Source’s in-house designer and goldsmith in Scottsdale for 16 years), she loves color and has a special affinity for pearls and opals.

“Gold is pretty clean to work with, and it’s less temperamental than platinum,” Law says. “Not only does gold provide a great way to secure gemstones, but it has a beautiful luster.”

Her specialty is custom work, and she’s often called upon to breathe new life into heirloom pieces. “I honor the sentimental value that gemstones carry,” she says, adding that she is good at connecting with people and interpreting what they desire.

While she has an artistic eye and hand, she is also highly skilled and does all of her own casting.

“Donna’s jewelry is stunning, and every piece is unique,” Perry says. “She is like a chameleon who lets the gemstones guide her creative approach.”

During the art tour, Law will exhibit jewelry for both women and men at Virginia Brook’s Studio #5 in Carefree. This will be her 21st consecutive year participating in Hidden in the Hills.

“These are my people,” Law says of her fellow Sonoran Arts League members. “We inspire and support each other, and I think people on the tour will pick up on that warmth.”

Find details about participating artists, custom-build your own map or download a map at In addition, the Sonoran Arts League’s Center for the Arts will serve as the information headquarters and Youth Art Studio No. 1 for the art tour. The League office is located at 7100 E. Cave Creek Road, Suite 144, at Stagecoach Village in Cave Creek. For details, call 480-575-6624.

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