Liz Vaughn came to Tucson in 1987 and began her life as a painter after she fell in love with the smell of oils. 

Courtesy of Liz Vaughn

Liz Vaughn is not a poet. Although she might fool you with her elaborate descriptions of "sweet creosote" and the "cerulean summer day."

She's actually a local figure painter, who only penned the desert love poem "Valentine to Tucson" after a friend of a friend encouraged her to. Vaughn set down her oil brushes to write for the website Love Letters to Tucson, alongside some gushing descriptions of summer and odes to Bookmans Entertainment Exchange.  

We were so inspired, we made it into a video:  

To celebrate Tucson's birthday Aug. 20, we caught up with Vaughn at her downtown day job, Perri Jewelers, to talk about the poem and how Tucson inspires her as an artist.

PS: Follow her on Facebook at Liz Vaughn and Instagram @lizgvaughn to see her latest artworks. 

How the colors of Tucson inspire her as an artist 

"I think color is really intriguing in how many different shades there are, and just the way they sound. Like Alizarin crimson, which is a really dark beautiful red, or cerulean blue ... Tucson has this amazing blue sky that you can sort of fall into."

On her favorite Tucson spots 

"Years ago I remember going out to Saguaro National Monument, the east one, just watching the sunset is my favorite time. I've always thought those open ranges are really beautiful. ... I love the mountains always surrounding us. All of Tucson is just like a big teacup that you can take in." 

Tucson's sunny skies affect her art

"Even though I love a cloudy day and I love rain, I'm not sure if I could live in that all the time. ... As a painter, we really need good light. That's the lucky part, that we get to have that all day every day." 

The people who live here

"I have a good distance to drive every day, so you catch a lot of quirky things that people do, and inevitably that leads to something in a painting. Whether it's a whole bunch of things that come together or just one little quirky thing that you pick up. The desert is awesome, but it's the people that really drive it."

If she could give Tucson a birthday present

"More rain for sure. More cloudy days, a mini beach, maybe."

How Tucson supports its artists

"There's a great connectability for learning, taking classes, having artist friends. I think Tucson is really friendly to artists. They actually like their artists and treasure them. So yeah, I think it's a good place to be."

You can find the Star's digital food writer Andi Berlin at a taqueria near you, taking tiny bites and furiously scribbling into an old notepad.