"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Poetry for Pandemic Paralysis-1

“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.
     --Ray Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing
These are days when we need poetry more than ever, as our mental muscles and spirit atrophy from the isolation of the pandemics of virus, racism and political mayhem.
I'm fortunate to know several poets, and their words and images stretch my spirit. As certain books choose you when you need them, so do certain poets arrive at just the right time. The three most recent have been Kay Lawson Gilbert of Pennsylvania, Ken Hada of Ada, and Nathan Brown, former Oklahoma poet laureate, now of Texas.
My friend, poet and blogger, Kay Lawson Gilbert  posted two poems this spring that so jogged my mind, pulled me deeper with her images. By the way, an earlier poem of hers paired with one of my watercolors, is in the right sidebar of this blog. With her permission they follow, and remember, they are copyrighted.
The Dual
"Something's at me today--
a tearing of form,
a stitching of words,
a definition of hours,
like a quiet folding
or unfolding
of the thinnest paper.
"It's like sitting with my back
against my own back and
trying to wrest something
from the sweat of my skin,
and the salt of my bones."

 "I can’t help thinking
that I would feel at home
in the closed off hives
under the pear trees
in amber stillness,
in the warm wax cells –
there to be born again
To a life of sweet daylight.
But – somehow, I survive
in a dim aging cellar,
where the spirits settle
among the oak barrels
that rise in the darkness
like communal hunchbacks,
awaiting clarification."

Kay Lawsona ter=Ken Hada
Nathan Brown

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Back roads blues

"Lonely," 11 x 17 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper
Back roads beckon me in these deepening, depressing  days of pandemic viruses, racism and political chaos.
But other than short trips in central Oklahoma, they seem almost out of reach. I yearn for the wide open spaces, rural roads with almost no traffic for miles, in Oklahoma, Texas or New Mexico, alas.
Every painting has at least one story, and indeed, instead of painting a subject, I try to paint a story, a hint of a story, as another artist advised. 
Another teacher of mine advised to paint an "art word," not a subject. Not a barn, but "decaying," for instance. That leads what still another artist wrote, to paint what you "feel." My art word for this one was "lonely."
Today's quick painting came out of those back road blues I'm going through. this is out of my imagination, my yearning for the open spaces, trying to capture the mystery, the discovery around the next been, out in the country where you can breathe, see the sky and the far horizons.
Details: another painting of complementary colors--blues and oranges. Only three brushes--two inch and one inch flat, and a small round. 
After a sketched value study--dark, medium and light then wet into wet, paper soaked, largest brush, raw sienna over everything, then orange over most of the top half of the paper, then second brush, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna for clouds.
When almost dry, a little magenta-cobalt blue for most distant landscape. Then overlay next mesa with ultramarine and orange for brownish color. Next closest mesa, ultramarine and burnt sienna with more water for blue color. Finally, foreground of thick ultramarine and burnt sienna. Using same brush, the yucca. Small brush to add detail on distant road, and  sign it.
This is the largest I've attempted in a long while and was done without worrying, loosely in a hurry, on the back of a ruined painting, on the back porch in plein air, an 11" by 17" sheet of Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper. 
This is why painting helps me survive another day of pandemic and back roads bluse. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Stories to tell

"Stories to tell," 8 x 10 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Every painting has at least one story, I've discovered over the years, and today's effort is no exception.
The first story  of this painting is the travail  I've gone through trying to paint it. More on that in a moment.
Another has to do with the declining number of abandoned one room school houses you see across the Great Plains, New Mexico  and Oklahoma. 
They've grabbed my  attention, provoked my  imagination--just think how many ghosts and untold hopes and memories and stories there are from within and around those walls.  They're monuments to a bygone era of simpler, but harder times, of declining rural population and increasing rural poverty. The story I wanted to tell in the painting was of those vanished stories and hopes.
If I was going to be snarky, I'd make this an editorial cartoon, labeled "Republican plan for public education."
But that would be another story, and in this pandemic, we don't need any more snarky, do we? That's why I've tried to paint every day, using bright colors as a salve for all the darkness in the world.
The story of this painting is one of several failures. The last daily prompt of #WorldWatercolorMonth in July was "Do-Overs."
I tried and failed  to painting a larger version of the little one-room school house I painted on July 29, titled "Yesterday." 
Actually I tried and failed (my friend Theresa Hurt who owns Pirates Alley frame shop in Britton calls them "lessons,"  three times that day. I started with the skies and ruined three sheets of paper. I quit.
Thus July 31 was the only day of the month I didn't produce a painting. I sulked and stewed through the weekend and tried again this morning. I had another "lesson." So I switched to better, heavier paper, and instead of painting the sky first, did it last.
My attempts were meant to use only complementary colors--in this case blues and oranges, and to emphasize as much white and light as possible.
So that's one of the stories  of this painting.
July 29th painting, "Yesterday."

Friday, July 31, 2020

Out of space--Pandemic Page 169, 122 days

Today closes the pages, 169 of them, written over the last 122 days since April 1 when I began this pandemic journal, wondering if I'd survive.
I've never been disciplined enough to maintain a daily diary, though I'm pretty good on journals of trips and so forth.
But this was different. I missed only one day, and obviously wrote more some days, especially earlier, than others. 
It wasn't political, but personal reflections and facts--like the mother Robin nesting outside our window for a while. During the days of self quarantine because of possible exposure, I recorded my temperature every day. 
Later, I started keeping daily temperatures, and my weight, and records of books read and paintings painted. I thought about Star Trek: "Captain's log...."
When I started, I wrote only on one side of the pages, but soon switched to both sides. By yesterday, I'd taken up all the pages, so July 31, page 169, is on the reverse side of the beginning page, April 1.
The value? It gave me a morning routine, and as I go back and read, it brings memories back.
Will I continue? Don't know. It's sort of like doing my daily stretches. I may miss it. We'll see.

A pandemic month of art and writing and procrastinating

Cartoon waiting for editorial blog post
The pandemic of virus, racism and political chaos provoked my writing and art, perhaps more for sanity and spirit, and this blog is evidence, as it set some records, overcoming my procrastinations.
World Watercolor Month's daily prompts  helped rescue the once almost comatose blog, as my paintings provoked writing about each one, something I hadn't anticipated.
As a result, this is post number 150 so far this year, and there have been almost 3,600 hits during the month, the third highest in four years, since July, 2016. 
The 150 posts, compared to last year's total of 112, means the blog will, by the end of the year, rank at least sixth all-time since it began in 2009, and it could rank fifth, depending on my efforts in the next five months.
Today I'm supposed to paint "Do-Over" for watercolor month, marking 31 daily paintings, though there have been more, considering some birthday cards. I hope I get today's done.
The pandemic weighs on our spirits and sometimes I just don't want to paint, but it has kept me going. Writing this post now is another of my procrastinations. 
There are three other blog posts I wanted to do this month that I've not completed. One is about my four-month Pandemic journal that I've written in every day but one since April 1. Another is about poetry from three friends. Still another will be about recent books
The other is an editorial I've written and need to rewrite about Edmond city council's meaningless vote on requiring masks, which I've already posted the  cartoon on social media.
For the record, here are the top years for the blog posts.