"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs 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.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Peace in the Valley

"Peace in the Valley," 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press, 8 x 10, matted for 11 x 14
Experiments and failures lead to for adventures. 
So it is with today's watercolor, a flipped version of yesterday's experiment. I'm thankful many liked it, but I kept seeing flaw after flaw...lessons.
The difference is more than a flipped version. It's not on as good a watercolor paper, but still worth trying. And it's only 8 x 10, but...better.
That helps give me peace, and I thought of the old Gospel song as a title today. Seems appropriate also, with all the turmoil and hatred  and fear and danger in this country and the world. 
I'd just like a peaceful little valley. Oh, the blue cast on the white mat is from taking the photo outside under the sky.

"There will be peace in the valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There's be no sadness, so sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
there will be peace in the valley for me, for me."

Friday, August 16, 2019

After the storm--experiment

"After the storm," 11 x 14, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Today's "failure."
Trying some new approaches and color combinations after much reading, I found a composition I liked, but while it has promise, I'd call it a "failure."
A fellow artist laughed and said, "It not a failure, but an experiment."  Okay, that's true.
The other factor has to do with atmosphere. Skies I get, but most of my books on watercolor are written by Brits or people on the East coast. They're very good, but they have so much moisture in the air that it affects the landscapes and colors chosen. Difficult experiments for a dry country artist.
Born of the need to get paint on paper, it has possibilities, perhaps smaller, and now, having learned  more about colors, I'll experiment again.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Beside still waters...

"Beside still waters," 8 1/2" x 11 1/2" 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
I love, and crave peaceful waters, unruffled by breezes or storms or turmoil. More and more. What a metaphor for the violent country and world we live in.
Reminded me of a photo I took long ago, of my boys Vance and Travis, fishing at what was Hastings Lake in Jefferson county Oklahoma, to go with my newspaper story on the town's water crisis. I'm not a fisherman, but both Vance, and now Travis, understand the allure and peace that comes from fishing.
Vance and Travis, "beside still waters," Hastings, OK.
After traveling some little trafficked roads today in western OKC, including around Lake Overholser, I knew what I wanted to try to paint.
It also got me to thinking about some verses in the Old Testament. I think David knew about the need for breathing in the calmness of still water when violence is everywhere.  Is America the "valley of death"?
And then I thought of  words from the prophets Jeremiah an Ezekiel, which read like letters to Americans after these mass killings.
You decide. Meanwhile, here's today's painting, with homage to Ron Ranson, who I studied watercolor with in 2006 in Taos. This one-eye Brit died at age 93 in 2017. 
I have one of his paintings hanging in my studio. He taught me much, and I was thumbing through his books today, looking for an approach to painting calm water. I found it.He did all his work with just three brushes. I'm not there yet, but. 
My 16 x 20 watercolor by Ron Ranson

Oh, scriptures:

Psalm 23, 1-4 -- "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake.
Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for though are with me."
Jeremiah 6:14 -- "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, where there is no peace. 
Ezekiel 13:10 -- "Because they lead my people astray, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash."

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Storm play

"Storm a'coming," 5 x 7 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches 
Storm country...that's Oklahoma this summer, as the weather changes as the summer deepens.
Motivation to paint slows as the temperature and humidity rises after two days of rain, so you have to tell yourself, in desperation, "just have fun and play."
Going back through art books and web pages in part of my late-in-life do it yourself art school, I've found ideas, that jumble together.
The result is actually somewhat sloppy, but where there was blank paper and no painting earlier this afternoon, at least I played, meaning no rules, few expectations.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Painting to learn, not to hang

"Sunset at Ranchos," 8 x 10 oil
Maybe it'll look better in a frame.
After weeks of 'learning" a lot about oil painting, I think this small piece, which is large in learning, is "finished."
Whew. It's taken me a few steps at a time, filled with  lots of paint mixing, lots of "piddling," lots of patience, on the back porch. 
First steps were the easiest, getting the basic shapes and shadows, but then came the ordeals of trying to make it look like the image in my head.
Virtually every artist who has come to New Mexico has painted, typically  horizontally,  the iconic church at Ranchos de Taos, usually from the graceful, sensuous adobe buttresses at the rear.  Georgia O'Keefe did, My Dad did. I have, mostly watercolor, and can probably do so from memory.
But this as an 8 x 10 on canvas panel was not exactly an ordeal, but certainly at lot of work, thinking, and revising. That means I'm learning, I hope,  but it may also mean I've learned that oils was just not for me.
"Paint to learn, not to hang," said G. Russell Case, the terrific Western landscape painter who conducted the oil workshop at the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum June.  
Maybe it'll look better in a frame. But I still see flaws, beginner's flaws. We'll see. I'll hang in in the room where I paint as a lesson in how much I don't know.