"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Back porch art school

"Into the Sunset," 8 x 10, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper--today's art lesson
So much to learn, so little I know, so little time.
Saturday morning, back porch art school, and today's lesson.
After viewing the magnificent art at the 46th Prix de West show yesterday at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, I left inspired, uplifted, confounded, thankful, and more than a little humbled.
Back porch art school
I can't fathom the techniques of some of the watercolors I saw, much less the talent. And the same goes for the oils, drawings and sculptures.
So it's back to the back porch this morning to read more of Edgar A. Whitney, trying to understand, to grasp  and eventually apply what this great icon and teacher had to say.
And then it's time to try a painting, today's lesson. Not bad, but so far to go. And don't miss the Prix de West...I'll be going back to study even more.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Turning the pages of the first half of 2018

What I've read so far this year:

  • Wooden Lions, by Karla K. Morton, former Texas poet laureate, my annual poetry book from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's Western Heritage Awards. Every poem features an animal, from cats to copperheads.
  • The Paper Trail by Alexander Monro, about the fascinating history of a revolutionary invention that has changed the world, paper. We think the western world is civilized. The Chinese have been centuries ahead of us in so many ways, and paper was part of it.
  • Enchantment and Exploitation-The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range, by William DeBuys. Not a new book, but I finished it this year about my beloved Sangre de Cristos in New Mexico.
  • Cave of Bones, by Anne Hillerman. My one fiction so far this year, a mystery set in New Mexico by the daughter of a favorite Tony Hillerman.
  • Under the Table, A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide, by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick. Cocktails from A to Z, from the Roaring 20s and beyond, garnished with tales of a dazzling writer and woman.
  • Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting, Edgar A. Whitney. Part of my DIY art school by the late master.
  • Falling Upward, by Fr. Richard Rohr. Reread this spiritual guide for the second half of life.
  • The Best Cook in the World, by Rick Bragg.
Next: Atlas of the Lost World, Travels in Ice Age America, by Craig Childs.

In the news recently, one fourth of Americans haven't read a book in a year. How shallow and provincial in thought and character.

The best book I've read in years

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get hungry.
I read a lot of books, usually more that 20 a year, but this year has been slow, as I've changed along with this blog. I usually post about the books I've read as the year goes along, but not this year.
 There's only been about six or seven so far, and the most recent one...well, you read the headline.
When I saw that Rick Bragg had a new book out, I ordered it immediately. (From Best of Books in Edmond) You should too...but don't get a digital version, and don't buy from the big boys. This book deserves to be purchased from an independent bookstore, any independent bookstore. Why? Read the book and you'll know.
Just as the book is about real people and real food and real storytelling, it deserves a real bookstore and real ink and paper.
Bragg, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a master storyteller and writer.
His writing and storytelling are as delicious as his Momma's recipes.
His mother Margaret Bragg, now in her 90s, learned to cook  from stories and watching...no cookbook-still; no measuring cups or thermometers, no recipes. More than 70,000 meals in 80 years.
"Good stuff always has a story," she says. 
Each of the 35 chapters of the book, and don't dare skip the prologue, come with stories of generations of the  poor Alabama family, beginning in the 1920s or before and coming up through last year. Also seasoned with black and white photos of family members.
The stories all come with recipes of real Southern cooking, as he gets his mother to estimate ingredients and portions, not just the ingredients-"What you will need"--but directions on cooking.
Fried chicken--one that recently had its neck wrung. . Biscuits and gravy.  Cobbler. Ham and beans. Pies. Cornbread. Crappie. Fresh vegetables.
The list and stories go on and on. And most of them have to do with iron skillets and lots of lard or bacon grease. 
Me, this weekend, I'm going to try the recipe for stewed summer squash and sweet onions from near the end of the book. We have the vegetables from the farmer's market--and yes, you need a slice of bacon.
Opening line: "Since she was eleven years old, even if all she had to work with was neck bones, peppergrass, or poke salad, she put good food on a plate."
Buy the book. Bragg will make you laugh, cry, get hungry, and enjoy great storytelling and writing.
I'll let you know how my squash and onions turn out. And yes, all in all, it is the best book I've read in years.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Out of hibernation, and God in the back yard

Two months without a new posting, first time in nine years, since the blog was born.
Dead or hibernating?
"building, like the clouds soaring in humid skies"
Hibernating I hope, like the bear I sometimes am.
"You need to write," chastises my brother Jerry.
Been busy, and writing takes a lot of time, I replied.
My wife Susan chimed in, "Time to write."
The reasons, or excuses,  I've not written? Occupied with watercolor business at In Your Eye Studio & Gallery in Paseo, and painting, and adjusting mentally and socially to full retirement.
In fact, I'm writing now while I wait for a first wash on a painting to dry.
But the thoughts and subjects for writing have been there, building, like the clouds soaring into humid skies this June, that I'm trying to paint. 
Those of you who follow this blog know that it has changed over the years, toward less writing to more artwork. That's all right because I have changed too.
But, OK, it is time to write more, reflecting those changes. Too many stories to tell, thoughts to share. What I hope to do is blog about two or three times a week, on a schedule, because I'm terrible at scheduling and an expert at procrastinating.
I love sitting on the back porch in the cool or the morning with coffee, just listening to the birds. No TV or phone noise, no humming of lawnmowers yet.
I barely move so the birds will visit the feeder--Cardinals, Jays, Wrens, Titmice, Chickadees, Downy woodpeckers.  Above the tree branches, a Mississippi Kite soars. An occasional red tail hawk wafts through the branches
The Psalm came to mind this past week:
 "Be still and know that I am God."
My concept of God has changed with me. No longer the Old Testament Yahweh, or even the church-taught versions of an judgmental god threatening damnation, while singing about love,  and strict obedience to some sectarian set of rules.
Readings from Catholic seers, Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr, and in Native American beliefs have awakened me in ways, though the wisdom and ingrained beliefs of the ages in the Old and New Testaments still affect my thinking.
If you believe in an omni-present God, as taught by our churches, then God is everywhere, in all things, is all things--all life, all creation. Does not that make everything holy? If you believe in eternal life in this god, is that not also for all creation, since god is in all creation?
Where you can hear eternity
So my idea of god, has had to change; it's now "Eternity."
Sitting on the back porch, listening to the birds sing, I realized, by sitting still, I'm listening to god through the birds. Eternity is in the backyard.
This blog has not been about religion or politics, and it won't be. 
Next post will be about the best book I've read in years, "The Best Cook in the World," by Rick Bragg.
Now, since writing takes so much time, it's back to painting.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Always learning about New Mexico

"Why haven't I heard about this author before?" "Why do I not know where that is?"
It seems I'm always learning about New Mexico, and "social" media has been a blessing as it has introduced me to several sites, and many photographers and artists that I "follow," (that's scroll through from time to time), 
Yes, I save some of the images for ideas for paintings, or links to books, or other people, admittedly envious of their comments and photos as they capture the scenery of the state, while I'm limited to one or two visits a year.
But I have my books and magazines to substitute for being there. A comment on Instagram last night got me to thinking about that growing collection. Most are on a bookshelf in a hutch and others here and there throughout the house. 
I counted 48 of them, plus two I can't find, and not counting the first editions of all the Tony Hillerman novels that are packed away in the garage, or I've given to my daughter Dallas Bell for her Canyon, Texas, Burrowing Owl Bookstore. 
But the collection keeps growing--every trip seems to bring a new purchase--me finding out things I didn't know. The ones in the house include some signed first editions, and others signed as well.
The most recent discovery, and purchases were for William DeBuys, after reading about him in New Mexico Magazine. In October I bought his signed book on Valles Caldera, and also this year River of Traps and Exploration and Exploitation, about the Sangre de Cristos--I'm almost through reading that one. The previous trip included an artist's book on her art in Truchas on the high road.
Other signed first editions include those of Santa Fe photographer and friend Craig Varjabedian. Earlier trips resulted in an artist's book on her art in Truchas on the high road to Taos. I'm always looking for art books, so Georgia in on my mind.
Inscribed first editions of Tony Hillerman landscape book, and his daughter's follow up, are by our door, along with another art book.

Then there's the hutch shelf
From left to right you'll find mostly non-fiction, lots on geology and history and art. Some fiction. Oh, at the top of the stack on the left is an inscribed first edition of Hillerman's first novel, The Blessing Way. At the bottom is a first edition of Laura Gilpin's valuable The Enduring Navajo, given to my Dad when he retired long ago  by his fellow tech artists.

And in the middle of the shelf is a signed paperback of Stanley Vestal's novel, The Old Santa Fe Trail, given to me by a student. Two I can't place at the moment  are about New Mexico railroads, and on on Pecos Pueblo, a special place to me, as you can see from other books.
The bear, Ursa, is by an Acoma Pueblo artist, C. Ortiz, that I bought in 2006 at the feast day of Santa Domingo Pueblo.