"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.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Eight year ago Veterans' Day memories

Salute to a sailor on veterans' Day, Susan and I with my Uncle Mike in LaFonda, Santa Fe, early 2000s. --Leith Laws photo
Some days seem unsettled, at first for no apparent reason, even on a pleasant, peaceful back porch day like this.
 Friends' Facebook posts have begun showing up, mentioning Veterans' Day tomorrow and featuring old photos of loved ones, parents and ancestors who served in the military.
Though I'm not a veteran, I come from a long line of veterans who served four countries in North America: the armies of the 13 colonies before there was a United States, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and  obviously, the United States of America.
Most recently of course, my favorite veteran is my oldest son Vance Clark, retired after a career with the Air Force.
But what got me to thinking, and why I realized I felt unsettled, was that eight years ago today, I spoke at the funeral of my favorite uncle, Michael Henry Clark, at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.
I've written about him many times over the years, and won't rehash that, but he and all the other veterans deserve a salute and a "Thank you." 
Thus this brief writing, and remembrance, and bringing peace, even with some sadness, but more with price and thankfulness to what had been an unsettled day.
A favorite photo, above, he and Susan and I from a few years ago is on a shelf in my office/studio room.
If you care to read my comments at his funeral on that day eight years ago, on that sailor's final port of call, here are two links:


Saludos, mi tio. Gracias.


And, also to M/Sgt. Vance Clark, USAF Ret. (Photo from his retirement ceremony)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Step by step story of bookstore mural--III--unfinished?

From this on Friday morning: That's a big daunting wall. After taping off the wall, the sky is first.

To this on Saturday evening--a long two days--that may be a little "unfinished" yet.
What you see are photos of my West Texas mural for Burrowing Owl Bookstore's "Back 40" children's reading area in the second store, in Amarillo, which opened this past week.
I learned a lot doing this two-day painting, especially on mixing colors and processes. Someday when I get back, I'd like to improve a few items. First, the bison are too small, and needed to be bigger. And perhaps the vultures too. There might be a burrowing owl added, but that's up to my Daughter Dallas' approval. I also think the yuccas, and shadows could be bettered.  The Texas flag needs to have a little blue and red added at the bottom. Picky, picky.
As you get through these photos, you'll notice some details that changed as I went along.
Since my grid was originally for an 8-foot tall wall, not 10, we just painted the bottom two more green because there would be chairs or tables or something in front.
You can barely see the grid at first, so I went over it with brown paint which shows near the bottom of the wall later.
Even though this was opaque paint, I couldn't have done it without my experience in the process of watercolor painting, and that influence shows.
At the end of both days, about 9 to 6, I was pooped. And sore, from stooping to mix and climbing up and down that ladder.
  • There is a lot of green. Dallas wanted it more colorful. Color always win, and West Texas needs the rain!
  • The road was a mistake, so I painted it over. I thought it was too light, but Todd said it looks just like caliche. Yep.
  •  I was going to paint the cloud first, but ran into real trouble getting a good gray. It was one of last things painted, other than the white outline. Dallas' advice helped a lot on color mixing. The gray in the finished cloud, and lots of other shadow work were among the last subjects painted.
  •  Notice all the mixing trays, and colors. What an experiment.
  • Notice all the post it notes. Those were my notes to myself the second day, of things to do to finish up.
  • Lots of those were the details, like barb wire, windows flowers and the  windmill, the "calligraphy," as I've heard artists talk about the last steps.
  • I spent most of a morning on the iconic  Lighthouse in Palo Duro canyon. It still tilts a bit, but not as much as earlier. Maybe there was an earthquake?






Story of a bookstore mural--II

14' x 8' mural for Burrowing Owl Books, Amarillo, after two -plus days' work
How do you paint something this big, I wondered, as I traveled to Amarillo on a mid-September Thursday? In watercolor, I think in terms of inches of paper size, not feet.
"The Back 40," Burrowing Owl Books, Amarillo
Daughter and son-in-law Dallas and Todd Bell have just opened Burrowing Owl Bookstores' second location, in Amarillo, and wanted a West Texas mural for the children's reading area. The store in a busy shopping center is twice the size of the Canyon store, which I believe is a work of art in itself.
My answers to my questions, always open to failure, are planning, and step-by-step attempts. 
Watercolor experience with paint helped, but at least I could cover up mistakes with new paint. 
This is what Burrowing Owl looked like in mid-September
People had asked if I had a projector for the sketch, and obviously I didn't. This meant the project would change as I went along, rather than being meticulously executed as the pros do it. 
In addition to using acrylic wall paint, when I arrived I discovered the wall was 14 feet wide and 10 feet tall.
That's a daunting big wall, and Lighthouse sketch.
First adjustment--Thursday afternoon the grid was expanded and  sketched with pencil.
Although most of the composition was made up, the main eye-catcher was not--it had to be a fairly accurate rendition of the iconic "lighthouse" formation in nearby Palo Duro canyon. I used my watercolor card as a guide. 
Then to look at the paint and supplies Dallas had purchased and get a few more.
Next post: step by step photos of two days "progress."

West Texas challenged--Story of a bookstore mural-I

 10" x 8" tentative color study for tentative mural, gridded to match 10 foot wall
In late August,  when my daughter called on the phone from West Texas, I answered immediately.
"Dad, would you paint a mural for us?" Dallas asked, laughing.
"I don't paint murals," said I, somewhat taken aback.
"Yes you do. Remember the crucifixion mural on the class wall at church?"
"Oh, long time ago."
"We want a mural in the children's section of our new store in Amarillo," she explained, about adding a branch of Burrowing Owl Books in Canyon. Having bought out the  stock of a another store, they've moved to a new location  and were busy renovating the place.
"How big is the wall, when, what?" I started rattling off questions.
"About 10 feet long, hopefully this month, and a West Texas scene with some of Palo Duro Canyon," she answered.
Work on Amarillo Burrowing Owl Books underway
No, they're not leaving Canyon, where Burrowing Owl books is on the courthouse square, new and used books, the only independent bookstore in the Panhandle, and a popular success.
"Let me think about it. Call you tomorrow and see if I can figure it out, and the calendar." (She knows a chance to go see grandkids, and she and Todd, is a "yes.")
I've never done anything like this. I've painted the iconic "Lighthouse" in the canyon for them, and they have cards for sale in their store, and a bison, since the Buffalos are the mascot of West Texas A&M in Canyon. 
But those are small--inches, not feet.
And when? By October, she said. No pressure, but that meant only a couple of possible weekends, hoping for a two-day job.
"Lighthouse," watercolor, inches, not feet
Ok, I agree, then the planning started: 

  • Preliminary sketches and composition, with Dallas' approval. Then thinking about colors, and orientation of room, etc.
  • I needed  a 2-foot-square grid on the wall, so I can transfer my smaller sketches to it and paint pretty quickly. 
  • Supplies and acrylic paint  listed and forwarded.
  • Three sketches: general small ink, value sketch, and today, gridded to scale with 10 foot wall, with colors washed on it--not on watercolor paper but enough to get an idea.

First sketch,  5" x 4"
Eventually, I'll pack up and go, shooting for a two-day completion. 
First the sky, and work forward, letting paint dry  one step at a time on the landscape, with plenty of paint left over for covering my mistakes.
And, some of the mural was open to, and will change, as it goes along, like the progress of the store. M.D./carpenter Son-in-law Todd is building the shelves, and answering lots of questions from people eager for the opening.
10" x 8" value sketch, notes
What you see here are the first three tentative sketches on a rough grid. I hoped, once it was done, there would be a completed mural to show for it.
If not, and it was a failure and I got "fired," I'd show you a nice repainted blank wall.
I didn't get fired. Next, see part for the story of the results and first stages.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New watercolor adventure--letter to students

New adventure for me, thanks to friends--teaching a watercolor class this fall.
(I hope I'm better at teaching than at painting.)
Friend Amanda Bleakley, executive director of the Paseo Arts Association thepaseo.org where I'm a board member, broached the idea recently, and I said ok, let's try it...not knowing if anyone would enroll.
Program Director Paige Powell created the promotion on the Paseo web page. https://www.thepaseo.org/paseo-events/watercolor-terry-clark
Seven have enrolled to date--which means "it makes."
So for four Mondays in October and November, I have a new challenge. Now comes the work--to get organized.
As I do that, I'm aware that everything I will bring to these students will be the result of the many watercolor teachers I've had in the past 20+ years, plus my own views: Cletus Smith, Don Nice, Ron Ranson, Connie Seabourn, Don Andrews, Tom Lynch, and lots of online videos and books.
Organization: Here's the letter that the students will get ahead of time.
Watercolor students:

Thank you for enrolling in the Paseo Arts District watercolor class which begins Oct. 21.
     I will soon send a complete supply list, but its not necessary to buy them  until we’ve had our first session and I’ve talked about them.  I will supply some paint, paper and brushes that  evening for our first exercise.
    If you already have watercolor materials, you’re more than welcome to bring them. If you wish to buy anything, the two most important items will be:
·       d’Arches 140 lb. or 300 lb. paper—this is the most expensive item. As my first teacher, Cletus Smith, said, “Good paper can make you look good.” One 22 x 30 sheet will be enough for all four classes. Or you can buy a pad, or block of 9 x 12 size.  
·       Watercolor paint in tubes, not pans. Grumbacher paint is fine—you don’t need to buy expensive Winsor & Newton. Only a few colors are needed: Ultramarine Blue; Alizarin Crimson; Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber; Raw Sienna; Gamboge; Thalo(Phalo) Red and Blue.
·       Hobby Lobby carries these. You might also check Porch School Supply on Santa Fe, just north of 50th street to compare prices
Our first day agenda follows:
·       Introductions
·       Supply list and explanations
·       Discussion and demonstrations, with examples:
1.     Transparency
2.     White
3.     Light to dark
4.     Wet and dry
5.     Composition
6.     Value sketch
7.     Not photography -play with reality
8.     Color-mixing-color wheel
9.     Contrast
10.   Perspective
11.   Graded wash
12.   Tricks--Salt, Spray bottles, slanting
·       Demo-I will paint a small painting as you look on
·       Exercise for you on provided materials to get feel of watercolor
Questions are welcome at any time.  This is a conversation class. You are free to take notes, photos.
It is important that we have fun.

If you wish, Here are  links that will be of help and stimulate your interest.
1.     First, there is a Facebook group, Watercolour Addicts, that I highly recommend. You will see daily watercolor paintings of every skill level and every type from around the world.
2.     A fun and informative site: https://doodlewash.com/
3.     One of the workshops I attended last year in Texas has really influenced me and the site offers lots of ideas: https://www.tomlynch.com/index.cfm
4.     My website shows you some of my paintings: www.tmclarkart.com

No obligation, but for your reading pleasure and leisure, I have written a blog since 2009, and many of the posts are about watercolor. Some of what we cover in class will reflect the ideas and points you’ll find here.

If you are a newcomer to watercolor, you’ve probably heard that it is the most difficult of painting mediums. I will say that I’m always learning about watercolor. Every painting is an education. After my first lesson years ago, I came home and said, “I can’t do this.” Don’t be discouraged with first attempts.

I look forward to meeting you.

Thank you,

Terry Clark