"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 metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, October 9, 2017

On the road up to Santa Fe

Sunset on the road to Santa Fe, 11 by 15 watercolor, 300 lb. de'Arches bold press
New Mexico beckons this time of year, and the first stop will be La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis.
We go not a tourists but in pilgrimage for food, art, memories, friends, and of course the landscape and skies.
From there, farther north into the Sangre de Cristos mountains and backroads and towns of northern New Mexico. Aspen, cottonwoods, juniper, pinon, red and green chile, the people and the land and the vistas.
You always go up to Santa Fe from the Great Plains, usually late in the day. Leaving the flatlands,  the mountains begin rising in blue shadows and the skies mirror the land, always changing, always dramatic. This watercolor is inspired by a photo I took years ago, on the road to Santa Fe. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We will walk the sidelines again, my friend, just not yet

A version of my comments at Steve Booher's funeral celebration yesterday.

We want to celebrate the wonderfully rich life of Steve Booher, one of Oklahoma’s giants, a giant of family, journalism and community service. The two words that come to mind about Steve are “devoted servant.” I don’t mean a namby-pamby devotion, but a strong dedication that you can see in his life. 
For you, the family in your grief, Sonya, Shannan Booher, Mike Booher, Alan Clepper, and Amanda Barrett and families, and brothers Kent and Scott and grandchildren and nieces and nephews, you have our deepest sympathy and admiration. Family was first with Steve. I think his last Facebook posts were bragging about his grandchildren. I’ve witnessed his and Sonya’s great love and care for each other over the years, and I thank Shannan and Mike for their confidence. I’m just an old weekly newspaper man who has been blessed, like you, to have known and worked with Steve.
Steve’s even referenced in the Bible. In Genesis, it is written:
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” There are Steve’s ancestors, giants.
I’ve known him, of course, as a journalist and friend for more than 40 years, and I so admire how he well balanced his family with the demands of weekly newspapering, a career of long hours and hard work.
He and Sonya were married in February. 1985 and they spent the next three days at the OPA midwinter convention, and every anniversary there too. Steve would joke, “Nothing like being able to write off your honeymoon and anniversary as business expenses.” Sonya has stars in her crown for putting up with that.
Steve telling another story at my retirement
Steve was always a storyteller, a craftsman with the written word, and a natural oral story teller of people, politics and everything else. What one story about Steve do you remember now about how Steve could make you smile, something that happened, some story he’d tell? There are many, aren’t they?
He worked with some giants in newspapers, and became one himself, especially Larry Hammer, graduating with pride from the Hammer School of Journalism. “Never stop learning,” Steve said, and he never did, going from hot metal to computers and beyond, always trying to learn more in trying to put out an excellent newspaper for his town, his readers.
He looked and sounded gruff, was stubborn and strong, and earned it all those years putting out a paper, but he seasoned that with a sense of humor and inside he was generous and gentle to those who knew him.
Mike told me how as a boy he had wanted some expensive athletic shoes, but knew his Dad couldn’t afford them. One day Steve came in and told Mike he had some shoes for him. Expecting the cheaper ones—that I would have bought—Mike found his wish—which was a lot for a small-town journalist to dig for.
 I met Steve when he was at Duncan and I at Waurika, and then got to know him covering Friday night high school football, walking the sidelines, cameras and heavy flash equipment and notepads. We have stories, especially on the nights when the weather turned bad. I think one was at the Ringling Waurika rivalry, and Steve disagrees Comanche-Marlow but he’s the better storyteller. 
    Now Steve would embellish stories, and they’d grow like our waistlines as our hairlines and memories receded. Eventually that game went from light rain to a downpour, and then sleet, and so cold they light blazing fires in oil barrels along the sidelines to keep the players from freezing. I expect the next version to include a blizzard moving in with 10 feet of snow, but he probably never thought of it.
Meanwhile he and I would be out there, plastic draped over the flash heads, trying to take photos, getting soaked. We talked about doing it again this fall, for old time’s sake. What a story that would have been. "Geezers on the gridiron."
In his 37 years at the Cherokee Messenger and Republican, he developed into a giant of journalism and community service, always humble, but always an advocate for the people. His gruffness served him well when standing up for what was right, including his strong opinions and editorials. He earned the respect and admiration of most-–even a few preachers and Republicans--because of his service to the town in the newspaper and personally as a volunteer. It’s no accident Cherokee named him a citizen of the year and awarded him a lifetime achievement award.
His papers were, as my wife commented the other night, thick with news.” His front-page column “From This Corner” told more stories the human side, the humor of living in a small town.
As newspapers , especially big ones are facing troubling times, he and I would joke about the buzz word being used by the big boys.  They used to look down their noses at us, saying we covered “chicken dinner news” Now they want “Hyper-local.” "We were hyper local before they were born,” he’d snort.
In addition to his community and family, he served the state press association for years in various roles, all the way to the top as president, always respected for his experience, his humor and hard work. His awards and honors for quality journalism and service piled up, higher than that blizzard that was about to hit. Most recent this spring was induction into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.   You could count on Steve.
To me he was what every journalist is supposed to be, but despite the long hours he never forgot his family.
When he visited Mike in the Coast Guard at Corpus Cristi a few years ago, we had is camera at his side and Mike told him they wouldn’t let him aboard.  He kept it. When they came up to the XO to look at the bridge, the officer said you can’t take that in. Steve asked the officer for his name, because he was a member of the press. He wanted to he able to tell about the officer who didn’t want people to know how great a job the Coast Guard was doing. Mike said Steve got a tour of the ship.
The story of Steve's retirement cake
His good-natured humor and jibes among friends and colleagues was legendary. I remember going to his retirement reception a few years ago, and when I walked in, he smiled, scowled and said something like, “I thought I told the police to keep you out of town.” “I bribed them” I shot back.
There’s just one thing about Steve I resent. He looked so handsome and distinguished dressed impeccably and with that neatly trimmed beard. As an old guy with ink still under his fingernails, I was jealous. I tried to grow a beard a few years back, and well, I said something to Steve about not measuring up. “I look like a mangy dog,” I said. Steve replied, “Well, shaving might not help either.…”
If I’ve embellished this, I learned from the best.
I do know this, right now, there’s a new hospitality suite in heaven, Michael Martin Murphy music blaring, and Steve and Hammer are telling stories and God is in stitches
“Wrap it up Clark, wrap it up,” Steve is growling. “These people have deadlines.”
  “Ok, Steve. We will walk the sidelines again, my friend, just not yet.”

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October arrives, somberly

October Arrives, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches
Driving through the Oklahoma countryside early this morning to attend and speak at the funeral of my long time friend and fellow weekly newspaperman Steve Booher, we witnessed early autumn. Clouds started building on the horizons and rain is promised tonight.
I love fall and the country and the vistas, death hangs over it all. Coming home, I knew there were clouds and grief, but the bright colors of life, his and his family. This one is for you Steve.
Steve Booher telling me another story at OPA last year.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sangre de Cristo

Sangre de Cristo, 11 by 14 watercolor, 300  lb. d''Arches paper
They marched up the Rio Grande valley almost 500 years ago on foot, on horseback, on oxcarts, exploring soldiers and priests, conquering and converting, for glory, gold and God.
As the conquistadors came, they conquered also with language, naming the landscape and villages and people as they came. Today that language and names remain, and you can glimpse and imagine what they saw and thought so long ago.
Homesick and thirsty in a dry land, they named mountains for the apples nearby (Manzanos), or because some looked like a watermelon and rind (Sandias) when the sun set. And farther north when clouds turned red when the sun set, the green and blue mountains would reflect the red glow. Those Franciscan friars could only think of the Sangre de Cristo.
They built their mission churches out of adobe, and those also reflected the colors of the dominant sky, usually an always varied earthen color. But not always. At Ranchos de Taos one relative new church built in the 1700s carries the name of their saint--San Francisco de Asis. 
It seems every artist has painted that church, Georgia O'Keeffe the most famous. My Dad drew and painted it. I've done so three times.
But something was missing. Thus the latest attempt, trying to paint what I feel when I enter New Mexico, not just see. This watercolor is the result of at least six attempts over the past week, full of failures and experiments, and a little blood. I guess that is fitting. I'm not finished and will try again.
Colors--3 blues, 3 reds, 2 siennas

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dust vewing stars---equinox

Mystical Equinox, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140# Fabriano Artistico
Equinox. For us today,  it is just a day on the calendar, when day and night are the same length, our "official" change of seasons.
But it is also mystical,  humanity's feeble attempt to measure time, as though existence on earth, and our so brief lives, were the center of a wheeling  universe where time and space are so vast.
For ancients, measuring "man-made" time became mystic, requiring stone temples and barbaric rites. 
Perhaps we shouldn't forget, and take time to ponder how small we are, mere dust viewing stars, part of a celestial creation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Real Native American...watercolor

"Big Ears," 5 by 7 watercolor
Today's watercolor is in spite of the fact that I'm not a wildlife artist. Wildlife artists study their subjects, know anatomy, behavior and so much more.
But this coyote is inspired by a photo my son Vance took of one of his new neighbors near their house in the hill country west of San Antonio.

Got me to thinking about two books I read last year, by Dan Flores, "Coyote America," and "American Serengeti."
I like coyotes, but of course I don't raise sheep or cattle, and they can be scourges of newborns.
But in spite of the best efforts of ranchers with the help of your money financing the federal government trying exterminate them you can't.
As a result of the attempted ethnic cleansing, coyotes have flourished and spread from the West and Great Plains, across the Mississippi and now inhabit every major metropolitan area, including Central Park in NYC.
Read Flores' books. He grew up in the Texas Panhandle and lives in New Mexico, and is a master storyteller, blending history, science, myth and so much more in telling the story of what American Indians, Native Americans, call "the trickster." 
To me, this native American is "Big Ears."
One of the new neighbors for the Vance Clark family

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Celestial journeys--Autumn Meadows

Autumn Meadows, 8 by 10 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico
Autumn meadows are journeys that awaken me, reminding me of more than just  a peaceful view tucked in between trees and hills. 
They are not just earthly, but testaments to the wheeling cosmos of the universe. Life and death and eternity churn together in a celestial mix of lives, souls and creation. 
Take a walk or drive the back roads, and every meadow tells a story of another year--Seed time and harvest, shorter days and years and lives, falling leaves and brilliant colors.
That's why a lane winding through an autumn meadow always beckons me to follow it, bringing to mind the people and places I've journeyed with this year, as I wonder what's around the next bend.
Today's watercolor, a meadow, a lane, a cabin, a journey.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

September sunset

September Sunset, Great Plains, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico
Great Plains, home of my soul, along with the mountains and autumn...where else to go when you need solitude, and memories and treasures of those who have molded your life?
Roads untraveled
Skies beckoning of places and people
Shadows full of color
And wanting...

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Freedom, in the skies

Freedom, Taos sky, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico
"Out here there's the sky"
Readings, of freedom...as an introvert, or as a falcon (Quiet, the Power of Introverts, by Cain, or Falcon, by Macdonald)...
Dreams of New Mexico, where, as Willa Cather wrote, the sky is, it determines all. 
Back after a drought of writing and painting, the call of freedom, found only in the spirit of the skies.
Thanks to Susan Clark and Mary Carver for prodding, when yhou didn't know you were.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Journeys of books, " today's watercolor, 5" by 5" 140 lb. d'Arches
Books, like loves and friends and memories, stack up in blurred journeys, oozing into each other and us with every page and step in indistinct edges of color and life.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Turning the Pages of 2017--books so far

You can tell a lot about people by the books on their shelves, or by the bedstand, or in our case, scattered throughout the house.  Draw your own conclusions.So far this year--
Currently reading
Susan Rice, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking
Books completed in 2017
·     Zoltan Szabo Paints Landscapes—watercolor, used
·     Betty Lou Schlemm, Watercolor Secrets for Painting Light, used
·     Oliver Meslay, Turner, Life and Landscape
·     William Least Heat Moon, Celestial Mechanics
·     Anne Hillerman, Song of the Lion
·     Michael Crichton, Lost World
·     Robert Ludlum, The Matlock Paper
·     Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower
·     David McCullough, The Wright Brothers,  
General non-fiction
·     Smoke over Oklahoma—The Railroad Photographs of Preston George
·     Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain
·     William Least Heat Moon, Here, There, Elsewhere
·     Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
·     Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro
·     Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams
·     Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks
·     Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees
·     Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself, 1970
·     John Erskine, Sonata, 1923
·     Richard Jefferies, After London, 1885, fiction
·     Peter Davidson, The Idea of North
·     Eliot Weinberger, The Ghosts of Birds
·     W.G. Sebald. The Rings of Saturn
·     Robert Friedman, The Next 100 Years
·     Linda Gratton & Andrew Scott, The 100-Year Life, Living and Working in an Age of Longevity

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Risking myself, Watercolor

Risking morning in Taos, 5 by 7 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches

"Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks on new behavior--trying new ways of 'being myself,' so that I can see how it is I want to be." --Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

We live in a world that discourages risk, that wants everything to be safe and secure and successful.
But there is no success if there is no failure, and no failure if you don't take risks. And no excitement in living in a rut of routine and repetition.
I've just read Hugh Prather's Notes to Myself, from 1970, and his aphorisms and insights were just what I needed ...thoughts on living now, being authentic, on being yourself, on pleasing people, on humanity and more.
Out of that book came this painting,  taking risks every step we take, every day. My risks include standing up to paint when the spirit is dry, in attempting things I'm afraid of, in trying new things--all part of living changes and "retirement."
A  few other snippets from his book that spoke to me:
  • "Perfectionism is a slow death."
  • "Why do I judge my day by how much I have accomplished?"
  • "Dishonest people believe in words rather than reality."
  • "There are no absolutes for something so relative as human life."
  • "I like a man with faults. To err is human--I;m uncomfortable around gods."
  • "If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual wrting, then the desire is not to write."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Southwestern sunset, watercolor

Southwestern Sunset, watercolor, 6" by 11.5", 140 lb. d'Arches 
Inspiration, like love, comes you seek it, when you work, most of all, I think, when you need.
Today's watercolor, the first of the month after July's daily challenge, comes on a rainy day, when I knew I needed to paint, for me. After a week of "vacation"--minimal writing, no blogging, no painting, but drinking in love and family and landscapes on a 2,500 mile road trip, it was time. 
Inspiration is internal. I find it many places, including the broad vistas of my beloved Southwest of rich colors and dry air, in travels, in love, and from my father.
I'd found this old pencil sketch of my Dad's, Terrence Miller Clark, done no telling how many years ago, of something he saw in his road trip travels. He saw beauty everywhere, and he could capture that beauty, in landscape, in portraits, with a talent that stuns me. I'm thankful I have a smidgen of his spirit and soul. 
This one's for you, Dad. Thanks. May we one day paint together again.
Pencil sketch, 3" by 9.5"--Terrence Miller Clark

Monday, July 31, 2017

31 days of color--watercolor thoughts

Colors of July, with Sophie and Snoops as art critics
Thirty-one paintings in 31 days. 
I almost made it. One day was a complete failure, but I made up for it the next day with two. And toward the end of the month, including today, I painted ahead--three birthday cards.
Last night, I felt withdrawal for not picking up a paintbrush. Maybe today?
But the WorldWatercolorMonth challenge paid off in several ways. Every artist, athlete, and professional knows you get better if you're consistently producing, or trying to produce. The days you don't, your craft, your work, suffers. 
This blog, which has been suffering, improved. My painting actually inspired by writing, rather than the other way around.
The challenge gave me direction amid all the business of everyday life. It also gave joy to people.
There are four missing before I took this photo--one was a birthday gift, two were sold and one a birthday card.  I've inserted two--one a mountain snow scene done  one day but not posted because I wasn't happy about it. The other the red-headed cowgirl, actually done in late June, but hey, why not.
What I learned-

  • I need more color, more vibrant color, in my paintings, and you saw some of this as the month advanced.
  • I started off slowly, searching. Some days were difficult, others almost magic.
  • Like writing, painting leads you places you hadn't expected--thus the abstracts.
  • I started every day with "Paint what you feel," and sometimes that was the most difficult.
  • I'm most pleased with some of the abstracts, and also the series of the Oklahoma barn--perhaps even the Dust Bowl, a cross between representational and abstract.
  • I have paired poetry and writing before, but it helped to have poetry and writing in mind to focus on what I feel. Thus Frost, Whitman and Conrad.
  • Conversations with friends help provoke paintings and feelings.
  • The more you paint, the more you experiment--with color, composition and form.
  • Painting small is easier than large, in some ways, but sometimes more difficult.
  • I have favorites and disappointments. The Santa Fe Trail painting was a disappointment.
  • There will be failures--some paintings required two or three attempts. You didn't see the failures.
  • Disappointments, failures, can lead to successes. I will repaint some of them.
Favorites? Dust Bowl, Bluebonnet Dreams, Cosmos, As Time Slips Away, Choices in a Yellow Wood, Heart of Darknewss. You'll have to scroll back onthe blog to see those.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


"Balance," 5.5 by 7.5 watercolor, 300 lb. d-Arches

"Green," 5 by 7 watercolorcard
The last three paintings for #Worldwatercolormonth's daily challenge, were three  painted ahead of time--birthdays of special people. 
Yesterday's was mailed to my son the day before, and for days 30 and 31, there were two cards painted for a party last night, to in-laws Jennifer and Jim Henry.
Every card, every painting, is a story. I'm not a golfer, but Jim certainly is, and I'm not into yoga either, but Jennifer lives yoga.
Jennifer's already put these up on Facebook and Instagram, but here they are. 
Tomorrow, a look at 31 paintings, thughts, and what I've learned.
Days 30 and  31 of WorldWatercolorMonth

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Golden Morning, 50 years ago today--watercolor

"Golden Morning," 5 by 7 watercolor birthday card
For Vance Conrad Clark
We headed east on the rural Iowa highway out of Hawarden, Iowa,  50 years ago, before the sun was even up. The hospital was 35 miles away.
The ripening corn fills the fields and valleys between the rolling hills with mist, and the dawn sky turns the mist golden. The highway dipped down into the mist and back up again as the little Volkswagen plugged along, pushed as fast as I could go. I don't remember our conversation, but I remember that scene and morning forever.
Once my wife was in the delivery room in LeMars, the redheaded Irish doctor told me to put on a white robe and mask: "Come in here, you're responsible for this," he said.
I went in and sat down as the birth neared. I don't remember much, except praying for my wife and for my first born.
Then, in an instant, the cries of our new baby replaced his mother's cries of pain. I knew then that every birth is a miracle.
That was before ultrasound and knowing what gender the baby was, and before they let fathers in the delivery rom. The Catholic doctor said letting me in was his method of birth control. In our case it didn't work, because the baby would by joined by two brothers and a sister.
Today our firstborn celebrates his "golden" birthday, and his life has been golden for us every one of his years. Happy birthday, Son.
Day 29, Worldwatercolormonth challenge
Palette--greens, Aureolin yellow, Cad orange, Quin gold, &scarlet

Friday, July 28, 2017

Courage, Sen. McCain--watercolor

"Thumbs down courage," 5.5 by 7.5 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches
He's been in prison as a POW, he's fighting cancer, and last night he proved he  wouldn't return to any prison, especially one of pressure and politics.
Instead, Sen. John McCain stood up against the "Christian" hypocrisy of  the spineless sycophants in the GOP trying trying to kill health care for the poor, the working, the older. ("Hey, they don't vote for us, let them die."--Marie Antoinette would be proud.)
He cast the deciding  "No" vote, and turned his thumb down.
"...it was the right thing to do," he said.
Something our Oklahoma Senators don't care about.
What are the colors of courage--standing up to overwhelming odds, being willing to do what a majority disagree with and don't have the guts to do?
Thank you, Sen. McCain.
Day 28 Worldwatercolormonth
Palette--Ultamarine blue, Alizerine crimson, Quin gold

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Heart of Darkness--watercolor

Conrad's Heart, 7 by 11 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches
“The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.”--Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad is my favorite English author, and his short novel "Heart of Darkness" my favorite fiction.  
I first met Conrad in high school speech class, doing a dramatic reading from "Lord Jim." By the time I was an English major and teacher,  his description and storytelling enthralled me.  Not sure why, other than romantic notions of going to sea as a land bound idealist. It's no accident that my first born son's middle name is "Conrad."
Looking back as I read his words in a longtime copy of "Heart of Darkness, " perhaps some of the allure  was his strong description, imagery and dramatic narrative, all influences as I turned toward journalism.
At any rate, the second paragraph of the book has always been a favorite for imagination and the travel urge. Inspiration for  today's painting, from that second paragraph.
Day 27 of WorldWatercolorMonth daily challenge.
Palette--Ultamarine & Prussian blue, Alizirine crimson, quin gold & sienna, gamboge, Aureolin yellow.