"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.

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.


The road to Santa Fe

Road to Santa Fe, 11 x 14 d'Arches cold press paper
After a day of driving across the Great Plains, you head northwest, entering the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos at sunset. 
Here the skies are as dramatic as the land, welcoming you home in spirit.
This is one of about 35 of framed watercolors in my show opening one week from today at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in the Paseo Arts District First Friday. They'll be exhibited all month. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mountain Spirits, a painting's stories

"Mountain Spirits," 22 x 30, 300 lb. d'Arches
Long ago we built a cabin in the foothills of the Manzano Mountains in New Mexico.
My family bought two and a half acres  southeast of Albuquerque, where we grew up, so my Dad could have a studio.
As boys, my brother Jerry and I were given free reign to roam the forests, and the cabin and the mountains became part of our souls, our spirits, forever.
    " mountains became part of our souls, our spirits"
We loved the freedom, and the scenery as Dad painted oil landscapes. We could see the blue eastern slopes of the Sandias to the northwest, and south of us were the intriguing peaks of the Manzanos. 
I've even hiked to the top of the tallest Manazano peak where there is a fire observation tower. So many stories.
Dad painted them many times, and so have I. One of his, of sunflowers, painted not far from our cabin, hangs in our living room, as I've written about before. 
On the road to those peaks you pass through isolated little mountain villages, and in one, Tajique, is picturesque little Catholic church and its campo santo. I passed through there one Sunday and people were just getting out of church. So many stories.
I also took a black and white photo of it, which is somewhere here, though I can't find it at the moment.
My Dad painted that church, a small oil, and it also hangs in our living room. But  years later, I also had to try, and I think my watercolor is somewhat worthy of Dad's work. It may be my masterpiece. They hang together.
Then I tried this painting, my largest, and it hangs in my home studio where I'm writing this, getting ready for my April art show in 11 days at In Your Eye Gallery in Paseo Arts District in Oklahoma City. 
It will be one of 36 framed paintings and at least a dozen matted series, "Unicorn Universe," and "Barn Again."
The gallery will be open for the First Friday Art Walk from 6 to 10 April 6, and it's open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 5. 
I'm now a resident member of In Your Eye, and will even be down there painting some days. In other months I'll have a few paintings displayed, along with 10 of my fellow co-op members. 
The stories, the spirit,  of a painting lead down many roads.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Story of a painting--Failures, or lessons, in watercolor and life

"After the Storm," Ranchos at Sunset, 14" by 21" 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Every painting is a journey, an education for me. Inspired today when friend M.J. VanDeventer Shelton spoke about Jerome Tiger at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, I came home and vowed to complete this this lesson. It was not as effortlessly or talented as Tiger's work, but at least I finished.
Everybody paints the church of St. Francis at Ranchos de Taos--from Georgia O'Keeffe. My Dad drew it twice at least in the depths of the Depression, and I have those framed.
I've tried before, and one of the them I'd framed several years ago.
Previous painting, but I'll use the frame and mat
Now, getting ready for an art show in April, I realized it's drab, and architecturally inaccurate. I'm not trying to make a photography, but my journalism demands accuracy on basic details before artistic license kicks in. This will be exhibited in April  among with about 30 or more of my worth watercolors, starting April 6 at Paseo Arts District First Friday art walk, and the gallery I'm in, In Your Eye Gallery and Studio. 

I tried earlier this month to replace the old painting, using the same mat and frame, and failed on the last step--the sky. 
So this time, I started with the sky, and then forgot the basic of watercolor, start with light. I did the sky first, this time, but forgot about the snow until later. But I'm sorta happy with this version, or you wouldn't be seeing it.
Here's the story of that painting, from the beginning.
With the previous failure/lessons





Almost

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Gone with the wind

Gone with the Wind, 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
March madness in Oklahoma--the winds and colors of Spring--changing every hour. Unicorn weather.

Dreams

"Dreams," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
What are dreams made of? Fantasy and reality wash  together in ever present tense, like love...where unicorns dwell.

Friday, March 16, 2018

St. Pat's Unicorn watercolor

St, Pat's Unicorn, 5 x 7 140 lb. Farbriano Artistico cole press paper
Unicorns. What is it about unicorns? Don't know, but surely St. Pat must have had one as a guide, an inspiration.
And Ireland is surely a land and culture of magic. Even the stars and moon are green.
Some of the magic still exists, based on the response to my earlier unicorn paintings, which are selling.  Thus here is today's watercolor.
Matted and for sale of course.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A new brushstroke

My paintings exhibited at  In Your Eye Gallery and Studio, Paseo Arts District
Lives are like brushstrokes sometimes.
I've been reading about Chinese calligraphy and writing that exploded with its invention of paper, and how the masters viewed each stroke as an art form. The idea was that the brush would never leave the paper until the characters were finished.
If we view life like that, we become more aware of constant being, of movement on many levels. In watercolor once a brush stroke has been made, it's often irreversible, and the maxim  is not to waste them, not to waste them or just put paint on paper for no reason. 
Good advice, which is hard enough in watercolor, and harder in living.
But I'm more aware now in both mediums. Retirement has resulted in many new brush strokes, and each leads to another, making the next one possible. 
The newest brushstroke has been joining In Your Eye Gallery and Studio in Oklahoma City's Paseo Arts District, where I'll be exhibiting my paintings on a regular basis, starting today, in time for tomorrow's First Friday Art Walk..