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

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Home Place

"Sunset at the Home Place," 5 x 7 watercolor greeting card
Security. That's what we all seem to want most these days of the viruses of pandemic, racism and political chaos.
All are "spiking" again, in spite of the pronouncements of self-serving politicians living in denial...here in Oklahoma, certainly in Texas and Florida. One seems to fuel the others.
And most folks are caught in between, trying to live their lives safely, sanely, with the common sense so absent in angry extremists whose mothers apparently never taught them manners.
Remember the home place of childhood, no matter where? It wasn't perfect, but if you were little, it would be warm and welcoming...at least that's the way we fondly remember it.
Isn't that what is important? To remember the goodness, the decency in these indecent times? Thus today's watercolor.



Sunday, June 28, 2020

Barn Again for mental health

"Sunset barn," 5 x 7 watercolor greeting card
What to do when you're stuck creatively, when motivation seems drained as these pandemics of viruses, racism and political chaos take their toll on mental health as well?
Listless days without painting, without writing accumulate. After reading about, and viewing others art,   I find one of my few cures is to go back to basics, to having some fun without expectations.
I found motivation in several places these past few days. One was a video by Thomas Schaller, https://www.thomasschaller.com/ the dynamic  watercolorist. I'm buying one of his books, Architect of Light. Another is reading Austin Kleon's austinkleon.com invigorating blog, where he quoted someone's advice to "Do the work in front of you." (I've bought all his challenging books on creativity.)
We ran into Natalie at an Abiquiu ice cream stand in 2016!
Then last night I picked up Natalie Goldberg's https://nataliegoldberg.com/ book Living Color, Painting, Writing and the Bones of Seeing." She's an inventive writer and teacher of writing whose work I used for years in teaching my students at UCO, especially Writing Down the Bones. 
I've had this book for several years but never read it all the way through before, and in desperation I picked it up last night. She paints to invigorate her writing. I told you earlier, I believe certain books choose you when you need them.
When I found this in the book last night, it spoke to me, and of me: 
"I never think of drawing a new building.Only the old, the dilapidated the uncared for and unnoticed draw my attention.... I like to paint what is marginal what will not last."
My late friend Ben Blackstock looked at my art one day and said, "You sure like to paint God-forsaken places don't you?"
Yep, and now that I think about it, no wonder, Natalie is right, and it gets more important as I age. I find aging people and life and nature more interesting. "The more wrinkles, the more stories," I once said about writing  about people.
Same thing. So today, after a large failure yesterday, I went back to a greeting card, another old barn, which I love to paint. As I do greeting cards for people... fun, relatively quick and also antidotes for being uptight.
A barn again for mental health, and for writing, and painting creativity. See? 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Pandemic poetry and prose

Pandemic poetry and prose in three months
Positive effects of the pandemic and quarantine do exist.
for me, it was a chance to begin reading many books, some of which I should have already read as a repentant English major.
I usually read pretty fast, but when you tackle more than one book at a time, some of these took longer than usual. But, in the past 10 weeks, I've managed to read 11, with two more underway.
Poetry: 

  • Yes,  even though I skipped around, I did read both of them completely. First was Mary Oliver's Devotions, uplifting and thought provoking. Second and most recently completed, was  a Valentine's gift from my wife Susan, was Charles Bukowski's Betting on the Muse,  a sometime dark and extremely.  honest book of stories and poetry about through side of living.

Non-fiction: 

  • Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm, about the 1900 Galveston hurricane...brilliant journalism and writing.
  • David McCullough's Brave Companions, short portraits of some well know and not well know people in history...terrific writing.
  • Neil H. Suneson's Roadside Geology of Oklahoma, one I won't read all the way through, but more than half, about areas of the state I'm interested in.
  • Paulo Coelho's Warrior of the Light, an inspirational book  of page long essays about accepting failure and living.
  • Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, a re-read from years ago, makes you look inside yourself, and give a new perspective to living in a pandemic.

Fiction:

  • Willa Cather's My Antonia, a book I should have read long ago...what description and story telling.
  • Wendell Berry's That Distant Land, another book of shorter stories set in a fictional rural town, full of insights and writing that makes you laugh, and cry it is so real.
  • Richard Adam's Watership Down, from the stories he told his kids, about rabbits...delightful writing.
  • Anton Chekov, Selected Stories, because I'd never really read him, what characters and short portraits of real life in working Russia.
Still underway:
  • John Grisham's The Guardians, a thriller as usual, which I started in mid March, and just put down as I tackled these others.
  • Herman Melville's Moby Dick, a classic I may never have read, started two weeks ago, and it's slow going, at 600 plus pages.
Ps: Eight of these books were purchased at Best of Books in Edmond, two I found on our shelves, and one came from elsewhere.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Centuries Calm Cat-astrophe watercolor series no. 9

"Centuries of Calm," 5 x 7 Calm Cat-astrophe watercolor series no. 9
"This too shall pass."
We don't know how, but the  pandemic, racism and t-Rump will pass, as they have for thousands of years.
Impatient homo sapiens is just to short-sighted and impatient to keep that in perspective. We think we're important, when against the ages of time, we're just a blip.
That's one of the lessons of cats. Four thousand years ago, they were gods in Egypt. Ask yourself why? What was it that caused the ancients to worship them? I suspect that their calm, relaxed and in control aura was part of it. And don't cat owners still worship them, in a sense, today? Why? 
And unlike inanimate gods, idols, these gods know they're regal, and demand our obsequities (I've wanted to use that word a long time), which we willingly offer.
Judging by history, cats don't have just nine lives...essentially, they're immortal.
So for the ninth  Calm Cat-astrophe watercolor series  (could this be the last one, matching nine lives?), here's today's watercolor 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tuxedo Calm Cat-astrophe series no. 8

"Tuxedo Calm," 5 x 7 calm cat-astrophe watercolor series no. 8, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cp
Uptight? Stressed with the everyday pandemic, racism and tRump catastrophes?
That's when it's time for some calm, to break out of the ordinary, put on formal wear, get ready  early for a special evening, and then lounge around, enjoying the anticipation.
Snoops, my model
That's the feeling I get when I see our cat Snoops, a tuxedo cat, actually the first cat I can actually call mine, though he chose us rather than the other way around.
Yes, he gets up tight a lot, but he really knows how to get calm. He'll roll on his back, put the paws curled up, and tile his head back and just enjoy the moments. Secure, trusting, relaxed, calm. We have lots to learn from our felines. 
Thus today's "cat-astrophe" watercolor series no. 8.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Colorful Calm Cat-astrophe series no. 7

"Color me Calm," 5 x 7 Calm Cat-astrophe watercolor series no. 7, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico 
Cats come in all colors, patterns, shapes, personalities--like colors. The more you mix them, the more variations you discover, the more surprises you find. Genetic principles apply, but variations seem limitless.
You never know exactly what colors you'll get when you start mixing them, beyond a few simple physical principles, because water adds another variable to the chemistry.
In the catastrophes of pandemic, racism and political chaos in America, those same examples seem to apply today.
I know that colors can in certain contexts be alarming as with a Nazi or Confederal battle flag, but in the midst of alarming times, colors, literally light incarnate, for the most part, bring happiness, ideas, calm, like cats. And we need color and calm more than ever.
Today's Calm Cat-astrophe is something different, an experiment in color and cats.



Monday, June 22, 2020

Upsidedown Calm Cat-astrophe series No. 6

"Upside down Calm," 5 x 7 Calm Cat-astrophe series no. 6, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper
When the world seems like it is upside down in catastrophe after
catastrophe,  how do you cope?
Pandemic, racism, political danger build stress upon stress. 
Perhaps we need to keep "tabs," (pun) and learn even more from our feline friends. How long since you've seen them nap, or doze or sleep? 
Notice their posture, their body language. Secure, contented, turning their heads upside down, or covering their eyes from the light, curled up and comfy.
Need calm? Turn off the news, cuddle up, take a nap.
Thus today's cat-astrophe watercolor series no. 6.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Stretcccching, Calm Cat-astrophe No. 5

"Stretcccching Calm," Calm-cat-astrophe watercolor series no. 5, 5 x 7 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cp
"Did you do your stretches this morning? " she asked.
The answer these days is, "Of course."
Ever since some physical therapy for back pain, the answer is "Yes," for an old guy who was always in too much of a hurry to do stretches, too stressed to slow down, and too undisciplined to form simple habits
I should have been taking lessons from our cats. 
Have you noticed how much they stretch, no matter their age? Have you noticed that even when they're tensing every muscle, they're calm, content, at ease?
Hmm. So in these times of pandemic, racist and t-Rump catastrophes that continually stress us, I find my morning stretching calming.
Thus today's "Calm Cat-astrophe" watercolor series no. 5. This ought to stretch your imagination.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Success

"Oklahoma Cloud Shadows," 24 x 30  watercolor, 300 lb, d'Arches cold press paper
Watercolor is a journey, a continual education, where the successes are results of lots of practice, attempts, maybes and failures.
This one, was a third attempt, after a smaller one, and a failure, but then I thought I had it...one of the largest I've painted in a long while, a half sheet (15 by 22), almost.
Still I wasn't sure, until I took it to be framed at Pirates Alley Framing in Britton by friend and fellow artist Theresa Henrichs Hurt, relying on her expertise with matting.
The frame and matting make the difference. I'm rarely proud or pleased with my work, but this one resonates. 

Golden Calm Cat-astrophe, number 4

"Golden Girl," Cat-astrophe series, nol 4, 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper
Have trouble sleeping these days of pandemic, racist and political catastrophe?
Need calm? Have you watched a cat sleeping?
They're all curled up, secure. Even if you call their name, or somehow wake them, their eyes open, and look at you, but without any worries or alarm.
Humans need more than ever to consider the calmness of cats sleeping. Just looking at them helps lower your stress.
Our Sophie is what they call a "Ginger" cat, but I see more gold than ginger.
Thus today's calm cat-astrophe number four, "Golden Girl."

Friday, June 19, 2020

Calm Cat-astrophe, number. 3

"Calm 'n Composed," Cat-astrophe series No. 3, 140 lb Fabriano Artisitico extra white cold press
You can afford to be calm in catastrophes if you have your senses about you.
Just because your ears  pick up the most delicate of sounds, and your eyes are sharp and focused on every movement, doesn't mean you're not calm.
You're alert, and always prepared to instantly react if need be, but there's no need for worry, because you know you always land on your feet.
No wonder the Egyptians, and others, considered you a god...a superior being in calm control.
Amid the catastrophes of pandemic and racism, we have much to learn from our feline creatures.
Thus today's watercolor, number three of the calm cat-astrophe series.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Calm Cat-astrophe, numbrer 2

"Old Blue," Cat-astrophe series, 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper
The older you get, the less patience you have for foolishness. Time is passing and you've been around long enough to be secure with who you are, and anyone who doesn't like it just doesn't matter.
Some consider it an attitude, others being spoiled, but so what?
Amid these catastrophes of pandemic and racism, we need calmness, calm creatures.
Just ask Old Blue, today's cat-astrophe candidate. See all that calm? See those claws? See what I mean?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Calm cat-astrophe


"Calm Magic," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper
I have two friends who demand to sit on my lap every day...early in the morning with coffee, and later in the day, usually when I am trying to work, paint or survive some new stress or anxiety in these pandemic, racist-plagued catastrophes we hope to survive.
They bring calm to me, take my mind off everything but the present. Petting them, sharing affection, reminds me of what is important in life...living, enjoying the moment, those who are important to you. For this old dog person, my first cats Sophie and Snoops won't take "No" for an answer, so I have to stop and enjoy the magic of calm.
Thus comes the idea for another watercolor series. I've done barns and unicorns. It seems it's time for a "Cat-astrophe"series.
Here's the first...inspired by the silhouette of Sophie looking out the door. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Bitter icing on Edmond's cake

This is my fifth editorial on the execution of The Edmond Sun
This week, the recently executed Edmond Sun won four first place awards in the annual Oklahoma Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
It won first place in news coverage, in community leadership, in advertising and sales promotions categories in its daily newspaper circulation division.
This tells you much about the greed behind corporate parent cnhi's contempt for Edmond as a community and for excellent in journalism. And it magnifies again what the loss of The Sun means to Edmond. The community is weaker in many ways.
Consider the awards. Best in news and community leadership. The execution leaves a huge vacuum in the city...less news coverage, less community leadership. A major force in holding the community together, in giving the community a voice, in keeping our citizens involved in all kinds of information has been erased.
And merchants and citizens, consider the irony, or hypocrisy,  of killing The Edmond Sun for lack of an unrealistic profit margin when it excelled in advertising and sa.es promotions.  
Bitter icing on the cake, and a mere salve of condolences to the hard-working, dedicated  staff who were summarily "furloughed." 
Congratulations to each of them. They deserved better. The Sun deserved better. Edmond deserved better.
cnhi won't win any awards for community leadership, that's for sure.
++
Below is former editor Mark Codner's remarks on the awards, and a photograph of his now vacant desk, a metaphor for the vacuum in Edmond.


Many of you know I was the editor of The Edmond Sun as CNHI shuttered the facility and “merged” with The Norman Transcript. Because I’ve been placed on furlough I have been careful in saying anything publicly; however, before the Sun was closed down we had entered the annual Oklahoma Press Association awards competition. They were announced earlier today. I am proud to say the Sun took first place in 4 of the 8 categories, and placed second overall in our division. We were first in News, Advertising, Sales Promotion, and Community Leadership. I would like you to consider what truly defines a great community newspaper? How about “News, Advertising, Sales Promotions, and Community Leadership?” I’m very proud of the team of journalists and advertising specialists we had at the Sun. At the same time I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more sad! Thank you to my co-workers at the Sun for the time we had together and thank you to my hometown of Edmond.


Sunday, June 14, 2020

a reminder...Red roses too...

"Red Roses Too," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico cold press 
It's a grim world out there, just as grim as in 1968 in the midst of the Vietnam War when thousands were suffering and dying, daily. This year, we're in  daily wars with a deadly pandemic, and with just as deadly and more violent racism and bigotry

Yet in 1968 Louis Armstrong could sing and play  "Red Roses Too," trying to bring some brightness and comfort to the world. There was still a wonderful world.

Yes, we need color and comfort, and red roses. There can still be a wonderful world.

"I see trees of green, red roses, too,
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

"I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,..."

Thus today's watercolor, inspired by those lyrics.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Story of art rescued with chalk--Title?

Watercolor and chalk, 6 x 8, Title?
Sometimes watercolor just doesn't work for me. I have a large collection of almost paintings in the closet, and I pull them out ever once in a while and try painting something else on the reverse.
If that effort doesn't quite work to my satisfaction either,  I may toss it in the waste basket.
More than once my wife Susan sees one like that, pulls it out, and asks if she could have it. Then she takes my Dad's old art chalks, and begins playing with it. 
One such effort hangs on our bedroom wall, of Sacre Coeur in Paris from a photo I took there 15 years ago. The watercolor was pretty good but she took chalk to it, and really improved it. It is literally our painting.
Thus it is with this small 6 x 9 effort that was entirely too dark in watercolor. She recently rescued it and improved it.   I'm framing it for her birthday Saturday.
Title?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plains

"Oklahoma Normal," 8 x 10 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Today was one of those iconic days  in Oklahoma, immortalized in the state song.
Yesterday was almost summer, muggy, hot, barely a breathe of breeze.
But not today when a cool front swept across the state, with winds and gusts close to 50 miles per hour in central portions, hurricane strength in the panhandle, and about 30 mph in the southeast.
In the angst of pandemic where people are wondering about a "new normal," out here on the Great Plains, quickly changing weather and strong winds are "the normal," all the time.
Inspiration? Wind-whipped clouds, foliage and grasses. Sure. Oklahoma. Today's watercolor.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Summer Shadows on the Great Plains

"Cloud Shadows on the Great Plains," 14 x 20, 300 lb d'Arches cold press paper
When you live on the Great Plains in the summer, the heat and humidity build clouds of all shapes and sizes.
When you can see a long way out there, across the rolling rural landscapes, the clouds  ever-changing shadows dance across the fields and hills in a windy, moving symphony of shapes and color.
Today's watercolor, the largest I've painted in a long while, is a larger version inspired by by the previous one, "Room to Breathe." That became sort of a "study" or warm-up by the intimidation I feel when working on large paintings.
Given the pandemic and the racial crisis we're trying to survive, 
I  thought of  T.S. Eliot's lines from "The Wasteland" that capture some of the truth we're living in now. 

            “Between the idea
        And the reality
        Between the motion
        And the act
        Falls the Shadow”

It's interesting to me how often I think of poetry and literature when I'm painting, and our national mood seems to be a metaphoric wasteland. 
To offset that, I wanted to try to capture the peace, beauty and vastness of the Great Plains. To me they're also a metaphor for our freedoms and future. I hope this painting approaches it. Can't wait to get it framed.
The colors on this photo are not exact, because it's taken outside and reflects some of the blue of the sky, but it's close. My signature is under the big fence post, which the camera lost the detail on.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Room to breathe, on the Great Plains

"Room to Breathe," 11 x 14 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico extra white cold press paper
It's been a difficult week to even breathe in America.
The racist homicide of the Minneapolis man, who couldn't breathe, followed by national and global protests, followed by  senseless violence and vitriol and crime, added to the almost crushing weight of the biologic virus on me, and many.
The anger I feel for the victims of racism and violence, some of whom I know, is compounded by my deepening angst for my country and its future.
As a retired white man in a suburban neighborhood, I can't add anything to the conversation that would be meaningful or significant.
So disturbing has this week been I've not been able to even consider painting. When the pandemic struck, I tried to paint every day, and bring bright color into the world as an antidote. But this virus of cruelty and injustice stalled after my initial reaction and painting a week ago, "Justice." 
Finally, after viewing a program on the Great Plains, I was able to pick up the paintbrushes today and attempt capturing their vastness, their skies.
Why does a painting happen? It's personal, and I realized as I painted in the midst of all this week's ugliness how I needed room, the room of those wide open spaces.
Perhaps it isn't a time for cheerful colors, but definitely a time for much needed peace.
As I searched for a title, nothing seemed to quite fit. Then it did.