"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.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Missing an unlikely 14th birthday, a story and toast

 I meant to celebrate a 14th birthday in May, put it off, and then forgot. So here's a toast with post number 2,678 in the 170th month of my blog Coffee with Clark. 

These arethe obligatory explanations and reasons, because in May, Coffee with Clark, turned an astounding 14 years old of almost constant activity...very unlikely in the blogosphere, and in my changing life and priorities.

In all those years there have only been two months out of 168 that have not recorded a single post.

I'm aware that May just passed with only one post, that of a photo of me with two dear friends, Mary Carver and Christy Vincent, receiving her retirement painting.

But that epitomizes the changes in the blog over the years, which began in May, 2009 as a largely journalistic effort, even with published doubts if it would last long. I didn't "reckon" it would, but then it became habit, a necessity and an obligation over the years.

I started it because at UCO we  needed a blogging class for our journalism majors. You need to be able to do what you teach is our ethic. It became a tool for story-telling, for teaching, for personal self-expression, certainly for professional pride and accomplishment.

Those first eight months saw a 321 whopping posts...the highest annual I've ever done. Last year was the lowest, with just 60 posts. This post is only the 15th this year.

There have been a total of 2,678 posts in these years, having be read by people in more than 150 countries, back when I was keeping count. There were times when I posted at least once a day, and perhaps more often. But not now, but even if it seems it's either hibernating or comatose, it's still breathing.

As a journalist ( ink is always in the blood), and artist, I'm proud it's alive, with more than 450,000 views, and growing even as I type this. The flag counter shows 115 flags of viewers, but it's a late comer to the blog. I used to write a year-end review of the blog, but missed that this year. Here's the 2018 link for one of them, listing stats and lists of readers' countries: https://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2018/12/state-of-blog-nearing-decade-even-north.html

What has changed? The times, yes. My life, certainly. Retirement for one. Changing my identity and focus from a professor to aging retiree and artist. The blog is no longer the priority it once was, but I still value having a creative forum, rather than just a job. Now if I'd ever figured a way to make money from it, I might feel differently, but it's not a "niche" blog, so it is a wonder it's still alive...because most individual blogs never last 14 years

And, a side affect I didn't anticipate...I really have to make myself sit down and write any more...it's not an aversion, but  an avoidance for sure.  I just don't want to spend the time necessary to produce decent writing. Just this post is an effort, taking almost two hours to get "in print." But I still drink coffee.

The blog has changed to more of a record of my art life and DIY education, and my paintings usually provoke thoughts and thus writing to go with them, which results in shorter essays or "meditations" as partners. One of the results  saving the blog  has been when I post many of the Christmas cards every December. that I produce for family and friend,,,they all tell stories of some sort.

In many ways, art is keeping the blog alive, and probably me too. All artwork, and paintings, I've realized, has stories to tell, both for me, and for those who view it. As friend Mark Hanebutt told me about continuing painting, "You have more to say."

Mantra--"There are so many more stories to tell." 

Giants in the earth

A few years ago, what the kids call the Mafia

follows are the general  outline of comments I made while officiating the funeral of my father-in-law Jay Henry, June 2. He was 93, born July 14, 1929, died  May 23.

  • Genesis 6:4. “There were giants in the earth in those days, and also after that…”
  • There still are. Today we gather to salute, to honor, to celebrate, to say goodbye, to mourn such a one,  James Lidge Henry, a true patriarch for his extensive family.
  • These comments are for each of you, Susan, Sara, Jim, Jason; grandchildren-- Chad, Bobby, Jared, Alexx, Roxanne, Sam; great grandchildren-- Hugo, Ellis; in-laws, Jennifer, Karen, Perry, me, Angela, Cat, Sophy, Candie.
  • “Pepa”  Grandchildren revere him...you are so fortunate in scattered times …a beloved icon. As a relative new in-law, one who had never heard of Jay Henry until I met Susan, I quickly realized I had been adopted, fully accepted…as each of you in-laws have learned.
  • How accepted? He and Margaret didn’t judge. They never questioned—and we never argued, about opposing politics. How tolerant? They didn’t disown me, though they couldn’t understand however, that I was not an OU fan. My command was always, “take care of our daughter.”
  • My view of Jay—a gardener, a meticulous detail person. How dare another leaf fall down in his garden area after he’d just swept it clean. If he was ready to leave a dinner, a trip, whatever, impatience showed. He’d have everything in order and packed. We often heard him loudly snap at Margaret, who always took 30 minutes to say goodbye. “Margaret, let’s go!”
  • And he and Margaret are one of the great love stories of all time, meeting on a tennis court at OBU. Jay, a lanky kid from southern Oklahoma, took the bus up to Enid to meet the folks, got off on the US 81 corner near the Jolly house, and probably saw the Champlain oil mansion at the end of the block.I wonder what he thought? He told me Margaret was the first Republican he’d ever met. 
  • Editorial comment:  get rid of any stereotype you ave about rural people being hicks. . Jay’s intelligence, character, drive, experience, wisdom as a leader, and as an always generous father in good times and dark times was unparalleled. 
  • Except for Margaret, Jay was used to being in charge, gained at Baptist Hospital, which became his other life. Before it was a trend, he managed by “walking around” the halls, greeting every employee by name.
  • A few years ago, Susan and I were at the Cowboy museum for an even, ant Uncle Ray was there. Soon we noticed he was just sitting there, not being responsive. We feared a stroke, and he eventually was taken by ambulance to ICU in Baptist.  We headed that way
  • Jay and Margaret arrived, Margaret dropped off first, and we were milling around outside the ICU doors waiting for news. Jay walks in, walks up to the reception desk..they're also cop and a nurse in there.  Jay  demands, “Open that door.”It opens, like the Red Sea, and Jay, retired, but in charge, barges in.
  • Family man—Jay loved taking relatives on road trips to southern Oklahoma, to towns and cemeteries, and his favorite place, Corbit.   The Henry’s  lived down the road from Wylie Post’s family home and walked there to tell his mother about the accident. Irony. Jay is being buried not too far from Wylie Post in the same cemetery.
  • He was proud of his and ancestors and heritage, including Clan Campbell,
  • I asked the kids about memories that might help us appreciate Jay and smile today.
  • Everyone of them mentioned the trips Jay and Margaret would take the entire family on.
  • They all spoke about a road trip to Mexico, with Jay driving, and Margaret reading a tour guide as the went. I can imagine some of the kids’ rolling eyes, and Jay was not the most patient person driving either, especially if someone was slow in front of him. He’d gun it and pass, even several cars (This is one of the reason I really identify with him, and it explains Susan’s gritted teeth when I drive—it’s genetic).
  • Jay was in charge and always trying to corral the 4 kids to stay on schedule, on a road trip of a cruise. Good luck. In Mexico City, he was ready to go, but couldn’t fine Jim and Jason. I think they’d been told not to, but there they were at the top of the Sun Temple. Wish we had a recording.  I can’t even corral my wife to stay on my schedules,—can’t image four of them-Genetic.
  • By the way, they drove in a station wagon, back before seat belts, and you’re old if you remember the second back seat looking out the rear view window, .
  • One more item—Sara told me there was a period  when the kids experienced Jay and Margaret falling in love again. She  said there were a  few times when one of them would barge in somewhere, and embarrassed, beat a hasty exit.
  • It was all about family. In these last years, Susan and Sarah and Jim became more and more involved with their care. Susan took over much of their bookkeeping and other duties, and Jay told me many times, “Thank you for loaning us your wife.”
  • There are portions of a fitting Scottish funeral poem speaking to each of you in this family.
  • Relax, I’ll not try to say it in Scottish, and  update the language. It’s Jay, talking to each of you:
  • “Good night, and joy be with you all, your mirth has cheered my heart, in sorrow may you never part. My spirit lives, but strength is gone, Remember children, the deeds I've done, and in your deeds I live again."


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Summer, and songs, of green

"Green Leaves, Green Grass...of Home, 9 x 12 watercolor, 140 lb cold press paper

everywhere. Driving the back roads on today's beautiful summer day, that's what you notice. Lush, alive, blooming, rain soaked.

Far different that our neighbors in drought-stricken western Oklahoma and West Texas, where the dominant color is brown. Life and death.

Thoughts of life's beauty  combine with pondering death, so close to home and friend brought two songs to mind, about summer and home and mortality.

"The Green Leaves of Summer," and the "Green Grass of Summer...."

"The green leaves of summer are calling me home."

"It's good to touch the green, green grass of home."

Thus today's quick watercolor painting.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Where Spirits Dwell, emotionally

"Where Spirits Dwell" -my friends Dr. Mary Carver, Dr. Christy Vincent. Blessed 

"Art is about emotion; if art  needs to be explained it is no longer art." 


Titles for paintings are sometime difficult to come by, and at other times they'are inherent.

So it was when I was commissioned to paint a retirement gift for great friend and spiritual  leader Dr. Christy Vincent, retiring from my dear former University of Central Oklahoma Department of Mass Communication this spring.

Honored and intimidated by the request from my dear friend  Dr. Mary Carver, chair of the department, it took time to find an appropriate subject. Christy and her husband Dr. Don Drew have been generous with my art in the past, and I didn't want to duplicate anything I'd done, especially with our love of New Mexico.

But Ghost Ranch and Georgia O'Keefe was on our mutual agenda  as I approached it. Thinking of my friend and her spirituality, of our love for New Mexico and art, of the Department and students and colleagues, and of Ghost Ranch, the title was in my head before I began. "Where Spirits Dwell."

That was the east part.

Research, my photos, and others, history, multiple angles and lighting and moods and emotions  gelled. Compositions came and went. Formats changed. Two failures consumed paint and canvas. Then spirits spoke, in human voices, about "having fun," and "paint what you feel."

Thus it was, picking colors, choosing a frame ahead of time, that emotion came together, along with editing--tweaking, revising, whatever--that the gift of emotion came together.

I've been doing this long enough to know the every painting has at least one story, multiple versions, and the outcome is often more than planned or expected.

That's more than one of the stories of this painting.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

A week of emotional travel

"Dawn on the Santa Fe Trail,"  New Mexico, 10 x 20 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

“Art is about emotion; if art needs to be explained it is no longer art." 


This was a week of emotional travel and rescue for me, thanks to fellow artists, paintings accomplished, a studio opening, compassionate advice, friends.

I don't think you can be an artist, of any type, and not have emotions. I love the quote by  Keith Richards when asked what he felt on stage. He replied, " I don't think, I feel."

A week ago, I was in the doldrums, working on a commission that was not going well, missing out on sales at Edmond Vibes. I was ready to quit, and be a greeter at Walmart. The downside of being open to emotion two-sided. You can't have positive without the other. 

"Sunset Road," loved by Ryan Day

on Friday  it changed. Friend, and wonderful multitalented artist Ryan Day, showed up at Paseo's First Friday at  In Your Eye Gallery for a great conversation. She then purchased my acrylic, "Sunset Road,"  and later bragged on it on social media.

Then her mother, Jennifer Lynn Farrar, a  Henry family friend and glass artist, bragged on it too, calling me a "hard-core artist" for painting in 105-degree heat last year during VIBES.

Stuck on the commission, and with the spark of attitude, and advice from my wife and a friend to "have fun," I revived it and finally finished it this weekend. Emotion.

And Friday, I got a call from Paseo Arts Association director Amanda Bleakley, offering me a studio space in the center. A dream, yes.

Then while studying another artist, I read this quote by Renoir. 

So this afternoon, painting from fun and a fav personal photo of New Mexico that is the header for my 14-year-old blog, I finished today's painting.   Emotion. Thankful.