"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, March 30, 2014

Barn, again

Barn, again, 9 by 12, 140# d'Arches paper
This is based on a composition in Ray Campbell Smith's book, "Landscapes in Watercolour," but with an American barn instead of an English one, though I'm still experimenting with his choice of colors. It took several tries.

OKC Saturday sounds and shadows and survivors

I have no idea how these long these old ones will survive, as downtown continues to expand with housing and stores and parking lots, but they're both beautiful. I suspect the doorway in Bricktown will be refurbished. The old tree has weathered many storms but probably will not last.

OKC Saturday sounds and shadows--New...


OKC Saturday sounds and shadows--Old...


OKC Saturday--shadows, sounds & traffic cones-I

If OKC's downtown needs a logo and symbol these days, it ought to be one of those tall skinny fluorescent traffic cones.
So I thought as a sat in Kitchen No. 324 yesterday, scribbling notes from a photo trip downtown, looking out at the street barricades and men working, listening to the constant friendly bubbling of talk in the restaurant. 
Between sips of coffee and lunch, here's the stream in my reporter's notebook:
Saturday construction sounds--hammers and power tools and jackhammers and closed streets and traffic cones and hard hats and backhoes.
Old  brick and new brick, old elegant architecture and new angular designs and glass facades. Boarded up windows and windows open to the blue sky.
The shadows of open rafters and steel beams and scaffolding. Construction cranes and skyscrapers and abstract metal sculptures. More condos and parking garages taking shape. Colored insulation sheathing  new buildings  framed in scaffolding. 
Project 180 barricades and walkways--building streets, sidewalks, parks. 
So much energy
Resurrecting the city from the oxymoron"Urban Renewal" that killed downtown years ago.
The sound of so much energy. Not just of energy companies but of people working on Saturdays, people living downtown. 
New town homes and condos everywhere, lofts, new hotels, people out walking dogs, jogging, gathered in open air grills in Deep Deuce and coffee shops and cafes in Automobile Alley. The moan of diesel locomotives. More crowds in Bricktown. Film Row construction. People heading to the OKC Museum of Art Ansel Adams exhibit.
The mix of cultures--Asian, black, Hispanic, Indian, gringo. People holding hands--30 somethings and people stooped with age.
Not much car traffic, but oh so much people traffic.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No word for "artist," and a bear fetish

"The Zunis have no word for 'artist,'" the Santa Fe shopkeeper told me. "They just do."
On a whim, I'd stopped in the Keshi shop on Don Gaspar Street a week ago. The sign read "The Zuni Connection." Although I'd walked past it many times, for some reason I went in the door opened to the cool afternoon sunshine, and discovered another face and more stories about New Mexico.
The store, in business since 1981, is named for the word Zunis use as a traditional greeting and is pronounced Kay-she. Inside I found hundreds of the carved fetishes on shelves and cases, open for picking up and examining the stone carvings of different animals, all of which have meanings to the Zunis. That pueblo is located in far western New Mexico, and distinct from most of the other pueblos up and down the Rio Grand valley. Here's a link with videos of the Zunis.
"The Zunis believe the fetish chooses you," she said, and I spent 30 minutes going from case to case. The jewelry cases were the only ones locked, for good reason,  and sooner or later I found myself looking at many bear fetishes. As a lover of bears, especially grizz, I've often considered it my totem.
I found several, left, and returned in 30 minutes to buy a small bear fetish, carved out of black Jet and with turquoise eyes and heart inlaid. 
Georgia Quandelacy
It's not signed, because most Zunis consider that egotistical and inappropriate. But the sticker had the name of the artist on it--Georgia Quandelacy, a third generation carver.
When you buy a fetish, the store gives you a small packet of blue corn meal, with instructions. Corn is also sacred to the Zunis and other Indians, and it is never sold, but given, as the mother, the connection between earth and all life. Giving the corn is a reminder to give back and be thankful.
You take a bit of the corn meal and sprinkle a bit on the back of the fetish in a meditative ritual to honor the spirit in the fetish. When you offer corn to your fetish, in return you will be blessed.
Zunis carry their fetishes when they are hunting and elsewhere, not worshiping the image, but the spirit of the animal within. Each of the different animals have specific meanings and symbolism to the Zuni people.
Bear, according to the Zuni, is the principal animal for the Pueblo People and they are the most prevalent fetishes. Bear fetishes are used for healing, protection, strength, journeying, mothering, hunting and gathering. Bear's hibernation reminds us of  the value of going within. 
Turquoise tends to bring good fortune, strength and helps overcome illness. Native 
Americans have prized turquoise since the time of the Aztecs, who mined it in New
Bear is the most human of animals, and symbolizes for me and others, the
 connection of all life and the interconnectedness of all spirituality. These people
 don't make the division between work and every day life and spirituality and
 religion like most Westerners do. No wonder there is no word for "artist." That
 signifies a separation from regular life.
To me, their beliefs and civilization is stronger than ours because of that. They were
 here before us, and will be here after us.
I'm glad this bear fetish chose me, and blessed me by sparking new stories and 
thoughts. He resides next to my computer and painting table.
Some of the wording in this article comes from the Zuni. I reprint it as fact. If there are
errors, they come from my ignorance and I apologize. No disrespect intended.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Watercolour," Brit artists and social media

British influence in  "colour," trial watercolor, 8 by 6, 140 # d'Arches
Today's painting above has an international story with it, thanks to "social media." Notice I spelled "colour" the British way, for a reason.
Social media has made the world much smaller and more fruitful as I've met and contacted new people and old.
Thus it is that recently, someone in the UK favorited one of my paintings earlier this month on twitter, and we've begun following each other.
We have much in common. He's Ian McKendrick from Cambridge, U.K., and he's a watercolour artist and student, in addition to being a social media guru for business...fitting in with what I teach in journalism these days. His web site Ian McKendrick for his watercolours is really sophisticated. I'm envious and have been prodded to develop my own site, separate from this blog. 
I've noticed that his favoriting of my paintings added much to my blog traffic, and I've also favorited his paintings. 
He showed a painting, he calls them "projects," from another Brit painter's book, and so I ordered three of the books. One of them arrived today, and inspired this experimental painting.
What I gained most from the book "Landscapes in Watercolour" was new combinations of "colours." Oh, here's the link to this painters page, and his name is Ray Campbell Smith.
I do notice that much of his work has much more atmosphere and moisture in the air than we have here in Oklahoma, and certainly in my beloved West, where the landscapes are more dramatic. In addition, I've been experimenting more and more with brilliant color, but still I think anyone who is painting in watercolour is always a student, always learning. Thus this painting today.
And here too is Ian's web page as a Social media guru. His twitter handle is @watercolourJrny.
I hope to meet him in person when we travel to the UK this summer, but in the mean time, we'll certainly be sharing more and more. Now if this were really "British style," the comma would be outside those quote marks and in the following. I love the spelling of "watercolor," but though a direct descendant of King Edward Longshanks , the tyrant in "Braveheart," (ironically now married to a Campbell), I'm firmly an American (not a Yankee though) journalist, and periods and commas always go outside quote marks--over here in the "colonies."
Isn't it great the stories behind paintings? So much to learn.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hunting for color on a cloudy day at Plaza

On a whim, I went back to Oklahoma City's Plaza District on 16th street today, wanting some photos for watercolors. It was chilly and windy, and by the time I got there, light cloud cover. No sunlight, so the colors were muted. And I found lots of gray buildings too, like Saints and The Mule. But there is color there, and these have been computer enhanced on saturation. 
My favorite...the green door. Remember that song, "Who's that behind the Green Door?" Of course you don't, unless you're my age. And I end this with a pink elephant, outside the white Empire pizza place. Use your imagination.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Vagabond's House, 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 watercolor, idea from one of my Dad's paintings

"The House by the Side of the Road"
             by Sam Walter Foss 

He was a friend to man, and he lived
In a house by the side of the road -- Homer

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran --
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by --
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban --
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan --
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road --
It's here the race of men go by.
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish -- so am I;
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.


Thursday, March 13, 2014


In anticipation...8 1/2 by 7 1/2 watercolor, handmade Indian paper
Equinox nears, and spring will be here officially, and with it the probable return of the skyscrapers of the Great Plains, cumulus clouds rising thousands of feet in the humid air, bringing rain, and an infinity of ever-changing shapes, colors and light. 
I'm fascinated by the skies out here, and in the west, where mountains are their roots. It's good to enter the seasons of the clouds.
Today's painting, in anticipation....
              “God is a cloud from which rain fell.”
                    ― Dejan Stojanovic,
The Sun Watches the Sun

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pueblo pondering

Taos two...8 x 8 1/2 watercolor, handmade paper from  India
Taos Pueblo in New Mexico is closed to the public this month, and that is good, though we Caucasians can wonder why, and even if we were told, we would not understand.
When you know you come from the earth, and that all things and beings are related, part of a larger whole, spirituality is inseparable from daily life.
We could learn much here, we'd be richer ourselves, if we'd shut down our national parks and public areas for a year at a time, banning traffic and people, to let the earth and our fellow creatures rejuvenate.
But we are too money and time obsessed, too divorced from the wonder of all things to just stop, and let the earth breathe without us. We think we're civilized, but this town and people were here before we were...and they'll be here after we are gone.
Thus today's painting...Taos Two.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Out here there's the sky

High Plains sunset, 8 by 8 watercolor, handmade Indian paper
"Out here there's the sky," wrote Willa Cather in Death Comes for the Archbishop, set in New Mexico. As a resident of the Great Plains in Nebraska, she knew.
So does my sister-in-law Cathrina Helms Clark, in Lubbock, where the only drama in landscape is overhead. Here's her photograph this evening, walking their dog Ranger. And my promised daily painting.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Taos...from the earth, sky and water

Taos Pueblo--earth, sky and water flowing together, 8 by 9 watercolor
Taos Pueblo...rising from mother earth into the sun bright sky, soaring  with the sacred mountain, and  with life water at its feet.
Writing beside the Taos river
I like to come when the tourists aren't there, though I am one. You can sense the oneness of creation, of mankind's small niche in the total, of a civilization not subject to the tyranny and superficiality of the white man's clock. 
The spirit of the place and people draws us less fortunates in wonder and awe, awakening something deeper inside.
The photo at right is from my last student trip 10 years ago, gathering strength from the earth, sky and water as the Pueblo does spiritually and literally.
And with the New Mexico itch for spring break, today's painting, from memory, of that ancient adobe.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The High Road beckons

The High Road, 6 by 9 watercolor, 140# d'Arches
It's called "The High Road to Taos." branching off the main highway at Espanola or Pojoaque and heading toward my favorite New Mexico mountains, the Truchas peaks. 
You go back in time the higher in altitude you get, because of the ancient Indian pueblos and Spanish villages, like Chimayo', Nambe, Cundiyo, Truchas and Las Trampas. Some people up there still speak Castillian Spanish, from the days of the Conquistadors.
The way hasn't been paved long, and it's an excellent back road trip away from tourist traffic to our favorite town, Truchas, at more than 8,000 feet in elevation, still 5,000 feet below the 13,000 foot trio of Truchas peaks looming above. 
Most people don't know it, but they are the mountains in the famous Ansel Adams photograph, Moonrise over Hernadez, N.M.
The High Road to Truchas beckons as I see it in the days before pavement.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Paseo, color in the night

Paseo at Night, 5 by 8 watercolor 140# d'Arches
The Paseo Arts District in OKC is all about color, from the building exteriors, to the multiple colors of artists and art  interiors.
First Friday, last night, I saw the iconic "white" building bathed in incandescent light, and snapped a photo. 
"Use any color you want," said Frank Francese at the  watercolor workshop here last year. Vibrant Lessons
So here it is, first attempt, rough, but still the color and spirit of Paseo at night. More coming, I hope. And the photograph.