"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.

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 Le Mars, 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 room. 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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hope from separation, watercolor

Hope, 5 by 7 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches, digitally enhanced for Walt
"When lilacs last in in the dooryard bloom'd
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky at night..."
                                                             --Walt Whitman
There are no more powerful words  in American literature...they express grief, love, passion, and to me also, hope for the future amid separation and loss.Yesterday's painting mentioning Frost was happenstance. Today, I've been thinking about Walt Whitman, and my favorite lines of poetry and what they mean, to me.
I'm not there yet in painting, especially this one after three attempts, but I know, in the face of tragedy, or loss, of grief,  of separation, there is hope of "ever returning spring," of beauty, of live and love.
Today's painting approaches that, not as well as I want, because life and lilacs are more beautiful, but hope, like spring lilacs fill your senses with what is beyond separation.
Day 26 WorldWatercolorMonth challenge
Palette--Prussian blue, Aurelin yellow, Alizirine crimson, Ultamarine blue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Choices in a yellow wood, "two roads"--watercolor

Choices in a yellow wood." watercolor, 5.5 by 7.5, 300 lb. d'Arches. Black for emphasis
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood ...
"I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference." 
Choices. Every day we make them, and each one makes a difference, some we never anticipate in our obsession with being in control and doing the "right" thing.
Our culture and Western civilization and heritage emphasize making the "right" choices--in other words taking the roads most traveled, the rational, the sensible, the proven, the safe, the dull.
We believe we are in "golden" woods, where the future is bright, if we make the right choices.
But. I wonder why I prefer the back roads to the Interstates, like the 17 miles of dirt and gravel state highway in New Mexico?
I worry about my students always trying to do what others do, taking the most traveled roads. I more and more admire and respect my students and those who essentially say, "To Hell with it," I'm going my own way." Bravo!
Is this not what Jesus taught? 
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Risk. The unexpected. Individuality. Failure. Success. Excitement. Adventure. Passion. Love. Living in Freedom.
As a type AAA personality, I find myself more and more envying the freedom of those who take the back roads, the less traveled. I'm trying. And I know of fellow travelers, balancing the broad way with the road less traveled.
Day 25 WorldWatercolorMonth challenge.
Palette--yellow wood, and the unexpected of the less traveled..

Monday, July 24, 2017

Genesis, "Red Shift"--watercolor

Genesis, 5.5 by 7.5 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches
"The Big Bang," the explosion of a universe out of nothing, constantly expanding, impossible to understand or grasp by earthbound mortals perhaps, yet embodied in the first few lines of the mortal Jewish Torah account of creation --making something from nothing--Genesis.
"Red shift," astronomers and other scientists explain, as the  universe expands at the speed of light. A Doppler effect--the more something goes away, the longer the wave length--shifting to red. (I had to look all that up)
In my past few minuscule mortal "years," I've often commented that I feel I'm about to explode, because so much "new" is happening, as the world moves faster, as I encounter new ideas and energies  in  life, in ideas, in experiences, in people.
I know why. There is red shift every day, not necessarily of people moving away, but in constant, rapid change.
Does that not mean that every moment, every day is a Genesis, an explosion of creation, of new universes? New energies, new ideas, new spiritual and mental and physical encounters--new possibilities? Saddest of all are those live as though creation is over, that there is only daily existence, senseless to the explosions all around them.
"Red Shift"--the infinite new possibilities  in a universe of people in space/time.
Day 24 of WorldWatercolorMonth challenge.
Palette--reds, yellows, blues--the primary colors of creation.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

That Lonesome Road, watercolor

Lonesome Road, watercolor, 5.5 by 7.5 300 ;b. d'Arches
At Trinity Presbyterian Church on 23rd Street in Oklahoma City recently, as the members stood up and asked for prayers and recounted their trials and tribulations, the wonderfully talented and always smiling pianist broke into song, one I hadn't heard before, "You gotta walk that lonesome valley."
It's listed in the African American Heritage Hymnal,  but the congregation didn't need the book. I went because I feel welcome in the small congregation, and journalist and former student Richard Mize is the pastor, full of rural aphorisms and stories.
Their version is a little different than Woodys, adding the lines
"Jesus walked that lonesome valley
He had to walk it by himself
Woodys version includes
You gotta walk that lonesome valley,
You got walk it by yourself,
Nobody here can walk it for you,
You gotta walk it by yourself
Theres a road that leads to glory
Through a valley far away.
These helped inspire todays watercolor effort, as I have been thinking about our journeys in time—a universal theme, and being alone, or lonesome (two different things). Though we are never as alone as we sometimes imagine, "surrounded by "a cloud of witnesses," --the lives we've touched are always with us.
Other songs:
  • "Look down, look down that lonesome road/ Before you travel on."--Gene Austin, Frank Sinatra
  • "Are you lonesome tonight,/Do you miss me tonight?" - Elvis
  • "I'm so lonesome I could cry," -Hank Williams
  • "I fall to pieces."  -Patsy Cline
  • "You were always on my mind" -Willie Nelson

Day 23 of WorldWatercolorMonth challenge

Palette-Quin gold, umbers, siennas, thalo blue, a touch of cad red.