"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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A month of happiness

Here they are, about 30 daily watercolors for this month, prompted by thoughts of happy things. Some good, some fair and few not so much. But lots of hours thinking, planning painting, writing, work...and learning. Missing are two that were granddaughters' birthday cards.

Rock of ages--sandstone

Sandstone at Jemez, 5 by 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
Sandstone. In infinite  shapes and colors, it's a signature rock of the Southwest, telling stories of eons past and to come
It always draws the eye, captures the attention of a traveler, a photographer, an artist. Much of it is spiritual for the peoples who live nearby.
 When I see sandstone on the horizon, anywhere, I am happy...it's a rock of ages, home of the souls.
This is a study for a larger piece commissioned by a friend. Even trying to paint the orange red sandstone of Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico makes me happy. It's down mountain from the Valles Caldera, as a storm brews in the background.
(Thus is complete the #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge.)
In October

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Super Blue Moon mood

Mood Maker, 5 by 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
Mood maker. Tonight and tomorrow morning will be a super blue moon that will turn almost red in pre-dawn light.
The moon's power  moves tides on the earth, in people and in wildlife, evoking memories, moods, romances and more throughout time.
It made me happy, just looking at it tonight, rising over rooftops, glittering white. As darkness fell, it illuminated the countryside. Had there been snow, it would have been even more dramatic.
This isn't the first time I've painted it, or written about it, and likely won't be the last.
It's my second watercolor today, after missing yesterday's daily challenge. One more to go for 31 in January.
(#worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge)
A few other paintings, articles:
Oklahoma Moonrise

December Moon
Misty Turquoise Moon

A taste of happiness

A taste of happiness, watercolor, 5 by 7, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
Oranges make me happy. Their look, their smell, their texture, their taste, their moisture. Even peeling them is an exercise in anticipation.
I take a couple of these little fellows with me when I go painting in the Current COOP Studio in Oklahoma City. They and an apple tided me over for lunch.
Yesterday was the first day in January I haven't painted something, so had to make that up today with two. This is the first, and it isn't great, certainly not as great as the oranges, but lessons are learned. 
(#Worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge.)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Mystical triangulated power and fun

Mystic Triangles, 5 by 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press papager
Triangles. I think  I first met triangles when I took geometry and trig in high school, but they were just shapes and angles and equations in this science-material Western world we live in.
The bridge--triangles in motion
Through the years I've gained appreciation for  the ancients' pyramids, especially for the Egyptians and Mayans' meticulous accuracy in measuring the cosmos  
But other than the weird theories surrounding the pyramid on the back of our money, I still never  paid much attention to triangles.
Mystic movement--digitally enhanced
Then yesterday, as I watched the huge steel bridges being lowered in place over Broadway Extension, I was awed by  the structural power of triangles in those structures. I'm no engineer or architect, but the principles embodied in those projects is amazing.
Yesterday afternoon at Steve's Rib for one of our games, my long-time chess partner,  John Lawton, marveled at my photos of the event, and exclaimed about the triangles. John is an acrylic painter whose abstracts explode in shapes and colors...and he paints out-of-this-world mystic triangles.
Power of Triangles, 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. cold press paper
Triangles have ancient power in more than just architecture.
Consider that the tower of Babel a pyramid, like the ziggurat unearthed at Ur, home of Abraham.
Got me to thinking about my daily painting, so I tried something triangularly abstract of one of the bridge photos yesterday. And then today, I just tried to do something cosmic with a triangle, without going all New Age on you.
Then, since we're going mystic, let's digitally play with the colors on both.
Power, digitally enhanced
Thus you have, yesterday's bridge painting. Today's triangle. And two mystic explosions of the power of triangles beyond the physical world. Fun. These made me happy.
Oh, and here's a link about the mystic power of triangles:  Spiritual Triangles .
(Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge.)


Saturday, January 27, 2018

All aboard for a gigantic spectacle of bridgework

How do you move 4 million pounds of steel across the highway?
Crowd at ODOT viewing area, Click to enlarge all photos.
I don't know, and the engineering and technology involved boggles the mind, and the magnitude of the project is a real spectacle. Along with many others, I stood in cold this morning as contractors for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation started moving two railroad trusses across the closed Broadway Extension I-235 at North 50th Street. 
You'll rarely see Broadway Extension closed, view from 50th Street.
North truss waiting to be moved at center top.
ODOT set up a viewing area on the east side, and about 100 people showed up to watch the first truss being placed this morning. ODOT is one of the pros in our sometimes dysfunctional state government--the viewing area was a public service, but also a safety measure, keeping crowds from getting into construction zones.
Here's an untold story
The bridge and its northern partner are being moved from the construction site several hundred yards north.
The crowd included young and old and lots of would-be engineers commenting away, all marveling at the events as the truss was inched into place to fit on giant bolts.
They shut down I-235 last night, and by the time I arrived about 8:30 this morning, the truss was already moved south. 
When I left at just after 10, it had been placed on the a concrete pillars that will allow the BNSF freights to cross the widened I-235 when completed--the largest project in ODOT history at $88 million. While I was there,  four BNSF freights rumbled by on the heavily transited soon-to-be replaced existing bridge, sounding their horns, adding to the atmosphere of the constant warning beeping of construction vehicles backing up.
ODOT held a televised news conference explaining the project
Work is no where near over. Once in place, it'll be up to the railroad to relocate the tracks, and there's lots of work left for  the highway contractor.
You can catch live online streaming at www.i235live.com.
Inch by inch

Or even less than nch by inch

The scale of this is astounding

In place!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sandia Sunset

Sandia Sunset, daily watercolor, 5 x 7 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
The Sandia Mountains loom over Albuquerque, and when you grow up there, perhaps taking them for granted, they imprint on your consciousness for the rest of your life.
I've tried to paint them many times, never as accurately or passionately as my dad, but they're always there in my mind and soul. 
Hurley's storm over the Sandias
You forget sometimes, until you return to New Mexico and Albuquerque, and they dominate the Eastern skyline, 5,000 feet above the city. If I forget, I'm always reminded by Wilson Hurley's gigantic triptych at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. I go and gaze and almost worship in awe. 
Of course, my brother and I have some of Dad's oil paintings in our homes, and I have several of my smaller watercolors here well. And views, photos of the Sandias always grab my attention--they're dramatic because of their height, their color and how they change the weather, at the east edge of the Great Plains on one side, and the Rio Grande valley on the west.
The Sandias, named by the conquistadors 500 years ago as they marched homesick and thirsty up the Rio Grande valley, at sunset, look like a watermelon, with a green rind on top and the granite face turning red in the sunset. Thus the Spanish name, "Sandia."
They loom over me as well, and make my happy.
(Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge)
Earlier paintings, photos:

Coffee with Clark kind of morning

Sophie and Snoops demand attention

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Delicious Colors of Happiness.

Delicious Colors, 4" x 5" watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano cold press paper
They had me at "turquoise."
Cherry. Lemon. Turquoise.
Those were the words that were the prompt for the January paint happy things daily challenge today from #worldwatercolorgroup.
I've sorta been going my own way on painting happy things every day this month, but clicked on the @Doodlewash website today for ideas.
How could I resist? Turquoise is a sacred stone, and several shades of color for anyone growing up in New Mexico or the Southwest. Remember that my first painting this month was "Turquoise Dawn Happiness" 24 days ago.
So why not? Delicious. Colors of Happiness.

An opinionated journal of years of changes at UCO-Part 2

The W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute at entrance to campus
Harold Holden sculpture of Broncho
"building a student-conscious campus"

(An unsanctioned look back at UCO--personal opinion)
Everyone has pet peeves and pet projects, I believe. That is certainly true  of the journalists I've known. Certainly of my professor colleagues. And over the years I've realized it is true as well of university administrators, no matter the level.
There's no judgment in that, because pet peeves and pet projects are neither bad nor good on their face.
What I came to value in my years at the University of Central Oklahoma were colleagues and superiors who could be detached enough to view their personal opinions and interests in a fair manner...working to make sure that they could work for the overall benefit of students and the university as a whole.
Entrance to campus
 And I dreaded those who were so self-centered that they could not be fair, would put personal projects and beliefs before the common good. That destructive behavior can harm or destroy  every level of the university, from staff operations, to classrooms,  departments, colleges and the university as a whole. Such unethical existence is the very opposite of the standards of professionalism educated, or any others for that matter, people should exhibit.
Even more dreaded were those micro-managers who would take disagreement or differences personally, and hold grudges and seek vengeance against those who didn't kowtow to all their wishes.
I've known both kinds, and realize every profession have those opposites. We've been fortunate over the years at UCO to have more of the positive people than the negative.
Looking back at the changes at UCO,  in this top-down administrative world of Oklahoma, that is certainly true of the four people who have been president.
I began this journal series, documenting the visual, physical plant changes at UCO which were not here when I started. It's been a continuing process of building, for the most part,  a more student-conscious campus.
George Nigh's pet projects in his five years here served the university as a whole, taking it from a stuck-in-the-status quo world as a commuter college. I may poke fun at all the fake Greek columns and hodge-podge architecture around campus that is part of his heritage, but for the vast majority of his  projects immensely benefited the university.
When Roger Webb took over as president in 2007, serving until 2011, the university was starting to explode in  enrollment, but it lacked needed improvements you couldn't see--infrastructure.
When I arrived, we had one computer in the department. There were no computer labs on campus. Through the early years I cobbled together, missing funds, an early Mac lab. President Webb came to a campus with few if any computer labs on campus, and there was almost no coordination for fees to pay for coordinating and updating them. His hiring and focus on that need changed the way the university operated, and looks.
Nigh's addition that joined two department buildings
In addition, I'm forever grateful that he pushed, and then Provost Don Betz authorized, the merger of the Journalism Department and Oral Communication department that housed broadcast. Nigh's addition joined the building, but not the people inside. I'd been working on that needed change for almost five years, and it took a couple more before it happened. 
We were fighting against academic turf and tradition, plus years of ill will between the two and unequal distribution of resources to students, but it made no sense to have two separate departments, given the changes in communication. That was my pet peeve and project. We still have a neglected building--student study areas, computer labs, faculty bathrooms, etc.--but at least we're merged, and still working on it.
Thus was born today's Mass Communication Department. It wouldn't have happened if it had not been for Roger Webb and Don Betz.
Webb had his pet projects as well--from his background in law enforcement, and academic turf claims were overrode by presidential fiat (another word I've always wanted to use)--thus the School of Criminal Justice came to be, splitting from Sociology, and the building of the Forensic Science Building, now named after Webb.
When I first came, I was told we'd soon build a classroom building because we needed more space. We still need more space.  Twenty years later, the Transformative Learning Center was built, though not every department has access to its classrooms. "Transformative learning" is one of the principles now enshrined in UCO's mantra, knowing there's more to learning than lectures. Those of us somewhat old sarcastic types claim we've been doing this for years, and jibe at it as the "learning learning" center, since all learning is "transformative." But it's great to have a new building, with great technology and more space. It is really cool.
Other improvements included  a wellness center,  new student housing, and additions to the football stadium, a continuing pet project of administrators, but not of most faculty, nor most students who never attend games. There are many other atheltic facility improvements for other sports.
But sculptures and landscaping improved on campus with increasingly uniform signage.
So here are more photos of the physical changes taking place during Roger Webb's tenure. 
The really cool Transformative Learning Center...
Wellness center
 The Commons--new student housing north of the library, south of Wellness Center
New student housing


Wantland Stadium has been spiffed up, with help of fees assessed every UCO student
And private support, including a great community bank

 The athletic program makes a concerted effort to attract crowds, but we're not OU or OSU.

Plunkett Park is a field where the Industrial Arts Building was when I started.
Breathe was one of first new sculptures on campus

Outside Wellness Center, UCO is an Olympic training center

Don't know when this Broncho was erected

This corner was dedicated before I came, but landscaping has been improved.

Took years to get the student darkroom out of the unsafe basement, but we named it after our colleague, the photo program founder, Woody Gaddis, one of just five journalism faculty when I arrived.
(Next,  changes under current President Don Betz) 
Click here to read Part 1

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Stories in strata

Strata's Stories, 8 x 10 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold-press paper
Strata makes me happy. I love the Southwest and New Mexico where you can see so many relatively raw geologic land forms and the strata that compose them, rather than the softer landscapes molded by moisture and often hidden by vegetation.
Strata tells so many stories, indicates so much history and pre-history, prompts the imagination, reminds you of how brief our lives are against the span of eons of creation.  
The more strata, the more interesting the shapes, the older the landforms, and wider diversity of colors. 
What a metaphor for our lives. We all build up strata, and have it eroded, through the years, different levels and colors, molded by travels, experiences, locations, people, memories.
I've always been captivated, and been challenged by the great paintings of masters like Charlie Russell and others who often used this contrast of sunlight and shadow to make paintings jump off  the canvas. 
I wanted to experiment with the shapes and colors of day's end--an aging day against aging rocks--another metaphor indeed. Varied strata fascinates me, always catches my attention with its beauty, making me happy. First attempt.
(Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Landmarks on the horizon and in our lives

Dawn at Hermit's Peak, 5 by 7 watercolor card
There are landmarks on the horizon and in our lives--in our travels, in our languages, in our souls.
The word first described physical features that stood out to travelers before maps, but it's now a metaphor for so much more.
This really sunk in when I read Robert MacFarlane's book, "Landmarks," which explores the many words peculiar to specific geographic  locations.
But there are other landmarks in our lives, both positive and negative, but since I'm painting happy things this month, consider...falling in love, marriage, the births of children and grandchildren, certain trips, certain people...the list goes on.
And, out West where geographic landmarks stand out more, they also take on more than one level of importance, because they bring back memories and happiness.
Such is the hulk of rock at the eastern edge of the Great Plains, near Las Vegas, New Mexico...Hermit's Peak.
It juts out from the Sangre de Cristo mountain front, beckoning travelers since the days of the Santa Fe Trail.
Now it has become a landmark for the nearby church camp, Blue Haven, where we took our children years ago, and where some of my grandchildren have gone. I know memories will always flood their minds when they see that mountain, as they approach from West Texas. Even for me, when its silhouette rises over the horizon, I know I'm almost home to the mountains inside me.
It has become also a landmark for happy memories. So here is a birthday card for one of those kids.
(Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Mountain Time

Mountain Time, 8 x 10 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Happy? What makes me happy? Mountains. Big skies. Autumn. Cabins. Woodsmoke.
You may leave the mountains, but they never leave you. Grow up in New Mexico, or the West...you just know.
On a gray day like today, or on any day for that matter, we need more color in our lives. Mountains do that for me, in my imagination, my memory, or in person. Mountain time.
Today's watercolor--makes you want to go there, doesn't it?
(Daily #watercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Play time, beach time

Beach time, 5 1/2 by 10 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Time to play. After two days of trying to paint a structure at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and six attempts of frustration, I read something this morning about play and how important it is.
No sermon or lecture here, just tuning into happiness. The phrase that caught me is that "play is like a day at the beach."
Growing up in the Southwest, I'm not a big fan of large bodies of water. It seems to me that bad things can happen when you're in water over your head. Like drowning, sharks, jellyfish, the Titanic, the Lusitania, hurricanes.  Some of that probably has to do with being pushed into a deep swimming pool when I was a kid, before I could swim.  
But Susan is a beach person, and I've come to enjoy at least the sound of eternal lapping of waves against the shore. And it's also fun to people watch. The beach is a place to play, and that's fun, and happy.
So behold, fun playing at watercolor, brilliant colors, a beach where sky and sand and water blend together, rather than trying so hard.
(Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy challenge.)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lonesome Road

Lonesome Road, 7 1/2 by 10 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press pqper
"Look down, look down that lonesome road." Remember that song? That's whatI think about when I get in the wide open spaces on the Great Plains.
They make me happy...alone sometimes, but not lonesome. They speak of adventure around the next bend, over the horizon. Today's watercolor is inspired by the "Dry Cimarron Highway"  in northeast New Mexico, which turns to gravel in places. 
The photo I took west of the Oklahoma Panhandle is my Facebook cover photo, and is the idea behind it. I think I'm happiest with the quality of this painting of all I've done this month.
(Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

This old house

"This Old House," 5 1/2 by 7 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
A favorite old song is "This Old House." Catchy tune and beat, up lifting. And now as I get older, the lyrics  fit even more, reminding me of the metaphor.
I've always been attracted to abandoned rural buildings, I think because they spur my interest about the lives and stories that are probably long lost and forgotten. As a photographer I've almost always stopped to get photos of the vacant windows and weathered siding of farm houses, of barns, or sheds. 
To me they're not sad, but adventures in imagination, adventures along the back roads. Those are adventures in happiness.
Today's painting was inspired by this photo by @DewEze on Facebook, thanking farmers for not taking off work in cold weather.
Daily #worldwatercolorgroup January paint happy things challenge 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It's a happy cornbread-in-cast-iron-skillet kind of day

The smell of happy, 4 by 5 1/2 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Cornbread makes me happy, especially when it's cooked in a cast iron skillet or other relic of the past.
None of this namby-pamby tin or aluminum fakeries. Real cornbread.
When was the first time you tasted cornbread made that way? The delicious smell still gets you doesn't it? 
Today's one of those days. Cooped up in the house because of the cold, I was stuck on what to paint that makes me happy, part of the daily challenge this month. In fact, kinda blue.  And then in the cabinet, I see cornbread mix.
I know, I know, not made from scratch, but it'll still be different by the time I add my ingredients--including, but no all, red child powder from Chimayo, New Mexico.
I know, I know, it'd be better  with a big pot of pinto beans, or chili, or stew, in which you can crumble the cornbread up. But that will take more time. Still, I can dream about being cooped up in a cabin with a wood burning stove and cornbread rising to a golden brown.
The first time I remember that kind of cornbread was in deep East Texas long ago, walking as a kid down to my grandmother's house with cousins. My mother's mother, Grandmother Culp, would make corn bread in cast iron molds resembling half corn ears. Add some butter and mmmm.
So while you're reading this, or even before you do, I'm making some real cornbread in a cast iron pot I expect belonged to my other Grandmother, Cuba Reasor, and handed down to me by my late Uncle Mike. 
It makes excellent, happy cornbread. My mood has already improved, just writing about it.
Daily watercolor for the  #worldwatercolorgroup January Paint happy things challenge.
Cast iron happiness