"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.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


"Uncas," 5 x 7 watercolor, 300 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
The last one...as with any species, there will always be a lone remainder...traveling its universe without kin.
It happened to the mammoths, the Neanderthals. It will happen to humans. And unicorns will become extinct when there is no belief. No paintings.
Against stormy skies, magic fading. Uncas.
A fave former student suggested a unicorn painting in this series, titled "Unicurmudgeon." Fitting. Idea from another artist's vision.
So it is--Uncas.
(Uncas? Look it up, James Fenimore Cooper)

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Highwayman, 5 x 7 watercolor
Listening to The Highwaymen, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, et. al. We are all on the highway, led by unicorns.

Moonlight and dreams

"Moonlight and Dreams," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
Where do dreams come from? The magic of moonlight and unicorns in our lives--people, places, our journeys in body and heart and soul.
Unicorns are supposed to be white,  but they take on the color of moonlight and our surrounding memories, like our dreams. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018


"Unicornicopia", 5 b7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
“Stars were golden unicorns neighing unheard through blue meadows.” 
― William FaulknerSoldiers' Pay


Stardust, 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
Unicornacopia? Why not. Today's watercolor, the magic and dust of creation.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Unicorn universe

Universe, 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
"...it's full of stars...." ---2001, A Space Odyssey
Another of those dull depressing winter days in a depressed state and nation.
We need stars and unicorns. Today's watercolor.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The four horses of the apocalypse . and magic!

Peace, 5 by 7 watercolor

Color, 5 by 7 watercolor
Hope, 5 by 7 watercolor
Magic, 5 by 7 watercolor

Unicorn! Reaction to yesterday's unicorn painting and believing in magic tells me there is a crying need for magic in this state and country and world right now. People are tired of the overwhelming materialism and corruption.
We need some unicorns. Not death, famine, war and conquest, from Rev. 6:1. 
So here are the four horses of the apocalypse, three joining yesterday's, full of magic for people and judgment for those who believe only in themselves (the legislature, and congress and the president, and certain other dictators. 
Reminding us there is vibrant color and magic and peace and hope.

Monday, February 19, 2018


"Magic," watercolor birthday card, 5 x 7
There's still magic in the world, especially if you're a child.
What I love about watercolor is when magic happens  in a painting--something not expected nor planned. It reminds me, as an adult,  that in color and life and love there is still magic.
And what symbolizes magic better than a unicorn...how can you not believe in magic?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Inspiration, preparation, perspiration, composition, and education

Jemez Pueblo sandstone, 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press
Success. I'm happy with this painting.
Commissioned by a colleague and friend, it has to be almost perfect. First attempt was not a failure, but without sufficient inspiration, preparation, perspiration and composition. But it provided the education, and confidence to try again.
It's been brewing and stewing for a week now, and now I think I have it. But I bet I try again, with another composition. Such is the magnetism of New Mexico, watercolor, and a friend's request.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Story of a painting

Rock of Ages at Jemez Pueblo, 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press
Paintings, like writing, need to stew and brew for a while. This reddish sandstone formation caught my eye  in New Mexico a little over a year ago, and then I saw another photo of it taken by a UCO student.
I painted a small card in December and then last month another. You can see it at lower right. 
The stew is brewing, but takes more ingredients.
Value and composition sketches. Color experiments.
The maxim in watercolor is plan long, paint fast, and I usually don't take enough time planning, and paint too fast.
This time it was slow going both in planning, and in painting. I usually paint the sky first, but learned from this that I need to reverse the order because of the dark sky. But magic did happen in a few happy accidents here, and I gained some freedom and license in composition to move beyond the photographs.
I'm happy, but not satisfied with this, as it has been commissioned by a colleague, and will try again, reducing the foreground--which is usually my nemesis, and increasing and improving the sky. 
So the story will continue.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Chaco Challenge--All About Geometry

Chaco Geometry, watercolor, 5 x 7, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
'Chaco is all about geometry on earth and in the heavens.'
Painting about, or at, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico is a challenge,  and it was for me last month during my daily happy things watercolors. About six attempts were unsuccessful
I wrote about it, and intended to post the painting, but didn't, so unhappy was I at the "happy" subject.
I've painted at Chaco before, and Fajada Butte is a favorite. But painting the ruins of the Anasazi is intimidating, because the Anasazi deserve respect. A poor painting would not be worthy. The stonework is varied in a million shapes and angles and shadows, and if you get too detailed, you lose the effects of Chaco, and the emotion the painting carries.  
As a detail-oriented person, that makes it almost impossible.
But last month, I wrote, after another attempt:
"Wanted to keep it abstract and failed. Chaco is all about geometry, on earth and in the heavens, and I've got to try again, keeping that in mind.
"But here's the attempt--failed because of the infinite geometry of the bricks--should have left them alone. "
Failure Number 1
Then yesterday my friend and former right hand at UCO, Sherry Sump, commented that the failed Chaco painting was her favorite (She's a Westerner and biased).
So today, I had to try again, keeping in mind geometry. "Paint what you feel, not what you see," said one art teacher.
"Paint shapes, not lines," said another.
Today's effort came from those thoughts. Better. I'm happy with this. It would not have happened without all those failures.
Here is the first failure, and what I wrote a month ago, and Don Strel's inspiring photograph below.
(I've written many times about Chaco, and if you search on the blog, you'll find lots of photos and comments and poetry.)

(From January 19, unpublished)
"Chaco Canyon in New Mexico makes me happy, but trying to paint it is an exercise in frustration.
was inspired to try again today, because Anne Hillerman, daughter of the late Okie mystery writer and journalist Tony Hillerman who wrote about the Navajo nation, will be speaking at Full Circle Bookstore tomorrow.
The book by Tony and his brother, the late Barney who was an OKC photographer, is Hillerman Country. I have a signed copy of it, signed by him when we inducted him into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame years ago (He's a United Press International vet, wrote A Fly on the Wall, set in the Oklahoma Capitol, and ran the UNM Journalism School.) I've read all his books.
Don Strel photo in Hillerman's Landscape
I also have Anne's  book, Tony Hillerman's Landscape, photographs by her husband Don Strel. That's where I saw the photo that inspired this. It's also signed by them. She has continued her father's famous characters in her three mystery novels. Yes, I've read them.
Anyway, I'm going, thanks to info from a friend, and former student at OSU, Lynne Baldwin Matzell.
But I dug out the books and found this photo by Don. Had to try. 
Wanted to keep it abstract and failed. Chaco is all about geometry, on earth and in the heavens, and I've got to try again, keeping that in mind.
But here's the attempt--failed because of the infinite geometry of the bricks--should have left them alone.
Frustration in happiness--Chaco Canyon."