"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.

Friday, May 31, 2019

"Beets me," red chiles please

"Red Chiles," 5 x 7 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper
I'm not real fond of beets, but....
"Beet Red," was the last color-a-day #watercolor challenge prompt from #doodlewashMay2019.
Excuse me, I prefer red chiles, hanging on an a ristra from a viga on an adobe wall in the New Mexico sunlight.
Nothing against beets, and if you doctor them enough, ok...but red chiles need no doctoring. In fact they are the seasoning for all kinds of food, even "red" hot meals.
Don't tell me they're not "beet red." How many shades of red are there in a beet, anyway? Ditto for red chiles, especially in the strong Southwestern light and high altitude dry air,  in the shadows.
I've tried to bring ristras  back here and hang them on the outdoor lights, but the humidity soon makes them rot. So I have to dream about them--and store red chile powder in the frig. 
And paint them. #WorldWatercolorGroup

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Blue Moon farewell for "The Prophet"

"Blue Moon Farewell," 5 x 7 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico
"Blue Moon," today's color-a-day #watercolor prompt from #doodlewashMay2019, brought only images of Elvis singing "Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone...."
Until last night, when I picked up a copy of "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran and read most of it.
I was disconcerted that the challenges didn't include the color of the Gods, turquoise, although the peacock feather comes close. I'd determined that my blue moon would be turquoise. 
And then among the closing pages of "The Prophet" were these lines about farewells, aging, and eternity.  
Thus today's watercolor. 
"...he looked about him, and he saw the pilot of his ship standing by the helm and gazing now at the full sails and now at the distance...."
"This day has ended.
"It is closing upon us even as the water-lily upon its own tomorrow.
"What it has given us here we shall keep...."
"A little while, and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body...."
"So saying he made a signal to the seaman and straightway they weighed anchor and cast the ship loose from its moorings, and they moved eastward."

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Red Tape of a different kind

"After the battle," 5 x 7 watercolor
There is a different kind of red "tape."
Not the kind that free people hate, the scourge of all administrations, organizations and institutions that stifle individuality-government, the military, higher education, religion--take your pick.
The bigger the entity, the more tangled the mess becomes, designed to protect administrators' jobs by finding new ways to delay action or  to say "No." A bane of creativity, the refuge of the rule makers.
Instead there is the red tape of "The Red Badge of Courage," the bandages that staunch the flow of blood from those wounded in combat.
Today's watercolor is something new as an experiment for me, responding to the color-a-day monthly challenge, "Red Tape." I think it is inspired by the approaching 75th anniversary of D-Day, when a different kind of red tape saved lives on that horrible day.
Thus "After the Battle," 5 x 7, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper.

A watercolor month

Trouble on Oklahoma horizon, 9 x 12 watercolor, inspired by a storm chaser's photo

And before that, I was fortunate to sell three  previous paintings in May, "Green Wheat, Red Dirt," "Oklahoma Springtime," and Magic Hour." 8/10, 8/10, 5 x 7.

A month of color challenged watercolors

"Sunrise Walk," in response to "Golden Opportunity," 9 x 12
Yesterday's color-a-day watercolor challenge from #doodlewashMay2019, "Purple Heart," drew many reactions on Facebook. In previous years I'd been posting them on this blog, and neglected to do so this year. 
So with three days left in the month, here are the ones I've done...challenges indeed. I've skipped a few days, being out of town, or having failed or not reacting--the most recent was yesterday's "Brown Sugar" and  before that, "Green Thumb." Notice also that I missed prompts for the first two days of May, and for May 12-17.
Some of these are favorites "Battleship Gray," and "Blue Plate Special," and "Proud as a Peacock," for instance. And a couple I just did down like, nor did I enjoy--"Black and White," and "Pot of Gold." All but one are 5 x 7s. "Golden Opportunity," at top, titled, "Sunrise Walk, " is 9 x 12, all on 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper. 
For the last three days of the month...still stewing on those, Red Tape, Blue Moon, Beet Red.
So here they are, not in order, with the list of prompts...they all have stories, but I won't repeat them. Can you guess the colors?

With homage to Cezanne

Chaco Canyon pictograph


Semper Fi!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day discoveries and stories--III

An unexpected veteran's grave
A flash of red, white and blue caught my eye in the cemetery in Waurika, Oklahoma, on Mothers Day,  raising my curiosity.
Every year I drive to the windswept hill and plant real flowers on my Mother's grave. Then after talking with her, I wander among the graves, recognizing the names of many people I knew when we owned the Waurika News-Democrat from 1974 to 1986. It's a bit of time travel for me, spurring memories, and a sense of mortality that increases every year.
This year, as I was driving back through part of the cemetery, I saw this singular flag on a gravestone, stopped and walked over to it, wondering, asking questions.
I'd never heard of Harvey N. McMurtry who died in 1924, and I'm used to finding Civil War vets' graves in rural cemeteries in Oklahoma, but was a surprise. 
It's pretty easy these days to search for Union Civil War veterans' histories when you know what unit they served in, as with Reese Hildreth in the Oakwood Cemetery I wrote about earlier today. 
I managed to find material on the Second Texas Cavalry thanks to Texas records, but no mention of his name or the roster. The officers are listed, but not the enlisted men. I did find an Ancestry.com link for a Harvey Newton McMurtry, born 1838 which I bet is him, with unknown death date and names of his parents. Nothing else. Stories. Questions.
As a Southerner, I have often wondered what it had been like to have survived that war, to have lost, and then lived for years afterward. He lived a long time after The War and for someone born in the 1830s. 
Here is someone who may actually have been born in The Republic of Texas, then became a citizen of the United States in 1845, and then a citizen of the Confederate States of America. 
So many questions.  Most of all, what were his emotions and stories, through the years? How did he feel, cope, adapt, to having been defeated?Did he regain his U.S. citizenship? How did he end up in Oklahoma? What did he do for a living? What about family? Had he owned slaves? Who decorates his grave? Is he in anyway related to the families of the writer Larry McMurtry of Archer City, Texas, which isn't that far away?
I did find out that Confederate Memorial Day is in late April, commemorating the surrender of the last troops. So perhaps that flag was placed then, and was still there early in May. 
I am aware that that flag is politically incorrect these days, and I resent that racist and hate groups have turned it into a symbol of their demented minds. Sgt. McMurtry deserved better than that. (By the way, that is not the Stars and Bars, the national flag of the Confederacy. It is the battle flag, but no matter.) 
But on this Memorial Day, this veteran also deserves a flag on his grave.
Sgt. McMurtry was well traveled. The rest of this, in his honor, is from the fascinating story of his unit, copyright material from The Texas State Historical Association, by Brett J. Derbes, 2011.
The Second Texas Cavalry was  organized in May 1861 as the Second Texas Mounted Rifles,   reorganized in April 1862 with the same officers and enlisted men. 
It originally consisted of 1,200 men from 18 counties, mostly in East Texas.  It always served west of the Mississippi and briefly  attached to Sibley's army that invaded New Mexico. It  served in Galveston and Houston and then Western Louisiana before returning to Texas in 1863. 
By late 1862  it consisted of 752 men, and by mid-1864 it had only 167.  In March 1865 the regiment consisted of 150 men who served at San Antonio.
Sgt. McMurtry and his comrades fought in many places in Texas, New Mexico (including the defeat in Glorieta Pass outside of Santa Fe),  and Louisiana. They were "dismounted" in March 1865 and gradually disbanded in May as many of  the men fled across the Rio Grande into Mexico. The unit officially surrendered at Galveston on June 2, 1865, almost two months after Lee at Appomattox.

Memorial Day stories and discoveries-II

Santa Fe National Cemetery
Untold stories on Memorial Day in Santa Fe National Cemetery--Pvt. O'Leary
At Santa Fe
Cemeteries draw my attention, like magnets, because they prompt curiosity and imagination as well as a sense of mortality. And national cemeteries bring humility and admiration, especially for me at Santa Fe where we buried my favorite uncle, Michael Henry Clark almost eight years ago.
Mike, a long-time resident of Santa Fe, world traveler and U.S. Navy combat veteran of both WWII and Korea, had rescued me during a dark period of my life, and as the  years passed, I was able to care for him also. Visiting him was always an adventure in story telling of family, of travel, and living.
He lived within sight of the cemetery where he's now buried, and I often visited the cemetery looking at the names on the grave stones. He mentioned one of a  soldier that is a particular source of wonder and untold stories waiting to be discovered.
I've written about Mike and this cemetery many times. So this is abbreviated, for today, in memory, with a salute.
I've photographed it many times, in good weather and in snow. I come away asking myself, "I wonder, I wonder." There are often fresh flowers on this grave. I'll leave you to wonder also.
Next--An unexpected veteran's grave in Waurika.
Earlier--(Or just type "Cemeteries" in the search box for more posts):

Memorial Day discoveries and stories-I

A Civil War veteran's grave at Oakwood
A month of stories have built up since the last post on this blog, and while I've not had "writer's block," I've been almost repelled from sitting down to blog.
Art and life have helped push me away, not ignoring, but delaying so many of the stories I've encountered this month. And blogging takes time, time I've not been willing to spend.
This one comes from duty...duty to keep this blog still somewhat alive, but mainly, duty on Memorial Day, to the American veterans whose graves are decorated with American flags today across the nation and world.
It's also prompted by coincidences, continual curiosity, and sentimentality, including a discovery on Mothers' Day in the Waurika, Oklahoma, cemetery. I also think often  of the several Civil War and other veterans' graves only about six miles from here in the pioneer Oakwood Cemetery on the edge of Lake Arcadia, where families are still burying loved ones. It's one of my meditation places, and prompts the imagination with so many stories and discoveries.
I was also prompted this week by a favorite former student, Emily Bullard Lang, of Price Lang Consulting who mockingly challenged me when I told her I just couldn't seem to sit down and write.
Having recently completed a news release writing refresher course for she and Charlie Price's employees, she smirkingly threw my own words back at me that I'd used for them: "This is a story about...and it's interesting because...." Just fill in the blanks and start writing.
Then my wife Susan prodded me to just sit down and write, especially about Sgt. McMurtry, CSA.
So many discoveries and stories. Next--Santa Fe National Cemetery.