"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.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pretty in Pink

"Pretty in Pink," 5" x 7" watercolor
"Shades of Pink," is today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt.Nothing man mad can come close to nature's beauty, and I thought immediately of flamingos. Simple, elegant, multi-hued graceful creations.140 lb. cold press paper.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Summer treats

"Soooo good," 5 " x 7" watercolor
When summer sets in, you're a kid, and it's barefoot weather and you want a really cold treat...
Nothing like going to the snow cone stand, and having them mix your favorite flavors.
They glisten, blend and melt, but they're sooooo good. 
Today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt: "Treats." 140 lb. cold press paper.
Tomorrow? Prompt: "Shades of Pink." More vibrant summer colors.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The color of magic

"Magic," 5 1/2" x 8 1/2' watercolor
What color is magic?
Perhaps it would be on a sandy beach in the South Pacific, at the end of the day, a cool evening breeze, and the colors of paradise...without crowds, phones, noise...only with your thoughts, the beauty of the day, savoring the moments with a loved one.
Today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt, "Beach fun," 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Watercolor Heart of Darkness

"Heart of Darkness," 8 1/2" x 10 1/2" watercolor
Jungle. Rainforest. What do those words bring to mind?
My thoughts goes riot with images of traveling in thick, mysterious tropical worlds where you feel small and a foreigner.
Those probably come from passages from my favorite author, Joseph Conrad, especially in my favorite book, "Heart of Darkness."
Conrad is famous for his comment about writing, "Above all I want to make you see."
So today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt, "Rainforest" helped move me out of the four day desert of painting, because Conrad's descriptions cry out for watercolor. Thus "Heart of Darkness," 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
 "Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the the earth and the big trees were king. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest."--Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Sky student

When you live out here, you study skies, and try to paint them.
Painting them is a great challenge, but I find watercolor especially fluid for our fluid skies. 
I also, thanks to the Internet, get to study how other artists, around the world paint them...drawing ideas and inspiration and education, including my astounding Oklahoma City friend David Holland and his oil  Skyscapes.
All appropriate as I try to meet today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt, "Clouds." 
We'll see.
Here is recent work by some of my "teachers, "--Posey Gaines is up near Tulsa, the others are all English.

David Holland

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

What color is music?

"Music," 5 1/' x 8 1/2", digitally enhanced
How do you paint what you don't know? Perhaps only by what you feel? 
That's my task today as a music illiterate. The daily challenge prompt for World Watercolor month was "Music."
In fifth grade, my teacher told me to never try out for choir, or music again. And I haven't. Family didn't have the money to get me music lessons.
The teenage years with rock and roll and friends helped me enjoy music, and it wasn't long until I just tuned it out. Thus I'm not only illiterate of musical skills (ask anyone who has heard me try to "sing"), but musical terminology (it's a foreign language), and of musical culture and history (ask my wife about all the musicians she likes).
In recent years I've come to appreciate a variety of music, but don't ask me to identify instruments, or artists, or tell you why. I just know some music can make my heart and soul sing. And yes, there are favorite songs and tunes, most of which make my wife's eyes roll.
Mostly I marvel and admire any one's talent in any area of music. I have some talent in art, in photography, and in writing, but I so wish I had some musical ability. I'm embarrassed by ignorance.
The wonderfully positive side of this litany, and thus all worthwhile, is that I've made sure all my children have had music instruction and opportunity. And now my grandchildren are continuing.
So to me, the color of sound, the colors of music, are brilliant and as varied as creation.
Today's abstract watercolor, "Music," 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Relaxing Flight of Fancy

"Flight of Fancy," 5" x 7" watercolor
What is more relaxing in the morning that a good cup of coffee, sipping while, perhaps, cats perch in your lap? Blood pressure goes down, quiet time, think time, relax time before the chores of the day's "To-Do" lists and obligations sink in.
It seems to be my routine--more cat time than coffee time. Savoring the moment time, enjoying the aroma of coffee, the warm touch of petting soft felines, their pleasing purr of contentment.
Those thoughts came to mind in a flight of fancy for today's #WorldWatercolorMonth daily challenge prompt, "Relaxing."
Here 'tis, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Heat and cheat

"Desert Heat," 7 1/2" x 7 1/2"
"The world is too much with us... ." Wordsworth must have been both poet and prophet, I thought, looking back on this week personally, and the materialistic world that consumes "civilization."
It's more a case of too much going on, or at least that's my excuse for not painting a watercolor yesterday. "Furry things," 
was yesterday's challenge prompt for World Watercolor Month. 
Today the prompt was "Monochromatic." 
It's going to be 100 plus degrees tomorrow, as Oklahoma slides into the sweltering heat of summer. 
That's partially responsible for today's painting, featuring essentially one color, oozing the start of another blistering day, "Desert  Heat," on a piece of 140 lb. Indian rough paper I bought once.
"Lookit those birds!" 5' x 7"
The cheat part? Since I missed painting for the first day this month, to occupied to repaint two furry critters who have adopted me, I pulled this former painting out of a frame by our fireplace. Sophie and Snoops, looking out the window at birds. 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper. 
Tomorrow, the prompt is "Relaxing." Don't know yet. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Eye Shadows

"Eye Shadows," 5 ' x 6" 
What do you think of when you hear the word, "Glossy"?
A mirror? The reflecting surface of still water? Reflections in glass? Jewelry? Glass eyes? Dull eyes? Moist eyes?
Today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt was just that, "Glassy."
I prefer a woman's eyes, moist with emotion, reflecting light, always captivating, thank you. But let's add a little inspiration. And all eyes harbor shadows of life and more--women are more aware of that than men, also using eye shadows.
Here 'tis, with reflection. 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.

Friday, July 12, 2019

When poetry blooms

When Poetry blooms, 5 1/2" x 8 "
To me, the most powerful, haunting verses in American poetry bloomed metaphorically and in ink when Walt Whitman mourned the death of President Lincoln.
"When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed and the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night...."
love flowers, but not painting them because I can't seem to capture the spirit and life of their colors and features.  But today's World Watercolor Month daily challenge prompt, "Blossoming"  brought my favorite poem to mind.
The only way I could approach it was abstractly, combining Peacock Blue, Opera, and Violet in splashes of color, wet into wet, with some greens and dark blues for contrast.
Today's effort, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper.

..."I mourn'd and yet shall mourn, with ever-returning spring,.trinity sure to me you bring.
"Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming  perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love."

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Journeys of Imagination at bedside

"Journeys," 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" watercolor
"Simple Pleasures" was today's challenge prompt for World Watercolor Month.
The idea came from my bedside, where I have many journeys of imagination and time travel underway in the pages of books. 
So far this month and last I've traveled to Heaven and Hell, under the earth in places around the world, into the branches of trees, in remote places all over the earth, back to the beginning of mankind, and into the minds of artists like Cezanne and Henri. 
The vehicles were titled "Good Omens," "Underworld," "Horizons," "Overstory," "Sapiens," and "The Art Spirit." Tour guides's names have been Gaiman, Pratchett, MacFarlane, Lopez, Harari, Powers, and Henri.
My simple pleasures include books, and traveling, in imagination or in fact. Today's watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.

Difficult learning

So much to learn
"Don't paint to hang, paint to learn."
So said Prix de West landscape artist G. Russell Case at the oil painting class I took last month at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
"Learn what color does," was another part of his "theology of painting" in the four days. He said if we'd had time, we'd have spent most of the time mixing color. "Mix paint-that's what we do."
I'm learning, slowly, with difficulty, trying to paint in the mornings on the back porch when it's cool. 
Russell Case teaching oil painting
I'm encouraged mainly by one other of his theology "beatitudes, about not getting in a rut, "You're only as good as what you're taking on."
At least I'm "taking on."
Folks who think watercolor is the most difficult of mediums haven't seen me trying to go back and forth from watercolors to oils.
I'm sinning often. "Don 't fiddle," he said, and that's been a problem of mine in watercolor. But nothing compared to what I'm trying in oils.
But I'm learning, the hard way. 
He had me the first day when he mentioned The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, an old copy of which I have heavily marked up.
One of my Dad's oils, over our mantel
So I'm rereading it again, marveling at how little I know, how daunting this effort has been, how much more I admire my Dad's talent that I've been around all my life. But I know from his notebooks even my Dad was constantly learning. 

Here's the latest stage of "Sunset at Ranchos," 8" x 10", of the iconic church of Saint Frances, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. 
Next steps, mix more paint, fiddle less. Difficult learning. Difficult challenge.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sentient Swimmer

"Sentient Swimmer," 5 1/2" x 8 1.2"
"I'll never eat octopus again."
Like them, I'm always learning.
That's what I said after reading a book a couple of years ago suggested by a favorite former student, now Dr. Lauren Vargas, PhD. in museum studies from the University of Leicester.
I had just had my first taste of one shortly before, at an exquisite meal prepared by great chefs. Delicious.
But then I read the book.
So when I saw today's WorldWatercolorMonth daily challenge prompt, "Sea creatures," and still committed to attempting some form of abstract painting, the choice was obvious.
I think all octopus forms are abstract, with their constant amazing movements, sizes, shapes and ability to change colors. While my mixture of colors may be poor compared to their creativity, today's painting, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper, is a tribute to their existence and intelligence--and to Dr. Vargas for her constant inspiration of ideas. 
Here is the book she recommended: Soul of Octopus, and one more. Read them. You'll never eat octopus again, unless you like essentially cannibalizing a fellow intelligent being, with a much shorter life than ours.

Deep shadows

"Deep Shadows," 5" x 7" watercolor
"Shadow Play," was yesterday's WorldWatercolorMonth challenge prompt, and it had me stumped for an abstract response.
The death of two friends, John Lawton and Jon Finch, in the past week caused me to say to my wife this morning, "Vacancies." Vacancies in life...and thus no physical shadows.
But you know  they leave shadows of a different kind.
In fact, we are multiple shadows. 
Genetically, we are mere shadows of our ancestors, generation after generation, but not just physically. I think mentally and spiritually too. The way we think, believe, act are often shadows also our friends, families, loved ones, environments, cultures and experiences. Spiritually? Regardless of your religious beliefs, if you believe in in an eternity or superior being or reincarnation, you believe you were created. Since G(god(s) are creators, and we're "made in His image," that specifically says we have the shadow of creativity in us, somehow.
Deep shadows of thoughts for a simple watercolor month.
I then thought of Plato's famous "Allegory of the Cave" written in 380 BC in his Republic, one of the most fascinating essays on reality and perception.
When I taught feature writing, I used it to show students that words were mere shadows of reality and it was important to use specific, not fuzzy words. It's been used to discuss education and much more by scholars galore.
For me as artist and journalist though, it is an illustration of how everything we see is a mere shadow of light, of light reflected.
Remember in Genesis 1:2 where God created light--essentially he created color--and shadow. No light, no color, and certainly, no shadows.
Most of what we see are because shadows, or different forms of color as my favorite artist Cezanne proved, form the substance of three dimensional reality.
I guess all this is shadow play, which is why I played at trying to paint, abstractly of course, what the chained prisoners saw as shadows on a cave wall and thought was reality.
So here's "Deep Shadows," 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper, painted yesterday but the Internet was down.
And here's Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from his Republic (the Socrates dialogues):
[Socrates:]And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:—Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

[Glaucon:]I see.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
Very true.
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Stratospheric Soaring

"Stratospheric Soaring," 9 x 12" watercolor
"Flying High," was today's World Watercolor Month, daily challenge prompt. For me, the challenge was also thinking and painting abstractly.
As a child of the Great Plains, to me the  most fascinating, abstract high flyers (because all are unique, changing constantly) are our clouds, especially the cumulonimbus thunderheads that soar into the stratosphere. Layers upon layers of towering colors and shapes challenge the senses, and our sense of understanding.
It would see that watercolor would be excellent for painting these, since they are essentially all moisture. But they're so abstract in shapes, they're difficult to make  look "real," abstractly.
I was reassured by a painting teacher one time who viewed one of my early works and said, "Somewhere on earth there's a sky like that."
At any rate, here it is, abstract towering over our straight line, earthbound existence. 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Unwelcome shine, and word?

"Unwelcome Shine," 5" x 5" watercolor
Why are black eyes called "shiners"?
What got me to thinking that way was today's WorldWatercolorMonth daily challenge prompt, "Shiny Things."
In an attempt this month to paint the prompts abstractly, I have to think abstractly. I'm not confident enough to try to painting a hubcap or a fork or a flying saucer that really look shiny.
Thus came the idea for a black eye, a "shiner."
The discoloration of the skin caused by a blow is certainly abstract, even if today's little painting seems too realistic, I reasoned. Painting the wild mix of colors was a challenge and fun. 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
When I wondered why they're called "shiners," I found several possibilities, related to the brilliant and dark colors of bruises.
1. Two of the first I found was not pleasant as it had racial overtones. One source could have referred to African Americans who worked as shoe shine "boys" early last century, putting shines on shoes. Or it could have come from the color of African American skin itself, especially when moist from sweat.
Given white Americans' racial prejudice, I'm afraid this is probably accurate.
2. Another possibility is that in the industrial revolution, a penalty for not keeping machinery shiny could have been a beating.
3. It could also come from just the general shine of brilliant colors from the bruise.
4. The term may have several sources and combinations thereof.
I'm sure there are others. See, every word, and every painting seems to have stories, or lead to them.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Apocalyptic window

Apocalyptic Window View, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" watercolor
What is a window? An opening, a multiple metaphor of journeys, living and dying.
Today's World Watercolor Prompt daily challenge was "Window View."
My double challenge was to see it abstractly--not a science fiction view of planets, or weird Picasso shapes, but ?
I've been reading "Good Omens," a hilarious comedy about the end of the world by Gaiman and Pratchett, after seeing the TV series--which includes four modern "horsemen" of the apocalypse--now riding motorcycles. (Read the book, it's hilarious Brit humor about an angel and a demon trying to prevent Armageddon.)
Then I turned to Revelation 6, where they're first mentioned.
Note (What follows is my opinion, but did help influence this painting): I don't believe anyone can predict when the end is coming. Jesus said so, explicitly (Matt, 24:36).  Puts mud in the eye (or throat) of all these TV false prophets who repeatedly claim to know exactly--day, time and place--when it's going to happen--arcanely interpreting Revelation's prophecies to fit their view of history, all for their own ends, raising money for themselves.  Besides, I ask, what time zone are you referring to? And what man-made calendar? Bad, uncertain  times these days? Every time there has been a bad uncertain time people have feared the end of the earth. The Oklahoma Dust Bowl black Sunday. WWII. etc. (Partial end of rant.)
And, then I thought, books are also windows--windows to other worlds, facts, cultures, imaginations. When I open a book I get to travel with the writer--including John the Apostle, my favorite New Testament writer.
He wrote that the scroll was being opened, one seal at a time. 
Ah, a scroll is a book, is a window. Revelation 6 opens a window view on four horsemen who thunder at you for the end of time--white for pestilence-with a crown and bow, red for war-with a sword, black for famine-with scales, and pale(ashen) for death-not carrying anything but often pictured with a scythe. 
Seems to me that most of Revelation is abstract writing--full of images and symbols and writing we can't completely understand (Beware of anyone who tells you there is only one way to interpret it). Had a Bible teacher one time who  insisted it could be read only one way. Know any other symbols that can be interpreted only one way?  Usually by fanatics. Such an insult to the quality and importance of the author and his visions.  
So, here's my appropriately abstract window view of two other abstract windows--the scroll and the images from Rev. 6. Today's  watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
(P.S. Open another window in your life and read another good book, Revelation--it'll open windows of wonder and thought)

Friday, July 5, 2019

As free as the wind?

As free as the wind? 6" x 8 1/2" watercolor
What is freedom? How do you paint freedom?
"Loose and Free" was today's challenge prompt for World Watercolor Month, and doubled my challenge into abstract.
Impressions, that's all and then some verses came to mind, and thoughts from readings and more.
The more we think we have, the less freedom we have...we are owned by what we think we own--obligated, indebted, tied down, fenced in. "Golden handcuffs," as one friend said.
Chained to protecting what we have.  In materialist America, we see this everywhere. Gated communities. Security systems. Buy more to be happy. The more we have, the more we fear losing it.  Gandhi knew this. Jesus knew this. The Eastern mystics knew this. Hunter gatherers and nomads knew this.
In the book Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, author Harari writes that the agricultural revolution was history's "biggest fraud." He uses wheat, once a wild grass, to prove his point. But when wheat was domesticated, homo sapiens "was doing little more from dawn to dusk than taking care of wheat plants,"  which demanded hard work. "the average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return." 
His conclusion: "These plants domesticated Homo sapiens, rather than vice versa." Is that freedom?
Deep  thoughts for a watercolor prompt. That's part of the challenge of painting, but I've found every painting has a story behind it, or in it. 
How? I thought of the lines from the song, "Born Free."
"Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Free to follow your heart."
And then I thought of the words of Jesus, in Matthew 6:26 after telling his disciples not to worry (not to be owned by, but to be free), about material things:
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them."
Thus today's abstract painting, wind and grass and birds, all in motion, a difficult task, impressions of freedom, of being loose, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
How free are we?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Fireworks, not tyrants, abstractly

Fireworks, not tyrants, 5" x 7" 
I detest photographs of fireworks in newspapers, magazines and in TV footage. They all look the same, boring--with one or two rare occasions when a photographer has an original eye. 
None capture the power and light and colors and spirit, and freedom,  of the firework shows. I've tried to paint them before...failures.
Day four of the Doodlewash Watercolor of the Month daily challenge prompt was "Family Fun."
How can I do this, and abstractly? Then I thought, fireworks. There is so much here--setting off fireworks when you were a kid, when you had kids, going to watch families watch fireworks shows. And much more, when you think about it.
Fireworks are a symbol of family and freedoms, not fear.
So here we go, with a few trade secrets, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
 Happy Fourth of July--Americans, hold on to your freedom, of expression, of speech, against all tyrants of rules and politics and tanks in the streets.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Summer symbol

Summer symbol, 5" x 7" 
Day three of the Doodlewash World Watercolor Month daily challenge provided today's prompt: Picnic Food.
I am also challenging myself to attempt abstract images, and was stumped when I thought about what first came to mind--how to paint a hot dog that way.
But my Okieness took over, having lived in a portion of the state where watermelons are a staple crop and cold treat at picnic tables in the hot, humid summertime.
Today's painting is a semi-abstract vision of the patterns and colors in that delicious food, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
By the way, here are the other prompts for this month. You see my challenges ahead.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Kodachrome, abstractly

"Kodachrome Day," 5 1/2" x 8 1/2"
Day two of the Doodlewash World Watercolor Month daily challenge has also become an abstract challenge. Today's subject prompt: "Sunny Sky."
Made me instantly think of one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, "Kodachrome," written by Simon.
As an old photographer, I loved Kodachrome, and even more as a photography professor, when they changed the lyrics in a concert to "everything looks better in black and white."
But their protest lyrics that prompted today's painting follow:
"They give us the nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Make you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah."
So here is today's abstract landscape reaction, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.

Monday, July 1, 2019

In the beginning-"Let there be light."

"Let there be light," today's watercolor, 6" x 8 1/2"
Day one of #WorldWatercolorMonth daily challenges. Today's prompt: Primary colors. 
Here it is--only yellow, red and blues, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper.
Hint: wet paper, pouring colors, yellow, then red then blues, with some spray.
"And the spirit of God flowed upon the face of the earth..."
Hint --No light, no color.
Dedicated to my friend John Lawton who painted terrific abstract, mystical paintings. May 15, 1931-June 29, 2019.
Observation--When the Great Mystery created light, he/she/it created color.