"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, January 31, 2020

Rediscovering America, and self--books of January

I rediscovered America this month with six books completed, especially reading a condensed version of the Journals of Lewis and Clark edited by Anthony Brandt, begun in December.
Having traveled some of their route in years past, I found myself discovering much about America, provoking my imagination and admiration, and thinking about the huge changes wrought on other peoples, on other life forms and the country by our so-called civilization in the mere 214 years since they made that fantastic trip.
It was a month of self discovery too in the other books I completed.
My Do It Yourself art school education completed How to Paint with a Knife by Coulton Waugh, and then yesterday I read the inspiriting The Watercolors of Winslow Homer by Miles Unger, provoked into attempting more change.
I reread Ray Bradbury's last novel, From the Dust Returned, which I bought in 2001. That first edition is now worth about $100. From Bradbury I discover more about writing and the beauty of words.
The same is true of finishing House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday, wonderful lyrical novel  set primarily around Jemez Pueblo, where I've been and can visualize the country and people.
Finally, in exploring, I read Chakra Healing, by Margarita Alcantara, which provokes thoughts and ideas about self and the connectedness of all things.
February Discoveries? Yesterday I began reading Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#ck, a different view of themes I find in Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr and others. And echoing advice from the last book completed in 2019,  Embrace Your Weird by Felecia Day
I've ordered, from Best of Books in Edmond, Te Ata, Chickasaw Storyteller, American Treasure, by Richard Green. Richard is one of the people I have breakfast with once a month at Classen Grill, most of us old journalists. I showed the group my watercolor portrait of Te Ata, and found out he'd written the book.  Discoveries.

Friday, January 24, 2020

So many stories to tell

"Navajo Dawn," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
"There are so many stories to tell--how dare we not tell them!" --Clark, after rereading Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned, 1991, first edition, last night.
So many ways to tell them. 
I am also reading the late Coulton Waugh's book, How to Paint with a Knife, first edition, 1971, a book of my Dad's that I've started exploring after buying the late Regina Murphy's palette knives and exploring oil and acrylic painting.
And I'm almost through with reading The Essential Lewis & Clark, their journals edited by Anthony Brandt, rediscovering America's stories a mere 200 years ago.
So today's watercolor play time resulted from that stew of ideas, that compost as Bradbury would say. 
Waugh's instructions included some stark and simple black and white illustrations of Newfoundland cliffs to teach light and shadow, which gave me the idea for this painting in  New Mexico and Arizona.
There are so many stories to tell, and so many ways to tell them...

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Loose ends

"Loose Ends," 6 x 8 watercolor, rough Indian paper 
Life is full of loose ends.
Gloomy day thoughts. 
Things that just don't add up, or make sense. Friends and families and loves disconnected. Regrets.
Journeys unfinished. Thoughts interrupted. Dreams unfulfilled. Opportunities missed. People unmet. Mistakes uncorrected. Sins unforgiven. Books unread. Poems unwritten. Blessings unappreciated. Questions unanswered. 
Tattered laundry hanging on a clothes line, unraveling and ruffled by the breeze. 
Loose ends.


To which, Yahweh, tells Ursa:
"Be alive to the communion of time and chance. The present may not be all you want, but it is what you have, and it is enough to sustain you."
        --N. Scott Momaday, In the Bear's House

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Purple Dawn on the Great Plains

"Purple Dawn on the Great Plains," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
The lure of open spaces, the far horizons beckon me to travel, in person, in memories and imagination.
The Great Plains have imprinted me with their spirit, enhancing the power and pull of distant mesas and mountains.
I love the silence, the lack of traffic and people, of wandering across them, wondering where back roads go, what's around the next bend or over the next rise.
They are not empty, but overflowing with stories. I'm currently reading the journals of Lewis and Clark and captivated by their wonder and experiences in America's undiscovered country just 215 years ago.
W. Swanwick's New Mexico photo
Today's watercolor was inspired by a recent photo on Instagram by William Swanwick of New Mexico, who captures the spirit of that state, and certainly the open country between, and before, mountains. I hope the painting also captures some of that unequalled aura.
It's also no accident that the painting is also in tune with the photo at the top of this blog, which I took a few years ago. I was crossing the ruts of the mythic Santa Fe Trail, east of Cimarron, very early one September morning.
And it's no accident that another inspiration, comes from the Sons of the Pioneers theme song for the 1960s TV Western, "Wagon Train":
"Dawn spreads its paint brush on the plains, spilling purple upon...."
Notice all the purple in this painting.
My blog photo, looking northeast on the old Santa Fe Trail

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Coffee with Clark

"Coffee with Clark," 5 x 7 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
Morning means coffee in our household, and it has as long as I can remember, even as a child growing up. The folks were coffee drinkers.
It's no accident that this blog is so named.  I once had a newspaper column by the name and a short radio program on what is now KUCO-FM.
My reputation at work was always making strong black coffee, and having a coffee cup in my hand, no matter the time of day, either in journalism or professing...or today, in painting. I'd joke that I wouldn't need to be embalmed...my veins would be full of caffeine.
I've written about it many times on this blog. Just search "coffee." The first was from 10 years ago, on this link: "The First Time I Tasted Coffee."
When I think of coffee, my soul drifts away to the mountains, especially in New Mexico, or in camping out, when you roll out of the sleeping bag early in a chilly morning, and start a pot of coffee on the old Coleman stove.
Ah, the smell of coffee, sizzling bacon, and of the mountain forests and the sight of mountain peaks on the horizon...especially the Manzanos.
So here is today's watercolor, and my old metal coffee pot that inspired it, along with a coffee cup, (what else?) that we gave away long ago as a subscription promotion.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A story of when a dream becomes real

"Te Ata," 5 x 7 watercolor, my first portrait
"I don't do portraits. I'm not that good," I told a student last fall who asked if I'd paint one of  her and her dog.
For some reason in December, in my do-it-yourself art school reading, I thought I'd perhaps try to attempt one, more of a hope or dream.
You have to understand that my brother and I grew up in the home of one of the best portrait artists of all time, our father Terrence Miler Clark.
I've written about his remarkable talent  many times. Our memories of being sketched by him are numerous and we both have several of his portraits hanging in our homes. 
"Sit still," we were often told while posing again. Here are two of those stories and examples of his work:

I wish I had that talent, but don't. It's more in seeing and being able to transfer that onto paper. I've referred and commissioned a pencil portrait from a former student instead. Susan also has the ability in charcoal.
Also understand that entire books have been written about watercolor portraiture (Dad's were usually meticulous colored pencil portraits).
But then yesterday, a friend called and asked me to do a watercolor card of  a Chickasaw.   I hesitated, but said I'd try.
Then he sent me a photo of who he wanted, but in black and white, plus references for color for clothes, feather, jewelry. 
The pressure built because it was Te Ata, renowned Chickasaw actress and storyteller.
First step was trying to select colors especially for skin color, searching the Internet, and getting his approval.
Second was trying to draw the outline and main features of this woman, which took more than one try.
Several steps were thinking about  deciding colors, solving problems of light and shadow, and where to start.
He wanted a red tailed hawk feather and I knew that would be easiest. The most difficult would be the face and especially the eyes. That meant I'd do her eyes last, so the entire portrait could fail at the last. 
Yesterday, I painted the feather, her hair and costume. And stopped.
Today, after much procrastination, I began by erasing most of the drawing lines, or making them very faint. 
Then came the light flesh colors, leaving the eyes white. Then came the shadowing to give the face form. Then came the lips. Then the eyes, and a few final touch ups on shadows.
I learned a lot, and am thankful my friend likes it, and am thankful for the opportunity to push myself. Taking a risk becomes a story of a dream becoming real.
But it's hard work, though when doing this the rest of the world goes away. I found a quote from my Dad recently, that sums it up: "The harder I work at painting, the younger I feel."

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Toasting the passage of time past

Reunion Cemetery, Oklahoma County

The relic speaks  through the centuries
Take a birthday drive on the back roads, and you can travel into the past.
I am drawn to old cemeteries and love to walk through them, thinking of the stories, marveling at the names, humbled by the creativity.
Such were the discoveries today at the territorial Reunion Cemetery I found north and east of Edmond. It haunts of  tragedies and loves, of lives long and lives shortened.
"Mother," 1840-1905, 

No name, but a flag for a vet
Gone and forgotten. Gone and remembered. When names and tombstones spoke of simpler times, of tougher times, more individualistic times, even though there are newer graves here too.


The Bridges, Adeline, 39 in 1907, Napoleon, 53 in 1912

WWI brother veterans

Another WWI vet

He died in combat in WWI

Bundora Wallace, 30, died in 1893


Another one forgotten in a lonely place

A new year, or some old ones

Birthday Card to Self, 5 1/2 by 8 140 lb. cold press paper
First painting of the new year celebrates a new year, or some old ones--birthday thoughts inspired this--a birthday card to myself.
If you don't get the significance, think about it. Hint, it would probably help if you were from Iowa.
There's another clue in my original birthday card ( announcement) drawn by my Dad, long ago, pictured below. It's tattered, and I'll frame it this year. By the way, that's a B-24 Liberator engine from Consolidated Aircraft in Fort Worth where Dad worked as a draftsman, and a familiar saying from those WWII pilots returning from missions.
I've spent the morning musing, gain observations and writing about past and present and certainly future, thus even this painting. Palette: Quin gold, aureolin, yellow orange, and a little royal blue.