"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, September 24, 2021

The Colors of Autumn and Adobe

"The Colors of Autumn and Adobe," my September exhibit In Your Eye Studio & Gallery in Paseo Arts Districtt opens today at noon, and I'll be there. Watercolors and acrylics. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Saved by a cat

"Who are you?" 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas board

 I've been working a week on another acrylic painting, going back to brushes this time.

But the subject to this time is very similar to the last painting, "Adobe Sunset." Every day is a step in solving problems, and usually my problems in painting come from not planning far enough ahead. So it was this time.

The painting was unbalanced and the foreground drab. There wasn't much to distinguish it from the previous one. I was down to painting the shadows and some touch up, and stumped.

Then last night my wife Susan said, "It needs a cat."

Saved by a cat.

So here is the result, modeled after our cat, Sophie, curious about a visitor. Still on the back porch easel in case I see something to fiddle with tomorrow. To be framed and at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in about a week. I'm not sure about title. "Cat House" came to mind, but that seemed disrespectful to the cat. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Adobe Sunset...art lessons the hard way

"Adobe Sunset," 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas board

My do-it-yourself art schooling is a story of step by step learning, from lots of mistakes  and trying new things, based on ideas from books, videos and talks with artists.

This one completed today, a 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas board,"Adobe Sunset," was an attempt to paint with palette knives on a larger surface, compared to the small one posted about earlier, "Blue Tempest,"  when I wrote about by fascination with palette knives.

Main lesson learned: Don't use knives where exact details are needed. Go for the impression and texture. I know now why knives work best on  abstract and impressionistic work I put finishing touches and a few corrections on with brushes, and the rough texture made that difficult. I also need to mix more paint as the piece progresses to be able to duplicate what I'm after. 

But, I'm fairly happy with this. I'll put a varnish on it in about a week, and get it framed for sale at In Your Eye Studio & Gallery in Paseo Arts District. Another lesson--I will probably go back to brushes.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Flower season spirits

"Pansies," 5 x 5 acrylic on canvas

"Let's paint something," Susan said last night as we were celebrating getting through another week.

"What?" I asked, and she replied, "Pansies."

I don't like painting flowers--I'm too up tight, but she insisted. 

I had one 5 x 5 canvas with a yellow background on it, so we opened up my acrylic palette, squeezed out some bright colors, and began, primarily with brushes and a couple of palette knife strokes.

It was sort of a free for all, just having fun, no rules. We know the season for pansies is past, but their color always brightens winter and spring, before the heat hits. Don't ask me who painted what, because our art blended with the colors. 

So this is the result, signed by S.A. and T.M. Clark, loose and abstract, as pansies deserve to be.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The cost of war ending and beginning

Early Civil War cemetery, America's most deadly.

longest war, 20 years--ended yesterday. American's second most costly war began today  82 years ago, when Hitler invaded Poland.

This current 20-year episode, without victory, cost 3,372 American lives and 320 wounded. After almost four years of WWII, 407,316 Americans died, and 617,278 were wounded. 

By comparison, about nine million Russian soldiers died, with civilian deaths bringing a total close to 20 million.  Germany lost as many as five million soldiers, and Japan more than three million soldiers. That doesn't include millions of civilians including six million Jews.

In the 20 years America was involved in Vietnam, another war without victory,  with active combat from the mid-60s to 1975,  58, 200 Americans died, and 153,303 were wounded. That toll doesn't count the Vietnamese, North and South, that was much higher.

Most fatal was the American Civil War, from 1861 to 1865. Estimates vary on the deaths after all these years, counting both sides, but range from about 650,000 to 850,000, at least 450 soldiers a day. A huge percentage  were those who died from wounds and disease. That was more than two percent of the population, and in today's numbers it would equal about 7.5 million people.  The Confederacy lost upwards of 270,000 soldiers and the U.S. upwards of 260,000. About 22 percent of Southern soldiers in their early '20s died, and the total of both sides devastated America's economy. 

A retired U.S. Air Force officer told me this week, paraphrasing "Wars are political, with the military acting as a mechanism for political gains."

And human lives are the price.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Texture of Blues from Palette Knives in a Stormy Year

"Blue Tempest," 5 x 5 acrylic on canvas

I've always admired painters who deftly use palette knives for texture and impact, but never attempted them until recently. along with acrylics, it's a whole new learning experience

There were always palette knives in our house when we grew up. Dad used them mostly for mixing colors, and I've done plenty of that in oils and acrylics. 

Regina's palette knives, Dad's book
 I didn't know how much they meant   to me until I saw and bought the late   Regina Murphy's knives of Paseo   Arts District and other materials   after  her death. They sit here in my   painting room, icons of creativity.   Then I found an old book of my   Dad's How to Paint with a Knife, and   began studying.

 So this week, I picked up about three   of them, began mixing colors and   applying them to the canvas. Since   my favorite colors are blues, and   we're in the midst of  storms--fires, hurricanes, floods, war, ignorance, worsening pandemic and politics  once again, here's the result.  

This is the last day of August and the year is two-thirds gone.  This semi-abstract sci-fi painting with violent  texture matching the moods of our country and world, roughly applied to the canvas, seems to fit.

Monday, August 30, 2021

New Learning on exhibit

5 x 5 acrylic paintings

I've added something new to my art exhibit at In Your Eye Studio & Gallery in Paseo Arts District today, just in time for the Paseo Arts Festival this Labor Day weekend.

You've seen posts of some of the 5 x 5 acrylics I've attempted in the last two weeks, and four of them are finished and ready to purchase.

So there they are, amid my watercolors. Come by and see my learning. There will be more, and larger ones. But one lesson emerged I didn't count on. I will probably keep at acrylics, but they taught me something surprising--I really love watercolors. 

Part of my exhibit at In Your Eye in Paseo

Monday, August 23, 2021


"Why Worry?" 5 x 5 acrylic on canvas

"Peace, peace, there is no peace..."
--Jeremiah 6:11

In stress-filled times like these as a pandemic and politics rage on, we need calm more than ever, for our mental and physical health, yet it can be hard to find.

Medicine, for blood pressure and anxiety, works some, but not always. I've said for quite a while, not really jokingly, that painting is my therapy. When I'm working on art, the rest of the world goes away as every painting is a series of problems to be solved, to be created.

I've also found other sources of daily peace, daily calm as well. Every morning as I sit down with coffee in an easy chair, I have two immediate visitors in my lap, one on each leg, Snoops and Sophie, our rescue cats.  I have an "equal catortunity" lap. Petting or stroking them, while they purr does wonders for enjoying present tense and morning sunlight, preventing doom  scrolling media.

So today's acrylic painting lesson combines calmness, inspired by Sophie, though she's prettier than this.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Earth and Sky

From the Earth, 5 x 5 acrylic on canvas

I'm stuck for ideas, I try to go back to what I know, what I've experienced, what brings up emotions  that I don't always understand.

Growing up in New Mexico, I was almost always aware of adobe, changing with the light every second, accented by high altitude blue t skies. Add the colors of turquoise and red chili ristras. Home.

Today's little acrylic lesson, another take on a larger theme for OVAC's fundraiser in September. Turquoise Power

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Magic of Dawn

"Dawn," 5 x 5 acrylic on canvas

light. A magic time when colors return to our landscapes. Dawn of a new day for hopes, challenges, learning.

Usually this is a time for parents and children to be excited about the new school year, but this year it is tempered by fears and uncertainty as a lack of leadership in this state and others combines to threaten the lives of our children and grandchildren.

But I still hope for each new day, for some magic of creativity to offset the doom and gloom. That's what my second lesson in acrylics is about today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Time passes

"Sunset," 5 x 5 acrylic on canvas

passes, for all species, as change is constant, whether we want it to be or not, so today I tried something new.

To me, there's nothing quite so symbolic of passing time, of life, of change, of extinction, of survival, of freedom, than the American bison.

Today's painting, an introductory self lesson in painting with acrylics. I found myself playing with art again, experimenting, learning. I will get better.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Colors of Feelings

"Anger," 5 x 7 watercolor, 
"Paint what you feel." "Paint your reaction to what you see, not what you see."

"Peace," 5 x 7 watercolor
Those comments and their kin from many artists underly what is supposed to be, and hardest to apply for an old type A, fact-based journalist like me...though I know my best writing always came from stories I was deeply engaged in.
And now that I think about it, my best paintings have been those where my feelings seemed to guide the brushes.

Then this week, I read this comment from Austin Kleon in his weekly newsletter on Creativity:

"I write to know what I think, and I make art to actually know what I feel."

Kleon lives in Austin, and has written four dynamic and short books on creativity, all of which I've bought at  Best of Books in Edmond. 

"Hope," 5 x 7 watercolor

can check him out on his website austinkleon.com, and even get his weekly email newsletter which brims over with comments and ideas to jog your mind on music "Ear Candy,"  art, writing,  books, multiple links  and much more with 10 tips each time.  That quote was under the section, "What to do with your feelings."

His prompts translated into three watercolors, where I tried to visualize some of my personal feelings. The first was "Anger" and he noted there's plenty to be angry about these days.

Then I thought about  the opposite, "Peace," and then "Hope." For "Peace" thought of my reaction to a gentle rain falling on a forest, probably the Amazon rainforest. "Hope" was not as abstract, the possibility  of rain and life in an arid landscape and time. All are 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Where time ends

"The Shores of eternity," 5 x 7 Watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

the endless expanse of the universe and eons of time, I can't help but dream of far away places, of roads not taken, of the vastness of oceans to be crossed. 

This travel-deprived year and more has taken its toll in so many ways on our  plans, wishes, physical and mental existence. I resent most missed opportunities to travel, to discover.

Time flows on, though actual survival has been a journey in itself, one I'm thankful for, aware that thousands have not taken it, instead slipping into a different journey to eternity where time ends. 

I think of standing on a beach watching oceans crashing against the shores of eroding lands, how small and insignificant we are in  creation, as we stand on the shores of our lives.

Thus the story of today's watercolor,  where eternal waves drench the sand and seconds cease to exist, the shores of eternity. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

The colors of time and eternity

"Fiery End," 5 x 7 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

"Twilight of Time," 5 x 7 140 lb, Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

"Genesis of Color," 5 x 7 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

thoughts form when you watch science shows about the universe and creation, combined with horrifying wildfires scorching the West and much of Europe. Eternal, changing time juxtaposed (I've always wanted to use that word) with present tense.

Though according to Yahweh, there is only present tense, "I am that I am."

How do you paint time? What are the colors of time? Time began with light, either scientifically or spiritually, the source of life. And light is color.

The overpowering image that came to me is the inferno of those fires in this long hot summer, making me think of the end times when Sol  ends the earth, or when eternity begins.

Then I thought of twilight, before it happened, and then  when time and color  began, in creation.

So today's 5 x 7 abstract watercolors, moving backward in time, from the end, to  twilight and decay, to the beginning.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Season of Green

"Season of Green," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

"Green Leaves of Summer," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

are not my favorite color, but...

Don't know why. Only one room in our house has green walls, a muted green at that.

It's odd, since I grew up in the arid Southwest, in New Mexico, you'd think green would matter more to me.

Yes, green stands out in that landscape, because green occurs where there's moisture, water, source of life. But then, so is green.

I am attracted to all shades of turquoise, including the green, but blues are my favs, as you can tell from most of my paintings. There are five blues on my palette, and I rarely have any greens, because you can mix almost any green with yellows and blues.

But as August deepens, and the heat will soon turn much of our landscapes a brown, I was thinking of that favorite song, them of the movie, The Alamo, "The Green Leaves of Summer."

Another connection especially for us Okies is the song "Green Grow the Lilacs." While on a fellowship in France in the late 1920s, Lynn Riggs wrote the play "Green Grow the Lilacs." It provided the basis from which Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II created the musical "Oklahoma!" Riggs was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1948.

I remember long ago, heading south from Iowa in the spring, we could see the country getting green and greener the further we went. Springtime, then summer, the season of green.

Much of our country, and parts of the world,  is burning up, literally already, and green is disappearing.

It's no wonder that green is a symbol of life, of spring, of rebirth. We should all be concerned too, about deforestation...especially in the Amazon. Green represents the lungs of the planet. No green, no oxygen. The Amazon produces 25 percent of the oxygen on earth, and if it is destroyed, as is happening, which 25 percent of humans will suffocate?

It's another reason I love that passage by Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness, where he is going up the Congo in the middle of the jungle:

"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."

So here are two watercolors for today, color studies in green, one with green colors from five tubes and two yellows, and the other five blues  and two yellows,

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Grapes of Wrath weather

"Grapes of Wrath weather," 5 x 7 watercolor

August bears down on Oklahoma tomorrow like the glaring sun and 100 degree heat do have done for several days, with more to come.

Water and air conditioning consumption soars with the heat, and yet, we're soft and comfortable compared to...

Weather like this reminds me of the classic opening chapter of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. I used that to teach descriptive writing a few years ago, because it is not fiction, but specific, sensuous fact, garnered from detailed observation.

You're supposed to paint what you feel, your reaction to what you experience, not what you see, and today, the heat, the sun all made me think of those lines in Steinbeck's novel.

So here is the last watercolor of the month, my feelings, inspired by the heat and those lines.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Birthday wishes

"Rainbow trout," 5 x 7 watercolor card

"Lady Roadrunner," 5 x 7 watercolor card

get lots of attention these days with social media, and that's great.

For me, for a few people, especially children, a small watercolor card of special interest has become a tradition. From these, I've discovered I can probably paint anything, if I can draw it.

Here are two of three of them this month.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Drought dreams

"Drought Dreams," 11 x 14 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper

clouds are building here again, in the humidity and heat. We've been getting more rain than usual this year, but August is near and our greens may turn brown if the heat settles in.

For the folks in the Pacific Northwest, and in much of the West, the country is literally burning up, from extensive drought and high temperatures and wildfires leading to deaths and economic collapse.

Given what's happening around the world, in flooding Europe and other weather disasters, happening all at once, earth may have already passed the tipping point toward irreversible warming. Anyone who doubts the climate is changing is ignoring the evidence and science.

What spurred this watercolor was not those negative thoughts, though they followed as I dreamed of towering clouds. My recent trip to New Mexico confirmed the extra high temperatures and burnt dry landscape for me. The eastern Texas panhandle was green, but then past Amarillo, the land turned brown--everywhere.

Having lived out there, and in rural Oklahoma, where  weather determines livelihood, I know how welcome thunderheads are.

So this watercolor, the first in a long while, was inspired by the building clouds that always catch my attention. See, rain brings more than green, it waters ideas and creativity too.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The play of light

"The Play of Light," 9 x 6 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper

little watercolor is an experiment, playing with color and light, the idea from one of my do it yourself art school projects.

It's an idea from on of watercolor artist Don Andrews' zoom workshops today. So I was really playing around, seeing what would happen. This will happen again in more experiments.

But you know the canyon country, the geology of the Southwest had to grab my attention. That is long overdue this month, where my creativity has been dryer than the country depicted here. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Turquoise Power

"Turquoise Hope," 12 x 12 acrylic on canvas

It's no secret that I love New Mexico, including the infinity of shades of color you see in the Southwest, especially the multi-hued adobes and turquoise.

In a summer when my creative will seems to have evaporated in doldrums, I've struggled to paint, and whatever I tried I considered failures, though they're really lessons.

Again asked to participate in the OVAC 12 x 12 fundraiser this fall, I struggled both from those moods, and having to switch to acrylics, in which I have little practice and knowledge. In fact, as I started two paintings, I quickly got discouraged with my results, and quit.

That's when I tried again, breathing in the spirit of New Mexico, thinking of earthen adobe and the power of turquoise. That stone of the Southwest has traditional powers of healing and balance. In addition I read that it promotes  hope, self-realization and assists creative problem solving.

Finally today, after at least two weeks of planning, experimenting, learning and correcting, I've finished this 12 x 12 acrylic on canvas, to donate to OVAC. I think this is the first significant thing I've painted in at least a month or so.

Three dimensional result
Surely some of that is because I know the subjects, but turquoise must have helped me overcome acrylics and inspire me. I'm also indebted to my friend Zina Hogan, for the painting pays homage to on of her unique watercolor paintings featured on her business card.

While I'm ready to go back to watercolor, you can see some of the inspiration that came, as along the way the painting took on a three-dimensional work, thanks to the structure of the canvas.

You can see this and many more in person at the OVAC fundraiser Sept. 24. Here's the link: OVAC 12 x 12 Fundraiser.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Words and Actions of Real Patriots

 In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
 When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 2, 2021

A half year is in the books, 27 of them.

The year 2021 is half gone...and that somber fact caused me to stop and reflect on time passing, and accounting for those hours.
Fortunately there have been some travels, several paintings, two vaccinations, reunions, and more events as I look back on gradual recovery from pandemics of biology and politics.
A favorite from childhood

of the accounting can be   measured in the 27 books I've been  reading. Some were discoveries of people I wish I'd known earlier. Some were old friends, a couple were rereads, most pressed my imagination and boundaries as an artist, a writer, as a spiritual person. 
 One was happening upon  a favorite book of childhood, A Tree in the Trail, brilliantly illustrated novel of a cottonwood on the old Santa Fe Trail. I had a first edition of it, and this was a paperback. I sat and read it in a couple of hours one afternoon in a Santa Fe Home. And I've since ordered a copy--the power of books and memories.
 Of the 27, I'm half way through one, a novel,  Stargazer, by Anne Hillerman.
Four others I didn't finish, and won't. The Complete Essays of Montaigne was monumental, and a mistake, as I just didn't get into it after just a few. Another, A Swim in the Pond in the Rain by Sanders, analyzed several great Russian short stories for their writing. Enjoyable, but deep. A third, Wonderworld, I bought by mistake thinking it might have to do with art. It was all about creative writing, and I just don't have time nor the inclination for that. The fourth, from the library, Dreamscapes, was neat and about painting mermaids, fairies, etc. Detail and good for scanning the art, but I'm not that patient.
Here's how the others counted: Non-fiction--nine; art--three; poetry--six; fiction--three.
Non-fiction, in reverse chronological order:
Remembering Santa Fe, William Clark; How To Do Nothing, Jenny Odell; The Bomber Mafia, Malcolm Gladwell; The Lost Spells, Robert Macfarlane; Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiesson; Winter's Hawk, (Oklahoma Redtails), Jim Lish; One Long River of Song, Brian Doyle; Four Churches of Pecos, National Park Service; Ladder to the Light, Steven Charleston; The Walk, William deBuys; The Big Wonderful Thing (Texas), Stephen Harrigan.
Art: At Home on the Great Plains of Texas, Laura Lewis; Powerful Watercolor Landscapes, Catherine Gill.
Poetry: The Big Red Book of Rumi, Colman Barks; Illuminated Rumi, Barks; Essentials, David Whyte;  Leaf and Cloud, Mary Oliver; Whispers from a Bench, Sara Sarna; In the Days of Our Undoing, Nathan Brown.
Fiction: Fungi, Greg Garcia editor; Siddhartha, Herman Hess; Tree in the Trail, Holling Holling.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Land of light

"New Mexico, land of light," 5 x 7 watercolor

Mexico more than enchants me...it heals...the body, the mind, the soul.
After this past dark year of biologic, racist and social pandemics,  we needed more than our vaccinations. Our recent trip was good medicine in so many ways. Long a destination for healthy living, for TB cure, or the healing soil of the Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico's atmosphere has miraculous effects.
"It's the light," my father used to say, describing New Mexico. Dry air, high altitude, rugged country and vast skies all become more intense. So does color.
It's no accident that art and creativity also  thrive in New Mexico. I believe there are places of power on earth, where the connection between the now and spiritual eternity is thin, and New Mexico seems to host many of them. It's no wonder, that while there, I realized with the Creator so close, of course creativity flourishes.
We're back home...healthier physically and mentally in a long time, and after a dormant period, art begins to stir again.
Today's watercolor, New Mexico, land of light, land of color, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico rough press paper.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Solstice Mood

"Solstice," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico rough press

 The longest day of the year has come and gone this week. A full moon crosses the sky. Summer descends in force. Brilliant light brings brilliant colors, and moods to match. Life blossoms..

Today's second watercolor, because we moderns often forget the influence, the importance of  summer solstice.

Because, Color

"Because," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 Lb. fabriano Artistico rough press paper


"Because, that's why." You've heard that as a child from your parents. Sometimes simple answers are the best, and you learned to accept them.

In our complicated world, there seem to be no simple answers, and that's normal. Very little in our lives is an either/or situation. Those who think  so become fanatics and extremists, as we can see repeatedly these days. 

But there is an honesty in a direct answer, not mincing words, or evading direct answers as politicians do when a simple "Yes" or "No" would do.

One of today's watercolors, in response to the previous one, "Why Not." 

Because. Color can speak directly. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Why not?

"Why not?" 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico rough press


Good medicine.

Vibrant color in  drab times, life and world.

"In the beginning God(s) created color." "In Him was the color of the world."

Why not? After all, what is light but colors. No light, no color. 

The more color, the more creativity, the closer to the creators of color.

Healing. Good medicine.

Why not?

Today's 5 x 7 watercolor.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Don't take my Kodachrome away

"Kodachrome," 8 x 10ish watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches rough press paper

there are blahs, or whatever other names there are, we need bright colors

That was certainly true during this past year and a half of  pandemics  of violence, disease, death and dangers to democracy.

It still is now for many thousands around the world for nations. And as the search for "normal" weighs down the days, also for individuals trying to cope with untold emotions

A favorite song comes to my mind, harking back to the turmoil of the Vietnam years.

"They give us those nice bright colors,

Give us the greens of summers

Makes you  think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah...

So mama, don't take my Kodachrome away."

--Simon and Garfunkel

Thus today's watercolor, the first in a while, trying to escape the blahs.


Monday, May 31, 2021

Untold Memorial Day stories

One of my favorite cemeteries is Oakwood, at the end of 15th Street in Edmond, just before you get to Arcadia Lake.

It's a Territorial cemetery, with graves from the 1890s, and families still care for it, with burials continuing today.

I go out there often to think, to imagine the stories, many untold for three  main reasons. There are numerous veterans' graves, dating from Civil War vets to the present. There are numerous infant graves, attesting to the harsh life of early days. In addition, there are many other unique stones. I've written and photographed and painted there many times. You can search Oakwood on this blog and seem some of those earlier efforts.

I went out there today, in the rain, for the mood, and took this photo...a marker of untold stories.

I took this photo today because it caught my mood. J.J. Henager, who served in Company F, in the 39th Iowa Infantry, fighting to preserve the Union in the Civil War.

Surviving, he somehow, at some time, came to Oklahoma Territory probably to homestead. I wish there were dates, and I knew more. I'm thankful the cemetery  volunteers put flags on all the veteran graves today.

Earlier stories on Oakwood:




His Infantry record, from Wikipedia:


The 39th Iowa Infantry was organized at Des Moines and DavenportIowa and mustered in for three years of Federal service on November 24, 1862.

Attached to 3rd Brigade, District of Corinth, 17th Army Corps, Dept. of Tennessee, to January, 1863. 3rd Brigade, District of Corinth, 16th Army Corps, to March, 1863. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, to September, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, 15th Army Corps, to August, 1865.

Moved to Cairo, Ill., December 12–14, 1862; thence to Columbus, Ky., December 16. Defense of Jackson, Tenn., and pursuit of Forrest December 18, 1862, to January 3, 1863. Parker's Cross Roads December 30–31, 1862.

Moved to Corinth, Miss., January 6, 1863, and duty there until November, 1863. Dodge's Expedition into Northern Alabama April 15-May 8. Great Bear Creek and Cherokee Station April 17. Tuscumbia April 22–23. Town Creek April 28.

March to Pulaski, Tenn., November 2–12, 1963. Guard duty at Reynolds Station and along railroad until January 21, 1864, and at Pulaski until March 12.

Moved to Athens, Ala., March 12, and to Chattanooga, Tenn., April 30, 1864.

Atlanta (Ga.) Campaign May 1 to September 8, 1864. Demonstration on Resaca May 8–13. Snake Creek Gap and Sugar Valley May 9–10. Battle of Resaca May 13–14. Ley's Ferry, Oostenaula River, May 14–15. Rome Cross Roads May 16. Kingston May 19. Moved to Rome May 22 and duty there until August 15. Expeditions after Wheeler August 15-September 16. Moved to Allatoona October 4. Battle of Allatoona October 5.

Moved to Rome October 9, 1864. Reconnaissance and skirmishes on Gave Springs Road October 12–13. Etowah River October 13.

March to the Sea November 15-December 10, 1864. Ogeechee Canal December 9. Siege of Savannah December 10–21.

Campaign of the Carolinas January to April, 1865. Salkehatchie Swamps, S.C. February 3–5. South Edisto River February 9. North Edisto River February 12–13. Columbia February 15–17. Lynch's Creek February 25–26. Battle of Bentonville N. C., March 20–21. Occupation of Goldsboro March 24 Advance on Raleigh April 9–13. Occupation of Raleigh April 14. Bennett's House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army.

March to Washington, D.C. via Richmond, Va., April 29-May 30, 1865. Grand Review May 24. Moved to Louisville, Ky., June.

The regiment was mustered out on August 2, 1865.

Total strength and casualties

A total of 1064 men served in the 39th Iowa at one time or another during its existence.[1] It suffered 6 officers and 58 enlisted men who were killed in action or who died of their wounds and 2 officers and 134 enlisted men who died of disease, for a total of 200 fatalities.[2]

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Real Patriots

"Memories," 8 x 10 watercolor,  300 lb. d'Arches rough press paper

If you know me, you know I love walking through cemeteries, especially attracted to veterans graves, adorned with American flags on days like this.

There are so many untold stories, so many memories in such places. 

Here's a salute to those who served, real patriots who put their lives, not their empty words,  on the line for our freedoms. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The moods of rain

"Rainy Day<' 5 x 7 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico rough press 

I heard Willie Nelson's plaintive voice singing "Blue eyes crying the the rain."

Rain brings many moods, and memories of as many songs to me. And the Bible is full of references to life-giving rain.

As the skies clouded up again today, with more rain promised, several of them ran though my head, some romantic,  some nostalgic, a few happy, and many more sad.

When you grow up in the arid southwest, you always notice rain, and look forward to the building clouds and rain of the early fall monsoon season. Those too bring memories and moods.

Much of the country has had too much or too little rain this year. Here in Oklahoma, on the eastern Great Plains, I'm thankful for the cooler temperatures, and abundant rainfall...and the multiple memories.

Today's little watercolor, out of response to those memories and moods.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

How time slips away

"How time slips away," 5 x 7 watercolor 300 lb d'Arhecs rough press

it funny how time slips away" is one of my favorite songs, especially sung by Willie Nelson.

"It's been a long, long time" pretty well sums up life's journey, more so as I get older, and the emotion of times past, of living, of loss seem to especially fit his voice.

Many things bring it to my mind these days, especially for some reason on Sundays. Today, just sitting on the back porch, slight drizzle, moving clouds, bird song,  changing  greenery..."as time slips away." I also thought of Thomas Wolfe's novel, "Of Time and the River." 

What about today will you remember? Did you enjoy the present moments? 

Today's semi-abstract watercolor has been in my imagination for a while, and it just seemed to pour out, "as time slips away. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Help from on high

"From on High," watercolor, 8 1/2 x 5, 300 lb d'Arches rough press paper

you need inspiration,  "Go to Work!" yell the experts.

The muse shows up when you work, even when you're in the doldrums, when you're in a valley. Don't actually work, just play around, and see what happens. 

"Put butt to chair, pen to paper, and just write" has been an axiom for writers and journalists. I know of many times in writing, I would get the nut graph, and then a lead, and somehow, by the end of the article, the appropriate  conclusion would somehow just show up. I think that's the muse, help from "on high."

Creative people in every area probably have similar experiences. (Aside--I irreverently wonder if that happened when Yahweh created the universe, not knowing exactly how it would go and turn out? Picture the Spirit saying, "Hmmm, let's try this next and see where it goes." No wonder "He" rested on the seventh day.)

I do know it is true in painting, especially watercolor, the medium you want to have some control over, but can't control. And, when you're in the valley, and nothing seems to inspire, or there's no energy, the answer often is, "Just play around," for help from on high.

And for me, I think of the Psalmist, who asked the same question "...where does my help come from?" with

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains...." ---Psalms 121.1

Sort of my mantra too, and even in Oklahoma, as a child of New Mexico and the West, I can remember, dream,  and imagine, the mountains are inside me.

Thus today's playtime watercolor, seeking help from on high, in more ways that one.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Like a tree

"The season of green," 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 watercolor, 140 lb.

much of the country is drowned in drought, we're in the midst of the season of green.

Abundant rainfall and cool weather has filled streams and rivers, ponds and lakes.

Though summer is not here yet to remind me of a favorite song, "The Green Leaves of Summer," I find peace in the abundant foliage on bushes, undergrowth, and especially trees.

Reminds me of the words of the prophet and poet in the Old Testament

"...like a tree planted by water," --Jeremiah 17:8

"...like a tree planted by streams of water," --Psalm 1:3

Seems like a call for today's little play-time watercolor.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The lure of islands

"Peaceful Reflections," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press

When you see an island, what is the reaction?

Probably, a question, a lure, to somehow get there and find what is on it, to explore, discover.


I think of Hemingway's Islands in the Stream, or Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers'  song, by the same title. Then there is William James' quote about we being islands in the sea separate on the surface but connected deep, along with John Donne's poem, "No Man is an Island."

Don't forget Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, spending the nights on an island in the Mississippi River so they could hide. Or Robert Graves canoeing down the Brazos in Goodbye to a River, camping on one overnight. And, do we not all dream of the magic islands of the South Pacific or getting away to a secluded beach in the Caribbean?

thoughts came to me yesterday, walking in Martin Park, seeing this little island in the middle of the lake. 

Thus today's little watercolor. It's been a long month of little creative activity for me, and that walk and this island, brought peace and an urge. It's a little rough but what I felt viewing it. Part of an island's lure.