"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.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The many pages of January

January was a two-book month for me, not counting the one I'm halfway through now.

The first was Stephen Harrigan's monumental history of Texas, "big wonderful thing," titled with a quote from Georgia O'Keefe when she taught at the university in Canyon. A Christmas gift from my daughter Dallas, I began it on Dec. 27 and finished it Jan. 19... all 850 plus pages of it, not counting footnotes, etc. 

Plusses--You learn plenty about what most history books don't include. He devotes plenty of space to the darker sides of Texas history, treatment of Native Americans and racism against African Americans and the Spanish and Mexicans. And he makes sure to detail their contributions, including womens' roles. It begins  before the Spanish arrived and ends with the presidency of George W. Bush. And he's not afraid to be honest, wondering if the Alamo had become an unintended "death trap," and covering abuses by the Texas Rangers, for instance.

Weaknesses--I wish there were more maps. I had to get a highway map out for some of the stories. But I like maps and looking things up, so.  It is also somewhat of a political and economic (oil) history, going from governor to governor, which he calls the "tyranny" of chronology.  One omission I noted was no reference to the Ogallala Aquifer and center point irrigation, the key to the cotton economy of west Texas.

But it's well written, in many cases personal, and  I learned much. Dallas told me I should count it as three books for this year.

second book took me three days, William deBuys' The Walk, 153 pages, three essays about his life and property in northern New Mexico village on a gravel road off the high road to Taos. It's a memoir, a landscape and more that I identified with in many ways, because of the landscape and his experiences. 

I've read his other books about northern New Mexico, and his writing breathes that country. I'd just painted the Truchas Peaks, and his description of them describes my emotions when I see them. It was written in 2007 and I had to find it in a used book store online.

I'll close this with a quote, from the first essay, about a walk he takes every day: "...walking lubricates the connections of thought, loosens the bonds on the subconscious, and allows unexpected ideas and feelings to surface... ."

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Desert drama

"Desert Sunset," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

for the drama," I'd tell my writing students of the best way to start a story, to grab the attention of readers. 

In photography and painting, it's also no accident that some of the best scenery or subjects are more interesting early in the morning or late in the day. Noon tends to be rather bland, devoid of long shadows, contrast, texture and color, whether a landscape, still life  or even a portrait.

Thus today's watercolor, a desert sunset from my New Mexico imagination.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Storm a'coming

"Storm a'coming," 8 x 10 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

know winter is still here and it seems worse this year, not because of the weather, but because we've been cooped up and on edge so long. 
I'm ready for spring  on the Great Plains, when you can enjoy  the wide open spaces, and can see the storm clouds on far horizons.  
Imagination time. Today's watercolor.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Red and Ready

I hung my red-themed watercolors at In your Eye Studio and Gallery, getting ready for our group February show at Paseo Arts District, opening First Friday, Feb.5.

Here's what it looks like. You can also see the paintings up close and in person, and even purchase them, this Friday and Saturday, noon to 5. 

From left, at top, Oklahoma Red, Amazing Grace, Oklahoma Sentinel.

Second row, Attention Getter, End of the Line, Seeing Red, Red Hot.

Last row, Irish Eyes, Passion, Red and Green, Windy Day, Rock and Roll, U.S.S. Arizona.

The watercolors of January--a story

That's the theme of February's show at our gallery, In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District. I'll be hanging mine today, getting ready for First Friday art walk, Feb. 5.

There are 10 of us member artists now, and we meet once a month--via zoom for the past 10 months as the pandemic has disrupted every one's lives and businesses. We've been fortunate that we've not suffered as much of the rest of the world. That's when we chose the red theme for February.

It's been my goal ever since March to try to bring some bright color into the world to offset the darkness,  and it spurred my creativity, with many, many paintings...some good, some, well so-so. But I painted...more a gift to myself than others, I suspect.

I count myself fortunate to be such a member,  but when the theme was suggested, I thought I had nothing red to show. So I got to work.

As I did, and began assembling them, getting them framed at Pirate's Alley in Britton, I also found a few earlier red ones to be included.

And in this process, this appropriate poetry from by readings in Rumi just appeared this week:

Here is the slide show, beginning with my best, the round barn at Arcadia. It ends with the first painting of the new year, the only non-red one of the month, "Manzano Moon Shadows."

Here's the information on those paintings, most are 5 x 7s, unless specified otherwise, size not including mat and frame. Those from earlier than January are included:

"Oklahoma Sentinel" (8 x 10), "Attention Getter," " Everybody needs flowers," "Seeing Red,"  "End of the Line" (8 x 10), Granddaughter's birthday card, "Rock and Roll" (earlier), "Hold on to your hat kind of day" (earlier), "Red Hot," "Redhead," "Irish Eyes" (earlier), "Passion," "Amazing Grace" (8 x 10, earlier), (U.S.S. Arizona" (earlier), "Great Plains Winter" (earlier),  "Manzano Moon" (8 x 10).

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


 Seeing red...A month’s water work, plus a few from earlier, in time for our February red-themed show and sale, at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.
5 x 7s to 11 x14s, framed sizes, from $59. Slide show on this blog tomorrow

Monday, January 25, 2021

What is the color of God?

"The light that comes from red hair," 5 x 7 watercolor

coincidence, or serendipity or whatever you call it, I found the theme for my recent art last night.

As you know from this month's paintings, I and my gallery partners have been getting new art ready for the red them of our February show at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.

Last night, before nodding off, I was reading again from The Big Red Book by Rumi, the Persian poet and seer, who lived from 1207 to 1273.

And there it was, jumping out at me, about the color red. And of course, as someone always attractd to redheads, it was even more pertinent.

So I had to try to paint again, another redhead, to be framed and for sale in February, along with 11 other mostly recent paintings fitting the theme.

But, hey, I couldn't pass up trying today's painting.


Saturday, January 23, 2021


"Passion," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico cold press paper

do you picture "Passion"?

In teaching, and in work, I've often said, and my colleagues have agreed with me, a person with passion  will stand out, over those perhaps smarter or richer, and certainly those who don't have passion.

I think that is true also in art. "Paint what you feel," "paint the emotion," and other advice basically says, "Paint with passion." I was watching a cellist play during the inauguration, and the little poet recite, as well as the other artists. They excelled because they were creating with passion.

It is no accident that red is a color of passion either, and as I try to get ready for our February red-themed show at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paso Arts District, I've recived lots of comments about my paintings featuring red. 

The best ones have been all exercises in fun, and some frustration and failures, but still, discovery and passion.

While red always catches my attention, scientifically because of the long wavelength, so does an attractive woman wearing some type of hat,  because of emotions. 

Thus today's watercolor, suggested by a recent photo I saw of a beautiful woman wearing a red tam. This isn't good enough to frame and sell, but it was discovery and fun and worth another try. Passion indeed.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

West Texas Red

"West Texas Red," 5 x 7 birthday card

in the Texas Panhandle, or elsewhere on the Great Plains, where the horizons are long, and the land vast, the skies are even more dramatic and colorful in all kinds of weather and seasons, and especially near dawn or sunset.

When I get cooped up on a cloudy day or in urban life, I often think of the freedom of that landscape and skies.

Thus, today's watercolor, keeping with the red theme for February's show. But this is just a birthday card for someone who has grown up out there. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Red head

"Red head," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb d'Arches cold press paper

I just have to keep trying, and so it is with today's watercolor, another attempt at a cowgirl holding on to her hat on a windy day.

The previous one is ok, but turned out to be too large to fit in my 5 x 7 mat, and I wanted to work on the "red" theme again, for the February red-themed show in our Gallery, In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in paseo Arts District.

This one's better, than the one eight days ago, but I might try again, as I keep learning and seeing possible improvements. Besides, it's a treat to paint a pretty woman.

What about her other arm and hand? It's probably clinched on the handle of her .45 revolver in her holster!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

End of the line

"End of the line," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

"Paint what you feel, not the subject. " "Paint your inspiration," not what inspired you." "Paint shapes, not things." "Paint values, not colors." Plan long, paint fast."

The list of advice in painting, and watercolor, from my teachers, and readings--my do it yourself art school late in life, keeps growing.

They're also intimidating, but I keep trying to learn, to apply, and to be myself, not others.

Today's watercolor reflects some of all of that, and while I'm not completely happy with it, it is presentable.

It's another in a series paintings for our In Your Eye Studio and Gallery  February-themed "red" show for February, in the Paseo Arts District.

Yes, it'll be framed and for sale.

Oh, what did I feel, what was my inspiration? I've been captivated by cabooses ever since I was in first grade or before. I've painted and blogged about them many times.

This one, titled "The end of the Line," is metaphorical and very personal  now that cabooses are sidelined, and old, in the winter of their years. But there is still beauty, usefulness and memories.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Seeing red

"Seeing red," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches rough press paper

a walk in the woods or parks, almost anytime of the year but especially in drab winter months,  and when you catch a flash of red out of the corner of your eye, you know what it is.
The brightly colored, aptly named male cardinal brings color to a sometimes drab landscape.
Later in the year, in mating season I assume, you can often hear their distinctive  call even if you can't see them in thickening foliage.
We have lots of birds in our yard, especially with feeders in winter. robins have recently arrived. Soon, there will be cardinals, and later in the year still drab young ones.
It's good to be seeing red.
Today's watercolor, soon to be framed and for sale at our galery, In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo, for a February show, them: red.

Friday, January 15, 2021

When we need flowers

"When we need flowers," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb Canson cold press

Notice how someone's mood changes and smiles spontaneously break out when they get flowers?

This country needs some flowers right now. 

Armed troops are guarding the capitol with the inauguration next week. The National Guard has been activated in many states as fear of violence rises.  The pandemic is raging as more and more people are dying. Winter weather, and short days   deepens the somber mood.

I wanted to paint flowers, probably to lift my mood, but I'm not a good flower painter, especially if you expect them to be beautiful in detail. But, I've discovered, I can help create an impressionistic approach.

So today's watercolor, just because, we all need some flowers right now.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Reds, white and blues

"Attention-getter," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb Canson cold press paper

The color with the longest wave length of light. The color that catches your attention before any other, whether a red car, a red flag, a red shirt, red lips. The color, the symbol,  of passion and patriotism, of romance and revolution, of love and lust.

It's not my favorite color, especially in painting...the blues are obvious. But, our gallery of 10 artists in Paseo Arts District, plans "Red" to be February's group show  theme.

One of the beauties of red is that it comes in so many different variations--opening up all kinds of possibilities, through mixing, especially in watercolor.

So I have to go to work. I have a list of subjects: Round barn, red chili ristras, red-headed cowgirl, caboose, apples, an earlier bloody impression of the U.S.S. Arizona, maybe one of the Alamo, perhaps a red sunset at sea, perhaps one of the Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) mountains in New Mexico.

Red barn,  ristra and cowgirl accomplished this week--earlier on the blog. And today's, red lips--mixing three distinct hues--Alizarine Crimson, Scarlet Lake, Pyrrole Red, and plus touches of blue peacock and in violet. So--reds, the white of the paper, blues.

Yes, it'll be framed and for sale in the gallery just in time for Valentine's Day, in February.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Hang on to your hat day

"Windy Day," 5 x 7 watercolor, Canson cold press paper

If there's an almost constant  on the Great Plains and in the West, it's wind.

That's the thought behind today's watercolor, a cute cow girl hanging on to her hat.

It's part of my series getting ready for In Your Eye Studio and Gallery's February art show in Paseo Artist District. Theme: "Red."

Yes, it'll be framed and for sale in the gallery Fridays and Saturdays next month.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Red hot!

"Red Hot," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb. Canson cold press paper

is a "hot" color, a "warm" color for artists...but not when you grow up in New Mexico.

There, every fall, ristras of drying red chile peppers hang from vigas, from doorways and other places...some functional, all decorative.

If you think I've misspelled any words in that sentence, you simply no comprende.


First, "chile" is a variant of "chil" from the Nahuatl Axtec dealect. The conquering Spanish added an "e," the correct Hispanic spelling. English speakers, gringos, changed it to an "i." 

That word  most often refers to a mismash of beans, meat, no telling what, that is the state dish of Texas. It's a common menu item in many states, including Oklahoma, but...regardless of the degree of heat, it's basically bland, and  not real "chile." 

While some form of "chili" powder is a basic ingredient of such "Mexican"  food, it is not New Mexican food. Most of that food, regardless of degree of heat, including the so-called "Tex-Mex" food essentially is bland and tastes the same, no matter the fancy titled restaurant, including Oklahoma. 

The reason I know is I grew up in New Mexico, and looked this stuff up. New Mexicans consume more chile per capita than any other group in the United States. 

Now, as to ristras, strings of drying chiles.  The word was first recorded in 1895-1900, from the Spanish, meaning literally, "strings," from  old Spanish riestra, rieste, from Latin restis “rope, cord.”

You don't see many ristras here in Oklahoma. I tried bringing one home once, hanging it by a lamp. Soon I smelled something. The chiles were rotting in the humidity, rather than drying. That's why they're such a powerful image to me, hanging on an adobe wall in the dry New Mexican sunshine. 

By the way, you haven't tasted hot, until you've had a meal in New Mexico doused with real red, or green, chile, if you don't ask for milder. Red hot.

Thus today's watercolor, for In Your Eye Studio and Gallery's "Red" themed show in February.

Jesus' example and the mob--from Rumi

"As those with business ideas

were driven from the temple courtyard,

so bitter, self-important people need to be excluded

from the mix being stirred in this day's great wooden bowl."

 Sometimes, truth choose you, or  jumps out at you, when you need it.

In these dangerous times for freedom, as hell-bent thugs and their leader  threaten our  country, even going to sleep can be difficult.

Rather than take a sleeping pill or anxiety medicine, I often turn to soothing wisdom of the Catholic seer Thomas Merton, or to the Persian mystic and poet Rumi.

Their books are by the bed, and I'll just randomly open one of them up and start reading.

So it was last night, when  opened Rumi's The Big Red Book, and these lines from the section, title "The Majesty," the poem, "This Day's Great Wooden Bowl" leaped out. He lived from 1207 to 1273. Amazing perspective.

Friday, January 8, 2021

How to put someone down with just one word

Remember when we were growing up and our parents taught us manners? Or you wanted to put down a friend or a pest who was acting unbecomingly?

If we "got to big for our britches," or didn't act right, they would tell us, something like, "don't be a spoiled brat," or "don't be a poor loser."

No need for that anymore. One word will suffice for a multitude of pejorative judgments and put downs. "Oh quit being a ---trump."  (lower case please.)

Think of all the instances that will fit. Some version of with, "Don't be a..." or "Quit being so.... " Here are a few that come to mind. Other ideas?

  1. Spoiled brat.
  2. Liar. 
  3. Poor loser.
  4. Cry baby.
  5. Bossy.
  6. Egomaniac.
  7. Racist.
  8. Con man.
  9. Arrogant.
  10. Cruel.
  11. Name-caller.
  12. Deluded.
  13. Sullen.
  14. Selfish.
  15. Self-Centered.
  16. Moody.
  17. Callous.
  18. Impolite.
  19. Pompous.
  20. Inconsiderate.
  21. Dishonest,
  22. Narrow-minded.
  23. Intolerant.
  24. Resentful.
  25. Inflexible.
  26. Deceitful
  27. Machiavellian.
  28. Traitor.
  29. Full of yourself.
  30. Big-headed
  31. Braggart.
  32. Selfish.
  33. Thinking you're entitled.
  34. Cheater.
  35. Freeloader (not paying your taxes).
  36. Defrauder.
  37. Defaulter.
  38. Thief.
  39. Pathetic.

Route 66 Sentinel

"Route 66 Sentinel," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches rough press paper

Oklahoma's historic round barn at Arcadia, built in 1898,  is just a few minutes from our house.

It's a symbol of resilience, of Okie hard work and dedication, and a treat to visit.  It is now a destination for those from around the world who want to travel the equally historic and iconic US 66, which runs by its front door, if a round barn has a "front" door. Of course, it's older than US 66, and US 66 is now history, and now is designated State Highway 66. 

So many stories and memories to tell. You can find out lots more about it at the website: Round Barn . Better yet, go visit.

Every once in a while I just drive that way, and in a few minutes I'm past the suburban strip mails, consumerism and traffic of Edmond and Oklahoma City. There is a two lane highway, trees, other barns, and part of old US 66--Oklahoma has more of that original pavement than any other state. And of course, there is the barn.

I've painted it today, because In Your Eye Gallery in the Paseo Arts District in OKC, of which I'm a member, will designate "Red" as  the theme for our shows in February.   I have some other subjects to be painted, but this was the first.

My second watercolor of 2021, depicted in the early years of US. 66 when it wasn't all paved, but there were some telephone lines.

And yes, it will be framed and for sale, in February.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Manzano moon shadows

"Manzano Moon Shadows," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

Study in blue, first painting of 2021...full moon shadows in the Manzano Mountains of New Mexico

Inspired this week by the shadows of bare tree branches on snow outside my window in the middle of the night. 

Palette: Manganese blue, Peacock blue, Ultramarine blue, Royal blue, Prussian blue

Friday, January 1, 2021

December 2020 watercolors--slide show

 My annual Christmas card project comprised most of this month's watercolors, but there were seven larger paintings as well

This slide show begins with six larger ones, and proceeds in no particular order to the Christmas star cards, plus a larger one of pilgrims going to Chimayo, New Mexico,  on Christmas eve,  to the last five, which wrapped up this pandemic year, a record number of paintings (more than 200) and blog posts. 

My goal, way back in March, was to provide some daily color and hope and thought to offset this disaster-filled year of 2020. A side effect, only recently realized, is that my efforts were essential to my own survival. 

I am continuing my habit of a daily journal, started today, but I'm not sure about how often I'll be painting.

So, here's a look back. Turn up the volume, and maximize the images. 

Pandemic paintings, from March

"Virus," 5 x 7 watercolor, March 13, 2020

Remember March? So much has happened since the pandemic arrived. We thought this would be over in summer. We knew so little abut it, and still do. 

But as a new year starts, here are links to  watercolor slide shows, with not quite daily paintings, if you're interested. 

Painting above was my take on the virus, painted March 13 .

Slide shows: