"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, February 28, 2021

February slideshow--story of a year of watercolors

February Slide Show--turn on volume
This month's 12 watercolors close out a year of paintings during the pandemic pandemonium that descended on us in mid-March, a year ago. 
Trying to learn and survive the unknown, wondering in a daily journal of the plague year, I turned to trying to bring some color into my life and by sharing, to others with art to offset the gloom.
So this month's watercolors --I just noticed that most of them reflect my yearning to start traveling again--bring to 270 completed in this past 12 months. I'm amazed, and thankful, and blessed. 
Some are pretty good, a few are very good, many are just so-so, and others, not so much. But, I pushed myself, took on ideas and subjects I hadn't attempted, and had fun, and therapy. 
When working on art, the rest of the world goes away, and I, and we needed that between the viruses of pandemic, political insanity, racism, hatred and everything else, including violent weather.
I also learned how to put together slide shows of my work, for this blog, and on social media, such as this one today.
The total number of watercolors rescued and  changed my 2020 blog to a record number of posts, the third highest in its eleven years. They also pushed my imagination for subjects, and my writing, as I attempted to pair each painting with almost thoughtful mini-essays.
My annual holiday greeting card tradition boosted the total, with 38 posts in December. Most of last year's watercolors were 5 x 7s, especially in December and in April through July when I was attempting a painting a day, requiring quick work. But many are 8 x 10s as in February--all 8 x 10s except one greeting card, which is dated,  and a few larger.
The first slide show, of 18 March paintings, didn't get online until September. Here's that link if you wish to look back a year. March, 2020 Watercolors, as I caught up. 
Here are the other totals and links, if you wish to travel back in time

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Remembering When

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

places bring back special times, special people, even as the years pass.

"You can't go home again," except in your memory, but sometimes you can visit them, as you age. They can resurrect smiles and tears, and memories long shelved away. As autumn approaches, you're not the same person as then, but then again, you still are. 

That's the story behind today's second watercolor, thinking of those times, places, people, memories. 

Looking for Green

"Looking for Green," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico fough press paper

The snow has melted. The temperatures rise and fall. The skies change from cloudy to sunny or in between. The ground thaws, with patches of green amid the browns. 

We're among all creatures  looking for spring, especially this year, after a year-long winter of pandemic.

Today's watercolor, with at least visions of trees with green foliage on the prairies of Oklahoma.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


"I remember," 9 x 12 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico rough press

"Time stutters and reverses and it is always yesterday and today. Maybe the greatest miracle is memory."

            --One Long River of Song, Brian Doyle, 1956-2017

His essays are among the finest writing I've ever read. I always wonder why it took me so long to hear about him and be inspired and in wonder at his creativity, his wisdom, his spirituality. .

Novelist, essayist, novelist,  editor  in Portland, Oregon, he writes like I wish I could. I ordered the book at Best of Books in Edmond.

Monday, February 22, 2021


"Wanderlust," 9 x 12 watercolor, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico rough press paper

"All my bags are packed

    I'm ready to go...."

        --John Denver

My bags aren't packed but I'm sure ready to go...anywhere.

Pandemic prisons, winter weather woes--it's been so long since we've traveled the open road.

It is indeed "Wanderlust" these days. Thus today's watercolor, something different. Two brushes, random color, spur of the moment emotions.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

When it's time for Green

"Green," 8 x 10ish, 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico rough press paper

time for some green.

Long ago, when we lived in Iowa and headed south in a lime green VW bug in the spring to visit family, we could see the landscape gradually turn green, the farther south we came.

It was warming. Even when we lived in Central Oklahoma, and drove south in springtime to visit fam in Texas, by the time we got to southern Oklahoma and Ardmore, the greenery, the flowers were remarkable.

After what we've been through this year, with pandemic, politics, ice storm, snow and cold storm, what we need now is some green.

I know, spring is officially three weeks off...but this year, we need some green, the color of renewal, of life, of warmth.

Today's watercolor.

The colors of God--a sad story

buried a bluebird today.

It died on our back porch three days ago during the 10 degree cold of our February snow storm. Robins and other birds including bluebirds, swarmed in the yard, around our feeders. When I first saw it, it sat there, fluffed up, barely moving. It's mate huddled against it, twitched, fluttering try to keep it warm.

When I came back, the mate was gone, i thought to eat. A few minutes later, so was it, so I felt better. In another 15 minutes, it was back, still alive, but alone. In another 15 minutes,  it was lying on its side, and I knew.

I went outside, and its feet were curled up, and hits eyes dull, with eyelids half over them. I started talking to it, telling it I was so sorry. I felt its chest, and while it wasn't frozen yet, there was no warmth at all. I picked it up by its tail and I bet it didn't weigh five ounces. I dug a hole in the snow and covered it up to prevent it from being eaten by crows or jays.

Today as I looked out the window, there it was on the bare ground where the snow had melted.  When I  got my shovel and went to bury it, I found a dead robin a few feet away, also a victim of the cold. 

Before I picked it up to put it in the hole I dug near a tree, I pulled three of its tail feathers out. Then I placed them together, covered them with dirt, and patted it down.

Bluebirds have arrived in our yards this season, and we look for them every day. During the cold snap, they were almost everywhere, near our feeders, their brilliant colors standing out against the drab days.

The feathers are now part of a small planter in our kitchen window, reminding us of the joy and beauty of creation, even in the midst of grief and destruction. I will also remember forever, that dedicated partner forlornly and desperately trying to warm  its mate.

Looking at the miracle of those feathers, their beauty and design, and I think, they are surely the colors of God.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Stormy Solitude

"When skies turn red," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches rough press paper

Skies turn red on the Great Plains, usually at the crack of dawn, or just after sunset.

Add a spring thunderstorm, usually in the evening, and the drama of the landscape, the skies and the colors  speak of the vastness of nature, and the solitude of geography.

Solitude is more rare than ever these days, when we need it most, to think, to create, to breathe, to recover. It's not  being quarantined or sheltered or lonely because of the storm of the pandemic, but because we need the space of the Great Plains and individuality in this culture of conformity, lies and noise to be human. 

Thus today's watercolor.

After the storm

"This weird, colorful journey," 5 x 7 watercolor greeting card
Sunlight, snow melt...spring's not here yet, but our second terrible storm in five months is over.
The way things have gone this year, we'll probably have another, but for now...
I'm thankful for friends and family and fortitude in this weird, yet colorful journey.
So today's little watercolor.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"The Greens of Summer"

"Survivor," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches rough press paper

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers

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

        --Kodachrome, Paul Simon

Surviving the winter, surviving the years, surviving the pandemic...thoughts of summer and bright colors help.

One of my favorite songs is "Kodachrome" sung by Simon and Garfunkel, and I can see those greens of summer when I walk in Hafer Park in spring and especially summer.

recent year, I saw the skeleton of this survivor, this old tree, protruding from the lush foliage of nearby trees and took the photo.

It's gone, now, collapsed into the forest, rotting away, forming new life, but it caught my imagination. I've tried to paint it before, without luck, but this storm inspired me, wanting to paint some bright colors and greens.

Even when you're aged and wrinkled  and survival becomes more iffy, there is still beauty, and character. And bright colors.

Today's watercolor, and my photo of the subject.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Valentine memories--a story

"Your Voice is Springtime," 8 x 10 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

a good day, a bitterly cold, snowy day, to return a gift, to think of warm weather and warm hearts.
Today's watercolor is a second attempt in three days at pushing myself toward something I've never done before, stretching, working, learning. 
To tell the complete story, I'd have to post the black  and white photo by David Whyte in his poetry book Essentials, but it's copyright, so I'm not sure I can. No time to ask for permission.
But it, captioned "Talking All Morning," lifted my spirits and memories, bringing inspiration for painting.
The previous one followed his composition, with the challenge of  the foliage, figures, and more, but I was free to imagine the colors.
Yesterday, I sketched a better composition and value drawing, vowing to try to do a watercolor today.
So here it is, with more than one wash, and a step by step learning process. It's pretty good, and  has to be a gift. My wife gave me his book as part of her valentine tradition of giving me poetry books.
This is for her.
Captions could have been, "Talking all morning,'' but also comes to mind, "I could have watched your eyes all day," or "Your Voice is Springtime," or simply, "Us." Memories. Take your pick, or add your own.
So here, a gift from a gift--Happy Valentine's Day, Susan.
(below is the value sketch and first attempt, two days ago http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2021/02/summer-dreams-and-valentines.html.)

"Talking all morning, 8 x 10

Friday, February 12, 2021

Summer dreams and valentines

"Talking All Morning," 8 x 10 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper


Pandemic one. Quarantine two. Bitter winter storm, three. I don't want to know what four is.

So, thoughts of the good old summer time--warm sunny days, green grass, lush leaves, lazy river, good friends outdoors.

Today's little painting is a "study" because I'm trying something different, something to learn, to push myself, because I feel in a rut.

This is inspired by a little black and white photo, "Talking all morning," taken alongside a river in Ireland by poet David Whyte, that I found in his book "Essentials," given to me for Valentine's Day by Susan. I won't show you the photo, and I'm not trying to duplicate it. It's pretty rough and I'm not exactly happy with this, but enough to share.  If the next one is better, I'll post it.

I saw it and my imagination started adding color. Remember wanting to talk all morning with someone, pre social media, when everything just "clicks," one thought leading to another, no time-table, only the gentle rush of a river, grassy slopes, maybe a picnic lunch?

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Mountain Spirits

"Mountain spirits," 22 x 30 watercolor, 300 lb d'Arches cold press paper

Many of my recent books, which I didn't pick because they seemed related, deal with spirituality, in humanity, in nature, in eternity.

Some one is telling me something, and I guess it's no accident, thought I didn't get the connection until today,  that I exhibited by large watercolor, "Mountain Spirits," at our gallery, In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in the Paseo Arts District yesterday.

So, for the record, here it is, the largest I've ever attempted, of one of my favorite places, where memories and spirits collide.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Another step to the red round barn

I've never made prints of my paintings, but this changed this month after the response to my watercolor of the Round Barn at Arcadia.

The original is part of our red-themed February show at our gallery, In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.

So I now have 8 x 10 giclee prints of the original on art paper, ready to frame as 11 x 14s. On sale at the gallery, beginning tomorrow for First Friday art walk. Come see. The original is also famed and ready for sale.

My original red -themed watercolors for In Your eye's February show

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Golden Hour

"Golden Hour on the Great Plains," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

think more and more about how small we are as humans, on this planet, in creation.

The more I read, the more I learn, the more I experience spiritually, I'm awed by our existence. I've had this urge to paint the feeling of the word "small."

Whether you consider the landscape--mountains or prairies or oceans, it's all a bit overwhelming. But I do no how it fees to be on the back roads on the Great Plains. I first thought of the title, "Life on the Llano," but that will wait for another day. And it was worth another experiment with complementary colors--oranges and purples.

Today's watercolor comes close...Golden Hour on the Great Plains

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Open Road beckons

"The Open Road," 8 x 10 watercolor, 140 lb d'Arches rough press paper

"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose."
            --Walt Whitman

The open road beckons these  winter days, especially this year.

Cooped up not just because of the weather but hunkered down trying to avoid the pandemic makes travel all the more enticing, whenever  and if ever we can take to the open road.

We spent time this weekend in conversation about hoped for road trips later this year--Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, seashores, mountains--and also looking at maps. The roads beckon.

I couldn't help but think of Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road"  as I struggled to find inspiration to paint during the dark last days of January.

"What's the story?""What do you feel?" I didn't want to just paint a "pretty picture, " but something from inside,  where inspiration lives. 

Whitman provided it, though it took several efforts at composition sketches and color experiments to answer.

Thus today's watercolor, "The Open Road," where I'm traveling in my imagination.