"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, June 4, 2023

Missing an unlikely 14th birthday, a story and toast

 I meant to celebrate a 14th birthday in May, put it off, and then forgot. So here's a toast with post number 2,678 in the 170th month of my blog Coffee with Clark. 

These arethe obligatory explanations and reasons, because in May, Coffee with Clark, turned an astounding 14 years old of almost constant activity...very unlikely in the blogosphere, and in my changing life and priorities.

In all those years there have only been two months out of 168 that have not recorded a single post.

I'm aware that May just passed with only one post, that of a photo of me with two dear friends, Mary Carver and Christy Vincent, receiving her retirement painting.

But that epitomizes the changes in the blog over the years, which began in May, 2009 as a largely journalistic effort, even with published doubts if it would last long. I didn't "reckon" it would, but then it became habit, a necessity and an obligation over the years.

I started it because at UCO we  needed a blogging class for our journalism majors. You need to be able to do what you teach is our ethic. It became a tool for story-telling, for teaching, for personal self-expression, certainly for professional pride and accomplishment.

Those first eight months saw a 321 whopping posts...the highest annual I've ever done. Last year was the lowest, with just 60 posts. This post is only the 15th this year.

There have been a total of 2,678 posts in these years, having be read by people in more than 150 countries, back when I was keeping count. There were times when I posted at least once a day, and perhaps more often. But not now, but even if it seems it's either hibernating or comatose, it's still breathing.

As a journalist ( ink is always in the blood), and artist, I'm proud it's alive, with more than 450,000 views, and growing even as I type this. The flag counter shows 115 flags of viewers, but it's a late comer to the blog. I used to write a year-end review of the blog, but missed that this year. Here's the 2018 link for one of them, listing stats and lists of readers' countries: https://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2018/12/state-of-blog-nearing-decade-even-north.html

What has changed? The times, yes. My life, certainly. Retirement for one. Changing my identity and focus from a professor to aging retiree and artist. The blog is no longer the priority it once was, but I still value having a creative forum, rather than just a job. Now if I'd ever figured a way to make money from it, I might feel differently, but it's not a "niche" blog, so it is a wonder it's still alive...because most individual blogs never last 14 years

And, a side affect I didn't anticipate...I really have to make myself sit down and write any more...it's not an aversion, but  an avoidance for sure.  I just don't want to spend the time necessary to produce decent writing. Just this post is an effort, taking almost two hours to get "in print." But I still drink coffee.

The blog has changed to more of a record of my art life and DIY education, and my paintings usually provoke thoughts and thus writing to go with them, which results in shorter essays or "meditations" as partners. One of the results  saving the blog  has been when I post many of the Christmas cards every December. that I produce for family and friend,,,they all tell stories of some sort.

In many ways, art is keeping the blog alive, and probably me too. All artwork, and paintings, I've realized, has stories to tell, both for me, and for those who view it. As friend Mark Hanebutt told me about continuing painting, "You have more to say."

Mantra--"There are so many more stories to tell." 

Giants in the earth

A few years ago, what the kids call the Mafia

follows are the general  outline of comments I made while officiating the funeral of my father-in-law Jay Henry, June 2. He was 93, born July 14, 1929, died  May 23.

  • Genesis 6:4. “There were giants in the earth in those days, and also after that…”
  • There still are. Today we gather to salute, to honor, to celebrate, to say goodbye, to mourn such a one,  James Lidge Henry, a true patriarch for his extensive family.
  • These comments are for each of you, Susan, Sara, Jim, Jason; grandchildren-- Chad, Bobby, Jared, Alexx, Roxanne, Sam; great grandchildren-- Hugo, Ellis; in-laws, Jennifer, Karen, Perry, me, Angela, Cat, Sophy, Candie.
  • “Pepa”  Grandchildren revere him...you are so fortunate in scattered times …a beloved icon. As a relative new in-law, one who had never heard of Jay Henry until I met Susan, I quickly realized I had been adopted, fully accepted…as each of you in-laws have learned.
  • How accepted? He and Margaret didn’t judge. They never questioned—and we never argued, about opposing politics. How tolerant? They didn’t disown me, though they couldn’t understand however, that I was not an OU fan. My command was always, “take care of our daughter.”
  • My view of Jay—a gardener, a meticulous detail person. How dare another leaf fall down in his garden area after he’d just swept it clean. If he was ready to leave a dinner, a trip, whatever, impatience showed. He’d have everything in order and packed. We often heard him loudly snap at Margaret, who always took 30 minutes to say goodbye. “Margaret, let’s go!”
  • And he and Margaret are one of the great love stories of all time, meeting on a tennis court at OBU. Jay, a lanky kid from southern Oklahoma, took the bus up to Enid to meet the folks, got off on the US 81 corner near the Jolly house, and probably saw the Champlain oil mansion at the end of the block.I wonder what he thought? He told me Margaret was the first Republican he’d ever met. 
  • Editorial comment:  get rid of any stereotype you ave about rural people being hicks. . Jay’s intelligence, character, drive, experience, wisdom as a leader, and as an always generous father in good times and dark times was unparalleled. 
  • Except for Margaret, Jay was used to being in charge, gained at Baptist Hospital, which became his other life. Before it was a trend, he managed by “walking around” the halls, greeting every employee by name.
  • A few years ago, Susan and I were at the Cowboy museum for an even, ant Uncle Ray was there. Soon we noticed he was just sitting there, not being responsive. We feared a stroke, and he eventually was taken by ambulance to ICU in Baptist.  We headed that way
  • Jay and Margaret arrived, Margaret dropped off first, and we were milling around outside the ICU doors waiting for news. Jay walks in, walks up to the reception desk..they're also cop and a nurse in there.  Jay  demands, “Open that door.”It opens, like the Red Sea, and Jay, retired, but in charge, barges in.
  • Family man—Jay loved taking relatives on road trips to southern Oklahoma, to towns and cemeteries, and his favorite place, Corbit.   The Henry’s  lived down the road from Wylie Post’s family home and walked there to tell his mother about the accident. Irony. Jay is being buried not too far from Wylie Post in the same cemetery.
  • He was proud of his and ancestors and heritage, including Clan Campbell,
  • I asked the kids about memories that might help us appreciate Jay and smile today.
  • Everyone of them mentioned the trips Jay and Margaret would take the entire family on.
  • They all spoke about a road trip to Mexico, with Jay driving, and Margaret reading a tour guide as the went. I can imagine some of the kids’ rolling eyes, and Jay was not the most patient person driving either, especially if someone was slow in front of him. He’d gun it and pass, even several cars (This is one of the reason I really identify with him, and it explains Susan’s gritted teeth when I drive—it’s genetic).
  • Jay was in charge and always trying to corral the 4 kids to stay on schedule, on a road trip of a cruise. Good luck. In Mexico City, he was ready to go, but couldn’t fine Jim and Jason. I think they’d been told not to, but there they were at the top of the Sun Temple. Wish we had a recording.  I can’t even corral my wife to stay on my schedules,—can’t image four of them-Genetic.
  • By the way, they drove in a station wagon, back before seat belts, and you’re old if you remember the second back seat looking out the rear view window, .
  • One more item—Sara told me there was a period  when the kids experienced Jay and Margaret falling in love again. She  said there were a  few times when one of them would barge in somewhere, and embarrassed, beat a hasty exit.
  • It was all about family. In these last years, Susan and Sarah and Jim became more and more involved with their care. Susan took over much of their bookkeeping and other duties, and Jay told me many times, “Thank you for loaning us your wife.”
  • There are portions of a fitting Scottish funeral poem speaking to each of you in this family.
  • Relax, I’ll not try to say it in Scottish, and  update the language. It’s Jay, talking to each of you:
  • “Good night, and joy be with you all, your mirth has cheered my heart, in sorrow may you never part. My spirit lives, but strength is gone, Remember children, the deeds I've done, and in your deeds I live again."


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Summer, and songs, of green

"Green Leaves, Green Grass...of Home, 9 x 12 watercolor, 140 lb cold press paper

everywhere. Driving the back roads on today's beautiful summer day, that's what you notice. Lush, alive, blooming, rain soaked.

Far different that our neighbors in drought-stricken western Oklahoma and West Texas, where the dominant color is brown. Life and death.

Thoughts of life's beauty  combine with pondering death, so close to home and friend brought two songs to mind, about summer and home and mortality.

"The Green Leaves of Summer," and the "Green Grass of Summer...."

"The green leaves of summer are calling me home."

"It's good to touch the green, green grass of home."

Thus today's quick watercolor painting.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Where Spirits Dwell, emotionally

"Where Spirits Dwell" -my friends Dr. Mary Carver, Dr. Christy Vincent. Blessed 

"Art is about emotion; if art  needs to be explained it is no longer art." 


Titles for paintings are sometime difficult to come by, and at other times they'are inherent.

So it was when I was commissioned to paint a retirement gift for great friend and spiritual  leader Dr. Christy Vincent, retiring from my dear former University of Central Oklahoma Department of Mass Communication this spring.

Honored and intimidated by the request from my dear friend  Dr. Mary Carver, chair of the department, it took time to find an appropriate subject. Christy and her husband Dr. Don Drew have been generous with my art in the past, and I didn't want to duplicate anything I'd done, especially with our love of New Mexico.

But Ghost Ranch and Georgia O'Keefe was on our mutual agenda  as I approached it. Thinking of my friend and her spirituality, of our love for New Mexico and art, of the Department and students and colleagues, and of Ghost Ranch, the title was in my head before I began. "Where Spirits Dwell."

That was the east part.

Research, my photos, and others, history, multiple angles and lighting and moods and emotions  gelled. Compositions came and went. Formats changed. Two failures consumed paint and canvas. Then spirits spoke, in human voices, about "having fun," and "paint what you feel."

Thus it was, picking colors, choosing a frame ahead of time, that emotion came together, along with editing--tweaking, revising, whatever--that the gift of emotion came together.

I've been doing this long enough to know the every painting has at least one story, multiple versions, and the outcome is often more than planned or expected.

That's more than one of the stories of this painting.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

A week of emotional travel

"Dawn on the Santa Fe Trail,"  New Mexico, 10 x 20 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

“Art is about emotion; if art needs to be explained it is no longer art." 


This was a week of emotional travel and rescue for me, thanks to fellow artists, paintings accomplished, a studio opening, compassionate advice, friends.

I don't think you can be an artist, of any type, and not have emotions. I love the quote by  Keith Richards when asked what he felt on stage. He replied, " I don't think, I feel."

A week ago, I was in the doldrums, working on a commission that was not going well, missing out on sales at Edmond Vibes. I was ready to quit, and be a greeter at Walmart. The downside of being open to emotion two-sided. You can't have positive without the other. 

"Sunset Road," loved by Ryan Day

on Friday  it changed. Friend, and wonderful multitalented artist Ryan Day, showed up at Paseo's First Friday at  In Your Eye Gallery for a great conversation. She then purchased my acrylic, "Sunset Road,"  and later bragged on it on social media.

Then her mother, Jennifer Lynn Farrar, a  Henry family friend and glass artist, bragged on it too, calling me a "hard-core artist" for painting in 105-degree heat last year during VIBES.

Stuck on the commission, and with the spark of attitude, and advice from my wife and a friend to "have fun," I revived it and finally finished it this weekend. Emotion.

And Friday, I got a call from Paseo Arts Association director Amanda Bleakley, offering me a studio space in the center. A dream, yes.

Then while studying another artist, I read this quote by Renoir. 

So this afternoon, painting from fun and a fav personal photo of New Mexico that is the header for my 14-year-old blog, I finished today's painting.   Emotion. Thankful.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Predators' eyes from the past

"Dinner Time," Snowy Owl, 6 x 6 acrylic on canvas

million years ago, owls were hunting in what is now Colorado. I learned that this week, searching for painting subjects.

The oldest owl fossil, a leg bone,  was dated from about five million years after the dinosaurs went extinct. An almost complete Skelton has been dated aat about 55 million. It was about five feet tall. The main difference in that bird and today's owls seems to be in its feet. It had an extra large toe talon, like Eagles, which is used to kill prey. Today's owls capture with their talons, but kill with their beaks.

 Throughout history, mankind has been snared by owls in mythology, religion and more. Their calls, their markings, their lives, their zoology, and especially their eyes, are captivating, even haunting.

"Breakfast time," Burrowing Owl, 6 x 6 acrylic, canvas

always caught my attention, hearing them at night, seeing them on back roads or in trees, in zoos, in videos, and especially now that my daughter Dallas has two independent bookstores in Canyon and Amarillo, Burrowing Owl books,, both full of lots of owl images and models. 

 Thus today's two acrylic paintings, available this Thursday at my show as Edmond Vibes at The Vault, and thereafter at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.

Here's looking at you, but not as well as they do.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Believing in myths and magic

"Magic," 4 x 4 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

, Mystical creatures.  We live in a world not just of science and facts and human egos, but of the unexplained, the believed, the hoped for.

Of the mythical creatures we've conjured up or seen or dreamed of, the two most likely are dragons and unicorns, with perhaps mermaids third. They are real however in the sense they are products of human imagination and dreams, or fears or experience.

So here are two testaments to myths and magic, today's paintings.

"Passion," 4 x 4 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

next week at April 6   opening of Edmond Vibes at TheVault405, and thereafter at InYourEyeStudioand Gallery in  PaseoArts District.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

I heard the owl call my name

      "The Hunter,," 6 x 6 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

have called my name.

 There's an old Northwest Native American  legend that if you hear an owl call your name, get ready to die. There's a wonderful book by that title about a missionary to the Northwest  who that happens to.

For me, though, the sound of an owl is life-giving.  Maybe they weren't calling my name?

Most recently, I heard what I thought was an owl on an afternoon walk in Hafer park. I hope it was not a person's fake technology.

More importantly to me now that ever is try daughter Falls Bell's Burrowing Owl Bookstores in Canyon and Amarillo, where you can find dozens, literally, of different owl images and c creations, and of course, books.

Before that though, I loved the sound of owls when camping out, or in even Oklahoma City, hearing them outside the window with my love.

I've read about them many times, about their sounds, their biologics, their behaviors, their interactions with us...always remind us that they are creatures of prey, of wonderment, of questions.

Thus today's acrylic, at Edmond Vibes next Thursday and thereafter at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery. 

Have you heard them call your name?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

From horror to hope

"Easter Dawn," 5 x 5 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, palette knives

there's an eternal message about the Easter story, whether you're a Christian or not, centers on humanity's hope, after the horrors of inhumanity. 

After all  the horrors of Roman crucifixion, of humans' constant cruelty,  in war  and crime, to other humans, to other living things, to all of creation--hope somehow survives, hope in life here and after death. Eternity is always present. 

Thus today's painting, rough textured for the horror, light for the hope, just  for Easter. Available soon at Edmond Vibes, April 6 at The Vault, and thereafter at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The texture of "faith"

"Faith," 5 x 5 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, palette knives only

grew up believing faith was what I was told it was, what I was taught. It was a definition, supported by  scriptures in various ways and and those you agreed with.

That was perhaps fine in youth and early adulthood, but it seemed to easy, especially when you studied the people of the Scriptures, learned stories of what the "faithful" of all beliefs endured through the centuries. 

I'm a slow learner, it's taken decades of questions and doubts and reading and failures and lessons and  fewer answers and living through ups and downs to even write this.

I don't pretend to define the word--I'm not sure that is possible. There are metaphors and comparisons and examples of those who are and were people of faith. 

But after I finished my morning reading today, I could say that faith has texture, texture acquired in a journey, experienced by living in the face of eternity. That's vague, I know.  It's only my description, not an answer or definition, and not peculiar to any belief. That's difficult for us Americans, used to being in control and children of exact answers in a computer age of science.

Another--universal and not just religious--description, not a definition, is in  Hebrews 1:1 "...faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen."

Thus today's painting, using only a palette knife to add physical texture to my attempt. Available Edmond Vibes, at The Vault April 6, and thereafter at  In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

American Spirit?


"Bison skull," 5 x 5 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

Looking for a title. Sometimes paintings choose their own titles. Other times I know when I begin, or after I'm well on my way. But some paintings  stare back at me, literally in this case.

So is this one. Sources of inspiration for this bison skull come from many sources, but not a name. Best I can come up with is AmericanSpirit or American Ghost...but they don't seem to fit.

Suggestions? Email me. Soon to be at Edmond Vibes, at The Vault April 6, and thereafter at  In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo.

Where you can see eternity

"Forever," 12 x 12 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

"The prairie skies can always make you see more than what you believe."                                                           --Jackson Burnett, The Past Never Ends

"Out here there's the sky." That is my axiom as an artist, an adaption of Willa Cather's famous lines in Death Comes for the Archbishop. You can't grow up and live on the edges of the Great Plains,  or in them, and not know how they dominate and create the character of the vast land and its temporary residents.

It seems this is where you can see eternity...stretching and beckoning  beyond horizons on earth and atmosphere.  Always asking questions. What is beyond? Are humans really significant? Sky determines.

This week's painting tries to capture that magnitude of the  expanses in our existence. Thanks to friends who advised me on the skies of the painting. It took a week of mulling over possibilities to finish it.

Soon to be at Edmond Vibes, at The Vault April 6, and thereafter at  In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo.

"Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world,                                                                                                            but here the earth was the floor of the sky." --Willa Cather

Monday, March 6, 2023


"Tomorrow," 12 x 12 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, palette knives only

"...Tomorrow is today's dream." --Khalil Gibran

"Do not be anxious about tomorrow...." Jesus

Dreams. Tomorrow. Today. Yesterday. In eternity, there is no tomorrow, no past, no time. Like dreams.

This week's acrylic, when time went away with paint and canvas and palette knives.

Soon, at In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

End of the line


"End of the Line," 6 x 6 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

"I wanna  'Boose!" I'd exclaim as a kid when a caboose would pass by as we sat waiting at a railroad crossing.

I always notice cabooses—especially red ones. I miss them. They're icons of my youth,  Why? They were part of the mystery of growing up, I guess. 

I still paint them, and write about the, I've fantasized about having one in my back yard to escape, write, read and paint. Ah well. 

Here's the latest painting, a little late for our red-themed February show at In Your Eye Studio & Gallery in Paseo Arts District, but it'll be available there soon.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The blurred pages of 2022

fitting that the current book I'm reading, the last of the year at No. 48 in my book log,  is "Why Time Flies, A Mostly Scientific Investigation"  by Alan Burdock, non-fiction, about the nature of time in our lives and history. 

I usually wrap up my year's reading in December on this blog, but time did blur in my life, and with it, the urge to write and blog. Even the blog suffered, with two full months devoid of posts after the computer crashed

By the "time" I wanted to write, the year was gone. By comparison,  there were 54 in 2021, 49 in 2020, and 34 in 2019But here are the books I read, or started and didn't finish from 2022. Total 48. 

Finished Dec. 31, Now rereading
 Spiritual, Religious--8: Falling Upward and   Breathing Under Water, Rohr; and six by Thomas Merton--Finished Dec. 31--A Year With Thomas Merton, daily thoughts, meditations and more from his journals; and When the Trees Say Nothing, Dialogues With Silence, The Interior Life, Monastic Tributes to Merton, Zen and The Birds of Appetite and The Sign of Jonas.

  Poetry--8: Call Us What We Carry, Gorman; Poetry of Remembrance,  Romero; The Leaf and the Cloud, Oliver; Chaco Trilogy, Price; Earth Keepers, Momaday; American Primitive, Oliver; The Potter's Book, Mulcahhy; Kerry Slides, Muldoon.

 Art, Creativity--6; The Gift, Hyde, read most of it;   How to Paint with a Knife; How to Paint Fast, Mollica; Atmospheric Landscapes in Acrylic,  Scarbe; Winslow Homer, Crosscurrents; Paint Alchemy, Oliver,, scanned.

Non-Fiction--13 (including Time Flies): The Writers Map, Lewis-Jones ed.; Greatest Bear Run Ever, Donahue; Desert Solitaire, Abbey (reread);Atlas of Irish History, Duffy; Landscapes of Ireland, Diggin; Sacred Places, Goesty; When Humans Nearly Vanished, Prothero; Road to Rainy Mountain, Momaday; Beatty's Cabin, Barker (Pecos Wilderness, N.M.); Valley of the Shining Stone, Polng-Kemps (Abiquiu, N.M.); The Scotch Irish, Leyburn (unfinished; Burn After Writing, Jones, unfinished; Lone Star, Fehrenback (Texas history  before revisionists took over).

Fiction--7: Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury, reread; Mr. Gone, Triplett; Dune, Herbert; Hell and Back, Johnson (Longmire); Tomorrow, Jospeh Conrad; Fairy Tale, King, in progress; The Little Prince, Saint Exupery.

Self-Help: 2: Memory Guide, Restock; Don't Feed the Monkey Mind, Shannon.

Resource, won't finish but keep--1:Oklahoma Native Plants, Scothorn,

Won't even try to finish--1; Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Hardy. Thought I wanted to read a class. Not after one chapter.

"Let There Be Light"

"let There Be Light," 6 x 6 acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

the beginning...it was a very busy time. Still is, especially it seems to me in the beginning of a new year...so much to do.

I don't make resolutions, but have goals, like a long "to do" list...of a new year, that can be attempted or checked off.  One of last year's was "Don't piddle, paint." Alas, there was still too much piddling.

This year, I will try to paint daily, put some paint on something almost every day, whether complete or not, whether in minutes or hours.  And the way I paint is often an interruption between episodes of thinking and evaluating.

But at a beginning of a new year, the idea of one more black and white painting came to mind, for our January member show at  In Your Eye Studio and Gallery in Paseo Arts District.

"Let There Be Light," the first painting of 2023, resulted, palette knives and brushes.