Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Passing West of Ft. Sumner_Great Plains, grassland, sky

Passing West of Ft. Sumner, NM__6x8 oil on linen panel__reserved for 2011 exhibit

I just completed my second "official" trip through the Great Plains...Passing America. Returning through the southwestern Great Plains, we drove with a strong tail wind as a snowstorm chased us out of the southern Rockies where we spent a few days. This painting shows the high clouds and big sky above the horizon.

2010 looms, and here is what I will be up to, in brief:
Passing America: the Great Plains...I am preparing 150 new works for exhibit in the fall of 2011. This extensive project will take me through the Great American Plains a number of times. I will blog along the way and will also present some opportunities for folks to join me and follow the progress. You can start following the early stages NOW at
I also will do my usual 3 or 4 shows, a few workshops, and pay visits to the great galleries that represent me.
MAINLY, though, I will stay near the home front as much as possible.
It is a little bit too soon to mention this, but I have a new web site in the works. I cannot wait to "open the doors" to let you see it! My target date is January 4, the same day I will draw for the free painting! Remember to sign up! ...and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

The Law West of Ft. Sumner___Billy the Kid is buried in Ft. Sumner. He might not have gotten away with murder if he'd been around today! I had my camera ready and was really enthralled with the linear perspective in this view of the plains...note the telephone poles demonstrating the apparent distance as they get smaller and closer together...and the road gets thinner as it gets higher on the page toward the horizon. Just as I snapped, I noticed the police action...We picked a spot on the straight road ahead and measured how far away it was...17 miles! The air is so clear there that it looked like just a few miles. When I pass through huge distances on the plains, I feel very small...

...about 20 miles later, on the south horizon there was an occasional mesa. I zoomed in on this unusal cloud. It makes a great photo, but would be weird to paint.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snowy Place-Mesa-Llano Estacado-Snowy Cotton-Geese-Liquor Cigs

Passing Outside Muleshoe, TX__8x10 oil on linen panel_a "drive-by" painting.
We had snow along the roadside all the way to Colorado from north-central
Texas. It was especially deep in this panhandle area of Texas, and presented some pretty choces for "drive-by" paintings. I actually paint from the pasenger seat as we pass by. It is an exercise of memory, grabbing as much info in a glance and making that glance last as long as possible while passing by at 70 mph. As you can see from the color sketch above, the outcome is sometimes just an impression. The red barns are the main impression, but also the deep tracks through the snow and the color of the winter foliage.
My photos below give a little more info about this part of the plains...
"Morning Mesa by Snyder"...looking west at sunrise, this was a lone feature on the plain. Spanish for "table", mesas can be seen for miles and miles. Smoke signals were given from these heights...a way for the Indians to communicate long ago.

The road eventually climbs to the High Plains in the panhandle of Texas, and places you on a higher level, on top of the Llano Estacado. I will post a topo map tomorrow and you can see that this is a huge table land. From where I took this picture, it looks like a wall ahead of you. Llano Estacado means "staked plains"...and "Palisaded Plains"...and was named by early Spanish explorers. HERE is the southernmost edge of the Great American Plains.

"Snowy Cotton"...up near Lubbock were great fields of cotton stalks and remnants of the year's harvest...snowy white cotton had been covered with real snow a few days before. I liked this combination. These are BIG FARMING operations with huge co-ops and a lot of organization, yet even the best plans are no guaranty of a good crop. Everywhere is a reminder that people are STILL at the mercy of the seasons and "change".

"Lubbock Geese"...To me, a south/central Texan, Lubbock is "NORTH", so it seemed odd that these Canada geese were still flying in formation. I would have thought they'd be down on the coast by this time of year. We saw other groups of migratory birds: ducks and large white birds with black tipped wings...not whooping cranes...maybe egrets?

"Liquor, Cheap Cigs, Lottery"___On overpasses you get a rare "view from above", so I snap a lot of pictures of housetops and back yards. I am posting this one, hoping you will click on it and look closely at the details. Read the signs. Advertised are things that seem to indicate a hard life for these plains people.
Passing America: The Great Plains is my story of observing places that are often overlooked. When driving by, if one only looks at the straight road ahead, the places can seem featureless
in the periphery. The beauty doesn't scream at you like a snow topped mountain...details are subtle, but they contain the story: a distant mesa, a ridge of rock, snow-filled crop rows, a "v" of migratory birds all speak of an experience. Don't miss it!!!

Llano Estacado__High Rises on High Plains

"Llano Estacado"___a topo map...the smooth part is the High Plains. See the rim on the right side? It is an amazing drive up the side of the escarpment, and looking back. The photo below is the escarpment in the distance.

High Rise on the Plains....You can't miss these great can see them coming from miles away! A contrast of verticals against the broad horizontal space.

Plains Trip #2__Snyder at Sunrise

Snyder at Sunrise__a photograph on the plains...
This is the first post on my SECOND official trip dedicated to my next big exhibit "Passing America: The Great Plains"....scroll to bottom and read from there-up to get the proper context...
Here we were when the sun came up on the first day as we traveled thru the High Plains of second "official trip "Passing America"... I was seeing signs along the way, designating the Texas High Plains Trail. It seemed to turn east at Post, TX, so I made a note to try to persuade the family to drive that way on the way home (one of them is bound to read this post and help me lobby our driver :)
The drive has been lit up with Christmas decorations here and there. It's neat when one lone homestead is outlined with lights and you can see it for miles.
We have discussed "farms vs. ranches" and what's the difference. Our old place was called a FARM...because it spent over 35 years as a dairy farm, we kept calling it that, though, at the end it was more of a ranch, with cattle grazing and no crops except hay...It's an interesting discussion...Farm? or Ranch?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Passing America: Windy Plow_John Deere Tractor, plains, farm,

 "Passing America: Windy Plow"__6 x 8 Drive-by painting for Passing America:the Great Plains
Interstate 40 brought us through Amarillo, and east of there we took state Hwy 207. I want to do these "drive-by" paintings on scenic roads if I can and avoid the Interstate if possible...I like interstates because they are smoother for painting in the car, and because the views are familiar to most folks, but I like the idea of taking a road I may never take again. This one, 207, has a green dotted line on the Rand McNally map, which means it's a scenic route. We pulled off the road near Claude to move Nancy from the right to left side in the back so she could watch me paint...It was fiercely windy and a little bit cold. I turned around to look over the land, and saw this cloud of dirt in the distance. When we finally drove off, I made sure we drove by slowly so that I could sketch John Deere coming at us. I am sure that the farmer was thankful for an enclosed cab! Our tractors had heat and A/C , and I can imagine what the new ones must have!! I confess I made Barbara drive REAL SLOWLY past this scene and I made lots of quick strokes which I completed from memory as we drove by.  I wanted it to look windy. So far, this is the ONLY painting I really like for "Passing America..."  149 to go!
Below are photos of this scenic stretch inthe Great Plains of Texas!

This grain elevator in Claude did not seem to be shut down, though it was very desolate! At harvest time I bet this place is BUSY! I  can imagine farmers whose parents and grandparents built this place inan earlier time when LIFE revolved around agriculture...

The reason for the green dots on the map...Caprock Canyons State Park appeared out of nowhere! It's so obvious that the plains were eroded by great waters passing over the land and carving these red rock canyons. Our road was "eye level" with the tops of the mesas, but then the land sloped away toward the river. This Canyon is at the end of Palo Duro Canyon, and looked the same to me!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Drawing the Gate""Drawing the Gate"__drive-by sketch, New Mexico, cowboy

"Drawing the Gate"___from my travel sketchbook...driving by the Birdwell Ranch in New Mexico


Yeah, I guess I might say that from time to time as I travel as a passenger across the plains...God bless my friend Barbara who was driving this leg, and who was so agreeable to "obey" hahaha.

This was a precious scene we came upon, as the mounted cowboy turned his horse, grabbed the gate and drew it shut. Then he loaded his horse in a trailer and drove off. Behind them was a small group of hereford cattle that we guessed were either dropped off or rounded up. I actually had Barbara stop and wait while I photographed all that...took about 3 minutes. When we drove off, I sketched from memory (above), and later when I looked at the photos, I could read the gate, that this is Bridwell Ranch. It's on I-40 east of Santa Rosa New Mexico. (see gate photo below)

This scene reminded me of the frequent "wranglings" at our farm, where some of our family members were cowboys and rodeo riders and did the practical cowboying of moving cattle from pasture to pasture....Except this New Mexico vacquero had a strange looking cowboy hat...see photo below...I miss those days!

Have you seen the 365 paintings I did? for every day of our Last Year on the Farm. I am hoping that this "Passing America..." collection will be just as intriguing!

...the HAT

...Bridwell Ranch Gate

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Passing the Edge"___

"Passing the Edge"___8x10 oil___a drive-by painting, Passing America: the Great Plains
Driving east from the southern Rockies there is a definite "LINE " where one can actually SEE the Great Plains . Just south of Las Vegas, New Mexico on US 84 this view stood out before us at sunrise. Click to zoom in, and you can see the line of the plain, which I emphasized by a bead of paint made by pressing down on a loaded brush...hard to explain, but I can "show it" at a workshop...if you can come! schedule is on my web site. This painting begins a new project ... "Passing America: The Great Plains". The photos below were taken as and before I painted  this "drive-by" canvas.

we left Las Vegas before sunrise, and as soon as we came down into the plain, the sun came up, giving us a morning rainbow in the west!

We left the rain behind, somewhere between Tecolotito and Dilla, NM. This shot shows the shadow of our "wheels".

There were still heavy clouds, but the sun was breaking them and somewhere in that distant blue is the line of the plain, which I painted above.

The Great Plains

Map.The Great Plains of the United states of America_just one of MANY versins of the boundaries
The first thing I did when deciding to paint a project centered in the Great Plains, was to find out where the boundaries of the Plains are! What a surprise to find MANY, MANY maps, each with slightly different boundaries. As an artist, I LOVE THAT! There is a certain sort of "freedom" in undetermined boundaries. It almost feels like I have a "say" in just WHERE the Great Plains are. The vaugueness of a boundary actually complements my project title.,
Passing America: The Great Plains
For the next two years, I will be "passing" through different parts of the plains. I will be a passenger in a car or train, and I will be PAINTING ON THE MOVE, while driving by...yes, call it "DRIVE-BY PAINTING". Creating original oil paintings this way will be an exercise in observation...QUICK observation, because the view out my window will be ever fluid and changing. ALL OF THIS is meant to magnify the theme PASSING. Not only will I end up with about  150 works of art, but I hope to symbolize the "passing" of an important aspect of America.
 When I painted Last Year on the Farm I first got a sense of the change as our family's way of life came to an end. As I traveled with the exhibit and met hundreds of people who were experiencing the same thing, I wanted to continue the next chapter of the story. A story not told for the sake whining about loss, but to encourage strength to those hanging on to a noble way of life, and a hopefulness about what might be ahead....please become a follower of this blog, and my Small Works Blog (a painting a day, there). I love comments (especially good ones!). ...or you can email me