Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Texas Plains Trail

Map of the Texas Plains Trail___click to see larger___explore website
It might not be a trip for just "anyone", but I was in "heaven"...on the open road, with not much more than sky ahead. The Texas High Plains are EXTREMELY flat (...explains how the city of Levelland got its name). But to get there you must get UP on top to the flat place. Check out a topo map and you will see several escarpments in Texas. They all curve parallel with the coastline and separate Texas into several distinct elevations. I grew up on the Balcones Escarpment of Central Texas, at the very south end of the Great Plains. The High Plains are set apart by the Cap Rock Escarpment. It is an OBVIOUS slope upward from rolling hills to that flat place above. Here is where the great farms are: wheat, sunflowers, cotton, and the newest farms: WIND farms.
We drove in from the southeast, to Post, and took a left. The entire trail is about 700 miles...more unique beauty than you can imagine. Desolate towns, empty farm houses, yet LOTS of work being a quiet pace.
It was a brief adventure. My driver was an artist friend/former teacher/coach/ bus driver, Barbara Conitz. She did well behind the wheel of my new Ford pick-up. My rule is this: The driver has to stop when I want to, (and sometimes back up :) but they get to be in charge of the a/c AND the radio. Barbara filled my CD changer up with her music, but neither one of us could figure out how to take them out, so we listened to the same ones over and over.
I will spend the next few days talking about this trip, and showing the drive-by paintings I worked on.
Below is the water tower in the city of Panhandle, TX (which is in the panhandle of Texas!)...the day after we went through this area (including Dumas, Stinnett and Dimmitt, the Weather Channel reported at least 10 tornados!...even in this little town!) I was most amused by the graffitti! I wonder what the Round Rock connection is??? Since I am from Round Rock, I would like to know!...seeing this made me happy to be driving toward home!
I took photos of many different water towers. These are LANDMARKS on the plains! They have been the method for storing and regulating water pressure for over a hundred years, now. Like windmills, they are often the subject of drawings and paintings.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crosbyton, Texas Panhandle

Sunset in Crosbyton, TX____6x8 oil on linen panel__for Passing America: The Great Plains__exhibit 2011
Over 1300 miles this past weekend....we drove a circuit on the Texas Plains Trail. If you like the open road and great LLLLOONNNGGGGG Vistas, you would love this route. Every mile of it was an example of the theme of my project "Passing...the Great Plains": desolate farm houses, empty small towns, huge industrial farms, great feed lots. Much of it was unfenced!
The painting above was a REAL quick study as the sun's last light illuminated one of the thunderhead clouds south of Crosbyton. We had planned to stay in that town, but the one hotel there seemed a little bit suspect, so we drove the 30 miles or so to Lubbock, through clouds of mosquitos which sounded and splashed like rain on the windshield! There has been a LOT of rain in our usually arid Texas panhandle. The farmers seemed happy!
I will talk more about this trip (and the one I will take on Thursday!) in the upcoming days...all in all I painted a pile of canvases, some of which need an "oil change"...(that is, adjusting certain elements of the oil painting!)...My pick-up truck also needs an oil change after the is what my grill looked like after the mosquito showers!
My New Ford Truck conquered clouds of mosquitos!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Favorite Plains Painting far, this is my favorite painting of the plains as I am "Passing America"... I am posting it again so it will be at the top of my blog!
In May (right now!) I am taking THREE road trips through the plains...May 13-17 I will be in the Texas Panhandle, covering the entire Texas Plains Trail. I will create new "drive by" paintings for my exhibit in Fall 2011.
The following week (May 20 - 23) I will be flying to Omaha and heading west across the plains...not sure where I will end up, but I have a handsome driver for that one :)
Please stay tuned, and if you want to read about this painting above, scroll down to Nov. 13... That is when I first posted this and tell the story of painting it...
JOIN this blog if you want to...
Watch the Texas Country Reporter episode about Last Year on the Farm. They told the story from a nice angle, and it explains (indirectly) how "Passing America..." is an extension of the farm project. if you want to mail me directly

Friday, January 1, 2010

Blue Moon_Jan 31 2010

"Blue Moon Passing Lubbock"__6x8 oil study drive-by
A full moon over the plains is a special sight. I painted this one in a sort of hurry, since I wanted to snap a lot of pictures. The sun was going down as the moon rose, and it was perfect light for my camera.
My camera is a Canon Power Shot S3 1S . 6 megaapixels...It is covered with paint and I take it with me everywhere and do EVERYTHING with it. I shoot at night. I shoot while moving in the car. I shoot all the pictures on my blogs, I shoot video at football games and wedding proposals!...This camera is my 4th Canon, and my second PowerShot. I cannot say enough great things about it! My daughter just bought the little stylish PowerShot (10 megapixels!) and she loves it, too! I think I will ALWAYS have a Canon PowerShot...if anybody know anyone at Canon, please tell them THANK YOU for a great product!!!

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.