I manipulate metals and minerals and bonding solutions in order to provoke emotional responses from people I will usually never meet. That which happens in the process some people call art. My talent for creating icons and illusions turned into a lifetime of manipulations... in various pigments, bronze and steel, some quite large, which loom in museums, schools, collections and public places all over Texas. Here on this blog you can watch my creative actions and insights unfold...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Deep Inspiration: Palo Duro

"Just me, Willie and the angels"
About twenty five years ago I pulled into Palo Duro Canyon at sunrise, listening to Willie Nelson and staring misty-eyed at the legendary canyon where Quanah hid the last of the wild Comanches from civilization, and later where Charlie Goodnight built his cattle empire. I'll never forget the song playing, as I stared at its awesome beauty: "Pancho was a bandit boy..." needless to say Pancho and Lefty has been one of my favorite songs since.

A view from the north rim of Palo Duro Canyon

Anyway I did several paintings from that early morning visit, so the canyon has put some serious meat on my table as well. One of them was named "Just me, Willie and the angels." So FINALLY I got to go out there again to meet up with Willie and the angels, and do some painting with my old Texas Wild Bunch friend John Cogan, now a premier painter of American canyons. John is something of a fixture in Southwestern plein air circles, having won the first prize at the Grand Canyon Plein Air Competition, and is one of the most popular Grand Canyon artists around.

John Cogan is known on You Tube for his "One Minute Art lessons." And there is a reason for their brevity...

Here is where I must confess, the recent announcements of the City of Navasota to support the arts... and/or artists, has already begun to pay-off for me personally. I would never have made this trip, and had such a great time, had I not contacted John about his views on the current state of the art business... to double check my own instincts about City affairs... and learned in the process he had over the years picked up "plein air" painting ( painting out of doors, from life ) and was even teaching it to a lucky few. His student on this excursion was Stephen Williamson, a very promising landscape painter from Temple, Texas. I shamelessly horned in on the deal and I owe the City of Navasota for stimulating the whole process!

Steve Williamson tackles painting water on his fourth day of instruction... and did a very nice field sketch.

Moreover THANK YOU to John and Steve for allowing me to tag along. It was wonderful to reconnect with John and to meet this excellent young talent who sure made a liar out of me. (It's a good thing!)  I had warned a couple of City Councilmen that a bunch of young rent-free artists would only tear up the place they plan to customize for them... and then... I met... one of the finest and most talented young men I have met in a long time... So anyway Art and the canyon and even the Navasota City Council inadvertently brought this article together. I still contend that Williamson is ONE OF A KIND.

Signs of weather extremes common to west Texas... luxurious rains have made the grass and wildflowers lush in time for "Indian Summer," as southern winds fill the canyon with dust.

I remember arguing with John when he told me he planned to move to Arizona, so he could be closer to his favorite subject, the Grand Canyon. "You don't have to leave Texas," I whined, "you can move to Austin and go paint PALO DURO!"

John explained in his typical gracious manner that Palo Duro was no Grand Canyon.

I agreed BUT, "The Grand Canyon is like Miss America... she is beautiful, but you could never get to meet her... OR DATE HER... only stand back in awe of her... Palo Duro on the other hand was beautiful... and accessible, like the girl next door"

Don't know what this cave is actually called... I call it the Georgia O'Keaffe Aperture... Don't ask me to explain that... just look at her work... still a very accessible girl-next-door climb for most people.

Of course John Cogan did not buy that for a minute... and packed up his family and left Texas for good. And that was what he should have done when you consider his success doing what he was born to do. I just hated to lose another artist friend- to...

 Texas retARTation... a syndrome I have grown immune to but am always reminded of...

If more people would get OUT of the house and see places like this, and get connected to our wonderful American landscape, artists could still make a living bringing these kinds of experiences into their living rooms...

Hell, we're going to to paint these places ANYWAY! Which gives me an idea... an INSPIRATION!



  1. That was an incredible painting trip (despite the raging buffalo gnats). One to remember. I hope we can get out someplace and paint again!

  2. Indeed, what a trip. Thanks for introducing me to the Buffalo gnats, guys. I just laid out my 10 paintings from the trip (not counting the sketches and partials nor the two I plan to 'burn'. I think I learned a bunch of new things. Thanks, y'all!