Inspiration aside, there are always a lot of whys? embedded in a complex sky. Questioning and analyzing what you see, then rendering it without resorting to comfortable preconceptions is as integral to being an artist as having an eye for beauty. Some mornings, my early-riser mate summons me from my deep, comfortable slumber by waving steaming coffee under my nose and coaxing, "It's a really good sunrise. You want to see this one. Hurry!" Of course I must hurry: Urgency goes hand in hand with curiosity. Interesting stuff doesn't just sit around waiting for you to take time to examine it. I can grab my camera in my sleep.

On this sub-freezing morning, stumbling straight into cold mountain air in my jammies, iPhone in hand, I shivered in the narrow ranch road and watched the day break open into light and color. An amazing interplay of sun-lined clouds waltzed above the mystically familiar skyline of the Texas mountains: Mitre Peak, Haystack, Blue Mountain...Point of Rocks... From farther up the road, you can see Chinati and Cathedral. From our mountain perch, I look down at all these mountains with a dream-like detachment.

These haunting Texas mountains are deceptively harsh, but, so is life. Daybreak marks a new beginning, a time of quiet beauty before anyone or anything makes demands on me and my day. Watching the sun come up and change the sky is like Waking in a Land of Golden Dreams, where I am fearless and anything is possible. On this day, I watched sun rise and wash color into the clouds, watched it rise until it blinded, watched it climb into the sky until finally, it splattered the foreground in unexpected patches of light.

This is a happy painting, one with a voice that shouts "Look at me! I'm your Day! Guess what's gonna happen? Yay!"

But I couldn't simply smear color to show this. I had to think about it. How was the near-blinding light bouncing around those rapidly shifting cloud layers and oddly colored patches of blue sky in such unpredictable ways? I love it when another artist asks the pat question Where is the light coming from? because out here, the answer isn't linear. Physics aside, it often looks like there are multiple light sources playing across the southwest. And you paint what you perceive, not what you expect to see. So, watching the sun rise was as important to this painting as taking photos. One photo reference couldn't capture the process. That's where art and photography part ways. In the series of iPhone photos I took as I turned blue standing in the (thankfully deserted) ranch road, the sky moves from magnificent to breath-taking. The landmark mountains are mere placeholders between land and sky.

Sharing that experience took more than color: It took a bit of dreaming to make it real.