Thursday, August 25, 2005

August 25, 2005
Robert Ray is off for Boston and a much needed vacation. Unfortunately Bea, his wife can't join him because of a special project at Dilliard's.

Gus Walker, the Mapinator, is moving to Alabama in January. We'll miss his presence in the office but he'll hopefully still do maps for us.

I went back through my daytimer to skim off the glancing tidbits regarding the making of the book Classic Gunfights, Volume II. The project started a year ago and was supposed to deadline in May (that's a joke). Here are the entries that tell the story:

November 4, 2005
Working hard on The West’s Deadliest Address: Fifth and Allen Street, Tombstone, A.T. Five killings, multiple altercations with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Curly Bill, Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, Luke Short and Bat Masterson, all within spitting distance of this amazing intersection.

The Gunfights and events for the OK Corral book, which needs a better title, someething all encompassing: The OK Corral Conflict/ Before & After. Maybe start with Rustler’s Park and end there with death of Rngo near Rustler’s Park.

November 16, 2004
Got a packet from Neil Carmony today containing an in depth report by Steve Gatto on the killing of Phillip Schneider at Charleston, Arizona Territory on January 14, 1881. Very different from the “accepted version,” or the version in most of the books. More on this later.

Shot photos of my Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce painting and ran it up to Foothills Photo. Went by the bank and made a deposit, cashed a royalty check ($111.20).

November 22, 2004
Forty one years ago? Is that possible? JFK visits Dallas. If the study of history has taught me anything it’s that the big myth, yes, even bigger than anything we’ve seen so far, will really kick in at the fifty mark. That’s when the survivors get down to a couple dozen and the stories get bigger and the writers get younger and the theories get weirder and strangely, more believable. At least that’s how the Old West characters I love ascended into immortality. It was in the late forties, that would be the 1940s, and early fifties that the fantasies hit full stride and the few oldtimers left, Al Jennings (who shot and killed a neighbor by accident trying to show him a real fast draw) and Brushy Bill (Yes, I’m in the James Gang, no wait, I’m Billy the Kid!) captured the center stage. Every time they retold the stories they’d get closer to the center of the stage.

Finally finished the Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce copy. It’s going to be a great little epic. So much of this story has been mis-reported for so long (see JFK paragraph). Ha.

November 24, 2004
Yesterday I made the commitment of finishing the writing of my book by December 3rd (a week from this Friday) by giving up a crisp $100 bill. As promised, the results have been immediate. For example, this morning I woke up at five, brimming with ideas and tasks I wanted to accomplish on the book. I went out to the studio at six and started a fire in the stove, and did five sketches of potential scenes I want to include in the book, took the dogs for a walk down to the creek. It was quite foggy and Southern California looking out as the big storm that hit us three days ago lingers over the high Sonoran Desert.

December 8, 2004
Gus and I went over the CGII book schematic this morning. Juggling, moving things around. Meghan is tweaking copy for Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce. Hard to do. Many conflicting accounts.

December 14, 2004
Wrestling with a small scratchboard of Wyatt Earp as a possible spot illustration for the top of the March cover. If you were my wife you might ask the question, “Jesus, Bob, you have been drawing this guy ever since we got married and you still can’t get him right? What is your problem?” And, if you were my wife, you’d be right.

February 1, 2005
Gus and I are whittling away at CGII and it is looking mighty fine. Of course we are over our deadline, as of today, and we are at least a couple of weeks, at least, away from handing off to Meghan and production, but at this point it will be what it will be.

Brian Lebel and his partner Bill came to the office at four to talk about doing a special show for the release of the book. They followed me out to the house to look at the piles and piles of original art going into CGII (I think I’ll end up with close to 150 pieces of art). They told me they liked what they saw and that we will decide on a date for the rollout show, probably in late August or early September.

February 21, 2005
While I was home, I whipped out a good gouache of Stilwell getting both barrels at night, standing on the tracks of the Tucson railyard. Pretty good effects. May redo it. Didn’t finish. Came back to work at two.

February 25, 2005
Hanging out on Classic Gunfights. Everything else in editorial is done except me. I’m planning on a successful weekend of painting. Looking forward to it.

March 1, 2005
We made a goal this morning to finish the Classic Gunfights book by May first.

March 7, 2005
Whipped out another night train study, this one of Papago Station at midnite where Wyatt Earp and his gang flagged down a freight train. I finally get to draw a saguaro! Amazing.

March 11, 2005
I’m still wrestling with the Papago Station painting. What started out as a small impressionistic scene, has ballooned into a major epic panorama complete with telegraph poles, baggage on the landing, the gas lights of Tucson in the distance, the Catalinas (with the distinctive needle in the middle distance) and the station manager “flagging” down the freight train which is just picking up steam. Not to mention Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Texas Jack and Sherm McMasters, bristling with shotguns and rifles as they secure the perimeter. I’ve done ten studies so far! Ridiculous. Welcome to my world, the world of CADD (Complete Attention Deficit Disorder).

March 14, 2005
Finished a cool little scratchboard this afternoon titled “Blaze Away.” It’s of a gunfighter (imagine that!) ripping off a shot. Nice smoke effects which I stole from a Shoot magazine layout, showing modern shooters at a SASS event (Single Action Shooters).

I’m riding herd on two developments: The Papago Station dilemma and the See-More-Buns Scandal. First for the reaction to the Tush Trauma:

“Well, only confident heterosexual men could pose together like that (without anxiety or giggles), so ya got that going for ya.”
—Jim Ed-Chicago

March 22, 2005
Finished a nice little study of Wyatt Earp flagging down the freight train at Papago Station. As is often the case in doing a study, I don’t care about getting it perfect so it is often looser and when you get loose, sometimes the magic happens. You can just make out the gas lights of Tucson in the far, left distance. Notice also that Earp has a pistol stuck in the back of his pants.

March 23, 2005
After lunch I whipped out an aerial view of Fifth and Allen in Tombstone. Brought it back to the office and Gus scanned it and I placed it in the layout. Not sure I like it. I always have an image in my head that is so hard to duplicate. I can just see it! But often I don’t have the talent to get it out of there.

March 25, 2005
Trying to finish three paintings for the Virgil Earp shooting today. Need to go home and wrap them up. Gus is making a cool little map of where the shooters hid their horses and where they shot from.

March 28, 2005
I woke up painting. On a roll. Feel confident in my abilities (this is quite rare, I’m either high on something, or delusional). Painted a nice moonlight halo effect. Witnessed it last Friday night when I walked down the road to get Buddy, who had run off to our neighbors and I had to bring him home. I was walking down the road noticing the creepy shadows and how light it was, when I looked up in the sky I saw this radiant moon burst, with the big, wide halo effect. Really stunning. That inspiration carried over into the Papago Station painting. Funny where we get inspiration, isn’t it? “Well, I was going to get my dog. Kind of pissed about it, then looked up, and that’s when I broke my leg. Never been the same way since.”

March 29, 2005
Woke up at midnite and couldn’t go back to sleep. Dogs barking at intruders, probably roving javelinas. Finally got up about 1:30 and went out and studied the moon, trying to figure out how to paint that halo effect. Is it blues, or is it a yellow sheen against a purple hue? Hard to say, could go either way. Turned on the coffee and painted on the Papago Station for about two hours.

March 31, 2005
Last night, right at sunset, I pencilled in twin saguaros for the Papago Station painting (in fact, pencilled it in right on the painting). The giant flowers (saguaros are technically flowers, go figure) are just off my property line to the south of us and they are quite stately and unique. One arm juts out at an odd angle, repeating the same angle as Wyatt Earp’s arm as he flags down the freight train. I know, I know, I’m spending way too much time on this transition scene, but I can’t help it.

April 3, 2005
From there I got inspired to do an overview of a train chugging across the desert towards Tucson. The sun is setting over the Tucson Mountains and the Old Pueblo is lit up by the brand new gas lights. The train is below us about two hundred feet down. Did two versions, good steam floating up towards us in the first one, better sunset in the second. Worked all morning and into the afternoon on that. The gas lighting in the distance is not what I’d hoped for, doesn’t glow right.

April 8, 2005
Got ink all over my palms. The curse of a left-handed draftsman. Been to the bathroom twice to clean up. Finished a scratchboard of Wyatt Earp blazing away outside Fly’s. Good smoke effect. Sweet mustaches, the trick being to go lighter than expected and don’t be afraid to cover the lower lip. I cribbed the pose from a two-part book series on Spaghetti Westerns. Lots of great imagery I had never seen before.

April 10, 2005
Worked almost all day on the Tucson overview painting. Did manage to finish a small portrait of the black and blue, plaid shirt guy in the Crystal Palace. Overworked it. Speaking of which, I often bring unfinished paintings into the bedroom and then as I wake up, I sit in bed and study them, deciding what works and what doesn’t. Kathy looked at the Tucson overview and said, “That’s very nice. Are you going to quit while you are ahead?”

And I said, “No, I’m going to keep going until I ruin it.”

April 19, 2005
I believe that every so often it’s necessary to take a good hard look at our efforts. It’s been 35 years since I made a vow to make a career in media. What have I learned?

• I know that at least half my “brilliant” ideas suck.

• I know that Wyatt Earp by himself is more commercial than Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, gunfighters or Classic Gunfights put together.

• I know that when I start to do anything, walk to pick up a book, for example, that my mind sees something else (that needs to be done) and I think about doing that instead, and as I reach to pick it up, I see something else, and something else and this goes on all day long.

• I know that I have trouble getting started on things, and I also have the twin problem of not knowing when to stop, or not wanting to stop, which is even worse.

April 21, 2005
I spent the morning reworking copy in the Curly Bill Brocius—Jim Wallace shooting at Galeyville. I needed to incorporate Billy Breakenridge’s account with the narrative and it took some massaging but I think I go it.

Gus is working on a “Lincoln County SOB” map and it helps explain why all those rustlers and outlaws ended up in Southeastern Arizona.

April 22, 2005
Robert Ray just stuck his head in my office (3:36 p.m.) and said, “We need to complete 16 pages a week to get this book to the printer on time.” This is the kind of specific goals I need to stay focused. Thankyou Robert.

May 2, 2005
Got into the office at about 8:30. Called Brian Label about our CGII postcard campaign. He’s in LA and we need to get him 500 cards in the next two weeks. Got Gus designing the first of 25 cards. Going to do one for every gunfight. Very ambitious, but that’s what keeps us off the streets.

May 12, 2005
Worked on copy for the 25th CGII gunfight, Bob “Dutch” Martin in a fight I call the Good Rustlers vs. the Bad Rustlers. You’ll need a scorecard for this one. Quite amazing and I wasn’t even aware of this fight at Stein’s Pass, New Mexico (my great grandfather, Henry Guess, is buried there and my great uncle John Guess, had a ranch just north of there, so that location has family ties). Steve Gatto gave me the goods. Gus and I reshuffled the schematic for CGII to add this fight and in the process I lost four pages of wrap-up, but it’s time to cut my losses and finish. Quit jackin’ around.

June 7, 2005
By the way, I started the showdown painting of Doc Holliday facing off with Johnny Ringo on Allen Street and as the painting developed I started to make mud. Not painting mud, which I’m very good at, but rain mud, as in a muddy street. For some reason this just seemed right. Then I worried that this weather wouldn’t be accurate to the actual event and I wondered if it was cold. Well, it was January (1882), but I couldn’t help it and kept painting mud. This morning, I looked up Parsons’ diary entry for that day, and here it is:

January 17, 1882
Snow yesterday. Light fall. Much blood in the air this afternoon. Ringo and Doc Holliday came nearly having it with pistols and Ben Maynard and Rickabaugh later tried to kick each other’s lungs out. Bad time expected with the cowboy leader [Ringo] and [Doc Holliday]. I passed both not knowing blood was up. One with hand in breast pocket and the other probably ready. Earps just beyond. Crowded street and looked like another battle. Police vigilant for once and both disarmed.

June 8, 2005
Worked more on the John Ringo Classic Gunfight with himself. It’s quite amazing to me that someone who was a stumbling drunk and whose life was a complete failure could end up to be a celebrated Western icon. I guess, in some perverse way, it helps explain Glenn Ford.

June 10, 2005
Finished the Johnny Ringo vs. Himself gunfight artwork today. Whipped out two sepia-toned illustrations of the King of the Cowboys, one in death and the other just prior. Shot everything and ran it up to Foothills Photo at 9:30. Reworked copy to deal with the so-called “mysteries” surrounding Johnny Ringo’s death. Steve Gatto’s new book Johnny Ringo (2002) has the best take on everything and I gave him credit. Gus is laying out everything, Meghan is editing it even as I type this up (3:27 PM). Need to wrap up everything.

June 15, 2005
Today is a wake-up call. The CGII book is supposed to go to the printer in a month. We’ve got 30 days to finish and we are hanging out all over the place. Had a meeting yesterday with Meghan, Robert Ray and Gus to plan an attack, cut our losses and get it done.

June 16, 2005
Really got into deadline mode today. Wrestled five spreads to the ground, writing cutlines and sidebars on the fly, and passed them off to Gus, who put them in place, tweaked them and got them over to Robert Ray for final design and output. Really cranking.

Went home for lunch and finished three pieces of art, including a portrait of Bob Paul, Bob “Dutch” Martin, and The Gambler (based on an alleged photo of Wyatt Earp in front of the Tombstone Fire Station). I brought those, plus a couple portraits I had previously finished of Louisa Earp, Morgan Earp, Doc Holliday and Frank Stilwell into the office and Robert Ray and Abby shot digital photos of them in our new photo studio which they have set up in the old store area (As of last week we closed the store. We just weren’t getting the traffic).

June 17, 2005
Anxious to paint an opium overdose (happened in front of the O.K. Corral in 1880), the Nekkid Fandango (still haven’t finished it), Turkey Creek Johnson, Texas Jack Vermillion and a Redington Pass overview (done from the flying photo reference images I took two weeks ago).

July 1, 2005
Robert Ray, Gus Walker and I went through the CGII book layouts yesterday and marked all the holes. There are about 10 big ones, with about 21 art holes that I’d like to fill. Some will get filled up with other things (photos, cutlines and maps) and I will lose the window of opportunity to create more images. However, the art, photographs and layout is possibly the best book we’ve ever done. Bob McCubbin was in town yesterday and he got to take a gander at several spreads, especially the Fly photos spread and he pronounced it as good.

July 6, 2005
Went home for lunch and finished two paintings of Tombstone burning. Swam ten passes. Kicked Peaches in the head on a kick return, and came back in the office.

Finished the Comanche Jack Stilwell copy, cribbing royally from Roy B. Young’s excellent piece in the WOLA Newsletter from Summer 2004. Gus and I attacked more pages on the CGII book. By my count we have 98 pages in the can with 30 to go. Finished the South Pass fight, and half the Spicer Hearing. Working hard on the Morgan Earp murder and George Hearst and lesbians in Tombstone. Also need to finish an opium death in front of the OK Corral.

July 15, 2005
Finally knocked out a decent illustration of Morgan Earp lining up his last pool shot on this planet. Had excellent photo reference of Jeff Morey and Jerry Weddle playing pool at the Laramie Motel office in Tombstone. That was in May of 1993, and I just got around to utilizing it. Ha.

July 18, 2005
Finished the OK Corral opium scene this morning. Excellent effects on curling smoke and the dusty street scene where the body was found. Unfortunately, I spent way too long on it and now I’m behind bigtime. Also need to finish the writing, which is hanging out also.

July 19, 2005
Came back to the office at 4:30. Meghan is working hard on the editing of CGII. Lots of questions and corrections. Robert Ray warned me I need to get my part of the book done as quickly as possible so he can have a week to scale images, etc. My deadline is a week from tomorrow. Basically a week to finish 12 images and plug seven copy holes. My art wish list includes:

July 20, 2005
I woke up at two in the morning mulling my bad painting. Finally got up at 2:30 and went out to the studio and painted for about two hours. Sort of saved the Milt Joyce confrontation, although it’s not what I originally wanted. Also worked on the Doc vs. Ringo painting. Got some decent passages going on that ambitious sucker.

Went back to bed at about five. Got up at six. Took the dogs for a bike ride. Swam 10 laps. Finished the Papago Station painting.

July 22, 2005
Came into the office at seven. Had a very successful day. Gus, Robert Ray, Meghan and I wailed on CGII pages, hammering away at the loose ends and irritating holes and transitions. I rewrote two of the gunfights (Zwing Hunt and Billy Breakenridge; and the final Aftermath). Gus finished his Earp Exodus map and we put that in place. I finished two posse pictures last night and we put those into their allotted slots. Very nice.

We are printing out three page proof editions for our editors to look at this weekend.

July 26, 2005
Spent all yesterday afternoon painting Tombstone snakes. Heavily influenced by Sergio Leone, with Indian Charley in extreme close-up and the other snakes in the alley slithering into position behind Hatch’s Pool Hall. Excellent nighttime effects. Can’t believe I did it. Unfortunately, I’m still hanging out on Dodge City Gang (about 85% done) and Doc Vs. Ringo (about 55% done). Worked until about nine last night. Fried, but a good fried.

Finishing a book is like moving. You make about six trips and you think, “Man, we’re almost done. We only have the closets left.” And then you load out, and you load out and it’s like things in the closet are reproducing (I think this is a funny column theme from Dave Barry). The book won’t die. We keep going thru and fixing stuff and it keeps adding stuff that’s not done. Happens every time.

July 27, 2005
Yesterday, I had Tomcat pose for me as a stage robber. It was hot so I let him put on a frock coat, gunbelt, hat, aiming a Winchester down a hill. Crisitna was greatly amused as we went out on the edge of our land and I sketched him aiming at a non-existent stagecoach. Of course, he had on shorts and flip flops, so he looked a tad goofy (I’ll paint in the boots and pants. I was interested in the folds in the jacket and how the rifle would look against his shoulder). Got some good sketches and transferred them to a big painting. And speaking of which. . .

Whenever I get stuck on a passage (that anatomical pose is not right. Must grab my ‘73 Winchester and put it together with a free model), I sometimes will do little studies for future work, utilizing scrap, or leftover watercolor paper. After getting stuck on a street scene depicting the Grand Hotel, I put it aside and sloshed in a very small study of a nighttime streetscape behind Hatch’s Pool Hall. I didn’t even care how the figures looked, it was the color scheme I was after. I just swished everything in haphazardly. Got some great purples and blue-greens going in the building shadows and mushed it together, wet into wet. After about three minutes I thought to myself, “Not bad, now I need to go get a big 300# watercolor sheet and apply the things I’ve accomplished in this little study in the big painting, which is going to be dynamic and spectacular!”

July 29, 2005
I finished four paintings, two this afternoon, as we come down to the wire on the book. Writing, rewriting, wrestling with Meghan over dangling participles and parenthetical mumbo jumbo. It gets better as we go along. Unfortunately, as the holes appear I want to plug them with new illustrations, ten to be exact. Not going to have time to do that many. The absolute, drop dead deadline is Tuesday and I’m staying down at the Westin for our 26th wedding anniversary and I have a wife who will kick my patootie if I bring work to the Bob Boze Bell suite. Somehow I’ll make it happen.

August 1, 2005
I asked Gus to tabulate how many images I’ve done, so far, for the book and he counts 236. I think I’ve illustrated almost everyone in Cochise County in 1881. Ha. And speaking of record numbers, I’m closing in on 1,000 blog postings.

August 2, 2005
Meghan and I went through the final proofs of the book. Had maybe 35 niggling details to fix, and a couple big ones. We couldn’t finish though because her computer froze (brand new). She and Robert Ray had to reinstall Quark Xpress, so I went home and worked on a Curly Bill on horseback painting, then switched gears and whipped out a Clanton cattle drive scratchboard. Cool effects of dust.

August 3, 2005
Woke up at three a.m. and started pondering how to fill the holes in the book. Finally got up at 4:30 and did two scratchboards. One of Wells Fargo agent Hume being relieved of his pearl-handled pistols in a stage robbery. It’s at night, murky. Decent effects. The other one is of Virgil Earp riding on a posse with his dead arm flailing in the breeze. I had high hopes for this scene (I’ve wanted to do it for at least ten years) but, sigh, I overworked it. Damn! (oops, sorry for the profanity, see below).

Got into the office at about 8:30 and Gus and I plugged three new images (did a Clanton cattle drive yesterday, along with a new Curly Bill). Meghan and I went through the rest of the book and made corrections, argued over verb tense (she is a fan of consistent verbs and I’m a fan of active verbs with the difference being, she’s actually studied English and knows what she’s talking about).

August 4, 2005
Kind of fried. Hit the wall this afternoon at about 4:30. Lots of angst about the book from Robert Ray. He’s behind, tired of my last minute shenanigans. I’ve been upgrading pages, trading so-so art for better art and tweaking cutlines to add more info. Unfortunately, it’s affecting Robert’s layouts, especially ones he thought he was done with. Rather discouraging. I’ve still got three more illustrations to do tonight, but I may call it a book and let it go.

August 5, 2005
This morning I woke up at five and faced my growing edge. I decided the studies will have to be sufficient. I can do the opus version for the art show, or some other time.

I am done. There are a dozen scenes I didn’t get to do. There are more that I didn’t get to do right. But I’m not a complete slug and dog-gone -it, people like me. Or, so I pathetically hope.

August 9, 2005
Well, I thought Robert Ray killed the book last Friday night, but here we are on Monday with a slew of corrections and additions. I thought of numerous people that need to be credited and thanked. And, I woke up on Sunday and realized the genesis of the title of the book, isn’t in the book! Frank McLaury squares off against Doc Holliday and says, “I’ve got you now.” And Holliday replies, “Blaze away! You’re a Daisy if you do.” Got that in. Book goes to printer this afternoon.

"I do a first draft as passionately and as quickly as I can. I believe a story is only valid when it is immediate and passionate; when it dances out of your subconscious. If you interfere in any way, you destroy it."
—Ray Bradbury

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