Wednesday, October 19, 2005

October 19, 2005
I was cleaning my studio this morning (imagine that!) and found staff meeting notes from December of 2000. Allen Fossenkemper suggested “having travel in the four regular True West issues.” This refers to our four regular issues vs. our collector editions. Allen was quite prescient since, we now have travel in every issue and it’s the biggest and best paying ad category in the history of the magazine. Thanks Allen!

Last Saturday Kathy drove Tomas and I over to I-17 and Carefree Highway to meet Ed Mell and his son Carson at 11:30. We piled into Ed's gray Explorer and drove from there over to Wickenburg and landed at the Rancho de Caballeros Guest Ranch southeast of town. Beautiful guest ranch built in the 1940s with funky corrals full of cow ponys. Had a free lunch in the dining room (three meals come with the rooms, which run $450 a night), and after a nap, we got dressed to go in town to the Desert Caballeros Museum for the John Coleman artshow opening. Started with a cocktail party in the museum. Met many of the big names in Western art including Cowboy Artists of America member Bill Owen (turns out he knows my Kingman cowboy cousin Billy Hamilton). John's sculpture was quite good and we admired his vision and scale. Also took some time to gander at all of the Old Masters paintings from Remington, Leigh, Maynard Dixon and Ed Mell. At seven we walked down the street for a formal sit down meal in a small park area between two old buildings. It was a beautiful night, with great food and good cowboy music. At one point the band leader introduced the bass player, who turned out to be Joel Dowling, the bass player in the Razz band for a decade or so. Of course I had to hoot and hollar his name like he was Elvis or something. On break Joel came over and said, “I heard you had a triple by-pass and a pec lift,” to which I said, “Well, you’re half right.” Actually he was dead wrong on all accounts but it sounded better the other way, and frankly, I half enjoy the vicious rumors.

On Sunday morning we stopped at Bashas’ and got steaks and twice-baked-potatoes for the ranch house ($28 debit, plus $40 cash), and took off for Wickiup. Stopped at the Santa Maria River and hiked back up into the foothills looking for a shot of Shiprock, a massive sandstone butte, but never did get a good angle at it. Felt good to be out in the wilds though and we worked up a sweat. We had been warned by Tom Carpenter to be on the lookout for meth labs, so we were armed and dangerous. We did manage to rustle up a dad and four or five tow-headed campers, but we didn’t kill them.

From there we stopped at Nothing, and got nothing. And we also stopped at Burro Creek and hiked up the river a tad. Really a pretty area.

Stopped for lunch at Luchia’s five miles north of Wickiup ($22 cash I paid). Great little oasis in the middle of a butt-ugly draw. A pond, grass, peacocks and wild fish. Sat outside. Had a tuna salad on whole wheat and homemade banana cream pie. Pulled into the Cane Springs Ranch at four, moved into the back ranch house, then took off up the draw for our first plein air painting setup. Got up on a long mesa and set up on the side of the road. Ed has a full boat oil painting rig with adjustable legs, sort of a transformer meets Red Adair oil rig. I sat in a camp chair and held my water bottle and gouache pallette as we both took a stab at the head of Bull Canyon and the back side of the Hualapais, as the boys took off up the road looking for adventure. I was quite nervous having never plein air painted, but I quickly got the hang of it. Real life is lit so much more pale than photos, and you see so much more tonal shifts than you do in the studio. It is intimidating though, with 360 degrees of choices and it’s a tad hard for me (Mr. Attention Disorder Hisself) to narrow down the field of vision. Painted until dark, got some good washes. I also whipped up two pen and inks of the Aquarius Mountains off to the east. Ed completed his oil study. Really a sweet little $5,000 number. I grew up looking at the Hualapais from the other side, so it was a bit of old home week for me, although they did look strange from the backside.

Got back to the ranch house after dark, made hamburgers and beans (how fitting). Rain came during the night and we woke up to major storm central on Monday morning. Not a good painting environment. Besides being wet, no shadows.

So we bailed on the second night at Cane Springs, and after breakfast at Luchia’s, took off for Prescott where Ed has a cabin. That adventure tomorrow.

“The grass is greener somewhere else. Our thoughts persuade, and we comply. And when we get to someplace else, we find the grass is often dry.”
—Dolores Dahl

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