Monday, August 07, 2006

August 7, 2006 Bonus Blog
Today marks the first of the big, late summer cloud march skies. Really dramatic and wonderful. Makes the heat almost worthwhile. Ha.

Top Secret Project Update
I joined Netflix today so I can rent some DVDs like "The Man Who Would Be King" because I seem to remember there are some good pith helmet references there for artwork. I also tagged, "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon," and "Rio Grande" and "Geronimo" to hopefully get some decent shots of cavalry posts, scouts on the march, action stuff for art reference.

I have heard and read that certain authors claim characters come onto the page and introduce themselves, fully developed, with character traits, tics and all. I’ve never had that experience while writing, but I do admit my drawings sometimes talk to me. Take today’s sketches for example. I was utilizing some great reference shots that Jim Hatzell shot for me on the 2005 Artist Ride up near Wall, South Dakota. I had asked him for some ethnic types to populate a Mexican cantina scene I wanted to illustrate for the top secret project, and Man he got them for me. Thanks Jim.

All too often Mexican cantina scenes are very one-note: i.e. all Mexicans (and cliche Mexicans at that). But if you’ve ever been to Mexico it’s much more international than that. This was especially true during the Old West when the Chinese, blacks and Mormons (especially the polygamous Mormons) were all over Mexico. So as I began to sketch these international cantina characters they began to talk to me. Take the Chinese guy, bottom right. Name’s China Loto, orphan, 22, hates bisquits. The bad boy above China is Buffalo Dandy, 19, escaped slave from Texas. The dude at bottom left is Granville Stufcliff, ex-buffalo hunter (and scalp hunter, but don’t say that to his face), and his pard, Fanion "Fanch" Pincher, 33, hails from Saint Johns, Arizona. Oh, and he’s a Jack Mormon. The hazy critter, top left, is Buck Scuggs, ex-Reb, future dead man.

But as these guys were introducing themselves to me, I realized this is not the complete cast of a Mexican cantina, or any bar or saloon for that matter. I grew up playing in bars so I think I know a little bit about the make-up of the crowds who hang out there.

The movies always portray a saloon crowd as one-note tough, but taverns and bars are much more diverse, and I don’t think it’s realistic unless there’s at least one goober. Every saloon has and always had a goober. You know, the guy who prods others to fight and then runs. Believe me I think I know a thing or two about this. I have witnessed many a bar fight and have never been in a fight. You do the math.

So, as I’m drawing and letting these cats introduce themselves, I just naturally started drawing that other guy, the kind of guy that’s always in a saloon and you don’t quite know why. When he introduced himself to me, he looked at his drawing and said, “Flippin’ sweet.” If you recognize that line, then you know exactly who I’m talkin’ about.

“Flippin’ sweet!”
—Napoleon Dynamite

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