Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008
The last day of a year I'll never forget. No, wait, let me put that a different way: I'm damn lucky I got to live to see the last day of this year.

Many friends have told me "it wasn't your time" but somehow that doesn't quite cover it. I'm not sure what does, but, with all due caution, I have high hopes for next year. For one thing, the Wipeout episode at the Elks Lodge in Kingman, Arizona really made me focus my attention on all the things I want to accomplish before I leave this theatre of war.

Yes, I appreciate my family and friends more than ever, but when you come as close as I did to exiting it really focuses your mind on the goals of a lifetime, that I sort of took for granted ("Oh, yeh, I've plenty of time for that.").

One irony: when I graduated from high school in 1965 we had a class party at the Elks Lodge. I took Jan Prefontaine as my date and we sat in a booth near the stage. That booth was almost exactly on the spot where I had my heart attack. I mean it couldn't have been more than five inches from where I fell, face first on the floor. And, of course, my mind goes to the absurd. Imagine if Jan would have turned to me at the class party and said, "Robert, you are going to have a heart attack on this spot, 43 years from now."

Yeh, right, Jan. I'm never coming back to this godforsaken spot unless one of my best friends talks me into it while arguing in late 2007 about the things we want to do before we die.

Ha. Thanks Charlie Waters.

Keep reading, because the irony just gets thicker and thicker.

The other funny thing about that date is that my Aunt Doris, of Osage, Iowa came out for my graduation and when she heard from my mother that I was taking a "Catholic girl" to the party she took me aside and said, "Robert, I hope you aren't serious about this girl. She's a Catholic and we are Lutherans. Mixed marriages like that never work out."

Fast forward to 1971 and I hitched a ride back to Iowa to attend my cousin Mike Richard's marriage to a pretty, doctor's daugther, in Des Moines. When we got to the church for the ceremony I was stunned to see the Virgin Mary and all those gothic Catholic Saints staring down at us. It finally dawned on me that Doris' only son was marrying a Catholic girl. At the reception I reminded my Aunt Doris of her strong admonition to me a mere six years before, and she said with a straight face, "Oh, there's not that much difference between the two religions."

But perhaps her original warning had more merit than I thought. In 1974 I married Terry Townsend (we met at Mr. Lucky's) but we divorced a mere four years later.

And, yes, she was a Catholic.

And, ironies of ironies, I had lunch with my favorite ex-wife yesterday at El Encanto. Terry also brought along her mother Marge (my favorite ex-mother-in-law) and her brother Mark. We laughed and laughed about the funny things that have happened to us in the past thirty years. It was either that, or cry. Ha.

News From The Front Lines
"I'm a True West Maniac and I just received my January/February magazine. I look forward to each issue and have loved them all. In this issue I found the short story on 'Honky-Tonk Days in Arizona' and just had to drop you a line. Please tell Jeb Rosebrook how much I appreciate the article. I was born and grew up in Phoenix and remember all those places. It was a trip down memory lane and I loved it. Thank you. As a teenager, in the mid-sixties, I went to JD's to dance and listen to Mike Condello (I went to North High with him) in the basement but had to stop and listen to someone on the main floor singing C&W. It was Waylon Jennings and I thought, this guy is good! I was into Rock and Roll then but later came around. Tell Boze I now live up in his old stomping grounds, Kingman. Again Thanks."
—Dale Roberts

Well, I guess you and I have more than a few things in common. I went to JDs quite a bit and saw Mike Condello in the basement. In fact, on one memorable trip with my best friend Charlie Waters (also from Kingman) we and our dates heard Mike play an entire Beatles album (I want to say it was Sgt. Peppers, but it may have been Revolver), song for song—in order!—and we just sat there with our jaws on the table. Charlie and I were in a Kingman band called The Exits and we knew we'd never approach that level of technical ability in our lifetimes.

I went to JDs on December 18, 1967 with Renee Prefontaine (yes, Jan's sister) and at midnight, when I turned 21, I got in to see Waylon and the Wailers (or Waylors?) upstairs. My first legal drink and I got his autograph on a photo to boot. A great memory.

And speaking of Kingman and the Exits, Charlie and I are having our second annual Exits Exit next March 28 at the Kingman Fairgrounds. Be there or be square.


"You can lead a drummer to the Elks, but you can't make him think."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Here's a good photo of the brief snowstorm we had last weekend. Kathy is pulling into the Spanish Driveway as Deena, Peaches and I run around with our tongues out:

Capturing The Next Generation of Western Lovers:

Got this Westerns report from our roving reporter in Henderson, Nevada:

"I am not quite sure if the following has any value to you, but I thought of you and True West as I watched it unfold as there may be a message or possible silver lining in it for you.

"Early Friday evening, Ellie and Cayden, Jen's two kids, were at our house. (Their parents had left for a getaway date---dinner and a show). Cayden, 8, is nuts over video games of all kinds; Ellie, 6, is not so much. So when she tires of playing with dolls and toys, she watches DVDs and age-appropriate kids TV. Mostly it is cartoons or Hannah Montana-like stuff, and she is nuts over Tinker Bell movies. (The new one is great, by the way.) Anyway, that is the background.

"While Ellie was busy elsewhere, someone had been surfing the channels and had left it on AMC, which was running a John Wayne series of movies. She sat down right after the beginning of True Grit---not one of my favorites, but a classic, nonetheless, at least among we non-western history folks. No one paid much attention for a half-hour or so, figuring that she would tire of it or change the channel. Instead, she was completely captivated with the first western she had ever seen. At first, I thought she liked it just because of the little girl in it, but it was much more than that. She loved the sweeping story and the scenery and all of it. I thought the gun-play and the snake in the mine shaft might scare her but she never flinched. And when it was over, and The Shootist came on, she wanted to watch that one, too, probably because Wayne was in it as well. (We didn't let her as it is too violent.)

"I guess that I took three things from it: Even in the video/computer age, some of these kids still are captivated by good story-telling.

"The sweeping western doesn't have to be dead because there is a whole audience out there that has never seen that genre. Not Unforgiven or some of the darker ones, but just stories about good guys and bad guys and cowboys and Indians with great scenery and such.

"And finally, if she really was more captivated by True Grit because of the little girl, why is there so little out there that has the children of the west in it to attract a new audience---in print and on film? Are producers and writers missing an audience---the grandchildren of those folks who flocked to theaters every Saturday afternoon? If I close my eyes and remember, I can still remember the words and the final scene from one classic: 'Shane. Shane. Come back Shane.'"
—Charlie Waters

"If you want to know how to do a thing you must first have a complete desire to do that thing."
—Robert Henri, The Art Spirit
December 30, 2008
Getting ready to attack the big oil painting of "Brother In Arms." So, on Sunday, I gathered all of my Pat Garrett props and threw them on an inexpensive model (me), and had Kathy shoot a dozen pics in the back yard.

After I finished the study I had numerous questions, or problems to solve, before I attack the big oil painting. In part, I wanted to know what the light would do to the buffalo coat as it went from direct light to shadow. I wanted to know what you could see of how the shadows would work on Garrett's hat if he turned to look into the sun, and I wanted to know exactly what shadows his rifle would produce. But most importantly I wanted to know how the light would reflect on Garrett's sheriff badge.

Since I had virtually every prop that Garrett's wearing I decided to put them on and take a series of photos to find out the answers. Here's a closeup by Ms. Radina of the items in question:

You may notice that I'm not wearing the buffalo cap. I took a series with that cap on, but I didn't like it as well as the broad brimmed hat series, so I'm considering changing to that headgear.

meanwhile, just for grins I tabulated the cost of my props and here they are:

• 1873 Winchester, $1,000 (a gift from Kathy, who bought it from John Gilchrease)

• Colts .45, $750 (bought used from Phoenix Pawn)

• Red River Gun Belt, $150

• Buffalo Coat, $300 (Big Bug Creek Antique Store)

• Custom, high top boots, $500 (Johnny Weinkauf bootmaker)

• Lincoln County Sheriff's badge, $260 (Badge collection)

• Vest, $75 (Custom suit from End of Trail)

• Cargo pants, $25 (Thomas Charles leftover bin)

And finally, the reason all of these props fit: a heart attack operation at Kingman Regional Hospital, $131,000 (Healthcare Net).


Gee, I wonder what the great Henri has to say about this?

"An artist who does not use his imagination, is a mechanic."
—Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29, 2008
A crazed couple of days with family obligations, a court date and serious painting. Finally finished the "Brother In Arms" study. Here 'tis:

Pretty nice likenesses, if I do say so myself. Notice how Pat Garrett's rifle intersects the Kid's head. I have one word to say about that:



The snow storm that rolled in on Saturday, didn't leave much snow, but the clouds were sure inspiring. Here's a study I whipped out yesterday:

Ken Amorosano is building a ning site for True West to house all of our burgeoning community services. More on that tomorrow.

"I went to a massage parlor. It was self service."
—Rodney Dangerfield

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26, 2008
It started snowing at 3:15 this afternoon. Didn't stick and didn't last long, but Deena ran around in it with Peaches and we took photos. "It's snowing!" my daughter kept yelling, as she continued running around in circles on the Spanish Driveway.

In case you didn't know it, snow is a big deal out here.

Yesterday, Kathy, Deena and I went to Scotsdale to have dinner with Frank's Italian mother. We had an amazing five course dinner. A loud, boisterous time was had by all (it really is the polar opposite of my many Norski Christmas dinners). Ha.

Chopped wood earlier with my Fiskars Axe which Santa brought me. A review tomorrow.

Well, it snowing again at five. Great skies. Did another cloud study. I'm getting better at this.

Kathy got a book, "Dirty Spanish: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!"

Funny stuff. Like this:

"Soy Canodiense. Es como un yanqui, pero sin arma."

"I'm Canadian. It's like an American without a gun."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 24, 2008
Christmas Eve. Guess I better get started shopping. I've carved out two hours after lunch. Don't know if I need that much time, but we'll see.

Went for a walk with a leashed up Peaches. She was so happy, but then every day is Christmas Day to a dog. Quite nippy out.

About a week ago I went out to get the paper in the early morning twilight and looked up to see a spectacular sliver of light arcing across the entire sky. On closer inspection I realized it was two very long cloud banks almost touching, but not quite. I returned to my studio to try and capture what I saw:

Not even close, but a worthy effort. Although the actual effect looked as fake as the cloud buffalo going off to the right and the cloud horse going off to the left. Ha.

In between paintings I have been noodling more narrative boxes:

Not sure I'm getting anywhere with them, but I keep trying.

I have a hunch, one of them is going to work, but I'm not sure which one it will be:

“The church is close, but the road is icy.
The bar is far, but I will walk carefully.”

—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23, 2008
Woke up to thick fog. Very Long Beach like. We used to go visit the Glenn Bells in Long Beach in the sixties and I remember my father driving on the freeway, going sixty, bumper to bumper and you couldn't see three cars ahead. No seat belts, of course, and I remember feeling totally out of control. And I wasn't even driving!

Went home for lunch and worked on a Billy study:

Decent clouds, need to execute the rifle and Billy's face a bit better in the final. Meanwhile, whipped out a noodle doodle just for the fun of it:

Not sure what it means but it's definitely a bird abstract. Ha.

I was channel surfing last night and ran across "Junior Bonner" on the Westerns Channel. What a time capsule for Prescott in 1972. Big scene at the train station and there's nothing beyond it. Of course, it's all developed now. I also noticed the rodeo poster above Steve McQueen's head said, "Stay Cowboy." Well, the cowboys didn't stay, because everybody else came (just like in the plot). The opening scene of McQueen driving through the foothills towards Prescott is all big box stores now. Ironically, Curly's land office is closed (Reata Pass Steakhouse below Young's Farm, which is also closed, because it's being converted to homes). While most everyone in the movie looks goofy in their seventies duds (even Ben Johnson looks a tad fruity), Steve McQueen is timeless. He still looks as crisp and cool as he did in his day. Amazing. When his character, Junior Bonner, gets beat in the steer wrestling competition, and the guy who beat him apologizes, Junior rides by and says, "Happens all the time, Dude." The line still works, and is maybe even better, in 2008! Another scene that made me cringe is when the rodeo announcer (I think it was Ben Johnson as well) tells the audience that Junior's old fart dad, Abe Bonner (Robert Preston), is the oldest competing cowboy in the rodeo, "He's sixty years young."

Two years younger than I am now. Ha.

"Pay attention when an old dog is barking. To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22, 2008
Worked most of the weekend on various paintings. Someone who reads this blog asked me if I was having any fun because I'm always "working" but that's misleading. Remember, it's only work if you'd rather be someplace else. And when I'm working on my art it's a beautiful thing. And fun (mostly).

Still working on clouds with varying success:

And, I've been pushing some studies farther to see where they'll go. Here's one (below) that ended up as "Mountains In The Sky." Rather Ed Mell-ish actually, although I didn't set out to do a homage to the Master:

Watched "The Tall T" last night. Kathy got me "The Films of Budd Boetticher" DVD collector's edition for my birthday. The five films in the collection all star Randolph Scott and are considered "spare adult Westerns." I remember most of the films, having seen them at the State Theatre in downtown Kingman. Randolph Scott was one of my favorite Western stars.

Ironically, two people came into my office last Friday who personally knew Boetticher. The first was Jeb Rosebrook (he wrote "Junior Bonner") and the second was Peter Brown (he starred in "Lawman" and dated Ann Margaret). Both had stories to tell. Amazing.

I'm also working on better text boxes for our new feature, Graphic Novelette. Trying to create an organic narrative box that doesn't look mechanically produced (by a computer).

The trick is to be so loose that it doesn't look contrived. Not as easy as it sounds, but a ton of fun to create:

I'm really looking for happy accidents, and it's a thrill to get drying spreads that are semi-controlled, but still spontaneous:

We had a bunch of fun at the True West Christmas Party at the Brinks on Friday night. I've decided that 2009 is the year of "Audacious and Courageous" for True West.

"When you learn to totally own a problem, the problem doesn't stand a chance."
—Steve Chandler

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19, 2008
Had breakfast in bed. Two bottles of wine and a custom made bottle stop, plus a DVD of the Western films of Bud Boettecher. These were gifts from my Honey, of course, and it's my 62nd birthday.

In meetings all morning. Going to take off this afternoon and go see a movie with Kath. The True West Christmas Party is tonight at the Brink's expansive adobe.

Speaking of Bob Brink, here's a photo of him (on right) with Bill Hearst, son of William Randolph, back when Bob ran the magazine division at Hearst. This guy was, and is, connected:

"Ah, stardom! They put your name on a star in the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard and you walk down and find a pile of dog manure on it. That tells the whole story, baby."
—Lee Marvin

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 18, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
This just in from southern Nevada:

"From your fearless reporter, on the ground covering the snow-induced traffic wars in Las Vegas . . .

"Who says old guys can't break records? As predicted yesterday afternoon, I set a new personal best in my 20-mile Las Vegas to Henderson foothills commute, shattering the previous mark of one hour and forty minutes with a stunning (and bladder testing) time of four hours and fifteen minutes.

"What I didn't predict was setting a personal lifetime best for any commute. The previous mark for that was shared by many days following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when tens of thousands of vehicles had to get through the Newhall Pass to the LA basin with only a two-lane road to carry them all. Those 35-mile commutes, at least for awhile, sometimes topped three hours each way .

"At one stretch last night, I went two blocks in one hour. The next stretch was four blocks in one hour. While much of the problem was the snow and people either not knowing how to drive in snow or having rear-wheel drive cars and being unable to make the moderate climbs. (We live at about 2,900 feet, according to the do-hicky in Linda's car. The valley floor is about 800 feet below.) Traffic on the only street into subdivisions with thousands of homes (and more coming)---further testament to the Nevada rule that developers are second only to casinos in getting whatever they want from government on all levels---went from four lanes to three, to two, to one. Cars were abandoned all along the last two-mile stretch to my house.

"But that was just part of the problem. Clinging to their much deserved national championship as the rudest, most self-centered (and therefore dangerous) drivers, Southern Nevadans last night built on that title. They disregarded stoplights and clogged intersections, refused to let traffic in from side streets and gleefully denied folks a chance to change lanes, even to get off the clogged main street. Some just abandoned their cars. Only twice did I see anyone try to help push a car that was stuck. Say what you want about Southern California and its traffic, we rarely saw anything coming close to this in our eight years there, even in equally bad or worse traffic jams.

"When I got home, there was 10 inches of undrifted snow sitting on a large round table in our backyard. After a 9 p.m. dinner, I went out to wrap two different valves and pipes because the weather report predicted overnight temperatures in the 20s. This morning, I cleared the driveway so Linda could get out to the street. It took an hour since all I had was a pointed-tip shovel and the back side of a rake."

—Charles Waters
December 18, 2008
More rain and even more fantastic clouds. Went for another walk with Peaches and came back and wailed on two studies. I still haven't been able to capture that subtle
crowd creep that happens as low lying clouds drape the shoulders of distant ridges:

This first one is not subtle at all, and looks like someone is pouring whipped cream over the edge of a ridge. The second one has a bit more integrity:

That's Fortification Rock in the foreground. A work in progress.

The Proof Against It
I love weather. Two of my favorite movies are "MacCabe & Mrs. Miller" and "It's A Wonderful Life." Both films have great snow. I think I read somewhere that "It's A Wonderful Life" was filmed in July in California and all that snow is fake. Doesn't matter, it makes me feel like snuggling in. And speaking of snuggling in, I got these reports in the last 24 hours:

"Public Safety Officials would like to warn travelers along Interstate 40 to expect heavy snow at times across the region east of Kingman.

"The National Weather Service has posted a Winter Storm Warning for much of the Eastern parts of Mohave County today and tonight for elevations above 3,500, this includes the areas located east of Kingman, Valentine and the Hualapai Mountains. Hualapai Mountain Road is currently closed to all non-residents."

"Bob, there is a cloud shot you might enjoy in this best photos of 2008 slide show. It’s about half way through. Kansas thunderstorm with old barn:"

—Jeff Hildebrandt, The Westerns Channel

[Enjoyed the barn photo, but really, I needed number 8, where the woman in China is diving into a hole in the ice. Two weeks ago I would have killed to have had this reference for El Kid throwing rocks into an icy creek—the subtle tone difference between the ice and the open water is so amazing—and especially where El Kid leads his horse across, wading through the freezing water.]

“Greetings from Colorado, catching our breath (after seeing it) from the
first two artic cold fronts with two more forecasted for the next week.
Certainly gives things that holiday feel . . .

“Well sir, you have had quite a 2008, with travels, one unforgettable ( but
not, thank goodness, final) drum solo, and of course, a steady flow of
beautiful and inspiring art. Some of my faves in more recent posts:

• Pat Garret in Buffalo coat
• Brothers in arms
• All the winter/snow crossing
• Nice thoughts on leaving stuff out and simplicity

“May the paint flow from your brush like bs from a politician’s mouth;
constantly and for years and years . . .A safe and happy holiday season to you and your family.”
—Ray Geier

"It's snowing here on the ground floor in Las Vegas. Linda says we have two inches in the foothills and that it has been snowing there since late this morning. My commute is really gonna suck, and may rival my all-time record (from last week) of an hour and forty minutes. Hope your washes aren't running. My son Rich says they have four feet on the ground in Tahoe."
—Charles Waters

[And speaking of the washes running, here is the email from my yoga instructor who lives across the creek from us:]

This is one of the websites we follow - it's 8 miles upstream and shows how long it will take the water to travel to Spur Cross by how many cfs are discharged. Right now there is no discharge even though it's 2.8 feet deep (that appears to be its normal baseline). Past times when the creek was really high was either 1400 or 14000 cfs - sorry I don't remember which.”

—Deborah Payne

Meanwhile, I made a list of the specific items in my commission painting that I need to nail. The first item on the list is, "Boots and Toes" and refers to the authenticity of old boots, with spur straps, etc. Did my six sketches studying old photos:

"When people say they like snow, they really mean the proof against it."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 17, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
We have our newest Reader's Survey up on our website and we'd love for you to fill it out. It really helps us in so many ways. First of all, we can determine what you like and what you don't, and that is so critical when we're planning the year's articles and departments. Thanks. And second of all, it gives you a voice to express your tastes. Also important.

"Fill it with 100 plus octane Flite-Fuel, sir?"
—Standard greeting at Al Bell's Flying A, 1958
December 17, 2008
Woke up to more rain. After feeding the chickens, I went for a walk with Peaches and became entranced with the socked in rain and the tattered clouds over Elephant Butte. When I got home I did a quick study of the scene:

Not as subtle as I wanted it but learned a thing or two about feathering in mountains that are being obliterated by low clouds.

Also working on the big Billy the Kid & Pat Garrett painting. Here are a couple studies for Pat:

Our son Thomas Charles, turned us on to "The Wire." I had heard good things about the HBO series but had never watched it. We rented the first season. I will say, no one has ever shown cops like these, or for that matter drug dealers (who are actually, in some cases sympathetic). I read an interview in the English Esquire with the creator, David Simon. Under the heading:

God Is Not A Second-Rate Novelist
"That's what Richard Price always says. It's always funny what people think is not real. Donnie Andrews was one of the real models for Omar [played by Michael K. Williams]. He was a stick-up guy: in drug culture, guys who rob drug dealers are not as improbable as people outside the culture would think. [In episode 5, season 5] when Omar went out of the fourth-floor window, Donnie actually went out of the sixth floor of that building. We brought it down a couple of floors just to be credible."

And, lastly, I love his final take on the show: "If the show gets anything correct about the drug war, about political reform, about equality of opportunity in public education, about the death of work, if all of these things had any relevance to the American experience, what is it that America was paying attention to when all this was going on? The Wire is about the death of empire. That's what it's about."

Really a strong show. Brutally honest to a fault (no wonder it wasn't that successful in terms of viewers).

This morning I wrote up my Ten Critical Issues Facing True West in 2009 and had a meeting with Bob and Trish Brink at 10:30 to compare lists. Our three lists were almost identical. Considering how awful the rest of the economy is, we are holding our own. And, we're looking at decent opportunity for next year. You can't ask for more than that.

"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am grateful that thorns have roses."
—Alphonse Karr

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16, 2008
Woke up to rain, a steady drizzle actually. Been wet all morning. Went to yoga class at eight and our teacher, Debbie Payne, said she was worried about crossing Cave Creek (she lives almost directly across from my house, across the creek, as it were). She told the class she avidly watches a website that constantly tracks rain and wash activity in our area. She just forwarded me the link and I'll share it later.

News From The Front Lines
Sheri just reported that John Baldridge from South Dakota called this morning to say. . .

"Great job BBB on Mickey Free, can’t wait for the book! Love the magazine, great historical publication."

Speaking of Mickey Free, if you missed the hilarious "What History Has Taught Me" interview featuring the Distinguished Professor, Paul Andrew Hutton, you can check it out on our website right here.

Sold two paintings yesterday, both for Christmas presents. Meanwhile, another fan from Ohio called and wants something featuring Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday or O.K. Corral images. I told him most of those are long gone, but yesterday I went through my archives and found two pieces. The first appeared in Arizona Highways, and was actually painted in 1981 (the O.K. Corral fight happened in 1881), you can see the date in bottom right-hand corner:

Not a bad image considering I was still wet behind the ears. I also found a pre-scratchboard piece called "Virgil Goes Down" which is a pen and ink, showing Virgil Earp crunching to the ground with a leg wound (he has dropped Doc's cane, lower right) while Wyatt blazes away at Billy Clanton. This image appears in "The Illustrated Life & Times of Wyatt Earp" which has just gone into the fifth printing, making it the best selling book in my library:

I'm half-embarrassed to say I actually forgot to do my six sketches on Sunday, so I forced myself to do 12 last night. Got home late and didn't want to do them, but knuckled down and bailed in (to mix metaphors). Did them right on the kitchen table while Kathy did the taxes on her computer:

Finished at about 8:30. Hard work, but I must keep on striving if I'm ever to amount to anything. Gee I wonder what ol' Aldrich has to say about this?

"They fail, and they alone, who have not striven."
—Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008
One of the coolest days of the year. Supposed to only reach the fifties. Overcast. Looks like rain. Got some sprinkles the night before last.

Been noodling some cloud studies in the mornings to loosen up. Here is one from Saturday morning that came out nicely:

Still wrestling with studies for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid portrait. This one has some nice background noise, very photo found patina, which I love:

Not finished of course, but I'm thinking of the title, "Brothers In Arms: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid."

Extraordinary Ad Placement
By now you've no doubt heard that our president almost got hit by a pair of flying shoes, while visiting Iraq. In this morning's Arizona Republic, New Balance shoes got picture perfect placement next to the article:

"He's the kind of politician who follows you through a revolving door and then comes out ahead of you."
—Old Politico Saying

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14, 2008
Attended our first Christmas party last night. Party hosted by one of Kathy's gym-mates down off Gunsight Road. Huge Spanish Colonial house in the spirit of Tom Mix's Beverly Hills ranch (see the Tom Mix ranchito in this month's issue of True West). They live on the creek about three miles south of us. A couple of the guys at the party recognized me from the Westerns Channel and I think I sold three subscriptions (so that paid for the gas to the party, ha.).

Much better art day today. Woke up with ideas on how to capture Garrett and El Kid portrait. Had a breakthrough on color and finally got a decent likeness of the two of them in the same scene. I'll post some of the efforts tomorrow.

Lots of talk last night about all the doom and gloom headlines. I can't recall ever seeing so many negative stories, and it keeps coming, day in and day out. Ultimately, we have to laugh about it or we'll all go crazy. So what is there to laugh about? Try this on for size:

“The difference between a pigeon and an investment banker: the pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW.”
—New Vaquero Saying

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13, 2008
Ruined a good study this morning. Pushed it too far. Someone said, "Genius is the art of making things simple." Man, too much of the time I am the opposite of that.

When you think about it, most wonderful things are simple. A barn. A starry night. A smile. Good artists know what to take out, and they keep removing detail until only the critical items remain.

Sounds easy. Ha.

Redeemed myself somewhat after lunch. Working on a likeness of Garrett, done in the classical portraiture style, with big blocks of black with the face and hands, islands of subtle color.

Also not as easy as it sounds. Ha.

Well, at least I can laugh about it. Gee, I wonder what Thurber has to say about this?

"Humor is a serious thing. I like to think of it as one of our greatest natural resources, one that must be preserved at all cost."
—James Thurber

Friday, December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
This just in on the car bailout impasse:

"With the Southern Republican Senators having in the past made their successful overtures to BMW (Germany), Nissan (Japan) and voting against Detroit, it’s a bit interesting. We northerners are now being repaid by the evil triumvirate of the previously vanquished, the Japanese, the Germans, and the South. We’re getting our come-uppance."

—Gordon Smith, Pogo Distributing

"No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks."
—Saint Ambrose
December 12, 2008
Read this morning that the notorious fifties pinup model Bettie Page died at age 85. I don't know why, but I couldn't help comparing her life to my mother's, who died a year ago at 84. I couldn't help but think of their shared time frame and divergent paths in terms of life choices. While my mother was making me peanut butter sandwiches in Swea City, Iowa, Bettie was posing for S&M photos with her trademark "dark bangs." In the end, though, all of our lives are so similar: Bettie had three husbands, my mother two, they both lived through the depression and suffered from depression.

One thing's for certain, my mother would absolutely hate the comparison even being made, so I'll stop.

Working on more studies for the big painting I'm working on. Here's a small cloud study I finished Monday:

A deputy constable showed up at my house yesterday to serve me a summons regarding Peaches and Buddy Boze Hatkiller and their run-in with a neighbor dog. It's basically a leash law violation and my initial trial date got moved because my neighbor across the street works for the Cave Creek judge and they are so backed up, the new court is finally getting around to my case. I asked if I could plead out and he told me what number to call. I thanked him and asked him if he was into the Old West (so I could give him an issue of True West) and he said, "Yes, and I know exactly who you are."

This is one of those mortifying moments where you realize how awful it would be if, say, he was serving me a summons for soliciting a prostitute.

And yes, my mother would hate this line of comparison as well.

Which makes me realize part of my perceived outrageousness came from my mother trying to stifle my coarseness and my father smiling and silently encouraging me to do more. Hmmmmm.

Gee. I wonder what ol' Ben has to say about this?

"Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices."
—Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008
Working on a big oil painting for the new Billy the Kid Museum in Ruidoso, which is nice because it dovetails directly with my efforts on El Kid. Here is a study for Pat Garrett:

He was a buffalo hunter before he came to the Fort Sumner area, so I think it's very probable he had a big, ol' buffalo coat. The hat is based on the photo of Garrett taken in Roswell several years after killing the Kid.

Also working on a rendering of Blackjack Ketchum riding along with his big ol' tapaderos. I have excellent reference of this from Richard Ignarski. This is for next issue's Classic Gunfight.

When I flew to Georgia last week (hard to believe I've been back for a week already) I picked up a USA Today and noticed an article on a best selling book based on Six Word Memoirs (Not Quite What I Was Planning, Harper, $16.95). How do you sum up your life in six words? Here are a couple good ones from the book:

"Well, I thought it was funny."
—Stephen Colbert

"Liars, hysterectomy didn't improve sex life!"
—Joan Rivers

"On the playground, alone. 1970, today."
—Charles Warren

"Never really finished anything, except cake."
—Carletta Perkins

So, since I was on a long flight, I noodled a few for myself:

"Small town boy goes home, eventually."

"Sipped from many cups, drank none."

"Hat Nazi belittled many fine hats."

"Son of alcoholic breaks with tradition."

And one for Kathy:

"Attention deficit disorder drains spouse's patience."

"If you leave yourself open to your thoughts and feelings, you can trust them. They have a story to tell. They are the truest biography of who you are."
—Richard Avedon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10, 2008
Working on a cover piece for our mailout on Mickey Free. We're going to send the issue featuring Mickey to all of the graphic novel companies and movie companies. It was Carole Glenn's idea to take some of the great feedback we got and print up a piece that resembles a movie ad. Here 'tis:

"Some say they cannot afford to advertise; they mistake—they cannot afford not to advertise."
—Joe Vitale, in his book, "There's A Customer Born Every Minute: P.T. Barnum's amazing 10 Rings of Power for creating fame, fortune and a business empire today—guaranteed!"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

December 9, 2008 Bonus Bonus Blog Post
Just got this and had to share:

The Next True West Editor In Chief

"Here he is Bob! He's out gunnin' for ya! I think he's the future Editor in Chief for
True West Magazine! HA! This is Cowboy 'The Kid' Oskar, and he is one tough gun-slingin' hombre! And he's got a mean look about 'im too!

"I hope you guys are all doing well! This is Oskar Bowman, my grandson. He thinks his
Grampa Larry was a cowboy - at least in some pictures he's seen! And I make sure I never do anything to make him think otherwise!

"I wish you guys all the best for a great Holiday Season!"
—Larry Johns
December 9, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Last week Carole forwarded an email she thought I might find interesting. I read it and it has been on my mind ever since. In fact, I mentioned this anectdote to Seth and crew at the Booth. Here is the part that really got to me:

It's 1843. A mysterious entrepreneur hosts a Grand Buffalo Hunt in Hoboken, New Jersey. He anonymously advertises it as a free event open to the public. Thousands of people take the ferries across the river to witness the "wild sport of the Western Prairies," which turns out to be a playful hoax. The buffalo aren't hunted, are actually frightened by the crowds and eventually stampede off. They are later rounded up safely. The crowds give three cheers for the nameless person behind the entertainment. They go home happy.

Question: Who was the entrepreneur who orchestrated this free event? More importantly, how did he profit from it?

The Grand Buffalo Hunt was originated by P.T. Barnum. He had bought a herd of skinny buffalo months before, hired a man to nourish them back to health and then quietly announced a free "buffalo hunt" to the public.

The public did not know Barnum was behind the event. Barnum knew that their curiosity would add more interest. The public also did not know that Barnum rented the ferries for the day of the hunt. So every time someone got on board to go across the river, Barnum made money. He also profited from all the drinks sold at the show. In short, Barnum gave people a fun excursion for the day, charged nothing for it, but secretly made money from the sale of items people needed to get to the event: a ride, food and drink.

Weeks later Barnum announced that he was the entrepreneur behind the then famous hoax. People laughed and said "Barnum humbugged us again!" As a result, Barnum got even more publicity for his name and his businesses.

Article: "Hidden Selling: A Secret Way to Make Money" – By Joe Vitale

How to Make Money Off Of Free Emails:
So, I had Carole order me Joe’s book: “There’s A Customer Born Every Minute,” which features P.T. Barnum’s amazing 10 Rings of Power for creating fame, fortune and a business empire today—guaranteed!” Mr. Vitale made $30 off of his free email. Ha.

Hmmmmmm. I wonder how this kind of promotional thinking could be harnessed today?

"You guys nailed the Mickey Free Story. The concept, the execution, the art and layout! And so cool to invent a new America story form and extend an original art form. Bob gets to finally do his Manga shot in the dark. But what you have accomplished is that you have created a new medium—the American True West Manga!"
—Geoff Stevens
December 9, 2008
When I was in Cartersville, Georgia last week, the January issue of True West was being put to bed. On Wednesday night I was sitting in my Holiday Inn room, with the heater on, as I reviewed pdf proofs coming in from my production crew. When I saw my editorial, I sent this challenge back to the office: "Even though it is low res, 72 dpi, grab the photo of Terry "Ike" Clanton off his website and make it work on my editorial page. If Robert Ray can pull this off, I'll buy you all lunch when I get back."

Just saw the proofs and Robert pulled it off. It's almost impossible to push a 72 dpi jpeg up to the minimum requirement for the printed page (150 dpi is the threshold), but he did! We met at Tonto Bar & Grill for lunch and talked strategy for our "Graphic Novelette" which premiers in the January issue. Lots of good ideas.

We also talked about expanding our community online with Ning and other platforms. When I had lunch with Seth Hopkins and the powers that be at the Booth Museum last week they asked: "How do we find the 200,000 maniacs who love Western Art in our area?" That is THE question, and we need to answer it.

Got a call from Bob Pugh down in Tucson. He told me Jeff Burton has a new, limited edition (100 copies) book coming out on all the train robberies between Tucson and Lordsburg. It's some 400 pages. Bob is sending me a copy and I'll post a better review when I get it, but if you're a collector, these books aren't going to last long and you should call Bob now at:

(520) 293-1260

What are my goals as a writer? Well, I think a certain prince has the answer:

“[I] could not read a single chapter without envy, amusement, astonishment or an erection.”
—Prince Charles Joseph de Ligne, a close friend of Casanova’s, who made the above comment based on reading early drafts of the notorious lover’s autobiography

Monday, December 08, 2008

December 8, 2008
The True West gang is back from Vegas and Cowboy Christmas. Here's a photo of Tom and Allison in our booth on Saturday:

Meanwhile, Sheri Riley flew up on Saturday and is holding down the booth all this week. She talked to Carole this morning and here is her report:

The News From Cowboy Christmas
Sheri called to say things are going well there. She said Sunday was really busy.

Chip DeMann from Minnesota stopped by and asked her to say hello to you for him.

Larry Brady – a subscriber from LA – also stopped and asked her to tell you hello. She said that many people have mentioned that they enjoy seeing you on Western and History Channel.

“You have no friends; you have no enemies; you have only teachers.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, December 07, 2008

December 7, 2008
Overcast and cool out. High sixties today. Stayed close to home all weekend. Working on studies for Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. I've been commissioned to do a big portrait of the two of them for a new museum in Ruidoso.

Also working on the next installment of El Kid. Inspired by some of the new graphic novel work being done and featured in today's New York Times. Stopped by Atomic Comics on Cactus Road in Paradise Valley, when I flew in from Georgia on Thursday. A surprising amount of Western subject matter is out now, including the revised series on The Lone Ranger and a new one called Caliber. Very strong art. Always goads me to do better.

Lost two more classmates from MCUHS this week. George Dell and Walter Seapy, both of whom probably heard about my dire predicament last March, and now they're gone.

Speaking of goading and being gone, Kathy got me to go to Jazzercize both Saturday and today. I really don't like going, but she kept pestering me that it was good for my heart, and I hate to admit it, but I half enjoy the Pony and the Freddie (dance steps from the sixties), but of course, they have renamed the steps to fit the Jazzercize franchise, and, or, copyright. I was the only male at both classes and it was kind of perverse to be in a church down on Lone Mountain Road, doing pelvic thrusts to Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman," and yelling out, "Hell Yeh!" along with the ladies, but I must admit that my latent Lutheran guilt was quite pronounced, even after a quarter century of hibernation. Funny what that early stuff can do. How deep it goes.

My mother would be proud—Hell, yes!

Harvey Mackay had a thought provoking column today (he's syndicated but I read him in the Arizona Republic). It was on the concept that it takes about "10,000 hours of practice to attain true mastery." This is so amazing, since I am in the process of doing 10,000 bad drawings (I just finished my 7,610th sketch this afternoon). This is from Malcolm Gladwell's new book, "Outliers," which I have some problems with, but nonetheless, the concept of 10,000 applying to all forms of mastery is a nice touch in terms of what I'm practicing. Gee, I wonder what else he has to say about this?

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good."
—Malcolm Gladwell

Friday, December 05, 2008

December 5, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Various responses to recent postings:

"It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday at the Booth Museum. I thank you for allowing me to visit with you. You are an excellent speaker and I enjoyed very much your stories and information. It was good to see you looking well. We have prayed for your health many times since last March following your 'Exit Rehearsal' shall we say. In my profession you had what we refer to as a 'take out heart attack.' The Good Lord seemed to set yours up at the right time to insure your recovery with the right folks around you. As the old saying goes 'God just ain’t finished with you yet.'

"My wife Vicky and I have several rescued dogs and cats. It was nice to hear that Buddy Boze Hat Killer is doing well.

"Take care and thanks for coming to the Booth. I hope you will come back soon.

"See You Down The Trail."
—Hugh Howard, Maniac# 9

"Dating" Mary Kay:
"The story I got, albeit second or third hand (pun intended), was that the majority of that 15 minute date [with Mary Kay] was actually spent 'driving' there.
—Johnny Waters

"I many not be as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."
—Old Vaquero saying

"Hi, I am fabio schiavo, an italian music journalist, writing staff member of Rolling Stone, local issue, and I would like to know, becasue I am a Beatles comics fan collector (and I intend to write a book about that) some information about RAZZ REVUE Vol 1 # 2 1976 and how, if is possible, can get one copy of this comic. thankks a lot and ciao."
—Fabio Schiavo, Rolling Stone Italy
December 5, 2008
Got back from Georgia about four yesterday. We had a delay on takeoff because a passenger went thru a security door on the plane (I assume into the cockpit) and they had to remove him. He wasn't happy and it took a half hour to get him off. Then we lost our place in line on the runway and had to wait another twenty minutes for takeoff. Smooth sailing from there and landed in Phoenix about two. Met Deena and Kathy, who were out shopping for Christmas trees, and we had a nice lunch at Miracle Mile, then drove out to Cave Creek and came into the office to proof the January-February issue of True West. It had already gone out the door to our printer in Kansas City, but I wanted to catch any last minute stuff. Here's how the first installment of El Kid turned out:

Not entirely happy with it. Feel like I muffed the senorita. She's too Victoria's Secret and not enough Victorian Sonoran. But, it is on its way to the printer and I can't cry over spilled cleavage.

We went with the big rider for the cover. I explain why in my editorial, which you'll see soon enough.

Most of the True West gang is in Vegas today and this weekend for Cowboy Christmas. We have a booth at the Mandalay Bay and the crew is handing out the True West Source Book. Sheri Riley travels to Vegas tomorrow and will work the booth for the entire week. Today the office is quiet, with just Sheri, Carole and myself working hard. Oh, and Ron is here vacuuming. Other than that it's pretty quiet.

Here's a photo of Tom Tumas and Trish Brink this morning:

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

December 3, 2008
Spoke today at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. Almost a full house on hand in the auditorium and we had a grand time talking about all things Western and True West.

Lots of great art here. Just spectacular. Really enjoyed the galleries. My fave paintings: a huge mural by Maynard Dixon which was allegedly painted for a San Francisco cafe, I believe called Kit Carson's. The actual name of the painting is "Red Butte And Mountain Men." I sat and looked at it this morning for about fifteen minutes. Really a stunner. The other show stopper is a small oil by James Reynolds called "Diamond A Cowboy". Other wonderful images painted by Kenneth Riley, Howard Terpning ("Legend of Geronimo"), my old neighbor Roy Anderson ("Apache White Water"), James Bama, Paul Calle, Fred Fellows, William P. Henderson, E. Martin Hennings ("Branding Time" believe it or not a major inspiration for Honkytonk Sue and the Doper Roper), Harry Jackson and William Robinson Leigh. I'm telling you, the Booth Western Art Museum is a stunner. One of the best kep secrets of the southeast.

Seth Hopkins, the executive director of Booth Western Museum, invited me to doodle an original rendering in their guest room. I whipped out a felt tipped pen rendering of "El Kid" for the wall, right next to Thom Ross's rendering of Wyatt Earp. They didn't have any gouache paints, so I used thick, felt-tipped markers.

Also took a bunch of photos in front of the "mud wagon" stage coach which Western Artist Fred Fellows sold to the museum. Lots of good reference photos, which Cheryl Kennedy printed out for me. I have been fretting about mud wagon reference for weeks and I fly to the east coast and here it is. Amazing.

Flying home in the morning.

"There are very few people who don't become more interesting when they stop talking."
—Mary Lowry

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

December 2, 2008
Travelled most of the day. Left the house at 5:45 A.M. and got to the airport at seven and to my gate at 7:15. Flight to Atlanta was full, left at 8:30. Fortunately, the Delta crew were quite gracious and we had multiple snacks and drinks. Got to Atlanta Airport at 1:36, Georgia time. Deena warned me the airport is one of the worst in the United States and she was right. Conflicting signs, hallways to nowhere. If it wasn't for cell phones I would have never found Jim Dunham, who was picking me up. After four calls and several directions ("Go to the T-Terminal, come up the escalator, got to the Delta section and I'm standing at the baggage claim."). Got really frustrated and angry, but, then thought of the headline in the Sonoran News: "Local cartoonist collapses in Atlanta Airport." And that calmed me down.

Jim drove me to the O.K. Cafe and we had a nice lunch, then on to Cartersville, Georgia where the Booth Western Art Museum is located. Beautiful facility tucked in the hills of Georgia. I have never been to this Georgia and it's quite nice. The art in the museum is fantastic. A huge Maynard Dixon of Kit Carson that takes up one wall and a small James Reynold's cowboy were my favorites. I speak tomorrow in the main auditorium at 12:15.

Jim's wife Susanne worked with Mary Kay Hokanson at Valley Bank and she wondered if I knew where she is today (we dated for fifteen minutes in 1964). I told her husband we would find her. Someone told me she is living in Flag.

Monday, December 01, 2008

December 1, 2008
Working late. Just finished my editorial for the January issue. Also whipped out a half dozen images for El Kid. Here's the last one:

Yes, it's based on a certain Latina bombshell named Salma. Worked also on Spanish translations with Deena Bell and her friend Patricia.

I'm leaving in the morning for the Booth Museum in Georgia. Doing a speech on Wednesday, which is a make good for the event I missed last April because of my own personal Wipeout.

Speaking of which, my band partner, Charlie Waters has come up with a tentative date for the Exits Exit, Part II. Yes, I will be playing drums with a heart monitor on (and hopefully projected on a screen so everyone at the charity event (which will be held at the Kingman Fairgrounds, which is quite a bit closer to the hospital) can see how I'm doing. The doctors who saved my life asked me if I'd do a charity benefit to raise money for defibrillators and I really couldn't say no.

"I'm too tired to find a quote."