Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009
Yesterday, a friend on this site asked me when we were going to film some new True West Moments. I called my producer, Jeff Hildebrandt, at the Westerns Channel, and he is aiming for late summer, or early fall, to do the next batch. We are also working on a way to feature at least one or two of the questioners in the bumper. In other words, have you ask the question on camera. There are logistical problems (flying someone in from Scotland, for example), but Jeff and I are working on it.

I receive several questions almost every day. For example, here's one I got yesterday:

On Jan 29, 2009, at 12:33 PM, Rachel Welsh wrote:

"Hi Bob. I noticed that they are always drinking coffee in westerns and I know that they don't even grow it in the continental united states, so I was wondering how they got all of this imported coffee, and if they really did drink it all of the time. That is my main question, but since I'm writing to you I was also wondering if you knew why the sound never matches the mouth movements in spaghetti westerns. Thank You so much , Rachel"

Yes, cowboys drank a ton of coffee, and yes, it was imported. Cowboys mostly preferred Arbuckles Ariosa Coffee and you can still buy it today. check them out at

As for the Spaghetti Westerns, there are two answers. The first is that in those days Italian movies were filmed entirely without sound on location and then "foleyed" in "post." That means they reconstructed the sounds and dialogue in post production (in a sound studio). But, the second reason
for the mouth mashup, is because the Spaghetti Westerns featured actors from all over Europe. In "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly," the outlaw Tuco is played by an American actor (Eli Wallach), and his brother in the film is played by a German. When they filmed it, both actors spoke their native tongues and then in post, it was translated, or dubbed, into, first Italian, and second, English. In the DVD for these Sergio Leone classic Westerns, Clint Eastwood remembered how he would say his lines, then wait for the other guy in the scene with him to say his lines (that he couldn't understand), and wait for him to stop talking before saying the next lines. Amazing, huh?

Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

Does anyone know how coffee was imported in those days? And made it out West. That would be interesting in itself.

"I have no desire to prove anything by dancing. I have never used it as an outlet or a means of expressing myself. I just dance. I just put my feet in the air and move them around."
—Fred Astaire

Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009
Looks like we got a strong nibble on our Mickey Free project. A company that Paul Hutton worked with in Hollywood has expressed interest in developing Mick for the screen. Very exciting. More later.

Worked with Robert Ray last Friday on creating a 128-page-template for the graphic novel on Mickey Free and spent yesterday spreading out Remington's narrative so that each entry from Freddy corresponds with the images on that page (this was the biggest knock against the excerpt that ran in the magazine last November).

Meanwhile, went home for lunch and worked on more clouds, inspired by our trip to Kingman and back. In my discard pile I discovered a very nice cloud bank, and, with Mickey Free back on my mind, whipped out this:

As I brushed in Mickey's big mule, I heard an oldtimer say, "Mickey's life was one damn storm after another."

Too true, Buck. Too true.

And, by the way, I must confess I apologized to The Top Secret Writer for his nomination of Mickey Rourke to play Mickey. When he made the suggestion several months back I made some snide remark to the effect that, "Why don't we get Mickey Rooney, too?" Well, after Rourke won a Golden Globe, Hutton sent me the newspaper clipping with Rourke's award being announced and I sent him this reply:

Got your newspaper clipping with the Golden Globe winners. I take it back. I was wrong. Mickey Rourke could easily play a grizzled, one-eyed Irish breed. And, I think he would relish the part, making Mickey Free damaged but sympathetic.

And, I propose we cast Mickey Rooney as Pastor Guenther. Ha.

After the Mickey Storm, I grabbed another discard from the Pat Garrett pile and finished it off. Some nice lighting effects on a Smoke Out.

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."
—Drew Carey
January 29, 2009
Got an inquiry from a Czech Republic film crew who want to film real cowboys in the real West. My first call was to my cousin Billy Hamilton, who has the Turkey Track Ranch in northern Mohave County. Billy, who's ten years my senior, was riding and roping from the time he could walk. Here's a photo of young Billy, in the 1940s at a local rodeo:

Although my family lived in Kingman and Peach Springs when I was less than a year old, my father took us back to his home state, Iowa, where he ran a Phillips 66 gas station in Swea City.

By 1955, he was tired of shoveling snow to clear the driveways (and Swedish farmers who wouldn't pay their gas bills), so he put my mother and I on a train (a steam locomotive!) at Webster City, to go out to Kingman and see if we could find him any better prospects. Grandmother Guessie and her second husband Ernie picked us up at the Las Vegas train station (right at the foot of Fremont Street). My mother stopped at a Western store on Fremont and bought me an entire cowboy outfit. From there we had a harrowing drive back to Kingman (Ernie wasn't used to the Stockbridge's big Oldsmobile that he borrowed to pick us up and he kept crossing the center line all the way across Boulder Dam and down the narrow two-lane blacktop to Kingman).

Thanks to my grandmother, we found a modern gas station for lease on Hilltop and, after a week or so visit, we went back to Iowa to get my Dad. By January of 1956 we landed back in Kingman and a few of my cowboy cousins showed up for a welcoming dinner and a picture:

Left to right: Ernie Swafford (my grandmother's second husband: my grandfather, Bob Guess, died tragically in 1945), BBB (in the cowboy outfit my mother bought in Vegas), Allen P. Bell (my dad), Louise "Guessie" Swafford (my grandmother), Mary Hamilton (Billy's mother and my mother's older sister), Choc Hamilton (Billy's dad), Bobbie Guess Bell (my mother) and Billy Hamilton.

Billy was, by that time on his rise in the rodeo world and would become The World Champion Steer Roper in 1964. After the group photo, they decided to take a photo of the future World Champion and the future owner of True West magazine (which I had just started reading about the time of this photo).

Billy bought the Turkey Track Ranch with his rodeo winnings. This is a ranch my grandfather worked on in the 1940s. Bob Guess first came to Mohave County in 1912 and worked as a cowboy for Tap Duncan on the Diamond Bar Ranch, which, I believe Billy also leases today.

And, by the way, Billy turned down the film request and recommended Bob Duey, another oldtime Kingman cowboy. Bob is in discussions with the film crew even as you read this.

"Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room."
—Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 28, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a couple cloud paintings. Wanted to get them down on paper while the memories are still strong. First thing, I perused the sketches I did just north of Nothing, Arizona:

Got some good buttes to build on and whipped out this:

I call it "Just North of Nothing." I love that phrase. I can almost see an entire story: "He rode out of Nothing, headed for nowhere. . ."

Had some leftover spaghetti, collected an egg from the chicken house, took Peaches for a brisk walk, came back and did this one:

This one is "Martha's Clouds." I agree with Sixgun. She sent them. Thanks Martha.

"The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult."
—Sir Winston Churchill
January 28, 2009
My heart doctor asked me yesterday what the pain level is in my chest. I told him that depends. A friend of mine is a paramedic and he told me about going on a call to a trailer house in Prescott Valley. The medical responders found a man lying on the floor of his kitchen clutching his chest. The medic leaned in close and asked him, on a scale of one to ten, what the pain level was, and the man blurted out, "A six."

And then he died.

Men are conditioned to under report pain. I was reading about the Steelers football team and how 20 of the the recent championship team are already dead. Several had heart attacks at a very young age. One guy, 49, came into his wife and said, "I'm either coming down with a bad cold or I'm having a heart attack."

And then he died.

So, I said to my doctor, "It's about a one." He looked at me knowingly and said, "We better run a stress test on you."

"See what will happen if you don't stop biting your nails?"
—Will Rogers, to his niece, on seeing the Venus de Milo

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 27, 2009
Travelled to Kingman on Sunday for the funeral of Charlie's mother, Martha Waters. Kathy and I stopped in Wickenburg for gas and probably spent ten to fifteen minutes at the Mobil Travel Stop outside of town on Highway 93. Took off once again and cruised through the Joshua Forrest and across the Santa Maria. Just past Kaiser Springs we saw an ambulance pull out of the Bagdad turnoff and speed north ahead of us. Just beyond Nothing, Arizona all the traffic came to a dead standstill. We heard more sirens, then a helicopter. Then another, until three medical copters all converged on the road up ahead and landed. People got out and walked toward the site. Rumors came back of 9 dead. Someone was passing another car (this dangerous, old road has been vastly improved in certain sections: we were on a split, four-lane highway) and had a blow-out, careened into the car it was passing and both rolled. Kathy walked up to the front of the line and counted back. We were the 15th car back from the wreck. If we hadn't stopped for gas, who knows?

We learned later that three had died and quite a few were in the hospital.

"Death is never at a loss for an occassion."
—Old Vaquero Saying

We had about a forty-five minute wait, so I took the time to sketch the terrain and the fantastic clouds. Really an amazing couple of days for clouds:

In Kingman we landed at Julie Waters' home on Hilltop where all the Waters were assembled to break bread and share memories of Martha, who died last week at age 87.

The funeral for Martha was held on Monday at 11 A.M. at Saint John's Methodist Church. I was honored by being one of the pall bearers and I also spoke, remembering how wonderful Martha was to me when I was growing up (she taught me how to eat with a fork!). Martha's son John gave the eulogy and did a wonderful job, telling us of her storied history. We attended the graveside services and a luncheon at the Elks Club. Martha had stipulated she wanted good food and lots of laughs and she got her wish. I've never laughed or cried more at a funeral. Martha led an inspiring life and both Kathy and I felt truly inspired by her example. Saw, Bob Burford, Coach Byram and the 1963 Homecoming Queen, Judy Ely, who lives in Tucson. Our Class Governor, Mickey Campa was there and he confided to me he has attended 18 funerals in the past year, then sheepishly admitted there were actually 22 funerals, but he missed four because he was hauling hay. That's so Mickey.

On the way home yesterday I saw even more grandiose clouds than on the trip up. Debated on stopping to take reference photos, but decided to try and take mental snapshots and try and capture them when I got home.

Here are a couple attempts:

This morning I had a doctor's appointment to check on my heart. The doctor was an hour and a half backed up, so I got to do some serious sketching of my cloud memories:

Did 10 sketches while I waited. Unlike several other grumpy patients, I actually enjoyed the wait.

"Everyone has a mother, but nobody had mine."
—John Waters, in his eulogy for Martha Waters

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 8, 2009
Although I am over on the new community site with the blog, I thought I would, from time to time, reprint some of the blogs here, to help keep the archives going. I have posted some 2,400 blog posts here and I kind of like the place, you know?

Wanna take a sneak peek at the space where I do my artwork? Here's a photo I took last night of my studio desk:

If you look close you can see the Rembrandt self-portrait I poached from (see the small photo from the book, left, center). The unfinished piece in the foreground has some nice patina work and I'm anxious to work on it today. Several of the other mages I have posted here are also on the desk. I like to keep them around for inspiration.

Gus "The Mapinator" Walker reminded me he tried to get me interested in the Ashcan artist Robert Henri a couple years ago, and I'm sure he did. I guess it proves you have to hear about something three times before you accept it. Ha.

"The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life."
—Robert Henri

Monday, January 05, 2009

January 5, 2009 Bonus Blog
Last post on this site. Yes, we are moving to a more dynamic platform that is interactive. You will still be able to browse my postings since 2002 by going to and clicking on Blog Archive on the menu bar.

Meanwhile, let's take care of some unfinished business here:

When it rains it pours: in the Hualapais. Just got off the phone with Wally Wallapai (real name Rory Martin Majenty) who works for the Yavapai and Hualapai Tribes. Wally is related to Dehlia Majenty, who I went to school with. In the 1980s during my KSLX morning show days, we had Wally on during an infamous April Fool's show where we did a theatre of the mind "War of The Worlds" type show, the premise being that Indians had taken over Pima Road. Wally came on as a fictitious Native American activist (Wally Wallapai) and demanded reparations for all of the sins of the anglos. The show panicked many listeners, who in turn melted the Scottsdale 911 phone service. Two Scottsdale police officers came to the station and shut us down (we went to music, while the police took us to a room and interrogated us: "What were you thinking?" We weren't! We were just having fun).

As Promised: The Asmuses At Santa Claus

Last weekend I ran across a family photo of my grandparents at Santa Claus, Arizona. My father loved to drive out to this exotic little place (on Highway 93, about 12 miles north of Kingman) because they had great breakfasts. I think in this particular incident, we went after church. My grandparents, Carl and Minnie Bell were visiting from Iowa and on this trip they came with Carl's oldest sister, Annie, and her husband Lippo Asmus (an amazing, but true name, not sure I'd want to defend it on the playground). There we are, left to right: Lippo, Annie, BBB, Minnie, Bobbie (my mama), and Carl Bell. I think my dad took the photo. Behind us is my dad's 1956 two-tone Ford Fairlane. On the back of the photo it says: Taken Jan, 1959 at Santa Claus, Arizona."

Which would make it fifty years ago this month. Amazing. A half century. Of course, everyone, but me, is gone, including Santa Claus, which was a leaning wreck the last time I cruised by on the way to Vegas.

This year also marks our ten year anniversary for owning and revitalizing True West magazine (we started negotiations to buy it in April of 1999 and took over in September). When I told Robert Ray this morning, he said, and I quote, "I've never worked anywhere for ten years." He said it like he couldn't believe he got trapped here that long. Ha.

Inspired by a photo I saw in yesterday's New York Times, I noodled a study with Pat Garrett behind Billy the Kid standing near a campfire.

I like this lighting effect for a possible portrait of the two, and here's a closeup study of Garrett, looking a bit afraid of the Kid, or certainly wary:

As he should have been. And here are more sketchbook studies of Garrett:

I especially like the bottom, right-hand likeness of Garrett (taken from a photograph). These were done utilizing the great reference shots Kathy took last week. And by the way these are sketches 7,772 to 7,777. Four sevens. Hmmmmmmmmm.

Last night I did my six sketches and after a Billy the Kid sketch and a Garrett I noodled a tattered cloud effect I noticed over Continental Mountain around sunset. Not sure I nailed it, but I always learn from these exercises.

Well, this is it. We are going to a new site. All you need to do is click here and go register. See you there.

The Secret to Life (Kathy heard this on NPR):

• Want what you have.

• Do what you can.

• Be who you are.
January 5, 2008
Still wet and soggy out. Great clouds everywhere. Back in office after five days off. I can finally post some of the art I have been noodling. As I quoted yesterday, Robert Henri makes the claim that all good art is "memory art" that is done from memory, not a model, and not from photo reference. Yesterday I gave that premise a try. Here is the first try:

The Devil's Greased Lightning

This is a loose interpretation of my Billy the Kid studies, which morphed into El Diablo puling iron so fast he set his poncho on fire. Ha. At least that's what it says to me.

But the real leap of imagination happened last night, after dinner when I went out and started pushing paint around. Slowly but surely a portrait emerged of someone I used to know:

Moon of The Mojaves

He is sullen, proud, defiant, maybe a little drunk. Who cares? He's Moon of the Mojaves. So, where did this memory image come from?

When I was a freshman in high school a certain coach thought I could be a quarterback. In practice one day, Coach Baca, became angry with a certain half-back named Bill Blake. Mr. Blake wasn't providing adequate protection for the quarterback. It seemed a certain 6' 3" defensive end was running right over Mr. Blake and nailing the quarterback (me) on every snap. So Boach Caca (Mr. Baca's nickname behind his back) told the quarterback to drop back into the pocket and wait, so the coach could determine just how long Mr. Blake could block out the defensive end. All of us had gold helmets but this defensive end's head was too large, so he had an off-yellow helmet. We repeated the drill over and over and every time, out of the corner of my eye I saw that yellow helmet crash over the top of Bill Blake and then flatten me to the dirt of the Mohave County Union High School practice field. Even today, when I close my eyes I can see that yellow helmeted warrior bearing down on me, with the intense black eyes locked on my scrawny neck.

His name was Moon Nish and although he lived with the Hualapais, he was a Mojave.

"Ya shoosh, Jelk Mama."
—Squibe Nish (Moon's cousin)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

January 4, 2009
Woke up to more rain. In spite of the recent constant precipitation, we only cashed out of 2008 with about a dozen inches, which is about what we normally get every year. Speaking of last year, I saw a quote from a financial guy who said, "It turns out that 2008 will be remembered as the year nobody wants to remember." Or, words to that effect.

As I mentioned I had lunch with my favorite ex-wife last week. Here's a photo of us at El Encanto:

Left to right, that's Margaret (my favorite ex-mother-in-law), BBB, Olive Mondello (when we were married she was Terry T.), and her brother Mark.

Today, Olive sent me a photo of the two of us, circa 1975:

We're either on our way to a disco, or just back from Chess King (a popular clothing store in the seventies where I worked for a short period, and probably got that deco shirt). And, for the record, I hated disco and everything it stood for, although it seems rather tame, or less sucky, in retrospect.

Speaking of retrospect, I found an old photo of Lippo and Annie Asmus and I'll run that photo tomorrow.

I have been reading an inspiring book called "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri. It was written in the early 1900s and has Henri's musings on what makes great art and great artists (in addition to being a great artist he was an influential teacher in his day). When I was in Georgia in early December, the director of the Booth Western Art Museum, Seth Hopkins recommended the book and when I got home I mentioned it to Kathy, and she thoughtfully got it for me for Christmas.

I have underlined and reread many passages, and I am really enjoying grabbing a few inspiring lines before working in the studio each day. One passage has really got me mulling my entire approach to painting and illustration:

"All work that is worthwhile has got to be memory work. Even when a model before you in the quiet light of a studio there must come a time when you have what you want to know from the model, when the model had better be sitting behind you than before, and unless such a time as this does come, it is not likely the work will get below the surface."
—Robert Henri

When I read this and then compare it to my painting methods, I realize I'm still riding a bike with the training wheels on the back. Ha.

Here's one more for good measure:

"The easiest thing is the hardest. It is harder to be simple than it is to be complex."
—Robert Henri

Tomorrow I'll post a sample of my "memory work" and model work for you to compare.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

January 3, 2009
Working on more studies for the big Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid painting. Yesterday I met Bill Glenn (Carole Glenn's son) at the 101 and we drove out to Lee Anderson's paddock to take some vaquero reference photos. Lee is the best expert on vaqueros and Spanish horsemanship I know. He's got the gear and the history to back it up. Really a fascinating guy.

Artwork and images tomorrow.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

January 1, 2009
Well, this is a nice surprise. A new year and I'm still here. Amazing.

Working on the big oil painting and getting excited. Went to a couple of movies:

•Slumdog Millionaire

• Seven Pounds

Reviews and cliff hanger tomorrow.

"Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification"
—Martin Fischer