Saturday, February 28, 2009

February 28, 2009
Got this question this morning:

On Sat, Feb 28, 2009 at 9:20 AM, Jimmy Sparks wrote:

"Mr. Bell, Please satisfy my curiosity. I watch the Westerns Channel about every day. I see a lot of your commentaries and just wondering if those cowboys really drink as much as they seem to. My thoughts are that they are not really drinking alcohol at all. Am I right? List me as a faithful watcher From Lenoir N.C."
—Jimmy Sparks

Excellent question and observation. First of all, cowboys, as a class, have been known to drink quite a bit, especially when on the trail or out on a drive and then they hit town. Some of these cowboys often went on week long benders, practically living in the saloon. Curly Bill Brocius, the leader of the Cowboys in Tombstone comes to mind. After getting out of jail in Tucson (with the help of Wyatt Earp, no less), Curly Bill went on an extended drunk, taking over Charleston and Contention before drinking his way to Tombstone and shooting out the lights on Allen Street. But, like most generalities, not all cowboys acted this way, especially the successful ones.

Most Mormon ranchers didn't drink at all, and prospered because of it.

Second, in Western movies most actors are drinking tea, if anything. One of the problems on a film set is stray sounds. A persnickity sound man will often insist that a bottle be empty to insure that a slurp won't ruin a key piece of dialogue. I'm not kidding. Next time you see someone allegedly drinking in a movie (and this goes for all movies, not just Westerns), they often don't have anything in the bottle. You can sometimes tell because the bottle seems too light in their hand, or sometimes you can actually see that's it empty.

Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

Friday, February 27, 2009

February 27, 2009
Went home for lunch and brushed in another pass at the big Billy painting:

Laid in some Indian Red to give the shadows some warmth against the adobe:

Also, gave Garrett's face some shadows as well. The Kid seems to be floating a bit. Was hoping the shadows would pull him down, but it didn't. May kill the highlight on his spur because I think that is pulling the attention down into that space and throwing his leg off a bit.

When I had finished, one of the cleaning ladies came in and I asked her, "Habla Ingles?" (Do you speak English?) And she shook her head no. After saying, "Soy estudiante de Espanol" (I am a student of Spanish), I made a pantomine gesture like I was grabbing spit from my mouth and I said as I pointed at the painting, "Como se dice este?" (How do you say this, or, how do you say wet?)

She said, "Basura."

I shook my head and smiled, then I showed her my wet easel and warned her, "Esta es basura," and she said, "No, es fresca." Then she pointed at the trash can. "Esta es basura."

Garbage. Oh, I get it. The painting is garbage. Thankyou very much, I mean Muchas Gracias, Latina Diabla!

"The background is more air than it is anything. It is the place in which the model moves. It is the air he breathes."
—Robert Henri
February 27, 2009
Got this from the United Kingdom this morning:

"Hey, painter, I thought this page from my morning paper might interest (astonish?) you.

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world: ; and that is an idea whose time has come." (Anon)

Love to Kathy,

—Fred Nolan

Yes, the motiff is quite close to, oh, say, this:

Not sure I have a court case, considering the motiff is quite common from Captain America to Easy Rider. But, it is interesting. I have long believed that ideas are combustionable and that if anyone is thinking of an idea or a concept, there are at least a hundred others on the planet with the same germ of an idea. Fortunately, most people never act on the idea, but invariably a few do, and when they hit the street at the same time, it appears they copied each other (pity the poor sap whose art, book or movie gets delayed).

Meanwhile, here's yesterday's sketches done at Barros' Pizza Parlor on Cave Creek Road:

The colored face of anguish at lower right was done the night before along with the other faces from the day before.

Yes, pizza is way off my diet. My truck was getting new tires (I went in to fix a flat and ended up buying four new tires for $550), so while the truck was in the shop I walked west from the office at noon and, on an impulse went into Barros'. Had the lunch special: two slices of peperoni and an iced tea, $4, and felt very guilty eating it. My heart doctor would have a cow, which is something he told me to stay away from ("If it comes from a cow I don't want you to go near it.") Anyway, the sketches, done for a Mickey Free sequence, reflect a guy who has just eaten pizza. Ha.

"The big artist...keeps an eye on nature and steals her tools."
—Thomas Eakins

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 26, 2009
Got a slow leak in my left front tire on the Ranger. Lugged out the air compressor and aired it up yesterday, but this morning it was way down again. So aired it up and then drove up to Tobias Automotive on Cave Creek Road. Left it, and hitched a ride from there with Chuck up to our offices. We're about a mile away.

Got a snotty letter from a reader of this blog. Scrawled on a printout of the "Music Is The Doctor" poster-posting were these words: "Yes, it is hard to believe that a bunch of old men could act like fools. Time to grow up fellas! It's 2009—nobody cares about your pathetic band."

I would only disagree with one point: it's not time to grow up just yet. Maybe next year or after the next heart attack, whichever comes first.

Here's yesterday's sketches:

These are Faces of Anguish, which will run in the opening sequence of the Mickey Free book.

"A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives the rose."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February 25, 2009
Lots of image and design issues this morning. Good feedback and questions. Everyone working together to do more with less.

Went home for lunch and worked on a Mickey Free sequence (Faces of Anguish) and then worked on the sky in the Big Billy painting:

Worked quickly to lay in the entire sky before I came back into the office:

Got some good nocturnal effects (the alizarin crimson underpainting gives everything a night time glow). Felt very successful. The design still has a perspective problem with the buildings in lower right. May pop them up closer to the clouds. Seems like they want to go there.

My goal is to finish this sucker by March 14. Lots to do, although I've worked out quite a few of the problems in advance.

"A good review from the critics is just another stay of execution."
—Dustin Hoffman
February 25, 2009
Finished "Call Me Ted" last night. The book got less interesting after the AOL-Time Warner collapse. Turner rides off into the sunset, so to speak, with several hundred million dollars (as opposed to the $8 billion he had at the height of his empire in 1999, when he calculated his stock value was increasing by $10 million a week!), but the heady swashbuckling of the early years gives way to saving the planet stuff, which isn't nearly as exciting or interesting.

But the warning tale, to me at least, is his merger with Time-Warner and why he did it. He had been an outsider all his life, fighting the northern elites in prep school, all the way through his broadcasting forays as he built, brick by brick, an alternative universe on cable (which at that time was considered a ghetto by the snobs in New York). At every turn the elite underestimated his tenacity to win and he overcame almost every obstacle they threw at him. Yet, ultimately he craved their legitimacy and he was driven to own one of the original networks (in the eighties, CBS took a poison pill to avoid a hostile takeover by Turner), so when he finally brokered a merger with Time-Warner, even though he was the largest stockholder, he was also part of a big, corporate viper's nest of egos and manipulative office politics. And when the head of Time-Warner, Jerry Levin (allegedly Turner's "best friend"), secretly brokered a partnership with AOL, Turner was cut out of the loop, isolated and demoted. He was of course devastated, suffered from anxiety (both his marriage to Jane Fonda and his business coup de grace happened in January of 2000). He had bested the elite in almost every battle, and yet when he finally joined them, they cut him off at the kneecaps.

The two guys who betrayed him, Levin and Steve Case of AOL, eventually were knee-capped as well, but essentially, Turner, the rogue knight, slashed his way to the top, handed over his sword, only to have his head handed back to him (and detached with HIS OWN sword!). Scary stuff to anyone with ambition to build a media empire, no matter how modest.

His greatest strength turned out to be his greatest weakness.


Did three more sketches after I got home last night:

That's an Ed Mell poach at bottom (off of his March 7 art show catalogue which came in the mail yesterday), Rosario Dawson on the cover of the Style section in The New York Times) and a certain cowboy—John Wayne—looking through a window from an early movie still)

"Nobody gets it how they want it to be."
—Jackson Browne, "Running On Empty"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24, 2009
Another beautiful day in sunny Arizona. Got on a short-sleeved shirt and used the AC coming back to the office from my home studio. Supposed to hit 83 today.

Kathy met me at the house at 2:30 to move out a big desk in my studio so I can bring in the big oil painting of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. While I waited for her I whipped out a trio of landscape studies:

I guess you could collectively call these the Tree Line. FYI: these are sketches 8,217 thru 8,219. Just this week I passed 2,500 blog posts. Not sure what all this means, but let's just say I'm not doing either for the money, which is a good thing because I've never made a dime off of either endeavor.

Speaking of money and endeavors, Bob Brink lent me his copy of "Call Me Ted," which is the incredible tall-tale (but-true) about The Mouth of The South, Captain Outrageous, father of TCM, CNN and the Comedy Channel and The Super Station. It's a blow by blow story of his rise and fall in the media world, and it is just breathtaking.

First of all, his huevos grandes when gambling on business and projects is truly outrageous. Talk about a river boat gambler.

I've often thought of myself as a risk taker and a gambler: when we bought this magazine we started losing $30K a month and because two of my wealthy partners wouldn't put up any more money, I had to go get, what my wife lovingly refers to as "a Mafia loan" against the equity of our house, just to meet payroll at a critical juncture. I think the interest was compounded and capped at 10%, or 15%, but I may be wrong.) We survived this and many other timultuous trials (see BBB blog archives for the blow by blow). Anyway, I thought this was high stakes brinkmanship in the art of wheeling and dealing. But, as my friend Wonderful Russ would say, "It wasn't a pimple on the ass of wheeling and dealing."

No. In the book, Ted Turner, tells how he had leveraged all his holdings to create the Super Station, no bank would lend him money so he had to get high interest loans (24% interest!) with $400,000 a month payments and he was still losing a "couple million a year" on the Super Station when he decided to create an all news channel. He sold one of his radio stations in Charlotte for $20 million, but before the deal cleared, the general manager at the station snotted off a group of African Americans who filed a complaint with the FCC, stopping the sale dead in its tracks. Desperate for cash to save his entire company, Ted flew to Charlotte bringing along Hank Aaron, who told the group, while pointing at Ted, "He's not a racist." Then he begs them to help him make the sale. (He's notorious for getting down on the floor in high level meetings and crawling around the table saying, "Who's feet do I have to kiss to make this deal happen?"). He ended up contributing an unknown amount to the Negro College Fund and various other promises and he gets the deal, then RCA won't give him a satellite hookup. The obstacles just keep coming and he just keeps swinging at them.

Anyway, the guy is a total phenom, a dynamic, relentless American, in the best sense of that phrase. And he's wayyyyyy beyond anything I could even dream of attempting, much less do it.

His downfall is a warning tale for us all, and quite interesting and I'll give my take on that tomorrow.

"Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, February 23, 2009

February 23, 2009
Had a staff meeting at lunch today. Carole got a big Subway hoagie for everyone, along with Sprite and Cokes. Gave a little pep talk about staying positive in this very negative time.

Esquire magazine Editor, David Granger, wrote a wonderful editorial in the current issue on how this is the best of times because gas is under $2, the best restaurants have open seats, as do airplanes, and you want to buy a car? Zero down, half off! In this doom and gloom climate it was a joy to read.

I also showed the staff a very clever promotion which came with the Sunday paper yesterday:

So simple and direct. This morning in Kathy's step class all the women were talking about it and then they were talking about the closest Chipolte and how to get there. I could almost hear the Chipolte ad agency staff grinning from ear to ear.

Sometimes we get nasty calls and letters. Sheri Riley has to put up with them. Here is an actual email:

"I do not know how you got my address. I do not know why you are sending me your magazine. And I do not care. I am not paying for your magazine. I do not want your magazine. I do not want to pay the trash man to take it to the dump. As soon as I finish this email I will be tossing your magazine in the trash. Please remove my name from your mailing list. Save the tree you are destroying."
—D. Round, Cheyenne, Wyoming

And here's Sheri's reply:

"According to our records, you were a 'Cowboy' magazine subscriber. Unfortunately, 'Cowboy' magazine has gone out of business and they asked us here at True West to honor the remainder of your subscription with our magazine. We are only sending it to you because they wanted to make sure that you received a quality publication for the remainder of your subscription.

"We do apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and sincerely hope that you might give our magazine a chance. We here at True West are dedicated to preserving our Western heritage and have many writers/contributors that feel the same way. We have been in business for over 56 years and have many great stories to tell.

"Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance or it you have any additional questions or comments.

"Please have a wonderful week and stay warm up there in beautiful Wyoming."

—Sheri Riley

Now, THAT is customer service with a smile!

After lunch we had a big, design meeting with our Art Director Dan Harshberger (who drove out from the Beast), Designer Abby Goodrich, Managing Editor Meghan Saar and our intern, Ashley Briggs.

Went over art issues and upcoming cover ideas (Custer Ride, Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride, The Ongoing Fight Over The Alamo and Native American Art Issue images). A redesign on our new ghost town sidebar feature. Plus, long range plans for next year.

Still banging away on sketches:

And these:

“Ain’t this dirt fierce? You can watch the world go by in the sky.”
—Barney Rucker, the captain’s son, in “The Wonderful Country”
February 23, 2009
Finally got the underpainting on the big Billy the Kid oil laid in. Started Friday and used a secret crimson utilized by Frank Tenney Johnson on his nocturnes:

Saturday morning I bailed in early and blocked in more of the big shapes:

By nine I had it covered (with the exception of a distant roofline at the bottom:

Finished covering the canvas in the afternoon. Now to let it dry for several days so I can over paint the subtle facial tones and nocturne sky and adobe.

Yes, Billy's hat is the one from the photo. I'll track the progress for the next two weeks when I plan to ship it to the Ruidoso museum in New Mexico.

"The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. But to win it requires total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence, which is man, for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the morality of life and yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth."
—Ayn Rand

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 22, 2009
Last night we drove over to the westside of the Beast for a surprise birthday party for Gordon Smith. Gordon, who turns sixty, is a very funny guy and when we did our radio show on KSLX he did a character called Dr. Buford, who was a stitch-and-a-half. Had lots of fun and many laughs.

Reclaimed part of my studio this afternoon, so I can move the big Billy the Kid oil painting into the north light space. The painting is now in the breezeway, which is ridiculous since I have a thousand foot studio space.

Speaking of the Kid, got this query today:

"When Billy posed for his famous photo with the guns, is it correct info that the hat he had on his head was not his? It possibly belonged to the photographer? From the info that I have dug up Billy rushed from a saloon when he heard the photographer was nearby. He was in such a hurry he forgot his hat in the saloon and when posing for the photo, his hair was such a mess that the photographer loaned Billy his hat to cover up the messy hair. Is that correct info?"

I have read nothing from the record that confirms this version, but that is what some want to believe.

The truth is most Billy buffs don't much like that hat in the photograph and want desperately to get it off his head! Ha. Of course, the Kid probably wore many hats in his short career and Pat Garrett claimed the Kid favored a "sombrero" from Chihuahua. That is the hat I'm putting on his head in my graphic novel "El Kid."

But, I too, will have to deal with the photograph, and why that slouch hat is on his head on that particular day. You'll have to read my graphic novel to find out how I have dealt with it.

And, by the way, in the big oil painting I have gone with the hat from the photograph, because like it or not, that's how we see the little Bastard.

I also worked on some set pieces for the Mickey Free graphic novel. And, speaking of the Mickster, got this inquiry yesterday:

On Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 3:54 PM, Jennifer Jones wrote:

Hi there Bob!
Can you help me please? Since our last visit to USA I have been desperately searching for the graphic Novel 'Mickey Free' that was mentioned in an article in True West Magazine - it look great!
My man Roger would be a cowboy out West if he could - we have a home in England that is full of Western memorabilia - we holiday on Ranches out west - he would very much like a copy of your graphic novel to add to his collection. Can you advise me as to how or where I can purchase it.

Thank you very much (in anticipation)
Jenny Jones

You came to the right place. We are working on the book version of the graphic novel even as you read this and will have it ready in late fall, hopefully in time for a Christmas release.


Friday, February 20, 2009

February 20, 2009
A running boy, a worried mother and a sharpshooting Rurale. . .

"Managers help people to see themselves as they are. Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are."
—Jim Rohn
February 20, 2009
Finally started the underpainting for the big oil painting of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. I'll post the progress later.

Meanwhile, our April travel issue went to the printer yesterday. Tweaked a couple designs, caught a couple corrections. Always a massive undertaking towards the end with the operative metaphor being a six-lane freeway exiting through a garden gate. Ha.

I've missed a few postings on my daily sketches, so here are the last several meanderings:

I seem to gravitate between harsh linear illustrations, loosey goosey landscapes and abstract rorschach ink blot tests:

Here's more last light studies (from Feb. 15 sketches):

And then back to the rorschach test:

Still having trouble applying all of this to concise and clear storyboarding for the graphic novels I want to do. I feel confident I can do it, but a successful process, so far, eludes me. Gee, I wonder what the creator of Mickey Mouse has to say about all this?

"Somehow I can't believe that there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. . .They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence."
—Walt Disney

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 19, 2009
Seth Wilson, of Las Cruces, sent me a copy of "The Wonderful Country" by Tom Lea and I have been marveling at Tom's graphic illustration skills and in fact, did a whole series of sketches emulating his style and studying his technique:

Seth also mentioned the work of Cisneros, another El Paso artist who did vaqueros and they really seem close in style. I wonder if one of them was a student of the other? And last night I really got into it, poaching Tom Lea's sparse methods for line work from the book:

And, the night before I continued my studys of saguaros and last light:

I'd ask for advice, but Steinbeck nailed that false pretense:

"No one wants advice, only corroboration."
—John Steinbeck

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18, 2009
Hard to believe I'm coming up on a one-year anniversary. On March 22 of last year we were rehearsing Wipeout at the old Elks Club in downtown Kingman when I had one as well. Two of my bandmates, the ambulance first-responders and the staff at Kingman Regional Hospital saved my life. So, when they asked me if I'd return to the scene of the crime to raise money for heart defibulaters, I really couldn't say no.

So, without further ado:

"The key to developing the "No" muscle is to first develop your "Yes" muscle. If you will first say yes to the things that are important to you, then saying no to what's not important will get easier and easier."
—Steve Chandler
February 17, 2009
Got this in today from author Donna B. Ernst:

"hi Bob -- Enjoyed your family's genealogy and connection to Tap Duncan. Did you know that Tap and his family spent a couple of years living in Three Creek, Idaho, with his brother Jim before settling in Arizona? In fact, a couple of the children were born there. I discovered this interesting piece of information when I was researching the September 19, 1900, Winnemucca bank robbery by the Sundance Kid, Butch Cassidy, and Will Carver. Because the outlaws were in need of food supplies, they robbed Jim Duncan's store in Three Creek. Then on their return through the area after the bank robbery, they figured up what they owed for the stolen property and left a tin can on the door step of the store with the money, plus tip. My new book The Sundance Kid: The Life of Harry Alonzo Longabaugh is due out this month from Oklahoma University Press. Maybe you should check out the chapter on Three Creek. All the best, Donna B. Ernst"

Yes I will (buy the book and check it out). I also talked to my cousin Taplou Duncan last weekend to confirm my editorial claim about Tap's mother, Sadie Pearl, marrying Tap Duncan's oldest son. Nope. Wrong. Taplou informed me that her father was the grandson of Tap Duncan. Should have called her first, but didn't. Ouch! Tap was sweet about it, telling me no one will know the difference, but still, I should have known better, AND I SHOULD HAVE CALLED!

We got more rain last night. On my way to yoga this morning I snapped off this pic of Elephant Butte in early morning light. Look how green the desert is:

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
—Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17, 2009
I get some good questions off my True West Moments on the Westerns Channel:

On Feb 17, 2009, at 8:42 AM, Richard Perry wrote:

Dear Mr. Boze Bell,
The Westerns Channel is my favorite channel and I love the True West Moments. I have a question about the horses in some of the movies. Are the horses owned by the movie company's or are they rented or leased out to them by private owners. I realize they don't Western Movies like in the past, (I hope they start again) but my wife and I were talking about this so I said I'll ask the man that knows. Thanks Very Much Sir
—Richard Perry, Palmer, MA

Good question! To my knowledge, the movie studios have always rented horses for their productions. Various stables in the southern California area have provided horses over the years for movie shoots. The only exception being when Western movie stars like Tom Mix and Gene Autry owned, or rode a specific horse. In some of those cases, someone else owned the horse and the star rode it as if it was theirs, but usually a production would contract a stable to bring a specific number of horses to a movie location.

Another exception might be when a stage coach is contracted and the stage owner is different from the stable owner who is providing the riding horses. Most times, the stage coach comes with six specific horses, trained to pull the stage, but some times the stable owner has both a stage coach and the horses to pull it, and horses for all the riders.

A friend of mine worked on the TV show "Appointment With Destiny" back in the 1970s. They were filming the famous episode about the Gunfight at The O.K. Corral and it was his first gig. The script called for "N.D. horses" so he got on the phone and called various stables but none of the stable owners knew what an "ND horse" was. In desperation, he finally asked someone on the crew and they laughed, saying it stood for "non-descript horses," in other words, whatever they got, we'll take 'em.

You'll also notice that the caliber of horses varies from movie to movie. In "One-Eyed Jacks" starring Marlon Brando, high spirited stallions were contracted because the producer, and Brando (who also directed) wanted to raise the bar in terms of horses in Westerns. One assumes they paid quite a bit more for the privledge, unless the horses were also owned by the producer, which has been the case in certain films.

You see this in "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" when Lee Van Cleef rides into town he is on what appears to be a Paseo stallion with a very distinctive gate. The movie was filmed in Spain and they are known for their horse breeding. Still, knowing movie companies they probably got the owner to put the horse in the movie for free! Ha.

Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

"I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig."
—Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, February 16, 2009

February 16, 2009
Last Saturday morning I met Tom Tumas at 7 A.M. at the True West World Headquarters and we took off for Wickenburg, which is about an hour west of Cave Creek:

The desert was beautiful in the morning twilight and I snapped off a dozen shots on the way over, and at least a hundred on the way back:

We got into Wickenburg at eight and waded up through town to the parade check-in. Tom Tumas had called several guys he thought would make a good showing for the Wickenburg Gold Rush Days Parade and he chose well:

Left to right: World Champion Gun Spinner Joey Dillon and his son Cash; Loop Rawlins, who drove up from the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch in Tucson; Tom Tumas, BBB, and Rock Holliday (Gene Kurz) of Sedona.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his crew were directly ahead of us, so we posed for photos:

Sheriff Joe was quite gracious and gave Cash a sheriff's badge which he wore proudly in the parade. As ten o'clock drew near, our performers began to warm up. Loop Rawlins was doing some modest rope spins and I thought to myself, "Oh, okay, another Will Rogers deal."

But when we got out on the road for the real deal, it was Showtime and Loop and Joey kicked it into high gear:

All of a sudden, I look over the cab of the truck to see Loop Rawlins running down the center of the road, in front of us, jumping through loops at breakneck speed. The audience gasps. Then he flips on the ground and twirls the rope over his head with one hand and spins his hat on his other hand. The crowd goes nuts.

Then Joey Dillon brings up the rear and goes into his outrageous gun twirls, and in the back of the truck is his son Cash, who mimicks his daddy and the crowd goes crazy once again. Rock Holliday is running magazines out to the crowd and people are practically fighting over the issues.

I'm telling you, we killed those crowds all the way down the street.

When we got to the judging stand, which is the train depot, the crowds were ten deep on each side of the street and Loop, and Joey and Cash and Rock, laid it on even more.

Me, I just waved from the back of the pickup and got all the credit. Ha. Meanwhile, our fantastic performers were wore out. Tom Tumas drove the truck and we had to go back via Vulture Mine Road to get back to the beginning of the parade and our cars.

At noon I had a speech at the free stage in the middle of the carnival. I had a small bleachers area to my right and five porta-potties on my left with long lines. Never had that speech dynamic before. I asked the crowd in line if they were there for number one or number two. All of them pretended not to hear me. Ha.

After the speech, Tom and I had lunch at the Bar Seven, and then drove out to the rodeo grounds to see our banner:

Tom Tumas did a very cool thing. He had a pair of extra rodeo tickets so he went up to the line at the ticket window and said, "Who knows True West magazine?" Most people looked blank, but a couple from Victoria, British Columbia, said, "We are subscribers!" and Tom handed them free tickets. That was way cool.

All in all, a very successful day and a whole bunch of new people are now aware of True West magazine.

We just got word that we won an award for "Most Western" entry. How 'bout them apples?!

"Ask not what the cost of doing this will be. Ask what the cost of not doing it will be."
—Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
February 16, 2009
Spent a good part of the weekend painting and working on art. Got a decent pencil sketch for the big oil painting of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett transferred to canvas. Also worked on sketches for a phenom that happens nightly, north of our house:

"Last light On Elephant Butte" is very angular and random looking, as little slivers of light catch the tips of buttes up on Elephant Butte just before twilight. Here's another study of the phenom:

I almost like the rough sketch better, but it's a sweet phenom and I intend to capture it eventually.

"He was a man—a big, inconsistent, brave man."
—W.E.B Du Bois, writing about Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 15, 2009
Tom Tumas and I drove to Wickenburg Saturday morning to participate in the Wickenburg rodeo parade. Tom lined up amazing talent and we totally rocked the route. Photos tomorrow.

Got home at three and took Kathy out to dinner at Saba's Greek food restaurant in Carefree and then she took me to a movie. I chose "The Wrestler" starring Mickey Free, I mean Rourke, and Marisa To-Mi-Madre! in her full, topless, pole dancing glory. The movie is stunning and, ahem, pulls no punches. Lots of integrity, funny, sad, gross and honest to a fault. Oh, and a decent song by Bruce Springsteen.

All in all, a perfect Valentine's Day here in the land of red tile roofs.

"Retail follows roofs."
—Phoenix adage until the current meltdown

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13, 2009
When we moved out to Cave Creek in the 1980s it was remote and the desert between here and The Beast (Phoenix) was all wide open space.

Not so anymore.

Yesterday, Lee Anderson and photographer Allen Patrou set up a True West cover photo session down on Dynamite Road. When Lee sent me the time and details he included this Google map:

Notice the housing and commercial construction encroaching all around the photo shoot site. Now, here's a photo I took of the photo shoot:

We are looking southwest towards Desert Ridge ( a huge shopping mall development at the 101 and Tatum, just built within the last five years). But, by the angle of the shoot, it looks like wide open desert. Ha.

So when you see the September cover package on the mythical vaquero riding through wide open vistas you can chuckle and tell passersby, "Hey, wanna know the inside skinny on this cover?"

They probably won't believe you, but you have my permission to tell them the truth.

Speaking of wide open spaces, here are my sketches for the other night, straight out of my mind. When I get tired, I do these abstract, loosey goosies:

"The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult."
—Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 12, 2009
I had a stress test for my heart this morning at 7:45 A.M. down on Bell Road. At eight, they inserted an IV with nuclear isotopes into my right arm, then put me in a waiting room for 40 minutes. I used the time to sketch (and glow):

After forty minutes, they came and got me and put me in a nuclear photo imaging deal, like an MRI machine, and took multiple photos of my heart from a variety of positions.

Then they led me back out to the waiting room for another 40 minute wait. I sketched a page of storyboards for the Curly scene I talked about yesterday:

Then they came and got me again and took me into a room with a treadmill and hooked me up with prickly, stickem' wires and got me on a treadmill and kept speeding it up until my heart hit 131, then they slowed it down, ripped off the sticken' wires, and sent me back out to the waiting room for another 40 minutes. I used the time to sketch another page:

Then they took me back into the nuclear imaging room and put me back in the MRI deal and took another batch of photos. Then I went back to the waiting room and did another page of sketches:

Then a nurse came in and said, "Why are you still here? You were supposed to go home after the last test." And I said, "Sorry, need to finish this sketch for the big oil painting I'm doing."

From there, I drove to 52nd St. and Dynamite to monitor a cover shoot for our vaquero package. Lee Anderson rode his fine horse and photographer Allen Patrou and a crew of three shot off a ton of pics. Liked what I saw. Photos tomorrow.

Got into the office at three and dealt with a cover gone south, and a variety of other deadline issues.

"Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 11, 2009
Last Saturday I met my daughter Deena Bean and her boyfriend Frank at the Matador, deep inside the Beast. We had the huevos rancheros and hot flour tortillas and coffee and talked about old times in the famed restaurant. We have been going there since Deena was a little bitty baby and in fact, she broke the first glass in the new location, prompting the Greek owner to exclaim, "It is good luck! Thankyou!" So, to this day, Deena is known as the girl who broke the first glass at the Matador.

Apparently, their luck is holding out because they are still there serving the best huevos rancheros I've ever had.

After breakfast I walked over to the High Noon Auction at the Civic Plaza (built on the spot—The Deuce—where the old Matador stood). Ran into Peter Sherako (of Tombstone fame), Barry Friedman (of KDKB's Buck & Berry's Bunkhouse fame), artist Buckeye Blake, Dave Daiss, Cowboy Artist Davy Powell and a gaggle of other Westerners. I wasn't planning on buying anything, but I saw a booth with fine paintings by Ed Borein, and I just had to have a book of his etchings. There was only one problem: it was $30 and I only had a twenty and he didn't take a credit card. I looked over and there was Ed Mell eyeballing an etching, and, so I bummed $10 off him and got the book.

Came home and did some sketches, studying Borein's impeccable line work:

Meanwhile, when I watched The Wonderful Country on the Westerns Channel last weekend, and I was marveling at the fantastic sugarloaf sombreros and authentic vaquero gear, I noticed in the credits that the movie is based on a book by the same name, written and illustrated by Tom Lea.

When I Googled Lea, I found out that he is from El Paso. Fifteen minutes ago, cowboy photographer Jay Dusard called me to tell me about Sheila Varian, who is the foremost proponent of Californio bridle training and that I should contact her for our big vaquero package coming next fall.

Out of the blue, Jay mentioned shooting a portrait of Tom Lea back in 1985. I asked Jay all about Mr. Lea and how big his studio was, and where was it, in El Paso. According to Jay, Tom Lea did so well, he dropped his gallery and had a waiting list for his paintings (must be nice!). From there Jay mentioned that Tom Lea also authored and illustrated another excellent book called "The Hands of Cantu" ($225 online!) about a Spanish horse trainer and how the Indians got horses.

Got this off a Tom Lea website:

How The Hands of Cantu started is kind of interesting. One winter’s day in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, we passed a little, funny bookshop and in the window was a copy of Horses of the Conquest by Cunninghame Graham. Well, I went in and bought the book and I read it with a kind of super interest. …It was a story about horses, about the nineteen horses..that Cortès brought onto the continent. I began to think about how the fine Mexican horses had originated…and I read all I could read…And I then began to think about where the Indians first got their horses. You know, all of the experts say that it was from the Coronado expedition, when they let some of the horses loose or traded them to Indians…And I sort of thought that maybe the Indians had had something to do with horses before Coronado…

I suppose I had just pure fun writing The Hands of Cantu…The main character is Don Vito Cantù, a great horseman and breeder of horses, who established a hacienda in the state of Durango in the early days of the Spanish Viceroy Mendoza…I did these illustrations, which were a new departure for me. My previous illustrations had been pen and ink line drawings, and these used half tones. And they were beautifully reproduced.

You know, [The Hands of Cantu] didn’t have a wide [audience]…but it got a very warm response from people who were interested in the subject. I’ve had people comment, “How do you write Spanish in English? You do it so that I feel like I’m reading Spanish but it’s in English.”

It’s a book I’m very glad I did because I got letters from old horse people that said, “Oh, I’m glad you wrote the book because I want to have my boy read how a horse should be trained.” …And the people in South America liked it very much. But it was never translated in Mexico. It was about Mexico, but I think it’s very interesting that Mexico would have no part of it because it was about one of those dirty Spaniards, the conquistadors. That’s really what my agent told me.”

Tom Lea talking to Adair Margo in Tom Lea, An Oral History, El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1995, pps. 121 – 122.

Of course, Kathy and I attended a marriage workshop in Cloudcroft, New Mexico last October, so the intersections of all these artists, movies and vaquero related information falling into my lap is just way beyond coincidental.

"When in doubt, shuttup and listen, because the universe is subtly trying to help you."
—Old Vaquero Saying
February 11, 2009
Cold and frosty out this morning. May reach sixty this afternoon. Clouds clearing out but we've got another one coming in right behind. Got some more storm studies in the works:

This is the mountain range north of our house and as the big storms raked across the ridges, the runoff filled our roads, turning them into shallow streams (foreground).

Started to prep a big canvas last night for the Pat Garrett and Billy the kid painting, but my industrial can of Gesso (rabbit gut canvas prep) was too gooped up and I needed a stirring stick and it was getting dark and cold, so I put it off and went inside to get warm.

And I wonder why I'm not more successful?

"You need to go out into the cold."
—Garrison Keillor

Lighten up Norweigan Boy, it's on my list to do today.

Meanwhile, I advanced two San Carlos set pieces yesterday. These are works in progress as well (see previous posts for earlier versions):

Although both started as studies for the same scene, as they developed, I was inspired to create an opening set piece (above) for a sequence in the Mickey Free book, where the rogue Apache Curly brings 21 horses for Beauty's father (in order to win her hand). Never mind that they were all stolen off the Hashknife spread near Holbrook and will bring down untold grief on Beauty's family.

From the wide shot, we come in tighter, panning down, to this:

We're dropping down into the Gila River bottom, as Curly drives the herd towards Bylas, where Beauty and her family live on the San Carlos Res (not sure if Bylas was there in 1888, need to find out). Still need to add the rambling herd of Hashknife ponies and Curly driving them.

Going to be a challenging sequence but I am excited.

One of the criticisms we got for the Mickey Free excerpt that ran in True West is that none of the characters were fleshed out enough. A bigtime Hollywood director told the Top Secret Writer that there was not enough character development. And as Rusty York told me yesterday on the phone, "I really liked the Mickey Free excerpt, but I wanted more."

The book will have plenty more. Robert Ray and I worked out the template last Friday and it's clocking in at 128 pages, which is plenty of room to create Mickey's world and tell plenty of the back stories, and flesh out the chase. Still need to storyboard the entire story.

Lots of work to do. I know I need to go out into the cold, but sometimes these words from Jack Handey ring in my head:

"Instead of studying for finals, what about just going to the Bahamas and catching some rays? Maybe you'll flunk, but you might have flunked anyway; that's my point."
—Jack Handey

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 10, 2009
As I was driving into town this morning, Black Mountain had a huge cloud tethered to its peak at one end. Looked like a giant Hindenberg snagged by an escarpment.

As soon as I got to the office I did a sketch of it:

On Sunday, Peaches and I went for a walk to check out the great clouds (actually Peaches seemed more interested in coyote droppings), but when we got to the top of Old Stage Road it started to hail and we ran back towards Bev's carport and hid out there until it passed. As I looked back into the eye of the storm this is what it looked like:

Came back to the studio and did a quick study:

I call this one, "Kickin' It For Home." Ha.

Saturday's cloud banks produced this study:

Got some more in various stages of development. All in all, a very productive, inspiring set of storms. Supposed to get another one Saturday, just in time for the Wickenberg Rodeo Parade, which Joey Dillon, Tom Tumas and myself are going to participate in.

Gail Peterson called me last night with the news that Nancy Wagner passed away on Sunday. Evidently it was cancer, not sure what kind. She went quickly. Not too long ago, Nancy gave me her classic collection of sombrero ashtrays which I proudly display in our living room. She was 62.

"When I suffer a setback, I don't think of myself as losing, I'm simpy learning how to win."
—Ted Turner