Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 29, 2009
Two days ago I utilized for my six sketches various scenes from the French comic book of "The Wonderful Country":

That's Robert Mitchum talking to Mickey Free (top, left), although he probably looks a tad more like the person who drew it (artist pitfall #33). The next day, yesterday, I tried to flesh out one of the faces from the comic and find a reduced level of realism, all starting with the red dude at the bottom:

Not sure I succeeded. But, then, this is The Failure Express! That's why I really bailed into today's sketches with the ferver of a professional failure (Yes, I turned pro many years ago.):

I think the quickly rendered dust storm (middle, left) is stronger than the one I posted earlier, and which I spent several hours on. Sigh.

Gee, I wonder what the host of Standup Nation thinks about all this?

"I feel like I'm this piece of s--- at the center of the universe. it's a paradox: You're so s----y you ruin everything, but you think you're so important you actually are to blame."
—Greg Giraldo, host of Comedy Central's Standup Nation, quoted in the Psychology Today magazine article on Failure
April 29, 2009
I have long been an advocate for failure, probably because I seem to be so very good at it. When I woke up this morning, Kathy brought me half a banana and a cup of coffee and asked me if I wanted her to read from an article in Psychology Today while I woke up.

Normally, I don't, but to humor her, I said, "Sure, what'cha got?"

"All a writer really needs are the self-knowledge to decipher his feelings, the judgement to recognize the original ones, and the courage to make them public."

That woke me right up. I'm always looking for clues at the scene of the crime (my never-ending failure to complete the assignment). The quote is from a guy who couldn't read until he was 11 and when he told his teachers he wanted to be a writer, they laughed at him, because, as he put it, "it was funny to hear from someone who hated to read and couldn't write a simple English sentence."

Philip Shultz is the name of the former kid, and he claims his punishment of being in the "dummy class" and the "loneliness of having so little expected of me, and the pain of being overlooked and forgotten," was exactly what he needed to become, in his case, a damn fine poet.

"Learning is error driven," Kathy read to me, as I sat up straight and put my hands under my chin like a puppy begging for more. Go on. "A broken marriage, disapproval from her parents, poverty that bordered on homelessness. . .'Failure stripped away everything essential,' [J.K. Rowling] said. "it taught me things about myself I could have learned no other way."

J.K. Rowling. J.K. Rowling. Yes, didn't she write some semi-successful children's book about some Potter kid?

"'I have failed over and over and over again, and that is why I succeed,' said Michael Jordan—as did Oprah, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison, in slightly different words."

"Bubble wrapping kids to shield them from failing does them no favors."

"We should hope, then, for exposure to failure, early and often."

"How can we learn, as Samuel Beckett put, to 'fail better'?"

"'Failing better' boils down to three things. It's a matter of controlling our emotions, adjusting our thinking, and recalibrating our beliefs about ourselves and what we can do in the world."

As a result of this bedside reading, I sprang out of bed and made a vow to fail today like I've never failed before.

Art to follow.

"Everyone thinks they're a failure. The only people who don't are the ones who really are."
—Philip Schultz

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28, 2009
Went up to a small business breakfast meeting this morning at Sonora Grill in Carefree. Lots of local business people (like "Pepper The Schlepper!" from Pepper's Private Car Service), who told everyone when he was introduced, "I'm offering a free weekend in Mexico City. Sorry, but face masks are extra."

You've got to love that small town humor. Or, maybe not. But, I do.

The whole deal was set up by Rex Wood (who invited me) and Crystal McNutt. We listened to a phone interview with pro football hall of famer Fran Tarkenton and the head of the Columbus State University Business School, Tim Mascot, and they both gave us a pep talk. "There are plenty of opportunities for nimble business people. Get back to basics. Send hand written notes. Call all of your past, present and current customers and reconnect."

I guess Fran does these small business phone deals every month, and he is hooked up to small business meetings like this all over the country. With iPhones it seems like a telephone presentation without video might be old hat, but I imagine the technology is going to catch up soon.

After the phone presentation we had a raffle drawing and I won two prizes: a dinner for two at El Encanto and a set of wine glasses, so that paid for the breakfast right there.

Got into the office at nine and went right into an editorial image review. Abby, Robert Ray, Meghan and Ashley and myself went through a whole slew of articles looking at available art and debated about what were the best and worst and, or, what would be better. Got some good ideas and traded up in several situations.

Always fun. I love this part of the job.

Joyce and Marv Kaiser called and invited me to lunch. Took me up to Carefree to a new place, Cafe Bink, which is an offshoot of the four-star Cave Creek restaurant Binkley's. Sat outside. Beautiful day. Talked about architects (they are building a new house north of Prescott, totally green), cancer (Joyce beat hers) and The Top Secret Writer's poor health. Had the turkey sando and salad. Marv bought.

Went home after lunch and whipped out a study. Not exactly sure what it means:

I guess it's a dream: A lone girl is facing her fears, either a pained rodent, or an angry buffalo.

Your call.

Our business is doing good. Some big time magazines are off 63% in ad sales, but we are holding our own. Thanks to our hardworking staff, especially Trish, Sue, Michelle and Sheri! They are on the front lines in terms of sales.

"Almost nothing works the first time it's attempted. Just because what you're doing does not seem to be working, doesn't mean it won't work. It just means that it might not work the way you're doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn't have an opportunity."
—Bob Parsons, CEO of Go Daddy

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 27, 2009
Went home for lunch to work on a couple Storm Rider studies:

Had good cloud reference but kind of tubed this one. The next one was inspired by a photograph in Cowboys & Indians magazine (on how to take photographs ironically):

Also worked over the weekend on canyon scenes with a certain mule-headed mule rider:

I keep trying and trying, and I wonder sometimes if I'm getting where I need to be. Gee, I wonder what ol' Sam Butler has to say about all this?

"There are two great rules in life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that everyone can, in the end, get what he wants if he only tries. This is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is more or less an exception to the general rule."
—Samuel Butler
April 27, 2009
Worked over the weekend on studies for the insides of an Arizona dust storm. The assignment: what the heck would it look like to be inside of one:

Almost too much clarity of forms, but I do like the billowinig, happy accidents. Here's another take with troopers being swallowed up by oncoming dust:

I'm going to add a line of cavalry in the foreground so that we see the first riders getting swallowed up and then more detail as we come forward.

Here are a series of sketches, done from photos by Ty Holland:

It's a fun assignment and I hope to have more finished things to show by the end of this week.

"The ablest man I ever met is the man you think you are."
—Franklin D. Roosevelt (sure wish Teddy said that)
April 27, 2009
File this one under:

If You Saw It In A Movie You Wouldn't Believe It
Most weeks I submit a Plugged In commentary in the Arizona Republic. My editor there is Ken Western. I know what you're thinkin': If you were watching a movie about a guy who is an Old West nut and his editor at the local paper was named Western, well, wouldn't you roll your eyes? Like the editor would have such a CONVENIENT name!

Well, he does. Ken emailed me last week and asked me to comment on the fact that the four corners monument, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico collide, is, well, quite a bit off the mark (the first reports claimed it is two and a half miles off, but later reports reduced it to 1,800 feet).

When I was in high school and college I worked during the summer on survey crews. I worked on I-40 from Blake Ranch turnoff to Round Valley, pounded in a ton of property corner pins in Golden Valley, especially in So-Hi Estates, Prescott Golf And Country Club in Prescott Valley, and I even did a stretch at Metro Center in Phoenix. I say this as a warning to anyone who has property in these areas. It might be worth hiring a modern crew to check your property corners. Why?

Here's the copy I submitted:

Four Corners Wing Ding Close Enough For Government Work

Having been a surveyor in my youth (rear chainman, 1963-1970) I am not surprised that the monument at Four Corners is more than two miles off the mark. Frankly—and speaking for all the oldtime Arizona surveyors—I'm plumb surprised they got that monument as close as they did.

You see, in the old days all we had to establish property corners, highway angles and state boundaries was a transit, a chain (picture a 200 foot tape measure, only made out of metal), a couple plumb-bobs and a brush hook (a peculiar looking axe with a hooked end to destroy native plants that got in the way). Because of these crude instruments we also resorted to a lot of "wing-dinging." A wing ding is when you stand on a semi-precise geographical point, throw your arms out to the sides, then slam your palms together and wherever your joined palms point to, that's going to be the route to take, or, in this case, where four states meet.

Besides the crude instruments, surveyors in my day had one other problem to contend with: they were drunk. I'm not saying all surveyors had a drinking problem, just the ones I knew personally.

If you don't believe me take a look at the bottom of our state. See that wing-dinged-catty-wampus angle down there? My sources (other surveyors) have confided to me that after the Treaty of Hidalgo a group of surveyors were supposed to map out the new boundary and were given explicit instructions to go straight west from New Mexico and hit the Gulf of California, thus insuring that Arizona would have a bonafide sea port. Unfortunately when the surveyors got to Nogales they heard there was a whole bunch of beer in Yuma (and besides, it was kind of cold out). So, they executed a wingding and pulled their chains towards Yuma. Remember this: When it comes to Arizona landmarks, you always follow the beer.

And besides, two-and-a-half miles off the mark isn't that bad. Every survey crew I ever worked for ended every property pin placement with the words: "close enough for government work."

Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

"You Yanks sure make a big deal about clinging to the measurement of a King's foot."
—A Brit I know who smirks at our resistance to all things metric, besides 9mm ammunition

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 25, 2009
Worked on dust storm paintings this morning. Have good cavalry reference from one of our Community members right here on the site. I'll post some of the art later. I'm going up the hill this morning for the Arizona History Conference in Prescott. Dales Miles is giving a presentation on Apaches and I'm meeting an author who is doing a new book on Tombstone and wants to chat about who to contact and who to avoid. I'm a bit of an expert on both. Although if you asked some of the authors and researchers on my list to avoid you would no doubt find me on their list to avoid. Ha.

"History is a series of events that shouldn't have happened."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 24, 2009
Gus Walker sent me a compilation of the so-called Wilhelm Scream, which is a sound effect which has been used in a ton of movies.

Legend says the scream was created for a Western, The Charge At Feather River back in 1953 and has been picked up and used by various filmmakers including George Lucas, who has used it in all of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.

We did an article in True West a couple years ago that convincingly credits Shelby F. "Sheb" Wooley (April 10, 1921 – September 16, 2003) as the creator of the scream. Sheb was a character actor and singer, best known for his 1958 novelty hit "The Purple People Eater". Also for playing Ben Miller, brother of Frank Miller arriving on the train at High Noon.

If you'd like to see the compilation here it is:

The Wilhelm Scream Compilation

And here is the history of the Wilhelm Scream:

The History

Funny stuff, and I guarantee you will never watch a Western the same way again.

"A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow."
—General George S. Patton

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a scene of Mickey Free riding straight into a dust storm:

This goes with the sequence of the cavalry patrol meeting the "open pepper box." Remington comments: "The dust storm rolled towards us and every man braced himself except Mickey Free, who rode out, cursing to meet it."

My take on Mickey is that, although he fails as an Apache, as a soldier, or, as a member of any culture, he rides out to meet every storm.

Or, as Tom Horn says of his compadre: "It's hard to stop something that won't stop coming."

True of the storm. True of Mickey.

"What cannot be changed, must be endured."
—Old Vaquero Saying
April 23, 2009
One of the stops on our art trip last week (hard to believe we left Phoenix a week ago today), was the Lowe's in Alamogordo. Last October when Kathy and I attended a marriage workshop in Cloudcroft, we flew to El Paso, rented a car and on the way up the mountain, stopped at Lowe's for wine and weekend snacks. Inside the big grocery store I marveled at all of the blown up historic photos that lined the walls—like this one:

This was in the cheese department. The problem was I didn't bring my camera, so on this latest trip I made sure we stopped there so I could take a few photos of the photos. For example, I also really dug this photo because of the great hat reference:

Looks to be about 1900 or 1910 and I believe this was in the cosmetic section. But the biggest surprise was in the liquor department. Up on the wall, for all to see, is one of the alleged killers of Albert Jennings Fountain and his six-year-old son:

Fountain had indictments for rustling cattle for certain local cattlemen, and he and his son were killed as they rode in a buggy back to Mesilla, on the White Sands. Their bodies have never been found and it's one of the biggest mysteries in New Mexico to this day. From the probable death site (authorities found blood), trackers trailed the tracks of several horses straight to the ranch house of this guy:

Oliver Lee was pursued by none other than Pat Garrett and at the subsequent trial at Hillsboro, New Mexico, Garrett and Lee's attorney, Albert Fall squared off on the witness stand. Lee got off scott free and ended up, just like Jimmie Dolan, as a solid citizen, honored beyond Aisle Three:

And I thought Arizona was shameless in promoting its thieves and killers. Alamogordo even has Oliver Lee State Park, south of town to honor their favorite son (of a buck). Ha.

Of course, this is all contentious in that part of the state and I've heard of fist fights breaking out at rodeos because some cowboy cast aspersions about Lee.

When I took my Aunt Sadie Pearl Duncan and my mother on a trip to New Mexico in 1991 we visited with Cordelia Lewis in nearby La Luz, and she had nothing but praise for "Dad Lee" and she also told us when she was a little bitty girl she had a crush on a cowboy named Wayne Brazel. I about fell out of my chair. Not THAT Wayne Brazel? The man who killed the man who killed Billy the Kid?

It was. She said Brazel was the most handsome "blue-eyed" cowboy she had ever seen and as a young girl she would go out in a bull pen and climb a tree so that he would have to come save her (I think she was about ten at the time).

So there you have it: cold-blooded killers honored in grocery stores. Life is certainly stranger than anything you could make up.

"He who seeks, is being sought."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22, 2009
Went home for lunch and utilized one of the art reference photos I took on our Billy the Kid trip last week:

The mountain range is inspired from a ridgeline on the White Sands Missile Range, on the way from Alamogordo to Las Cruces. Great pleated ridgeline close to Pat Garrett's ranch (which is on the missile range and you can't go there unless you clear it with the Air Force).

That's Mickey Free skirting the dust storm (actually a monster dust devil). I'm not sure I can explain why there's so much wind around the lad. Perhaps it's because the guys who are writing his story are so windy. Ha.

"The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us."
—G. K. Chesterton
April 22, 2009
The time before last when I was in Mogollon, New Mexico, I took Lew Jones out for breakfast at the Alma Grill (Alma is where Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and Elzy Lay worked as cowboys and partied in the Alma Saloon). One of the cowboys at a nearby table recognized me from the Westerns Channel and after everyone else left, we chatted about cowboying and the West we love. Little did either of us know at the time but both of us were soon going to get our turn in the barrel.

I had my heart attack in March of 2008 and Monk Maxwell had his in November. The only difference being, Monk had his way out on the range, an hour from the ranch house, and he had to ride back to the ranch, then his wife drove him to Silver City (another hour). At some point they flew him to Las Cruces. His doctors still cannot believe he made it. Especially after his stents failed and they had to do double-bypass surgery. Monk was in the hospital for more than 20 days and this is where our mutual adventure parts company: I have insurance. He doesn't (no insurance company would cover a wild cow chaser). While my insurance company paid the $131,500 hospital bill, Monk got slammed with some $300,000 in hospital bills. He lived and he's eternally grateful to the doctors who saved him, but his beloved ranch is for sale in a very down market.

In spite of this bad turn of events, Monk and his wife are positive about their future. We are running a piece on him in our Vaquero feature in September. Written by his friend Jay Dusard, I think Monk's life is a movie waiting to happen. He has led such an amazing life.

"No one ever gets far unless he accomplishes the impossible at least once a day."
—Elbert Hubbard
April 22, 2009
Meghan Saar and I worked late last night lining out the True West issues for the rest of the year. Going to be very strong.

Meanwhile, The Top Secret Writer sent me a very cool French comic book from 1958, featuring a photo funnies format of The Wonderful Country, the Tom Lea inspired Western I have been raving about for the past couple months:

To sum up, El Paso, Texas artist Tom Lea created a great vaquero story (it's a book) in 1950 called The Wonderful Country about an American cowboy, Martin Brady, who is a gunman in Chihuahua. I caught the subsequent flick starring Robert Mitchum on the Westerns Channel about two months ago and spent one whole night using my stop action remote to sketch scenes I wanted to poach from:

Lo and behold, virtually every scene I wanted is in the comic:

Including this scene (bottom, right):

Yes, this is the same scene I sketched off the TV screen on February 7th (above). Since I had much better reference with the comic, I went home for lunch yesterday and did my six sketches appropriating and expanding this small scene into a Mickey Free sequence were he rides into El Muerte in the middle of a dust storm and discovers some mighty strange goings on:

Reference like this is invaluable. Thankyou Top Secret Writer!

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake."
—Marie Beyon Ray

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 21, 2009
Got home from our plein air art trip last night about 6:30. We covered over a thousand miles and really saw some great country. In fact, that's what we're kind of thinking about naming our art show in October: Capturing Billy the Kid Country.

Here's a shot from the road near Lincoln, New Mexico:

I believe that's Capitan Gap in the background. It was quite cold along the Mogollon Rim, with snow on the ground at Heber and Overgard. And we drove through several snow flurries on the Plains of San Augustine and near the Trinity Site east of San Antonio, New Mexico. Of course we had to stop every ten minutes to take photos of great scenery like this classic old adobe:

And, of course, once we got to Lincoln, I took Ed and Gary on a walking tour of the town and they photographed almost every inch of the historic village where Billy the Kid made history:

Including each other:

Many of the towns we passed through along the way looked a tad peaked, especially Hillsboro, New Mexico, which is one of my favorite Old West towns in the Black Range. We got there on Saturday afternoon at about three and there wasn't a place open and half the stores were closed or for sale. The last time I was through there the streets were jammed with tourists. We didn't even stop.

After a great stay in Billy's hometown of Silver City we took off for Cliff, Mangas, Buckhorn, Gila and Glenwood. Two of the cowboy cafes I remembered in Cliff were boarded up. So we pushed on to Glenwood, and after breakfast at the Golden Girl's Cafe, we walked up the street to The Los Olmos Resort, a classic old school lodge with great cabins. Kathy and I and the kids have stayed at the lodge going back twenty years. A couple years ago it was turned into a boarding school, but after a scandal (the director allegedly skimmed several million out of the operation) the property went back on the market and along came Brian and Holly Boland, formerly of Mancos, Colorado, who are intent on returning the lodge to its former glory:

Word quickly circulated through the small village that we were in town and by the time we set up our first plein air scene out on the highway to Mogollon we were sitting ducks (for people driving by and yelling):

Ed Mell (center) and Gary Ernest Smith (at right) painted in oils while I did my usual gouache approach, plus my sketchbook sketches:

Plus I did a couple pen and inks which were more successful:

Monk Maxwell, the last of the wild cow catching cowboys, tomorrow.

"There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun."
—Pablo Picasso

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 17, 2009
The Bell-Mell Road Trip landed in Lincoln, New Mexico last night. Had a great dinner at the Wortley Hotel (they opened the dining room just for us, thanks to Sue Lambert at True West). Had the chicken chipolte tacos and a great cobbler for dessert. Gary bought.

This morning I took the boys on a walking tour of the deadliest street in America (I think Fred Nolan documented some 135 killings on this one street before, during and after the Lincoln County War). This meant we stopped every ten feet while I told who died there. Ha.

Also walked by a little ranchito on two-and-a-half acres on the east edge of town that I wanted to buy as a summer artist retreat back in the eighties. I could have bought the whole spread for $33,000. Couldn't quite swing it, plus Kathy wasn't overly thrilled with the location. It's for sale at $439,500. My, oh my, that would have been a nice little mark-up.

Ed, Gary and I have been noodling a name for our tour (we're going to have a big art show at the Overland Art Gallery in October featuring all of our resulting Billy the Kid artwork). One nomination is "The Deregulators" and Ed came up with "Country For Old Men" which we laughed about all across the Plains of San Augustine. Another nomination is "The Kid Krazy Art Tour" and "Mell And Bell Con Smith Into Kidland." Ha. Actually, this was all Gary's idea.

"Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm."
—Winston Churchill

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 14, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a little Cottonwood Springs Fight gouache for the June issue (Classic Gunfights). Well, actually, whipped out is a tad of an understatement. I started at noon and finished at four. Ouch!

Pretty ambitious. Everyone wants to show the fight from Wyatt Earp's POV (myself included, see Classic Gunfights, Volume II: The 25 Gunfights Behind the O.K. Corral) but this time I wanted to illustrate what it would look like from the cowboy camp, right after some stranger appears at the top of the bluff, levels a shotgun and blows away one of their friends. Running to their fallen comrade, the cowboys (alleged to be Pony Deal, Johnny Barnes, Ed and Johnny Lyle, Milt Hicks, Rattlesnake Bill Johnson, Bill Hicks and Frank Patterson) unlimber their hardware and send a blistering return fire at the two horsemen on the ridge (Wyatt Earp and Texas Jack). In the withering fire, Earp has his bootheel and his saddle horn blown off, in addition to receiving bullet holes in his coattails. Texas Jack, meanwhile has a binocular strap shot away and his horse is killed. The rest of the Earp party were not hit as they were straggling behind on the trail and as you can see from this perspective, the cowboys could not see them either. In fact, Wyatt finally forks his horse by backing away from the lip of the bluff. Hopefully, all of this makes sense now from this perspective. It never did before when we utilized the terrain at Mescal and Iron Springs (long thought to be the site of the fight).

Did several other Cottonwood Springs fight sketches last night for the rest of the layout:

Need to finish in the morning. Issue goes to press tomorrow afternoon.

"Anger is a short madness."
—Old Vaquero Saying
April 14, 2009
Remember that 1960s TV show based on the premise that everyone on the planet has an identical twin somewhere in the world? I want to say Ben Gazarra (sic) was in it and every week they would have the same actor play both characters, one usually a hit man and the other an innocent patsy?

Well, I have often wondered what my life would have been like if my family had remained in Iowa. Well, a certain Robert Bell did stay in Iowa, Des Moines evidently, and as I watched this video of him, I was struck with how remarkably similiar our lives are (I raced motorcycles for a period in the 1970s) and virtually every racing metaphor (he spins out of control, he flips/heart attack) has a parallel in my own life:

Outlaw Robert Bell

Honkytonk Sue's Daughter?
Nora Burba contacted me about a new contest Scottsdale is promoting. Got another email regarding this today:

"Scottsdale is having a naming right for there "scottsdale cowgirl" amazing how much the style and it's look, look just like Honkytonk Sue images, just in case you have not seen this,

Honkytonk Sue's Daughter

—Mike Bergin

Update On Phil Spangenberger
"Phil called to let us know that he is home, the surgery went well and he is on the mend. It sounds as though he can now feel the progress he is making."
—Carole Glenn

And finally, ever sit around and wonder what Kathy and I look like doing Sixties dances? Not really? Too bad:

All Right Now

"Forget injuries. Never forget kindnesses."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 13, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out another prelude to a dust storm scene. This scene is earlier in the day as Powhattan Clark's scout takes Remington and crew up on the mesas coming out of the Salt River Canyon. Big thunderheads are already building up on the Mogollon Rim:

This is not an exageration, as these suckers stack straight up in August, dropping rain up on the rim and mostly dust storms on the rest of us. Ha.

Some of my fondest memories of growing up in Arizona are the almost daily thunderstorms that visit us in August.

Speaking of memories, Mike Torres sent me a short video of Kathy and I dancing to "All Right Now" at the Fairgrounds at the Exits Exit a couple weeks ago. I'll post that video tomorrow, plus a strange, and possibly evil Iowa twin of mine.

"Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth but not its twin."
—Barbara Kingsolver
April 13, 2009
Went over to Grandma Betty's for Easter yesterday. Great feed, lots of fun. Got home around 5:30 and worked on the Mickey Free desert dust storm sequence. Here are my prep sketches:

I realized a couple weeks ago we didn't have any scenes of cavalry in the field and I have great reference from several Ford movies, not to mention Remington's own sketches (which ironically were used extensively by John Ford to capture his patented, but poached, movie look). So, here I am poaching from both:

The top image is of Mickey Free prior to his acquiring a jack mule as a ride. General Crook was in Mexico, after Geronimo, and as the army caravan traversed a steep cliff, a mule in front of Mickey slid towards the abyss, but caught itself on the rocks at the last second, then climbed out of danger, shook itself off and went back up the trail as if nothing had happened. Thus, Mick's comment.

Meanwhile, here is a nice pre-dust storm buildup as the troops ride into the tempest:

I really like the boiling nature of the clouds as they come right out to meet the soldiers. Had excellent army cavalry bridle reference thanks to Jim Hatzell, who sent me a series of photos from his annual Artist Ride of a trooper climbing a small hill. Jim shot it from a variety of angles (what we call "covering the dog") and he had a perfect closeup, looking up under the head at all that tangled, complicated cavalry bridle. Thanks Jim.

Finishing our June issue this week. I'm putting the final touches on the Wyatt Earp vs. Curly Bill at Cottonwood Springs Classic Gunfight today. Mark Boardman has a good copy of Wyatt Earp's original map of the fight and we are placing that in the layout even as you read this.

Going to New Mexico on Thursday with Ed Mell and Gary Earnest Smith on a plein air painting trip. So I've got to get my work done pronto.

"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything."
—George Lois, legendary Esquire magazine cover designer

Sunday, April 12, 2009

April 12, 2009
Woke up to rain on Saturday. Sprinkled on and off all day. Deena and Frank came out, along with James Radina and his new girlfriend Jessica. We had a big breakfast feed: fresh laid eggs and Bobby Cakes, along with strawberries and cantalope and black berries. Afterwards we hiked over to the cave, in the rain, and I was suprised to see a new sign that gives some of the history of the cave. I was especially suprised because the copy says that U.S. soldiers fought Apaches in the cave on Christmas Day in 1873. I knew this (and that the hunting party was led by Al Sieber), but according to the text they signed their names on the walls. I never knew this and I have been going over to that cave for 23 years. Made a fresh look along the walls but couldn't find it. Need to call someone to find out where exactly in the cave the inscriptions are.

Speaking of Al Sieber, I have developed a sweet little sequence of Remington on patrol with Powhattan Clark, Sieber and Mickey Free. They are in the mountains, coming up out of the Salt River Canyon, on their way to Fort Apache when, late in the day, they encounter a dust storm.

This is, of course, inspired by Remington's "Cavalry in an Arizona Sandstorm" which he painted in 1889. When I looked up the painting in Peter Hassrick's art book on Remington, I found this "old soldier" description of encountering one of these epic Arizona storms: "All in one moment the whole sky seemed to rush down upon us as if it were a big pepper-box with the lid off, and instantly all was dark as night, and I felt as if forty thousand ants were eating me up at once. You should have seen how the beasts whisked around to get their backs to it, and ducked their heads down! And how the men shut their eyes, and pulled their hats down over their faces, and covered their mouths with their hands! But it was no use trying to keep the dust out; it seemed to get inside one's very skin. When it cleared off we all looked as if we'd been bathihng in brown sugar, and you might have raked a match on any part of my skin, and it would have lit right away."
—David Kerr, Harper's Weekly, September 14, 1889

We'll probably have Remington describe it, utilizing some of that fantastic imagery.

Like the fire sequence this is quite cinematic, and I was inspired by an interview I saw with Anthony Mann (The Furies, 1950), who said, "What you see is the only truth. Then you don't have to say anything." He was commenting on how film audiences can't tell you any of the dialogue actors and actresses have spoken but they can often vividly remember what they did because they saw it and seeing is truth.

In addition to the Furies, with Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston (his last movie), Mann also did The Man From Laramie, Winchester '73, The Far Country, The Naked Spur and Where The River Bends. And, of course T Men and El Cid.

Mann also said, contrasting his style to John Ford's, that in his movies the hero is not exalted at the end, he is exhausted. he says Ford's characters in Westerns are often exalted and it works, but Mann prefers an exhausted hero because it rings more true to life. He also added that people enjoy watching someone try to accomplish something. We like to see this because we are stopped at almost every turn in our own lives.

I'll post the dust storm art tomorrow on the blog so you can see the progress.

"It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire from sight and afterwards return again."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, April 10, 2009

April 10, 2009
The City of Scottsdale just mailed me four very nice, crisp photos of me and my truck:

What's cool about it is that it documents an important day in my life. This was Saturday, March 21, and I had spent the day out at Festival of the West, where I had a blast talking to all of the True West Maniacs who came by the booth. I left the festival grounds at Rawhide, in north Scottsdale, at 4:30 and I was on my way to a dinner date with my two favorite women on the planet, Deena and Kathy Bell. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn trying to take the back way to Pima Road. I cussed and made a U-Turn and as I cruised up Pima I tried to make up for lost time (we had a 5 P.M. dinner reservation at Sabas' in Carefree). In their infinite wisdom the City of Scottsdale evidently decided to capture this moment for all eternity (notice the green Festival of the West parking tag on my dashboard) and thus, they sent this wonderful reminder of that great day, along with an invitation to a school they are running where I will learn how to drive all over again. Isn't that sweet?

The photos only cost me $175. That's less than fifty bucks a piece! A bargain at twice the price.

"So much of the civil strife and conflict in our society could be ameliorated by a small touch of mercy."
—Gordon B. Hinckley

Thursday, April 09, 2009

April 9, 2009
Remakes have always been a staple of Hollywood. I read recently that Sideways, the wine country indie sleeper of several years ago, is being remade for the Japanese market with Japanese actors. In the new version they spend quite a bit of time at Golden Gate Bridge because that is a favorite spot of Japanese tourists. Hmmmm.

Well, if the idea of the Coen brothers remaking True Grit raises your eyebrows, get ready for: the latest rumor is that Tom Cruise wants to star with John Travolta in a remake of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the 1969 classic that starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Now that just seems wrong. I'm not against a remake, but give me someone with some heft and outlaw charm, say, George Clooney as Butch, or even Russell Crow, or Brad Pitt. On the other hand, I'm happy that someone wants to remake the classic William Goldman penned story and introduce it to a new audience (read that—kids).

Speaking of kids we're working on a feature "Ten Ways To Get Your Kids Interested In History." If you have any ideas on how to do this, or, better yet, if you actually got your kids hooked on history, we want to know how you did it. Me, I ruined my kids for history by forcing them to go into every podunk museum in the West. I totally failed at recreating my passion for history in my offspring.

Tweaked a study this morning:

I ran a looser version of this image several months ago, but we're featuring it in a photo feature in the June issue: "Photos Don't Lie." This is a study, "Brothers In Arms" featuring Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, I did for the big oil painting I'm doing. And this is the painting that started the controversy on this site about whether Old West cowboys actually ever wore their knife in front of their holster and whether they actually ever wore V-topped boots. The photos of Texas Rangers in the feature prove they did both. The verdict is still out on the cuffs. That one "Never" may hold.

"I read the Constitution for the articles."
—A History Major I Know

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

April 8, 2009
For the longest time I had this idea of doing a movie on paper. Obviously, I wasn't alone as numerous graphic novels in the past several years have attempted to do the same. Some are extremely well drawn but, for my tastes, they don't really get traction in terms of narration. Let's face it, when you are competing against a camera, continuity is a very tough thing to sustain from scene to scene.

There is a new Western comic called Caliber. Here's a taste of the art by Garrie Gastonny:

Pretty sweet stuff. The female character Gwen is rendered with extreme skill. In fact it pushes the boundaries of photo realism. In the end though, it's not as compelling to me as much cruder renderings of characters by Milton Caniff, Burne Hogarth or Frank Miller. My theory is that this is because cartoons are mainly symbols. We don't need to have the drawings resemble photographs. We can totally relate to whacked out heads or exagerated body types with three fingers! In fact, they seem to work better on paper than the photo stuff.

This got me to thinking about the level of detail in my own work. How much is too much? Someone, I think it was Charlie Parker, said a good musician is someone who knows what to leave out. Too true for school. Anyway, is less detail better, or stronger?

Here are today's sketches:

The head in the lower, right-hand corner is one copied from a Remington sketch done in wash, or half-tone style. The other heads are attempts to maintain that face without so much shading. Although I am handicapped by my own limitations there is no doubt in my mind that Milton Caniff (Steve Canyon) could and would easily render this cowboy with a minimum of lines and make it believable.

And speaking of Milton, here's an anecdote of him taken off a classic animation website that Bob Steinhilber turned me onto:

Milt told me when he was switching from Terry And The Pirates to Steve Canyon that he had to get William Randolph Hearst's OK on certain aspects of the strip. Milt said he flew to Los Angeles, took a plane to near San Simeon and was driven up to Hearst's castle. He was shown into the dining room where Hearst sat at the opposite end of a long table drinking a cup of coffee. Hearst asked Milt questions such as what he had in mind for Steve and how much money he wanted. Milt said to himself, "You ungracious bastard!" and told Hearst what he had in mind for the strip, asking for double his present salary and all the fringes- plus ownership of the copyrights to his strip. He related how Hearst said, "You're a high-priced son of a bitch." and got up and left the room. Milt left and two weeks later was informed that Hearst had agreed to the terms.

Well, anyway, after all is said and done, not much gets done. Ha. Gee, I wonder what old Engels has to say about this?

"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory."
—Friedrich Engels
April 8, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a scratchboard of the two guys talking when the Apache Kid rides into San Carlos:

Notice how much more sinister the bearded guy became in this incarnation. And, by the way, the eye glint is a happy accident.

This is part of my effort to do a cleaner narrative for Mickey Free, The Graphic Novel with more concise, clear images and with plenty of white space. Ever since the excerpt of Mickey Free ran in True West I have been wrestling with cleaning up the narrative so that it's lean and mean. The excerpt was way too crowded with styles fighting styles, color and black and white jammed up against each other. I still plan on having scratchboards and colorized panels, just not so scattered and hodge podge. It needs to breath. Hopefully, in the spread-out-version I will have the room to do this.

As I was finishing this scratchboard and getting it prepped to scan, my phone rang and Lynda said she had a caller who wants to know when Mickey Free will be for sale. I said, "Tell him I'm working on it even as he speaks, and it will be ready for his Christmas stocking."

And speaking of Lynda:

News From The Front Lines
"I just spoke with Mrs. George M, who called to let us know they are very happy with True West magazine. They are grateful we agreed to finish out their Cowboy subscription with our magazine.

"She called today to renew her husband’s subscription to True West for three years. Mrs. M. said that her husband LOVES True West far above any other magazine he receives."
—Lynda Gager

“There is not and never can be any such thing as true history. Nothing is more uncertain, more contradictory, more unsatisfactory than the evidence of facts.”
—William Godwin, 1797

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April 7, 2009
Bob and Mica Steinhilber drove out from Phoenix to have lunch with me today. Like me, Bob is also a cartoonist and drummer (he played with the legendary LA punk band X in the seventies). Bob is also a terrific Old School letterer. He has lettered most of my Old West books including The Illustrated Life & Times of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday. He also lettered the logo for Classic Gunfights. Yes, he is one talented dude. Over lunch at Sabas' in Carefree ($55, I bought) Bob told me about a couple cool graphics websites. One is French, called Agence Eureka (Eureka Agency) and instead of a blog, this French woman evidently scans all day and puts up trippy and archaic graphic images she collects. Really some exotic stuff and worth seeing.

I was so inspired, three of the images I saw there ended up in my daily sketches:

The cigar smoker, the walker and the reclining nude.

You may have noticed I squeezed out an extra sketch in order to land on number 8,500. Only 1,500 sketches to go on my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
—Mark Twain
April 7, 2009
Carole Glenn talked to Phil Spangenberger yesterday and he's going into the hospital to have a knee replaced. His recovery from the stroke is coming along well.

A couple people have commented to me about seeing Mickey Free on Cheyenne. Here's the Top Secret Writer:

BBB: So I saw that Apache Blood episode of Cheyenne about Mickey Free. Neat but absolutely nothing like we are doing. Cheyenne retrieves Free (young, handsome, two-eyed, with a Mexican captive wife) from the Apaches and attempts to reintroduce him to the white world. Free is kinda a sweet kid but the whites have issues that Cheyenne has to resolve before our boy can live happily ever after on the old Ward ranch that Cheyenne helps him reposses. John Clum is a minor character and there is a kindly reverend who takes Mickey in. No army at all, no scouting, just white captive brought back to the white world. Still, pretty neat that they even used the character back in the day.

Saw you on True West Moments after Cheyenne—you were very good and did not look as gay this time. Best, PH

Hutton is referring to a colorful tie he saw me in for an earlier True West Moment. Meanwhile, here's our version of Mickey Free as drawn by Frederic Remington on the cover of Harper's Weekly:

I'm closing in on 8,500 sketches. Here are yesterday's:

"Do not care overly much for wealth or power or fame or one day you will meet someone who cares for none of these things and you might realize how poor you have become."
—Rudyard Kipling

Monday, April 06, 2009

April 6, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out two scratchboards for the How-did-he-lose-his eye? sequence in Mickey Free, the graphic novel. Remington found that many of the San Carlos versions were hard to believe but when he visited nearby Globe City, the stories got even harder to believe:

"Well, the way I heard it, ol' Victorio didn't cotton to the boy and he used him for target practice with his tomahawk, but he kept missin'; got his ear real bad, too."

Other tribes, like the Mojave, also had their own versions of the eye mystery:

"Ussen sent a bear to the White Mountains and he told that bear, 'Go in the four directions and bring me pinole, corn, honey and the eye of a snake."

"The graphic novelist is the better historian—because he admits that he is partial, prejudiced, and ignorant, and because he has not forsaken passion."
—some graphic novelist who escapes me at the moment
April 6, 2009
It's been picture perfect here on the high Sonoran desert, but up north, well, here's my good friend, Jim Hatzell:

"They say that the Chinese word for crisis also means opportunity. During our recent blizzard which closed our Interstate for 300 miles in 2 directions.....I got a friend/model out into the Black Hills dressed as a 9th US Cavalry Soldier. His name is J.P. Parker and I've known him since we worked on the film TNT's Crazy Horse together (I was playing a reporter from the Chicago Interocean newspaper, and he played Custer's cook.) The idea for my photos this time were from the December 1890/January 1891 Campaign in South Dakota during the Ghost Dance uprising. There was a famous incident where the 9th Cavalry saved the 7th (This was just after Wounded Knee) from possible annihilation after being led into a box canyon near Pine Ridge. I thought you would appreciate the image. Have a GREAT week and keep up the good work."

Great pic Jim. Man that looks cold! Thanks.

Meanwhile, I spent the weekend whipping out a few scratchboards for a page in the Mickey Free graphic novel where Remington quizzes the troopers at San Carlos about how Mickey Free ended up with only one eye:

Eye Witnesses

The African-American is John T. Glass, who was Chief of Scouts at Fort Apache in 1888. Need to draw a woman and have a sketch going of her and a couple others:

I love it that all of these theories and stories circulated about how Mick lost his eye. One old bird said he lost it in an elk hunt. Mickey supposedly shot an elk, ran up to it and as he leaned over, the elk lurched up, ramming an elk horn in Free's eye. Of course, I intend to get even more ridiculous (however, you can't really top the truth, can you?).

"Learn Spanish. Jesus is coming."
—Old Vaquero Saying