Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009
Thirty years ago I insisted, no, I demanded, that my girlfriend and I get married in a Western setting. "Can't we get married at the Polanski Club? It's in the West," a certain fiance reasoned. "Absolutely not," I countered. I want it to be true West." So, on July 28, 1979, we were married at Pioneer Living History Museum. Here is a photo from that day:

Looking back, our first official fight took place in New Mexico as we drove through the Hondo Valley. This was before we were married, but thinking about it. The same fiance said, "Why does everything have to be Western with you?" I made my case. She wasn't buying it. We fought and I drove. I remember driving through a great little village as we argued. Later, when I got home, I looked it up on a map. Yikes! I had driven through Lincoln, New Mexico and didn't even stop. This was in 1978 when I didn't know better. It has never happened again.

For our thirtieth wedding anniversary I told Kathy she could pick anywhere east she wanted to go and I would not protest.

It is a ten hour flight to Buenos Aires. We leave tomorrow.

"Just because everything is different 
doesn't mean anything has changed.
—Irene Peter
August 31, 2009
Final day of my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings. Over the weekend I realized this is really my final exam. Here are the results so far:

Final Exam, Part I

1.) Emulating A. Bierdstadt, create a campfire scene utilizing a full moon in actual scale, not the gargantuan kind that hack artists use:

2.) Using raw sienna execute an old time carte de visit:

3.) Avoiding line, use a black, felt-tip pen to illustrate a Sonoran vaquero using cross hatching exclusively:

4.) Take the same vaquero and put him on a horse:

5.) Utilizing only two complementary colors, illustrate the same vaquero:

6.) Using a black pen, capture the female form. Ten bonus points if you can get in a public service announcement about the dangers of not using sun screen:

7.) Illustrate the fluidity of clouds and the blending of subtle cloud colors:

8.) In sixty seconds do a gesture drawing of Michael Stipe of R.E.M. as a zombie, trying to choke himself:

9.) Using only silhouette shapes and two colors, convey the skyline of an urbane setting:

10.) Create a scene of a desert Haboob:

11.) Imagine that Frederic Remington and R. Crumb meet at Woodstock. What would that look like?:

"This has been a test."
—Test Giver Guy

Friday, August 28, 2009

August 28, 2009
With the demise of the Razz Revue and my first marriage, in 1978 I moved from Tucson to Phoenix and went to work for New Times Weekly at the princely salary of $110 a week (when I readily agreed to the paltry amount, Jim Larkin, the publisher of NT said, "Damn, I could have gotten you cheaper.").

As the art director, column writer (Scoops) and staff cartoonist I started attending the annual Arizona Press Club Awards, usually held at the Biltmore or Camelback Inn. They were stuffy, formal affairs with a boring slide show presentation. Sometimes they had a video presentation of the governor reading from a script about how the state house and Arizona journalists need to get along. It was very dry stuff.

In 1983, Charlie Waters, the publisher of the Prescott Courier got involved and invited a motley crew of journalists to come to Prescott and produce a parody newspaper to be handed out at that year's Press Club Awards. Also invited, although not a member of the club, was Dan The Man Harshberger (he and I had co-founded the Razz Revue and wrote, published and printed the humor magazomic from 1972-78, making zero money, although can you really put a price on nonstop laughter?).

Sometime in 1986 (as near as I can remember) I asked the officers of the press club if we might try and do a rock video. MTV, founded in 1982 was the hottest new thing and me and my friends were dying to do a cross between an MTV video and a Saturday Night Live satire comedy bit.

The original concept was built off of the traditional opening of a typical Press Club video: "Ladies and Gentleman The Governor of Arizona. . ." but then instead of a seated boring speech, he would stand up to reveal an electric guitar. And he would lead us into a totally insulting and rocking song that ripped the media in every possible way.

Gordon Smith, the circulation director at New Times, quickly wrote the tune, while Dave Walker (a TV reporter for the Republic and a drummer as well) worked on the lyrics with me and Gordon.

So we had the song, but there was only one problem: there was no way we had the juice to get Bruce Babbitt to agree to this. We were all part of the dreaded "underground hippie movement" (at least in the halls of state government) and we couldn't even get a phone call returned from the governor's office.

A bubbly, attractive reporter from the Phoenix Gazette changed all of that. Her name was Michelle Beardon-Mason and she had the gift of gab when it came to movers and shakers. I'm not sure why, because she wasn't a big name reporter, but she could flat open doors. I think the first door to open was Fife Symington a developer who wanted to run for governor. He was getting heat for a controversial project at 24th St. and Camelback and perhaps he wanted to show he was a good sport. I don't know, but I got the call that he had agreed to a cameo appearance and we quickly drove over to his prestigious offices on Camelback (all of us had day jobs, so we shoe-horned in these assignments between our regular work).

The first thing I noticed was he had original oil paintings on the wall by Gilbert Stuart (you know, the famous unfinished George Washington image that hung in every school house in the nation). The second thing I noticed was that he had absolutely zero rhythm. It turned out he wasn't alone. I slowly came to realize that while me and my friends were learning how to do the Pony, the Frug and the Bugaloo, Symington, Babbitt and Goddard were going to Harvard and Yale and other prestigious schools to learn how to run the world.

A real gruff guy, Keith Turley (the guy in the video playing cowbell) was the head of Arizona Public Service. He also was taking grief in the press and I'm not sure why he agreed to do it, but he was delightful. He did his part in one take and then kicked us out of his office. I was very impressed with him. Direct, not afraid to let it hang out.

Carolyn Warner was a complete hoot. We got to her offices on the Capital Mall, and she had a blackboard set up with "Media Scum" written on it. We handed her an apple and she did the rest. She had kind of an uptight rep but Man, she could get down and boogie. I laugh every time when I see her rockin' with that apple.

As Michelle Beardon-Mason began to open more doors, more people heard about our secret little project and wanted to come on board. Bruce Spottleson, who worked briefly for New Times and then the Mesa Tribune, asked if he could do an accordion solo in the video. I told him there wasn't an accordion in the song, but he showed up with one at a night taping at Channel 12 (we had to sneak in video shoots on sound stages when they weren't doing news), and we graciously taped him, never thinking we'd use the footage, but in the edit room, every time we put him in the mix people laughed, so Bruce got his time to shine.

The three dancing girls worked at New Times. Michelle Connell was also in the Weaklies and that's her in the bridge sequence doing the "Scratch out their eyes" bit. She married our bass player Jim Rizzi and they live today in Salt Lake City where Jim publishes a newspaper. Bobby Ulloa is the girl on the right and I believe that's Suzette Hutchings in the middle.

Sgt. Allan Schmidt, the spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, had a beef with Tom Fitzpatrick, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist at the Arizona Republic. Tom wrote some very unflattering things about DPS and so when we met the guy on a shooting range in south Phoenix, we were stunned. It was his idea to shoot a target with Fitz's photo on it. And his idea to wear the gas mask. And yes, he's shooting live ammo, both the pistol and the shotgun.

A short snippet shows Duke Tully, the disgraced Arizona Republic publisher who faked a war record until he was unmasked not long after this video was shot. When you see the newspaper healdine "You're Scum" and the paper drops to a desk and a guy looks at the camera. That's the infamous Duke Tully.

Also, watch for other long time Valley media scumpersons Eileen Bailey and Dewey Webb. And that's Captain Dave Walker doing the press briefing with the press club sign behind him.

The snippet of Barry Goldwater was dropped in from an outtake at an interview with the Arizona legend where an audio person hit the wrong button and a blaring piece of music shot into the senator's ear, prompting him to swear and pull out the audio ear piece and say this line. But it sure seems like he's commenting on Bruce's dancing, doesn't it? Ha.

OH, and when the video played at the annual Press Club Awards, everyone gasped when Bruce Babbit stood up and started strumming a guitar. It was a priceless moment and made it all worthwhile

And in case you missed the link, here it is again:

Media Scum Video

"Those times they'll pass you by. . .in the blink of an eye. . ."
—Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days
August 28, 2009
It's really starting to sink in that my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings is coming to a very fast end. Did ten sketches last night which puts me at 9,957 with 33 to go. Now I find myself wanting to put the brakes on. Not so fast! Amazing. Human behavior patterns are so predictable and yet so crazy.

More Lessons Learned On My Quest to Do 10,000 Bad Drawings
Going back through my sketchbooks I have noticed that there is a rhythm to the successes and failures. I mean that the sketches go along at a bland rate and then every 10 or 20 days it spikes, with something that is head and shoulders above anything around it, like this page from November 5, 2008:

Of course, there are exceptions, like this page, which is from November 3:

And this is quite an exception because one is full of loosey goosey washes, and the other is tight pen work. I won't bore you with the down stuff but here's another amazing (to me) page from November 11:

Amazing because the effects are subtle, but strong, yet not overworked. Truly an exception to most of the pages. After the above page, nothing jumps out for almost a month, until December 15:

Then the fields of creative effort go barren for the rest of the year and clear into January. Here's January 30, when something finally gets traction:

Then it's quiet, or bland, until February 5:

The frustrating part is trying to capture, or remember, what I was thinking that day. Did I know at the time it was working better than usual? Not really. Sometimes I would know (yesterday's "Lone Grave" seemed to have potential as I was doing it), but I wouldn't even put the stat at half and half. Probably more like 70-30 (70% percent of the time I don't have a clue if what I'm doing is decent or wrong headed).

Nothing worthwhile until again until February 15 when I'm trying to capture late afternoon light on Elephant Butte:

I seem to remember thinking this page was a total failure at the time I did it. I shifted gears three days later and whipped this out in black and white:

Stayed in black and white for a time. Here's February 20th:

With a follow up page on March 20 that is pretty strong:

And then a remarkable page of color four days later:

I have a hunch that this is all very similar to a woman's monthly cycle. We coast, we bloat, we fight it, we get irritable, then a gush of creativity pours out, quickly goes dry and then the cycle repeats itself (until you have a heart attack and really mess up the cycle. Ha.).

When I got home from work yesterday I worked on a small Billy portrait I had started earlier, adding some shadow:

Not a bad overbite, with a little bit of Elvis sneer. A cocky little s--t would be how my Uncle Choc might put it.

Or, you might say I'm having my period.

"One wonders how some [artists] ever came to painting at all after exhibiting such surprising ability to dodge knowledge."
—Robert Henri

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27, 2009
Here is a total blast from the past (when rock videos were young and so were we). In 1986 I teamed up with Gordon Smith (who wrote the music), Dave Walker (who wrote the lyrics with me) and the Weaklies (our rock band, we all worked at New Times Weekly, the Weaklies, get it?) and Bryan Newmeister (video genius who worked at Channel 12 with Jerry Foster) and we produced a rock video for the Arizona Press Club Awards Annual Show utilizing the Governor of Arizona and many politicos of that era. Here's the video:

Media Scum Video

Bruce Babbit was governor of Arizona at the time. Fife Symington wanted to be the next governor of Arizona (he got his wish but probably regrets it today), Keith Turley was the head of APS (and nailed his part in one take) and Carolyn Warner also ran for governor, although I think she was the head of the education department of something at the time (she had it totally goin' on!). I'll ID more of the participants as we go along.

There are actually two parts to the video. This first part is the song, then we segued into an MTV VJ style program with totally tasteless video snippets of elephants being born, etc. More later. Check it out!

"If Pulitzers were Lincolns you'd all be driving Fords, you're scum, you're scum, you're scum, you're scum. . .you're media scum."
—The Weaklies
August 27, 2009
There is a lonely grave just west of Datil, New Mexico and I look for it every time I travel through that country. It's off to the south side of the road and appears to be a family plot with a tall, proud headstone.

Last night I was studying a Maynard Dixon painting and got the inspiration to paint a New Mexico landscape with a lone grave:

The actual gravestone is more ornate with tall columns, but I wanted to emulate the old fashioned headstones, I have seen and sketched at the Quemado cemetery, which is also in the same area. May do a big painting of this for the Billy show in October. To me it speaks to the temporary nature of people on the desert. First we are dwarfed by it, and then we are swallowed by it (that's why the grave is tilting, on its way to being reclaimed by the earth). Anyway, I'm over thinking it (what else is new?), but I think it has a fitting aesthetic I want to portray.

This is one of ten sketches I did yesterday (43 to go). And, so I thought it might be the right time to start recapping all of things I have learned from this experiment.

Lessons Learned On My Quest to Do 10,000 Bad Drawings

• Like most Boomers I grew up on Walt Disney animation and one particular segment from the Wonderful World of Disney on ABC really made an impression on me. An animated paint brush sweeps across the TV screen, and as it moves, it leaves behind dripping paint that magically creates a lush lagoon with palm trees and vegetation perfectly rendered in a couple seconds. I remember actually trying to do this after seeing it (I think this was when I was in the sixth grade). It didn't work (especially with a pencil). But, somehow, all these years later, I am still infected with the idea that if I ever got good enough at drawing I would be able to simulate this magic. Kind of naive and stupid, on my part, but there you have it. My long journey has forced me to face the reality of the situation. Drawing is hard work and you have to fight to get something halfway decent.

"You will never become a popular painter. You are too much of an individual for that."
—Robert Henri
August 27, 2009
We have more than a few subscribers who are incarcerated. Sometimes these guys (they're always men) write us fan letters and tell us that True West is a breath of fresh air in their world. From time to time, we run into "Reading Material Evaluation" board problems with the mail screeners at these institutions, usually because of our gun ads.

However, a recent rejection from the Colorado Department of Corrections really got to our Business Manager, Carole Glenn (who handles these subscription issues). Our July issue was flagged and denied to prisoner Gary S. because the issue allegedly "supports, incites, promotes, encourages, or advocates illegal gang activity."

The cover, along with pages 4, 5, 6, 8, 13, 32, 34, 33, 36 and 38 are flagged for something cited as "Contrary to treatment plan (Minors)".

Here is the offending cover:

Evidently, getting kids hooked on history goes against their treatment plan.

Here is part of a letter Carole Glenn wrote to the Administrative Services Manager in Buena Vista, Colorado:

"True West respects and supports the right of your institution to monitor and determine the appropriateness of reading material for those incarcerated there. We do not, however, agree with the evaluation of True West in general or of the specific issue stated.

"True West is dedicated to preserving the history of the American West. It informs readers of their heritage and provides information on travel, art, books and museums. The specific issue referenced focuses on ways to get young people interested in history.

"Bad deeds are not glorified in True West, but actions of those who helped build a better way of life, then and now, are. The July issue has a wonderful article on Hugh O'Brian and mentions a charitable youth leadership organization that he started in 1958. It also has an article on the Texas Camel Corps, restoration of historic buildings and western art."

End of excerpts from Carole's letter.

"If you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones."
—Carl Edward Sagan

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26, 2009
Funny how much a cactus (and a kid) can grow in 20-some-years. Here's a photo taken of Deena, Dusty The Dog and me on our back porch:

The year is 1988 so Deena would be eight. Now, here's the amazing part. See that small cactus cutting we had just planted to the right of us? Well, here it is in a photo taken this morning:

Oh, and by the way, the photo was taken by Olive Mondello (a very attractive woman out of my past). And here's another angle:

This cactus has flowers that bloom at night. I got up early to go feed the chickens and kind of did a Whoa! Went and got the camera and snapped off a couple images.

Finished another dozen sketches last night and I'm now at 9,947 sketches with 53 to go. Speaking of which, I have carted my sketchbook to many a foreign place, including Nicaragua, Guatamala, Peru and Utah. Here's one of my pages from Leon, Nicaragua:

The humidity was really oppressive in Leon and just looking at the drawings of the street makes me sweat. Here's a page of sketches of Lake Suchitlan in El Salvador:

And, these (below) were done in the highlands of Peru last summer:

And finally, as promised, here is a sketch of Utah:

Gus Walker wonders: "What will the 10,001 sketch look like?" Well, we're about to find out. I must admit that I have improved over the course of the experiment, but it's not as dramatic as I hoped it would be. Gee, I wonder what Carol Burnett has to say about this?

"I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don't work out, that's when I've really learned."
—Carol Burnett

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 25, 2009
I live in a house full of Spanish speakers. Both my kids are fluent and my significant "esposa" is damn close (she attends classes every weekend and spends many evenings with her nose in "mucho grande libras.")

Which leads me to the big debate we are having at True West today. In our art issue, we are running this image:

This painting, which I created for the second edition of my Billy book in 1996, is entitled “Su Vista Penetrava Al Corizon de Toda La Gente” (His Face Went to Everybody's Heart). The original will be in the Overland Gallery opening on October 15. So far, so good.

This morning I got the following email from Managing Editor Meghan Saar:

"Your painting title: 'Su Vista Penetrava Al Corizon de Toda La Gente' is incorrect. I have changed it to the below:

“'Su Vista Penetraba el Corazon de Toda la Gente' (His Face Went to Everybody's Heart)

"The Source: Jose Garcia y Trujillo recounts his memories of Billy the Kid and expresses his belief in the myth of Billy the Kid's survival in a 1936 interview taken in New Mexico:

"You think Billy The Keed let himself be shot in the dark like that? No Senora — Billy The Keed — never. I see Billy The Keed with these eyes. Many times, with these eyes. That Billy, 'tenia un' agilesa en su mente — en su menta aqui…' I understood that he meant that Billy The Keed had an extraordinary quickness of mind. Again he pointed to his forehead and then with a quick motion to the sky. 'Una funcion electrica', he said. Something that worked like lightning… 'I don't want to dispute against you Senora, but in my mind which is the picture of my soul, I know it is not true… Everybody like Billy The Keed — su vista penetraba el corazon de toda la gente… his face went to everybody's heart.. Muy generoso hombre, Billy The Keed — a very generous man. All the Mexican people, they like him. He give money, horses, drinks — what he have. To whom was good to Billy The Keed, he was good to them. Siempre muy caballero, muy senor — always very polite, very much of a gentleman.'"

I forwarded this exchange to the world's most gracious and knowledgeable BTK expert, Fred Nolan in Chalfont Saint Giles, England. Here is his reply:

According to my original source, which was Kadlec's "They 'knew' Billy the Kid" published in 1987 and referenced in THE WEST OF BTK, you both have it wrong: it should be '"Su vista penetrava al corazon de toda la gente" and there is an acute accent on the second 'o' in 'corazon.' Megha's source is doing that old aural thing where they hear a 'b' for the 'v' in Spanish words (as for instance in every census you ever look at -- e.g. Balanzuela instead of the correct Valenzuela).
—Fred Nolan

Meghan and Ashley (our intern who lived in Spain and minored in Spanish) maintain that Fred is wrong, and that penetrava is the Italian form of the verb and that penetraba is the Spanish.

Quien Sabe (Who knows?) Hopefully you. Please weigh in on this.

Speaking of Spanish speakers, my son Tomas finished his Peace Corp assignment in Yanque, Peru yesterday. A week earlier, a U.S. congressional delegation visited Lima, and elicited this email from my son:

“So one of the congresswomen asked what type of support we needed from them. I told them it’d be great if we could get diplomatic immunity. They thought it was funny.”

“Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24, 2009
Well, I had at least four different versions of Looming Billy in the works this weekend, but on Sunday, Carole Glenn, Deena Bean and Patricia were over and I showed them the finalists, in progress. All three picked the same image, so I finished it this morning and Robert Ray shot it, sent it down to Dan "The Man" and Meghan and I wrote the cover heds and here it is:

Meanwhile, Ed Mell is getting the Billy bug himself. Here's a sneak peek at his first piece, called "Ygenio (Eugenio) Salazar":

Ed saw a photo of Salazar in the Lincoln County Courthouse Museum and loved it. Ygenio rode with Billy the Kid and was severely wounded in the back and shoulder in "The Big Killing" (July, 1878) when the Tunstall adherents, including Billy and Ygenio, ran out the back door of the burning McSween house straight into the guns of Buck Morton and others perched on the back fence (15 feet away!). The Kid managed to escape, but both McSween and Salazar were shot down. The victors danced over their bodies and pumped bullets into them for good measure. When one of the Brady bunch cocked a pistol and pointed it at Salazar, another Brady fighter said not to waste ammunition "on that Greaser." After everyone stumbled off to bed, Salazar started to crawl. He made it a quarter mile to a relative's house and he not only survived, but live until 1936. Pretty amazing, no?

Gee, I wonder what ol' Abe has to say about this?

"The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me."
—Abraham Lincoln
August 24, 2009
Spent most of the weekend on cover art. I have this persistent vision in my head of a leering Billy, looming over the New Mexico landscape. I have a half-decent design in mind, and a whole slew of sketches to back it up:

Came up with the line: "Billy the Kid looms over the New Mexico landscape like a cultural atomic bomb." Ha.

Trying to develop the theme with clouds that could be a mushroom. Mmmmm.

And, in the middle of all this, I got on a skeleton kick, for an Old Vaquero Saying idea I've been kicking around:

And, oh yes, I poached a sunset from a photo Reb posted on Friday's blog post. I call it a "Reb-set":

Crossed the 9,900 barrier yesterday. Did 20 sketches and now I've got 85 bad drawings to do to complete my quest to do 10,000. Amazing. Planning on finishing a week from today.

Did go on Friday to see the opening of Inglorious Basterds. Quentin is so over the top ridiculous you have to love him. Great humor and mad dog violence. Loved it. Unfortunately I could love him even more at half the length. With the two Kill Bills and now this Nazi-Kill-Fest, coming in at three hours, I wish someone would, and could, edit him down even a tad. But no one has figured out how to do it, so we take him in long doses, waiting for the inevitable blast of humor and outrageousness.

Speaking of sinister Germans, I wonder what ol' Goethe has to say about Tarantino?

"A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world's torrent."
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21, 2009
Three things. I think my son gets out of the Peace Corp tomorrow. Or, at least it's his last official day in his village. He allegedly wised off to a U.S. Congresswoman who came to visit (where did that come from?) and I'll give that story tomorrow when he's officially out.

Lee Anderson, our cover boy, and the guy who built the water trough we used yesterday for the True West Moment shoot has this post mortice report:

"The Winchester I was shooting yesterday is an original 1873 saddle ring carbine, serial #33843 that, according to Winchester records, was manufactured in 1879. It's been re-stocked at some time. Also, I was shooting black powder cartridges.

"I dug out the two rifle slugs and measured the depth of the holes. The first shot had turned sideways and missed going all the way through by 3/8 of an inch. The other one went straight in and made it to within 1/4 inch of going all the way through. Neither bullet was deformed in the least."
—Lee Anderson

And yes, post mortice is a play on words. A mortice, loosely translated, is a cut in wood.

And finally, if Degas is right and we can only do good art when we don't know what we're doing (I'm paraphrasing his quote from the other day), I am onto something big. I'll post the results as soon as I finish.
"Don't count your chickens before the cock crows."
—Old Rooster Saying
August 21, 2009
Been obsessed with capturing the essence of the clouds I witnessed on my trip to New Mexico last week. Big Monsoon Mothers. Here's an early study, inspired by a mountain of clouds I saw north of the Trinity Site:

The mountains of clouds were as massive as the mountains below them. Another scene I'd really like to capture is from this sketch I did just west of Socorro, coming from Magdalena:

The clouds were moving fast so I had to really whip this one out, grabbing just the key details. When I got home I immediately tried to capture the dynamic of those clouds in a color study:

This morning I tried to build on that composition and torque it even more:

This is closer to what I witnessed, but I think I can do better. And, of course the trick is to get Looming Billy up into the middle of those clouds. I think I'm getting on the verge of something.

For a guy who hates math (and likes to joke that he married a math teacher in order to balance his check book), I sure have had the numbers rolling through my head recently. Woke up this morning mulling a few:

• 15: number of True West Moments we video taped for the Westerns Channel

• 10: number of days left before we leave for South America

• 4: number of editorial holes I have to fill before I can go

• 9,868: number of bad drawings I have completed on my quest to do 10,000

• 132: number of sketches I need to do to finish before I leave for South America

• 197: number of sketches I have done so far for for the Big Billy cover art

• 5: number of days before the issue goes to the printer

Joey Dillon took a couple pictures at the shoot yesterday. Here's one of me sitting on the water trough and setting up the bit:

Notice the sun reflecter. As if it's not hot enough, the crew feels the need to bounce light under my Tonto Brim to make it even hotter! Ha. FYI: the new True West Moments should be on the air in the next 60 to 90 days.

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."
—Julia Child

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20, 2009
Had a speech down at the Westminister's Retirement Home in Scottsdale at ten this morning. Great crowd. Very appreciative of history and they love good stories. From there I drove out to Cowtown just below Lake Pleasant and met Joey "Rocketshoes" Dillon, Lee Anderson and his horse Dusty, and Jeff Hildebrandt and his AD Jen, plus a four man crew.

We had very little shade and we didn't get the first setup going until about one, which is absolutely the hottest part of the day (once again 110 degrees in the shade), but we rather quickly ripped out four pretty sweet True West Moments, including one of the most ambitious segments we have ever attempted.

Earlier this year, I got an email from John Judge of Bath, New York, who said, "In Western movie shootouts sometimes a cowboy will duck down behind a water trough. Would a horse trough really stop a bullet?" I called our True West Gun Editor, Phil Spangenberger, and he told me that the answer depends on three things: the gun, the caliber and what the horse trough is made of. And then he ended with, "Why don't you build one and see what happens when you shoot into it?"

Lee Anderson built the water trough with 2X4s and we lined up a Colt .45, a 44.40 Winchester and a 45.70 Sharps "Buffalo Gun."

The True West Moment opens with me crouched down behind the water trough as I explain the above quest. I can't tell you what happened, but, after Rocketshoes, Lee and Latigo (the caretaker of Cowtown) shot live bullets into the water trough I did walk over to the girls on the set, Linda Shipp (makeup) and Jen (the AD from Denver) and said, "You know how when you're a little kid and you say, 'Someday, I'd like to. . .? Well, this is one of those moments." They looked at me like the crazy old fart that I am.

This morning, I tweaked one of the Looming Billys which I intend to run on my editorial page:

This is Looming Billy #8. I've got another four or five in various stages of finish at home. Now that the Westerns Channel shooting is over I am looking forward to knocking this puppy out. Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever going to nail this painting. Gee, I wonder what ol' Elbert has to say about this?

"Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it."
—Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19, 2009
Worked this morning on two color studies for big Art Issue cover painting. Got some decent effects and left at eight to drive out to Pioneer Living History Museum.

Met Jeff Hildebrandt from the Westerns Channel and a video crew of six to tape a new batch of True West Moments. Started in the desert east of the museum and whipped out the first three bumpers in an hour, then changed locations to the Pioneer Church area. By then it was really starting to get hot, but we forged on, getting two more in the can. The biggest problems on these kinds of shoots is, in order of irritation: airplane noise, wind noise, faulty equipment and faulty talent. I am charge of the last part and it took me at least three or four takes on each bit (and I'm reading off a teleprompter!).

We broke for lunch at around noon and ate in the Pioneer Cafe, five feet from where Kathy and I were married in 1979) and then went back at it at about 1:30. As we stood in the middle of the street and waited for a steadycam monitor problem to solve itself, I asked the AD, Jen, how hot she thought it was out. She guessed "110?" and I said, "No, silly woman, that is how hot it is over there (pointing to the shade). It's probably at least 125 degrees where we are standing in the middle of the street." She didn't even laugh, nor did I. It was that oppressively hot.

I remembered back to when Robert Redford and Michael J. Pollard came to town and made the ultimate biker movie Little Fauss And Big Halsy(1970) and they filmed in Phoenix—in August. Legend says, a camera lens melted during the shoot and Hollywood, as far as I know, has never been back to shoot in the Valley in August.

Wrapped at 2:30 with a Doc Holliday bumper that I nailed on the first take (funny what you can accomplish when you are really miserable and want to go home). We are meeting again tomorrow at a different location to film a water trough bit and two others, one with cover boy Joey Dillon and the other with our other cover boy, Lee Anderson. Going to be hotter than hell.

"At least it's a dry hell."
—Old Dead Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18, 2009
Under the gun. Need to finish the big Looming Billy painting this week and I've got Jeff Hildebrandt coming in tomorrow and Thursday for a taping of new True West Moments to run on the Westerns Channel.

No real consensus on which design is better on the Looming Billy. in addition to the posts on this site, I got this off line from our Art Director:

"I like #2, although there sure is a lot of crotch. I like the cemetery and building from number one. Number 3 has no redeeming qualities."
—Dan Harshberger

Speaking of Dan The Man, he really nailed our Exits Exit DVD cover design. We have been arguing and conceptualizing about what would capture our video in a simple, direct way, yet grab the Kingman market (it's going to be for sale at the hospital and museum, etc.) On our trip to Kingman last week Dan asked me if I had any photos of the Hualapais and I told him that yes I had a couple taken from Coyote Pass in the early 1980s, with the Hualapais blanketed in snow. I scanned them and Abby sent it down to Dan and here is his design, layout and copy:

Video and booklet should be ready to ship in about four weeks. Lots of old Kingman photos and film. We all pooled our resources. Going to be a collector's item (if you collect gee-gaws of decrepit Kingman guys).

Woke up at 1:30 this morning mulling my approach on the Capturing Billy the Kid Country painting. Dreamed about it—I'm trapped in a bad design and making mud.

Got up this morning and executed a couple storm sketches (below) with an idea of using something like this for the background. I really want the ominous sky, but the cover needs to be type friendly as well. That is the key.

I feel kind of trapped, without a clear way out of this. Gee, I wonder what ol' Degas has to say about this?

"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things."
—Edgar Degas

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2009
Over the weekend I executed lots of mini-cloud studies, taken directly from my sketchbook, while they were still fresh in my memory bank:

I was especially enamored with a butte I saw west of Magdalena with the top of it shrouded in a heavy rain cloud (bottom, right). Also noodled a variety of other heavy clouds I witnessed:

I also got on an Ed-Mell-Landscape kick and studied some of his color and shape techniques:

Then went back to my cloud memories from the Lincoln road trip:

I especially like the middle panorama of the massive cloud bank angling up off the desert floor. This is from a study I did just west of Socorro on the way home. Did a specific cloud study based on the huge cloud banks I witnessed:

Shifted gears on Saturday and started a series of cover studies for our next cover: "Capturing Billy the Kid Country". Here are the contenders (notice how the shrouded butte shows up in two of them):

Looming Billy Number 1:

Looming Billy Number 2:

Looming Billy Number 3:

Which one do you think is the strongest cover? As for me, I see things I like in each and there are things, in each, that I hate. Gee, I wonder what ol' Henri has to say about this?

"Blunder ahead with your own personal view."
—Robert Henri