Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30, 2009
Had a long day, driving into the Beast today. Took along Tommy and we headed for downtown at about ten. Had an appointment with Arizona Republic Editor Ken Western at 11. He wants me to do a Tombstone piece for them on the last week in October. We also talked about me doing a version of True West Moments for the newspaper. Has potential. It would run once a week on the Op Ed page.

On the way out, exchanged insults with fellow cartoonist Steve Benson. He said I looked like Howdy Doody and I said he sure knew a lot for being a dumb, ex-Mormon Bastard. This passes for love and admiration in the cartoonist community.

From there Tomas and I drove over to Ed Mell's studio to see his latest Billy the Kid paintings. He's got some sweet ones for our show on October 15. Ed and his son Taylor joined T. and I for lunch at Adrian's at 44th Street and McDowell. A little pricey ($46 cash, I paid).

We then continued out on McDowell Road to Scottsdale and up 68th St. to Indian School, dropping down to the Overland Art Gallery on Main Street. Met with Trudy and dropped off a dozen of my Billy the Kid paintings for the show and priced them. For instance, I get $1,800 for a gouache of Billy (the cover painting from the October issue) and Ed and Gary Ernest Smith each get $58,000 for the same sized painting. I am definitely the junior partner on this outing! Still, I am proud to even be sharing wall space with them.

Speaking of art and working diligently, after reaching the 10,000 mark on September 1st and filling 55 pages of my next sketchbook in South America, we got home (a week ago today) and I took a break for a day. Then one day turned into two and then into a total drought! I have done maybe six sketches in the last week. Yikes! This is exactly why I started the quest in the first place: so I could get in the habit of drawing every day. How easily I slipped into my old, lazy ways. I did at least six sketches a day for four years. I didn't miss a day for the first year and in fact, one night when I had driven all day to New Mexico and had a late dinner at Lew and Tara's cabin in Mogollon, I went to bed and woke up at one, in terror that I hadn't done my six drawings. I stumbled out to the truck and quickly did them, in the dark. Ha. Now, I've missed five days in a a row. How embarrassing.

Got to get back on the drawing wagon.

Although I haven't been drawing, I did salvage a couple paintings in my discard pile in the studio last weekend. This one, I had given up on last spring, but all it needed was a unifying wash to hide some of the garish edges. Very nice desert storm painting:

"Funny what you can accomplish when you do it everyday."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 29, 2009
Like my son, when I got back from South America last week I had a hankering for Mexican food and cowboy style pinto beans (they don't do beans in South America, go figure). So, I soaked a big batch and while I sketched at the kitchen table, I rode herd on a big boiling pot for two hours. Then an hour steeping, then a quick boil with bay leaves and an all day simmer. Man, I love those pintos! Learned all this from my mother. She was one of the five Guess daughters and they all made excellent pinto beans. And they learned from my grandmother, Louise "Guessie" Swafford.

Speaking of which, today I talked to my Aunt Jean, The Rodeo Queen. She is the youngest daughter of the five Guess girls and today, she and her husband Bud Linn have several farms in the Fort Sumner, New Mexico area. In addition to being a Kingman rodeo queen in her youth, she is the last surviving Pinto Bean Queen in the Guess family. Here she is in her graduation photo from Mohave County Union High School in 1949:

Long live Aunt Jean The Pinto Bean Queen!
September 29, 2009
Thomas Charles flew in from Peru last night. Deena, Kathy and I met him at the airport. His first request: Mexican Food, so we whisked him up the road to 24th Street and McDowell Road to the old Adrian's location, which is now called La Barquita. The Mole Man (T.'s nickname) had the mole and he said he wasn't disappointed (Ed Mell recommended it). I had the seven seas soup which I split with Kathy. Sometimes it's tough being the Healthy Guy.

The reason T. Charles is so starved for Mexican food is because it really doesn't exist south of Guatamala (and only in G. because they are next door to Mexico). In South America it's all beef and Italian pasta stuff. And not spicy. That is totally the invention of Mexico. It's not in Spain (they think ketchup is too spicy!) and in none of the countries we visited this month. I just assumed it was Mexican variations all the way down to Antartica. Ha.

Yesterday, a book author contacted me about a forthcoming Route 66 book he's doing. He requested a good photo of my dad's gas station in Kingman. Although I have some pretty decent images, the photo on a small, mileage card is the best. And so Robert Ray, our production manager, put the tweak on it and came up with this:

Pretty sweet: my father, Allen Bell had numerous gas stations on Old Route 66, starting with a Whiting Brothers station at Peach Springs in 1946. He and my mother manned the pumps 24/7 in the summer time. He then ran another Whiting Brothers at McConnico, which was below Kingman, on the way to Goldroad and Topock. After a move back to his home state of Iowa, where he ran a Phillips 66 in Swea City, we returned to Arizona in 1955, and that's when he started the classic Al Bell's Flying A which he ran from 1956 to about 1960 or 61. He then opened a Phillips 66 across from El Trovatore, about a mile west of the Flying A location and ran that through most of the sixties. And he finished his gas station career with a Shell station in downtown Kingman in the early 70s. In the mid-seventies he went to work for Ford Proving Grounds at Yucca (also adjacent to Route 66) as a test car driver and parts manager, and, that is where he retired in the mid 1980s. Al passed on October 5, 1998 and is buried in the Kingman Hilltop cemetery. On his tombstone it says: "He Loved Cars."

"When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished."
—Czeslaw Milosz

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28, 2009
Here are the first couple pages from my sketchbook, tracking our three week adventure in South America. Keep in mind, that the west coast of South America (Peru, Chile) is east of New York. I know, I know, we all think it's straight south, but Buenos Aires is four time zones east of Arizona (New York is only three).

I finished my 10,000 and one sketches in my other sketchbook and took along a brand new one. Here's the first page:

We spent our first night in an old house in Tigre, which is about 40 miles north of Buenos Aires. Looks a lot like Holland with canals and wooden boats everywhere. This is a view of the French doors which looked out on a second story balcony of our room:

It's on the delta of the Rio de la Plata River which is so wide you can't see across it. We crossed on a boat, traversing the upper waterways. We landed in Carmelo, Uruguay, had lunch at Fay Faye, then caught the bus for Colonia at one:

I was surprised by the landscape. It looked like Iowa or Nebraska, with neat little farms everywhere, including one with my son's name on it. Those sketches tomorrow.

"What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you."
—Jean Cocteau

Friday, September 25, 2009

September 25, 2009
Hard to believe it's been almost a month already since I finished my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings. I left in a bit of a hurry and didn't get to post all of the final exam. Here are final drawings:

Final Exam, Part II

1.) With gouache as a medium create a ridge fire with intense heat:

2.) Shifting gears, with as few lines as possible create a face, looking to the right:

3.) And now, for your 10,000th bad drawing, execute, with a single touch of the pen to paper (one line, without stopping) render a gay caballero dancing in the moonlight:

You sir, have just completed 10,000 bad drawings. Now for your 10,0001, what will you do?

"It's always about the hats with you, isn't it?"
—Head Proctor
September, 25, 2009
One of the mildly shocking realizations in Argentina is how many Italians there are and how much their influence has shaped the country from food to language. For example, in almost all Spanish speaking countries, the accepted form of goodbye is Adios! (Go with God), or Hasta la vista (Until I see you again). But in Argentina everyone says "Ciao!" (pronounced chow, and Italian for goodbye).

One tour guide told us 40% of immigrants were Italian, and I'm not sure if this was from the early 1900s or Italians fleeing the country during WWII, but they are definitely a big part of Argentine culture. You haven't lived until you get into a taxi with an Italian cab driver speaking Spanish. It's like a weird dream where a Brooklyn cabbie made a wrong turn and came out in Tijuana.

We had a problem with a cab driver (not an Italian) coming in from the airport who passed about $75 worth of counterfeit money to Tommy in change. We didn't realize it until Tom tried to buy a couple empinadas at a store near the downtown square in Buenos Aires. As we were looking at the fake money and trying to make sense of it all, up stepped this Italian who offered to help us:

He told us to call him Frankie, and so we did. He joined us for lunch:

And on a side trip to Iguazu Falls:

He eventually asked us if he could spend the night and so, we let him:

Nice guy. I think he is a hair dresser or a financial wizzard, or both.

"Ciao, Baby!"
—Frankie Boy

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 24, 2009
Home after a three week adventure in South America. We flew all night Tuesday from Buenos Aires to Dallas, then changed planes and caught another plane to Phoenix. Got home at noon on Wednesday. Chalked up four countries (Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina), ate great food, saw amazing things, solved a whole bunch of life, and sketched like crazy (55 pages worth).

Frankly, it was actually a relief to be away from all the negative talk about the economy and health care, but I have to say, the long arm of our culture is hard to escape. Here are a couple sightings that amused me:

Not sure why Obama is in green, but it caught my attention on a very crowded newsstand in Montevideo. Meanwhile, Quentin Tarrantino has to be happy about the billboard campaign his studio bought throughout Argentina and Uruguay:

Meanwhile, my son Thomas says that in his travels throughout South America there is always a Simpson ripoff on a store or, in this case, a bar:

And speaking of knock offs, here is a "hamburgueso" eatery in Santa Cruz, Bolivia:

Patent Attorney, anyone? Probably the most successful worldwide ad campaign in the history of the world is the logo in this pic:

In every town and every country, you see the classic coke logo. The kids are a school group running around the plaza in Samaipata, Bolivia (Samah-ih-pata, means resting up high).

Some of the U.S. references are quite eclectic, like this Jim Morrison line on the side of a building in Santa Cruz, Bolivia:

On our last day in Argentina we found this gaucho town thirty minutes west of Buenos Aires called Canuela. In the center of town was this watering hole:

Spanish reverses words, so instead of Old West Saloon, we get Saloon Old West. Ha. The logo on their napkins shows a gunfighter coming through swinging doors. Amazing, the long reach of the West, our West, that is.

We ran into all kinds of weather, cold, hot and lots of rain, like this photo, taken near an Inca ruin on top of a very high mountain in Bolivia.

Artwork, tomorrow, from that sketchbook I'm holding.

"To understand is to perceive patterns."
—Isaiah Berlin

Monday, September 21, 2009

September 21, 2009
We said goodbye to Tom Bell this morning in Santa Cruz, Bolvia, and while he flew north to say his final goodbyes to his Peace Corp compadres in Peru, we flew south to Buenos Aires, for one last night on the Pampas of Argentina. Landed at a small town west of Buenos Aires, called Canseulos. Looks like Chandler, Arizona, in 1956. Thriving and getting it on in the horseback tradition. Even has a Wild West Saloon in town.

This is our final day in South America. We fly home tomorrow night. Anxious to get back to work. Lots of ideas and inspiration. Americans really need to see the rest of America. That European stuff is Old School. This land is where we became Westerners. Speaking of which, the downtown area has a saloon called, ahem, Wild West. Ha.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20, 2009
Just got out of the mountains in Bolivia, not far from where Che bought the farm. But quite a ways from where Butch and Sundance bought the same farm. Great sketching country, lots of photos. Coming back home on Wednesday. A whole bunch to report on the bloody history of this area.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 16, 2009
Seven gates east of caapucu we landed at the Estancia Santa Clara. In the morning, Tommy and I rode horses out to a distant pasture and back. I tipped the horse wrangler $20,000. Later, we caught the bus at Caapucu (pronounced Kah-Ah-pah-koo, emphasis on the last syllable) and paid $50,000 for three tickets to Asencion, the capital of Paraguay. After a $43,000 cab ride, we landed at the Las Margaritas Hotel and paid $495,000 for a night´s rest.

Welcome to the land of the $100,000 bill. The exchange rate is almost 4,000 to one against the dollar and it´s almost 7,000 to one for the Euro. Makes for some interesting money exchanges. Great food, beautiful women and soldiers on every corner. We love this country.

Leaving tonight for Bolivia, in the footsteps of Butch and Sundance, although I don`t think we´ll have time to make it to Tupiza and San Vicente (18 hour bus ride). Those boys got around. Amazing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 12, 2009
We´re in Iguazu Falls hotel, checking out to go to Paraguay tomorrow, via northern Argentina. Iguazu is Indio for ¨Rio Grande.¨They also have saguaros and a red sandstone area called Sedona. Ah, the farther you get from home, the closer it seems.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September 1, 2009
Did 18 sketches last night and this morning to finish my quest. Woke up at four and did the final six. Bittersweet ending. Exhausted, final drawings rather weak (or quite simple and efficient). I'll post when I get home in a couple weeks.

Late for the plane, Flying all night. Thomas Charles is already there. Looking forward to seeing him.

"That's one small step for me, one giant relief for my family."