Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30, 2009
I received a new book on the Apache Kid yesterday from Bob Pugh's Trails To Yesterday Books in Tucson (if you want to order your own, call Bob at (520) 293-1260). Read a bit last night. The name of the book is Renegade of Renegades: Court-martial of Apache Kid. by Clare V. McKanna, Jr. who teaches history at San Diego State University.

McKanna uses Apache Kid exclusively, as opposed to THE Apache Kid, as in, "Though his trials would not end in justice, each played its part in transforming Apache Kid into Arizona's legendary renegade of renegades."

A couple insights: Major Bullis was at San Carlos after the Kid, excuse me, Kid came in from the fight in the Rincons. And, the Apache Kid was with Seiber at the Battle of Big Dry Wash, which I didn't know, although McKanna doesn't add anything significant, other than Kid was there. More later.

Yesterday, as I left the office, I took a couple photos of dramatic storm clouds over Black Mountain:

As I drove up Cahava Ranch Road I caught this Cecile B. DeMille beauty:

Got a couple sprinkles, but that's it. Peaches was hiding in the garage, so there must have been some thunder, although I never heard any. Deena and her friend Patricia came out for dinner last night at our house. We're starting the Engine 2 heart healthy diet so we ate a ton of greens. Laughed quite a bit though.

"One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny."
—Bertrand Russell
June 30, 2009
It's no secret: I can be scattered. Kathy mentioned to me the other day, like most women, she is a "gatherer," to which I responded, "Yes, and I'm a scatterer."

She has been ribbing me about this ever since.

Anyway, the Mickey Free project has been starting, stalling, starting, peedering out and proceeding, then stopping for bug bite medical issues (both mine and the Top Secret Writer, who was almost fatally bitten, last Fourth of July, in Tombstone of all places), and then starting again, mostly in stumbles and lurches for quite a while now. The project went into a lull after we published the Mickey Free excerpt last December in True West. And, although we were honored with a second place finish in the Best Western Short Fiction Story presented at last week's Western Writers of America Awards Competition, for our efforts, we have much bigger plans for the Mickster.

So, when our production manager, Robert Ray, went to a seminar last week, the guy who was running it handed out these mini-graphic novels about his presentation. Robert asked him how he produced it and when Robert came back to work, he started in to create an 8-Page-Mickey. He printed out a gaggle of them and I have been mailing them out. This, in turn has re-energized me and, today, as it pertains to Mickey Free, I am honking for the passing lane, Baby!

Last night I laid in seven washes:

Today, when I went home for lunch, I started developing these frames, looking for clues and mini-highlights to enchance:

This is what came out of those efforts: Mickey rode across a desolate, burning landscape with his Sharps rifle across the pommel, every second anticipating the worst. Mick's big mule, Tu, cocked his long ears in the wind, nervous and jumpy as well. Weird, distorted images materialized in the dust, as grotesque faces rushed by in the howl of the wind. . .

Had a very good fire set piece going but killed the cloud of smoke with too many layers:

Gee, I wonder: is there any quote that might sum up these efforts and, that of Custer's as well?

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error."
—John Kenneth Galbraith

Monday, June 29, 2009

June 29, 2009
As promised, here is a sampling of the patina based washes I worked on this weekend, starting with a steep trail in the Sierra Madres (literally "mother mountains"). Need to add a single file of riders, probably Rurales, or bandidos (led by one Doroteo Villa):

This is a set piece for the General Crook foray into Mexico: a thousand men and hundreds of pack mules climbing up the narrow trails:

It needs a bunch of mules, climbing the switchbacks and troopers prodding them on. Here's a nice start of a painting I call "Three Ominous Clouds."

So, why so ominous? Well, if we add a dust storm and a mule rider, pondering that very idea. . .

Or, these clouds, or, flying fish clouds, if you prefer:

Or, this nice start of post-fire sky:

Or, this steep ridge, that the Kid is going to traverse:

There's plenty more, but enough for one day.

Just got a message from "Allen" saying the Wall Street Journal published my letter praising Allen Barra's John Dillinger piece (see link from two days ago). Although he didn't leave a last name (he talked to Lynda and I was in a meeting) I assume it's either Allen Barra or Allen Fossenkemper.

Robert Ray printed out a handful of mini-Mickey-graphic-novels. Send me a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (bigger than a number 10) and if you're one of the first dozen, you'll get one of these nifty, little boogers, totally free.

Here's a taste (page 4 and 5):

"It is a lesson which all history teaches wise men, to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
June 29, 2009
Last week, in Vegas, Charlie Waters, alias Bugs, went undercover wearing a True West ball cap and a Doc Holliday "I'm your huckleberry" T-shirt.

Here's the full report:

The World Series of Poker

Worked all weekend on sketches, starting with a prickly pear study:

Which led to this:

Followed by studies of Mickey's Mama, and hole in the sky:

Also spent some time with Dead Sea Scroll type patinas:

On a break, got into a Rembrandt art book and came under his spell:

Bozebrandt Poaching:

And more patina noodling:

This led to a rash of bigger patina studies (art to follow: filed under "Wasting Away In Patinaville").

"The man of reflection discovers Truth; but the one who enjoys it and makes use of its heavenly gifts is the man of action."
—Benito Perez Galdos

Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 27, 2009
Evap cooler is not working. May have to switch to AC. Actually, we made it past most of June so that is a big deal. Going into The Beast in about a half hour to see a movie and then get healthy groceries at Sprouts. Kind of inspired to clean up my act even more (too many heart attack stories).

Wrote up a query letter for the 10,000 Bad Drawings of BBB book. I'm thinking of sending it out when I hit 9,500 sketches. Then really hit it hard for the last 500 sketches and the goal line is reached (projected for August 31 if my math is correct).

Working on a prickly pear sequence for Mickey Free. Feels good. Also developing a dead sea scrolls patina. Images later.

Allen Barra wrote an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal on the historic John Dillinger and his portrayal in the movies. Johnny Depp stars in the new Public Enemies. I've seen lots of TV ads but have heard absolutely zero buzz. What gives?

Anyway, in the piece Allen mentions that in the Clyde Barrow death car, officers found The Saga of Billy the Kid by Walter Noble Burns (no doubt with a few bullet holes). Jeff Guinn is being credited with finding this info and he published it in his best-selling book Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie And Clyde. Guinn is now turning his attention to the street fight in Tombstone. If his book on Bonnie and Clyde is any indication, it will be good.

Here's the paragraph from the book (page 343): "In their car on the morning of May 23 the lawmen found three BARs, two sawed-off shotguns, almost a dozen handguns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, fifteen sets of stolen license plates, several suitcases full of clothes, a makeup case, a box of fishing tackle, several true crime magazines, road maps, and Clyde's saxophone. There was also a book, The Saga of Billy the Kid by Walter Noble Burns."

"Advise person never to engage in killing."
—Billy the Kid

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 26, 2009
Really a scorcher today. Did get a couple rain drops last night (in Arizona a six inch rain, is one drop every six inches).

Went home for lunch and turned on the chicken misters and watched the rooster, Cocky, stretch out in the sauna with a babe under each wing. He appeared to be sipping on a spaghetti noodle cocktail but I couldn't quite see under the umbrella.

Worked on ten sketches, then got the call from Carole that the legendary Gus Walker, The Mapinator, was in the house, so I motored back to the office to meet the Man who makes our maps so distinctive. Here's a photo and Abby's take on the visit:

Abby and Gus in front of Abby's computer.

Gus used to work in our offices, but he and his wife Patty moved to Alabama a couple years ago and we really haven't seen him in a long time, even though we all email back and forth almost every day. It's weird how more and more we have these relationships with so many people we do not see (and in some cases we don't even know what they look like).

I get a ton of mail and Lynda is trying to help me organize it and answer each and every one in a timely manner. For example, got a sweet hand-written letter from Virgiline (not Virginia, it's Virgil-line) Spencer a couple days ago. Here's what it said:

I read your magazines thru cassettes from the library in Port Huron, Michigan.
Heard your recipe for Griddle Cakes on my cassettes. This one is much simpler. Most of the people I cooked it for didn’t like sour milk, so I made it with fresh milk & self rising flour.

Flannel Griddle Cakes
2 cups – Bread Crumbs
2 cups – Sour Milk (can use fresh milk)
? teaspoon – Salt
1 teaspoon – Baking Soda (omit if using fresh milk)
1 cup – Self-rising flour
1 – Egg

Soak bread crumbs in warm water. Add milk & flour and let stand overnight. In the morning add rest of ingredients. Bake on hot griddle.

This was taken out of a book my mother had: International Cook Book, page 349. It has pictures of lots of chefs from different countries menus.

—Virgiline Spencer
Carsonville, Michigan

Ain't that the sweetest? She's responding to Sherry Monahan's new column in True West which features Old West recipes for drinks and food, among other things. Good work Sherry!

Not so long ago, Fred Nolan sent me an illustration in a British newspaper that emulated the American flag serape that Mickey Free wears. Well, when it rains, it poaches, here's Dilbert, by Scott Adams, with a clearly Mickey Free inspired cartoon:

Well, maybe, not inspired, but certainly an eyeful, eh?

This morning, Robert Ray whipped out the first Eight-Page-Mickey and it is so bitchin' I can't stand it. He's tweaking the images even as you read this and I'll have samples to hand out to anyone who wants one for their very own pocket—as soon as it's ready.

What Was I Doing Ten Years Ago Today?

June 26, 1999
A day of rest [it was a Sat.] Bob McCubbin went to a hotel in Scottsdale [he came over from El Paso for my art opening in Wickenburg]. Tommy is working at the Caddyshack. Deena is working at Ice Breakers. Matthias is off shopping and Kathy is seeing clients. I made pancakes, went for a walk with Kathy. Had a financial talk and it wasn't miserable. She thinks we should take [my father's] estate and pay off the house and buy True West. Her rationale: that's how our portfolio would look. That's our investment: this house and the magazine. Pretty exciting, really.

The previous day, I wrote this:

Mattias [our German foreign exchange student] had a party in the studio. Left the roof open [the hatch to the crow's nest] and the fan on. He leaves the refrigerator open, with food out all the time and when he went to Kathy's class, he told them, "You Americans waste so much." Ha!

Tommy came in at 3 with JJ. More hickies and open condoms. Sigh.

"A man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it."
—Jean-Paul Sartre
June 26, 2009
Working on a series of nocturne studies in my sketchbook:

Check out the small boy on horseback in the second panel. He's riding through the desert on a tall horse. The Apache Kid is running in the other panels towards. . .Beauty, of course (last panel). These are sketches 9,216-9,220.

Several people have asked me how long Charlie Waters and I have been friends and are there any photos of the two of us. Although I haven't been able to locate any of us in grade school (we met in the third grade), fellow classmate, Michele (Gilpin) Bonham sent me a photo last week of Mrs. Klotch's fifth grade class, taken in 1958, at Grandview Elementary in Kingman, and lo and behold there we are:

Troublemakers? Oh, yes, In fact, Charlie (note the pachuko-waterfall-hair twirl in the front) and I got in the usual classroom trouble most boys get into. The next fall, Charlie's parents went to the school board and demanded that he be put in another classroom away from me. He was, and although it bothered my mother at the time, looking back from this perspective, it's kind of cool that I was the Eddie Haskall in the deal.

"That's a nice dress you have on, Mrs. Cleaver."
—Eddie Haskall, Leave It To Beaver

Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25, 2009
I finally heard a different tune this morning, on my visit to the heart doctor (the usual tune I have heard is chocked full of haranguing and hectoring). In fact, I was praised by the doctor and the nurses, with smiles, even. The doctor marveled at my cholesterol levels: Lipid panel: cholesterol (114); triglyceride (62); HDL cholesterol (44); percent HDL (39); LDL Cholesterol, Calc. (60). My blood pressure is very good (100/60). When the assistant M.S.N. asked the doc if he wanted me back in three months, he scoffed and said, "No, I don't need to see this guy for six months." He told me, my Chol/HDL Ratio is 2.6 and that is half of what a normal man my age would clock in at. Pretty impressive. And what do I attribute this to? Put simply: the love of a stubborn woman. And, speaking of which:

Behind Every Successful Man Is A Surprised Woman

Dear Mr. Bell,
I watch Encore Westerns every evening. I’ve seen many of your pieces, but have never heard any about the women of the west. I think it’s safe to say that without the strength and determination of the women who moved west, there would be no west. What do you think?
—Jackie Sturr

You need to watch closer, I've done several women pieces, including Ma'am Jones of the Pecos, who had 11 kids and sewed her youngest son's eyelid back on. But you are correct that women really settled the West. The first wave is all men, with wide open communities, anything goes, then the first wives arrive and don't cotton to that kind of depravity and they cajole and convince their husbands to do something about it. And, when you stop to think about it, that is the exact arc the internet has taken.
—Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

"There are people who can talk sensibly about a controversial issue; they're called humorists."
—Cullen Hightower
June 25, 2009
Going to see the heart doctor this morning. Feel good about that, but I read a quote the other day that kind of pointed out one of my main weaknesses:

"In creating, the only hard thing's to begin; a grass-blade's no easier to make than an oak."
—James Russell Lowell

I realized that I have trouble starting and I have trouble finishing, but I am a master of all things in between. Ha. Speaking of which here's sketches 9,190 to 9,200 and beyond:

More to say on all of this, but I'm late for appointment down on Shea. Meanwhile here's a positive quote for a negative vibe day:

"To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death."
—Jean Anouilh

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, 2009
Went down to a healthcare place in Scottsdale at ten to get a yellow fever shot. This is in case we have to build a canal in Cave Creek. Actually, it's for our trip in September to Buenos Aires and beyond.

A longtime Hollywood wrangler, Johnny Watkins, came by the offices today. He saw a True West magazine down at Bart's Indian Village, took it home, read it, and realized our offices were just down the street. Johnny and I had a grand talk. He was the horse wrangler on Deadwood, Red River, Three Amigos, Stagecoach (the newer one), Junior Bonner, The Getaway (Kim Basinger) and Little House On The Prairie. Pretty impressive resume.

Went home for lunch and worked on another dream sequence. This time of a dust storm that morphes into a wicked, giant javelina (or, is it a bull?):

Worked up a sketch of how it would look as Mickey Free flees and the giant bovine moves in for the kill:

“What was hard to bear is sweet to remember.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 23, 2009
Got up this morning and whipped out a quick landscape:

Went to yoga class, then into the office to take care of several photo assignments. Called John Beckett to go shoot Kit Carson's house and I also set up a photo shoot in Mogollon, New Mexico with a new photographer in Truth Or Consequences who we want to try out. In fact, I first spotted Bill Lindley's photos on this website. He's very good.

Left the office at about 10:15 and drove into the Beast. Stopped first at Bob and Mica Steinhilber's home on north 21st avenue and dropped off a half dozen big canvases that need to be restretched, due to rotting corners. I've stored them in the garage for 20 years and water has eaten the corners. When I told Bob Steinhilber I was on my way to Ed Mell's studio to have Kenny Richardson shoot my big Billy the Kid oil painting, Bob told me I was in for a surprise. He said to be sure and check out Ed's new Triumph TR-4 which he supposedly has parked right next to where he paints. I didn't believe him, but when I walked into Ed's studio, there it was:

Ed told me sheepishly, he doesn't have anywhere else to put it (he has a classic Packard nearby in the only other space available). Here's another angle:

And another angle, showing off Ed's paintings a bit better. Damn, he's good!

Hauling in my big Billy oil painting ("Brothers In Arms" is the official title) I realized it hasn't quite dried completely so Ed recommended giving it another couple days and then a sealing coat to bring all of the darks out. When in doubt, go with the master.

I treated Ed and Kenny to lunch at the Cafe At Heard Museum Main just off Central:

I had a cup of gazpacho soup and the vegetarian quesadillos, Ed had the posole soup and Kenny had a turkey and brie sandwich on cranberry bread with a salad. Excellent food, but a little pricey ($59, biz account, includes tip).

From the Heard Museum we drove down to Kenny's gallery which is at 501 E. Roosevelt in downtown Phoenix. A fabulous mural on the west wall knocked me flat out:

Two things: the mural is by a couple guys who travel around the world doing these incredible images. Their names are Mac and Kofie (who's from LA). That's Ed and Kenny standing by the mural and in the background is a special lunch stand for the homeless (high school age).

The show that's up right now at the Pravus Gallery is very strong. Here's Kenny standing in front of several pieces in the show:

The featured artists are Alex Rubio and Vincent Valdez. The black and white boxer to the right of Kenny is seven feet high. Very retro Mexican boxer. The other two paintings are of the artists painting each other's portrait. If you'd like to see more, go to:

Pravus Gallery

Very inspiring. when I go see artwork that's good it always makes me want to elevate my game.

"Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable."
—George Bernard Shaw

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 22, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a scene of Apache crown dancers:

This is for a sequence in Mickey Free called "Apache Midnite." Here is the opening scene:

Nice and moody. Inspired by a Remington painting called, I believe, "Apaches Listening." Lots of green and indigo blues. Mysterious and murky, indeed. Need to sustain this mood for the entire sequence.

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

"You cannot explore the darkness by flooding it with light."
—Edward Abbey
June 22, 2009
Had a very nice Father's Day. My daughter and her significant boyfriend came over at noon and I made everyone pancakes. Then we watched an English comedy Death At A Funeral which was a total hoot. We laughed and laughed.

Worked a bit on studies of century plants:

Had good photo reference I took last week on Scottsdale Road:

Also did the usual sketches:

And these:

Also noodled some Native American designs to apply to Mickey Free's serape:

And also experimented with isolated moon beams:

Then back to the panel sequences I have been studying since the beginning of this quest:

These are 9,170 thru 9,180. Clipping right along.

Speaking of clipping right along, the newest issue of The New Yorker has a fascinating feature on the romance writer Nora "F-ing" Roberts (or, NFR, as her friends call her). Evidently, it takes her about 45 days to write a book (she's written 182 novels, plus an assortment of novellas, and publishes, by my count about four or five new books a year, including a new noir series she writes under the name J.D. Robb). All her books are bestsellers (27 Nora Roberts books are sold every minute).

And, so, as the Top Secret Writer and I go into the fifth, or sixth, year of our plot-plodding-quest to publish one book, I wonder if Nora has any advice for us?

"Character is key. Character is plot. Make them accessible to the reader. They may be a billionaire or they may be half demon or they may be a gym teacher, but something about them has to relate so the reader can say, 'I understand them.'"
—Nora F. Roberts

Cut to: A lone sunset rider, half-demon, half billionaire. He's an outcast in a troubled land with a failed economy, and he's tracking a gym teacher in the wilds of the Mexican desert. . .

June 22, 2009
Looks like the antibiotics my doctor prescribed have knocked out the inflamation in my left arm. Still not sure if it's a reaction to all the heart meds I'm on, or whether it was a Hualapai Tiger bite. I Googled side effects of three of the meds I'm taking at night and two of them can cause hives, so I stopped taking those for the time being and it seems to be working.

Then, last night, just before we went to sleep, Kathy said, "Oh, look at that. Isn't that a Hualapai Tiger?" Sure enough, hugging a Monument Valley framed photo on her side of the bed was this nasty little booger that Kathy squished before I could even get around the bed.

This morning I got this:

"Hualapai Tiger, Mexican bed bugs, Assassin bugs or Kissin’ bugs what ever you call them are nasty little buggar. You know them from Kingman, but you know they are also common here in the Sonoran desert foothills of Cave Creek, Arizona. I encountered them when I lived in a 70-year-old line shack on the Crescent Moon Ranch between Pinnacle Peak and Reata Pass in the 1980s. Those bad news bugs seems to get through the slightest wholes in your house and get in to mate during May and June. That’s why if you find one most likely you’ll find another. These bugs from hell also fly!
Usually they feed on blood in bird and rodent nests. Yuck! Can anyone spell Hantavirus?
If a man and woman are sleeping together it is usually the woman who gets bit – because of the woman’s higher body temperature. Some people are really allergic to the bites and some are fine. Bob, since you are still around, you are probably going to be OK — with all that you have gone through — you are made of tougher metal."

"Don't let the beg bugs bite."
—Old Family Saying

Friday, June 19, 2009

June 19, 2009
Woke up this morning with a mysterious bite on my left arm. Swollen and itchy. It's the third such affliction, or, outbreak, I've had in the past week. Kathy thinks it's a Hualapai Tiger, a nefarious, stinging critter that evidently followed me down here from Kingman (they are notorious in that region). Going to see the doctor this morning.

Garage door broke. It's a Hungrite, and lasted 22 years. Not bad. A Hungrite technician is coming out Monday (to hang it right again).

Haven't been going on my daily walks because of the heat, although we've had the coolest June since 1913. It was just right at about 6:45 so I leashed up Peaches and went up the road. In addition to good health, I had an ulterior motive (read on).

I'm working on a series of Century plants in my daily sketches, but a year ago I was doing cowboy sketches for an Op Ed piece in the Arizona Republic:

Got some good types going:

I submitted a Plugged In commentary for this coming Sunday on "Driving A Stake In Father's Day". It's based on the fact that I love steak and can't eat it anymore, much to the chagrin of my Mohave County ranching relatives, several of which are pictured here (and above):

And here:

So, why did I really go on that walk this morning?

Yesterday, Robert Ray started an 8-page-mini-Mickey Free, sort of a pocket Mickey, and I jumped at the potential, realizing it could be a sweet little trailer. And, besides, I love this quote:

"Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk."
—Raymond Inmon

And, yes they did. Results after I visit the doctor.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 18, 2009
More feedback on the latest issue:

"I figured you were anxiously awaiting my email about this month’s TW. I got it Saturday afternoon and finished it Saturday afternoon. It is always excellent and this is no exception. Don’t beat yourself up about the way you taught your kids history. We all screw up something. My favorite is teaching my sons to fish. I love trout fishing in the North Georgia Mountains. Try teaching that to a 6yr old. A catfish pond would have been a lot better.

"I do agree completely with the man who said 'when the legend becomes fact, print the legend'. I got my interest in history from John Wayne, Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett The Son’s of Liberty and Gone With the Wind and my Dad and five uncles fighting in WW II. I love studying American History and especially The West. Your TW Mag is a great source for western history."
—Hugh Howard, Maniac# 9

Worked on Apache crown dancers last night:

This is for my 10 sketches. Also worked on various other scenes:

And this:

A certain classic Western TV star is coming by the True West offices in about an hour. He's got a new TV show he's pitching and he wants us to take a sneak peek at the sizzle reel. Here's a hint:

That's him jumping over the hitching rail, and that's his co-star at right. Stay tuned, we'll have a photo and an update after lunch.

"It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."
—Mark Rothko