Monday, February 28, 2011

Snow Clouds

February 28, 2011

Woke up to snow on Sunday morning. Big snow clouds. Did three quick studies:

And here's number two:

And, here's number three:

Lots of wonderful comments about the loss of Peaches. Thanks to all of you. It really did make me feel better. Got the following from Mundo, which lightened up everything:

"Put your wife and your dog in the trunk of of your car for an hour. When you open it, see which one is still happy to see you."
—Old Vaquero Saying, via Mundo

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Goodbye Peaches

February 26, 2011

Had to put Peaches down yesterday. Advanced cancer of the lymph nodes. She was active right up to the end, taking on a neighboring dog just two days ago on our walk, forcing the intruder off the road with an aggressive snap to the neck. As my neighbor Tom Augherton put it, "She was definitely an alpha female." My son T. Charles put it a little more bluntly, "She was a bitch, but she was OUR bitch."

I loved that Aussie-sheep herdin'-neighborhood-terror and told her almost every day that she was a dog.

It's supposed to snow here tomorrow! Amazing. Quite Temperate at the moment, although cloudy. Forecast is snow down to 2,000 feet and we are at 2,200.

Just got this from fellow Zane Bro, Mad Coyote Joe:

"They ain't but two people that can make a proper tamale, and I'm both of them!"

—The San Antonio Tamale King, as quoted from "A Bowl of Red" by Wick Fowler.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jeff Guinn's new book "The Last Gunfight"

February 25, 2011

Got a peek at the uncorrected proofs of Jeff Guinn's new book "The Last Gunfight" this morning. Jeff is the author of "Go Down Together" the sordid and masterfully written tale of the real Bonnie & Clyde. Jeff interviewed me and many other Tombstone-Earp authors almost two years ago in Prescott when we were all attending the Arizona History Conference at the Hassayampa Hotel. Jeff's subhead to the title is: "The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—And How It Changed the American West." It's being published by Simon & Schuster and will probably be out later this spring or summer.

I'm going to give it a go this weekend and I'll give you a review, or, at least a taste, on Monday.

This morning I was consolidating my Failure Piles we used last Wednesday in the video shoot, when I spied a pretty cool pear cactus study. Pulled it out and whipped out the finish. Not too shabby. Yes, that's Mickey Free riding around the bend at far right. May be too subtle, what do you think?

While looking for another painting in my Semi-Failure Pile (since we posted the video tour of my studio i have to own up to the various failure piles) I found this image which was part of an El Kid winter-green chile-episode of Graphic Cinema (in fact I think it was the very first one). An artist friend of mine has expressed interest in buying it. It's called Bandit Girl and it was inspired by an actual hispanic woman who lived near Anton Chico, New Mexico. She was married but "entertained" various outlaws including Billy Bonney:

And speaking of all things Mexican, love this quote, which I read last night while perusing Charles Portis' book, "Gringos":

"Nothing ever happens in Mexico until it happens."
—Porfirio Diaz

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last Light On Morningstar, Part III

February 24, 2011

Still noodling the Last Light On Morningstar piece. Took a slightly different approach on the angle last night, with this version. Better background mesa, but Sugarloaf is still not quite right:

It's a magnificent landmark in my neighborhood and deserves more attention. I have another version started this morning and I'll probably do another five or ten studies before I go to final.

I sometimes wish I would have been more serious about this in my misspent youth (Man, I was a bad student!).

"Time misspent in youth is sometimes all the freedom one ever has."
—Anita Brookner

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Failure Pile Glory Hole

February 23, 2011

Well, I have been threatening to do this for a couple months, but Robert Ray finally came in my office after lunch today and said, "When can you make time to go to your studio and allow me to video tape you showing everyone this Failure Pile you keep talking about?"

I looked at the unfinished stack of pending business on my desk and replied, "How about right now?"

So we drove out to my studio (about three miles north of the True West World Headquarters), walked in, and without prepping much, we shot it, as is. Here is my Failure Pile in all its cluttered glory:

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

"This don't come within forty miles of being a coon hunt!"
—Rooster Cogburn on the hunt for Tom Chaney in the Indian Nation

Last Light On Morningstar, Part II

February 23, 2011

Last night I walked up Old Stage Road to about Barros' and waited for the sun to sink behind the Seven Sisters. At 6:15 the magic started happening as the desert floor started going dark and a sliver of light arced up the ridge to the south of Sugarloaf and lit up a lone adobe house at the top of Morningstar. Came back to the studio and took a second stab at the effect:

Still missing some of the grandeur of Sugarloaf, but the light on the adobe is about right. Got another one started this morning and will try and finish at lunch.

Big day in the office with visiting potentates and editorial demands.

"Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say."
—Brenda Ueland

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Failure In Progress

February 22, 2011

Went home for lunch and worked on an aerial illustrated map for Orme Ranch. Got some working sketches going. Then shifted gears and whipped out a patina painting study, just pushing gray-green paint around to see where it goes.

Let it set up, went over to the house and took a shower. Came back and grabbed it to take into the office. Very interesting:

A peek through the clouds? I will add this to my Failure Pile and in the next several days see if I can take it to the next level. Robert Ray is going to come out and video my current Failure Pile. I must admit, it is quite high. If I was trying to achieve the above effects I would be hard pressed to capture the nuance at work here. Perhaps I should leave well enough alone. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Is it art? Probably not, but then I sort of agree with Lenny:

"The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can't fake it. . .try to fake three laughs in an hour—ha ha ha ha ha—they'll take you away, man. You can't.
—Lenny Bruce

Joe Grandee, Denny Chapman & Taylor Arms

February 22, 2011

Yesterday, champion CMSA (Cowboy Mounted Shooting Assoc.) shooter Denny Chapman from Ocala, Florida came in to see the True West World Headquarters. He is in town for Winter Range which starts tomorrow out at Ben Avery Shooting Range. Enjoyed talking to him and his gun sponsor, Miss Sue Hawkins of Taylor & Co. Firearms. You may have seen Denny on the History Channel's show "Top Shot."

Grabbed a small study out of my failure pile yesterday and took another stab at it, boldly going over the whole thing with a blue wash. Blurred out the rider, but coagulated into some nifty little cloud effects in upper left-hand corner. Had some potential so brought the mess into the office this morning and between phone calls and meetings brought out some of the detail on Mickey Free Rides A Mammoth Jack at Sunset:

I especially like the mammoth jack chewing on his bridle. Ha.

Sterling Foster also dropped by a few minutes ago to pitch me on speaking at the Pioneer Cemetery on Memorial Day. Great group of people who have saved this venerable resting place of many Arizona icons, including The Lost Dutchman Jacob Waltz, Tom Graham last victim of the Pleasant Valley War, a buffalo soldier and others. I'm going to recommend Sterling and his group for an upcoming feature in Old West Saviors in the magazine.

Working on The Battle at Battle Flat, an 1864 encounter between five prospectors and 150 Apaches (John Langellier claims they were Yavapais). The natives attacked before dawn, while the rock hounds were sleeping. A flurry of arrows and rocks ripped into the camp, with one of the campers taking an arrow in the mouth, another in the eye. It's interesting to note that the local In-dins did more rock throwing than is ever shown in movies. During the desperate battle that followed, more than one attacker threw rocks at the retreating gold hunters. This also happened at the Bascom Affair, which was a couple years earlier, when one of the Apaches who cut his way out of the tent with Cochise ran up a hill, then turned and threw rocks at the oncoming trooper. I don't think I've EVER seen that portrayed in a movie. Have you?

Robert Ray used Google Earth to locate the remote site southeast of Prescott about 30 miles. Very rugged country. We may go up there and visit the site next weekend. I always want to see where these fights take place. Helps me understand what happened. Yesterday I talked on the phone with the great niece of Joe Grandee, one of the legendary artists who drew and painted for Joe Small and this magazine. She said Joe also insisted on visiting the sites he was rendering and often spent more on getting there than he was being paid (a reported $200 per assignment, which is about what we pay now!). Ouch!

Anyway, when we bail into these Classic Gunfights I sometimes lose track of time and everything. Gee, I wonder what ol' Lady Bird has to say about this?

"Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid."
—Lady Bird Johnson

Monday, February 21, 2011

Video of Brian Lebel and Billy the Kid Photo

February 21, 2011

Been up against it, getting the April issue out to the printer. Final approval on all files sent to RR Donnelley north of Kansas City, at noon today. Robert Ray then shifted gears and uploaded the video shot by Abby Goodrich last Friday when Brian Lebel brought out the actual ferrotype of Billy the Kid. We have footage of him first showing us the ferrotype and we are flipping around like a bunch of school girls at a sleepover, but then someone realized the sound wasn't on. About a half hour later, Abby came back with the sound on and we recorded this sequence: left to right Brian Lebel, Sheri Riley and BBB discussing the ferrotype and its importance:

Rain And Fire And OK Replay

February 21, 2011

Worked on several studies this weekend. While on a walk Friday evening, I witnessed a twilight phenom on the ridges below Fortification Rock and Sugarloaf Butte, both of which are directly north of my house. As the sun sank in the west, deep shadows enveloped the rim above Sugarloaf Butte, but a narrow sliver of light arced up a low ridge and lit up an adobe home at the top of Morning Star Road. Came back to the studio and whipped this out from memory:

Missing some of the detail in the transitions, but this nails the basic phenom. Wanted to go out and study it Saturday and Sunday nights, but it rained the entire time. Will try and grab more detail this evening as the rain has mostly moved out.

Meanwhile, also worked on a dozen aerial views of Orme Ranch. KC Cassell, the new president of Orme School has commissioned me to come up with an aerial illustrated map of the buildings. It's tricky to get the scale right with the detail of the buildings, from an aerial perspective. Still struggling with it, sketches to follow.

Yesterday, I whipped out a little study called "The Fire Crept Up The Ridge."

This morning, I started a new sketchbook dedicated to my Wyatt Earp time travel project, tentatively titled: "OK Replay". Did some sketches this morning of Kid Burns trying to explain the Special Olympics to Wyatt Earp:

Full disclosure: this exchange is poached from a classic video bit by the comedian Adam Corolla, but I love it so much I have to use it even if I have to pay Adam for the privilege in the Graphic Cinema version.

Lost a week or so working on this project due to finishing the first sketchbook and then, since I didn't have any pages to work on, let it all slide. Amazing how quickly time slips by and we lose our way. Gee, I wonder what ol' W.H. has to say about this?

"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at."
—W.H. Auden

Friday, February 18, 2011

Billy On The Brain & Changing Woman Blues

February 18, 2011

Thanks to lobbying by Robert Ray, I am working on a new Classic Gunfights, this one The Battle of Battle Flat, which took place on June 2, 1864 between American prospectors and Apaches "on a flat in the valley of Turkey Creek, near the junction of that stream with Tuscumbia Creek, almost twenty miles southeast of present-day Prescott, Arizona," according to Frontier Times, May, 1967. Anybody know about that fight? Or, where exactly the location is?

Got up this morning and went out to the studio and whipped out a small study of Changing Woman With A Cradle Board:

The Apaches believe that just before dawn, Changing Woman changes the night into day.

Still, buzzing about the actual Billy the Kid ferrotype being in our office yesterday. As you may know I have done dozens, if not hundreds, of takes on the face in that piece of tin. Here are just a few of them:

Yes, that's OJ Billy, second from the left, top row. And Boss Billy, and Alfred E. Billy, and Beatle Billy, Degas Billy and Manson Billy. Collect them all (these are actually on a coffee mug we sell, see store).

My son Thomas Charles told me he has found a great, new Mexican food spot in downtown Phoenix. He said this over Korean bar-b-cue at a John Hopkins' sponsored dinner (his girlfriend Pattarapan is a graduate of John Hopkins and we were invited) on Wednesday night. We're supposed to go try it this weekend, although I'm heading up to Sedona for the film festival and the premiere of a new film called "Sedona," which stars Barry Corbin. I was supposed to interview the great Texan actor (he soared in No Country For Old Men) but he has come down with pneumonia and can't travel. Hmmmmmm.

"No matter where I am, conversations on Houston always seem to come back to music and Mexican food."
—Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top

Thursday, February 17, 2011

THE Ferrotype of Billy the Kid Is In The House!

February 17, 2011

Brian Lebel arrived this morning at about 10:30 with a black, canvas carrying bag. We went into the conference room and he opened it slowly and pulled out several encased packages. Slowly, and carefully unwrapping them, he placed on the table a matted, off white frame without the glass. In the center was a small piece of rectangle metal, about the size of a baseball trading card.

According to Brian, I am the third person to look at the raw image (without the glass), but this seems flatteringly a stretch. I would think the unknown photographer who took this priceless image would be the first, Billy the second (not to mention his Fort Sumner pals who were standing around and witnessed the shooting) and Dan Dedrick the recipient of the image, followed by all the members of the Upham family, The Lincoln County Trust personnel (who received the picture from the Upham family in 1986), then Brian, his closest friends and then, perhaps me. But hey, who's counting?

The rest of my staff came in and while Abby recorded everything on a video camera, Robert Ray took some still photos of Carole, Sheri, Meghan and Allison oohing and ahhing while taking a gander. Carole said it was much smaller than she expected but that it was quite exciting to see in person. Sheri Riley said it made the hairs on her arms stand up with excitement. We were all quite giddy about it.

Ever since its first exposure to the public in 1986, everyone has commented on the notorious "noise" in the photo, the smudges and spots, and even the pattern of the sweater Billy is wearing (experts surmise that Billy took the four photos and jammed them in his sweater, and since the metal ferrotypes were not dry, the pattern of the ribs on the sweater rubbed off and shows up on the print). All of this, of course, hides our view of the young outlaw and it is tempting to want to wipe away the grime and see the real thing.

There are rumors that a certain cad at the Lincoln County Heritage Trust ruined the photo when he attempted, without permission, to clean off the surface of the photo with a potent solvent in order to see the real Billy. I had heard that the photo faded. Others heard that it went black and his visage was lost completely.

This is not the case. Brian allowed Robert Ray to shoot a photo of the ferrotype as it exists now. Here is Robert's photo taken this morning at 10:45 A.M.:

Notice the sweater marks around the Kid's waist. I have looked at reproductions of this photo all my life, but when I looked at the original, I have to say, his face gave off a different perception, almost a glow. He seems more Irish, more alive. His nose finally makes sense. This seems almost ridiculous, I told myself. The photo reproductions I have are from the ferrotype BEFORE the bout with the Windex, but I'm telling you, it is eerie to see the real deal. I mean the Kid held this puppy in his hands and that is an amazing thing.

How did Brian end up with it? The Lincoln Heritage Trust was so embarrassed by the emulsion scandal they returned the photo to the Upham family. A decade went by and the family decided to sell it. They contacted a dealer in LA who called Brian Label (the LA dealer thought it was just another fake Billy being foisted about, but when he told Brian their name, Brian leaped at the offer).

It will be auctioned in June and is expected to sell for about a half million. Bob McCubbin is trying to raise enough money to keep the photo in New Mexico. The National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian is supposedly also interested and has deep pockets. If I had to bet, I would put my money on McCubbin.

"Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits."
—Fulton Sheen

Billy the Kid Tintype In The House!

February 17, 2011

As most of you know, the one and only Billy the Kid tintype is going up for auction this summer and is expected to bring $300,000 to $500,000. Why so much? Well, of the four taken, it is the only known surviving image of the Kid AND the Kid actually held it in his hand (in fact, he put it in the pocket of the sweater he is wearing in the photo and the thread pattern adhered to the surface of the photo).

Brian Lebel is bringing this incredible Old West artifact to the True West offices this morning. Photos to follow.

Grabbed a study out of my failure pile this morning and worked on it before coming into work. Added some deep gully riders to the bottom. Needs a tad more work, but I like the mood and effects:

"People show their true character by what they laugh at."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wyatt Earp Time Travel Story

February 16, 2011

Ever since I attended that ADD seminar last October (that Kathy made me go to!) I have committed fifteen minutes every morning to a new project. Why? Because. . .

"Setting a goal and sticking to it changes everything."
—Old Procrastinator Saying

Yesterday, I finished the last page of notes for a new Wyatt Earp-Curly Bill time travel story (120 pages of entries starting on October 30, 2011 and ending yesterday) that I have wanted to do for the past 30 years (see Old Procrastinator above). This new story will run in Graphic Cinema after the last Mickey Free episode, which is scheduled for the June issue. Here's a taste:

Jeep Tour Driver: "If I was Curly Bill I'd probably go to Vegas."

Earp: "Las Vegas, New Mexico?"

Jeep Driver: "You know, 'What happens in Vegas. . .stays in VEGAS.'"

Earp [looking at Kid Burns]: "What's he blowing about?"

Burns: "There's a new Las Vegas in Nevada. It has legalized gambling."

Earp: "Honest Injun?"

Burns: "Ah, you can't say that anymore. Politically incorrect."

Earp: "That's mighty queer."

Jeep Driver [chuckling]: "Welcome to Arizona. You're gonna fit right in "

Still noodling early morning light. Here is the third take on Wickenburg First Light:

When I went out to get the newspaper this morning I saw this pre-sunrise view between Lone and Black Mountain:

Also working on an aerial view of Orme School. Plus a couple of commissions. Lots to work on. Gee, I wonder what ol' Ralph Marston has to say about this?

"Hurrying through a task accomplishes little if it burns you out or forces you to compromise the quality of the work. Slowing down a little can often make the results come faster."
—Ralph Marston

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

John Wayne Car Bubble

February 15, 2011

Just had lunch with Joe Freedman, Al Huffman and Brian Downes the executive director at the Birthplace of John Wayne Museum in Winterset, Iowa. Walked next door to Jena's Cafe and had the homemade soup and sando. Great talking to them about all things John Wayne. Brian informs me they have acquired the famous customized automobile with the bubble roof so John Wayne could get his 6'4" frame into the car and still wear his cowboy hat. I challenged Brian to get me a photo of John Wayne in that car and I will put it on the cover. Brian says they have a photo of John Ford sitting in the car and I said, nope, gotta be the Duke. Can you imagine driving on the Five in 1966 and the guy in the next car, is the Duke, with his head poking up into cyberspace like the Jetsons. Talk about a doubletake! May have to do a painting of this. Just too rich.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on the Hippies being responsible for the term Buffalo Soldiers debate. This is part of John Langellier's private email to Frank Schubert:

I spoke to Bob Boze Bell yesterday and he told me during a conversation with him in his office when I was pitching the article I stated that hippies started to use the term. Regrettably I did not make myself clear.

Here’s how I recall the gist of the conversation. I suggested the piece would be titled something like “There Were No Buffalo Soldiers” to make the point that the black soldiers in the West may never have heard the term or if they did may not have used it among themselves. Bob thought the approach was negative so I tried to explain that the term was something that really caught hold during the era of hippies, civil rights, and the like and very possibly was an outgrowth of both the Sammy Davis and Woody Strode TV and movie productions and of course Leckie’s book. So I should have kept my mouth shut rather than provide a rationale for why I wanted to use the title and take this approach to the article.

Indeed, that thesis was dropped in lieu of a pictorial story of depicting some of the routines of the black soldier in the West. Where I really erred however was in my review of the article I wrote and the timeline which I didn’t write. I missed my chance to change the statement so take full responsibility.

—John Langellier

Now that is a classy guy.

Another classy guy is Rock Holliday:

Gene "Rock" Kurz is a tireless promoter of the Old West and a dead ringer for Luke Short. Gene, and his 21-year-old son, Travis joined us last Saturday in Wickenburg for the Gold Rush Days Parade. While dad performed along the street, his son drove the float that carried us to glory. Hats off to Rock Holliday (his performance nickname) who is a true, True West Ambassador.

"There are three things which the public will always clamor for, sooner or later: namely, novelty, novelty, novelty."

—Thomas Hood

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy 99th Birhday Arizona

February 14, 2011

Happy 99th Birthday to Arizona! I remember the fifty year celebration in 1962 and, in fact, own two of the Arizona Republic's special edition commemorative issues (about the only businesses listed in the book that are still in business are Durant's Restaurant—amazing!—and the Arizona Republic itself, although somewhat diminished in reach and clout). And, I was at the Arizona Highways magazine offices for the 75th birthday celebration in 1986 (they put up a tent and sold books. I want to say Barry Goldwater was there).

This year, on the 99th anniversary, we had a big confab and celebration on the capitol mall (on the exact spot where I saw candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976. His first words: "I am not a politician. I am a farmer." Two years after Watergate, we had our fill of politics and elected a peanut farmer. I also remember Secret Service snipers on the roof of the Senate building).

This time around, the former "Mayor" of KUPD radio, Dave Pratt, was the MC, and the usual suspects were there to perform, including Marshall Trimble, Dolan Ellis, Joe Bethancourt, Hans Olson, Buckshot Dot, Ted Newman, Tommy Tucker, Melissa Ruffner, Gary Sprague and his horse Dusty and the Territorial Brass Band. Also saw Joel Dowling, who was sitting in with one of the bands. Joel used to be in the Zonies with Gordon Smith, Dave Walker, Mark Jeffords and me.

Phony Zonie
One guy who was not on the schedule, but who showed up and cut in line to perform is a guy who is quite full of himself. He sings a decent song about the state, but the last I heard he lives in Nashville. This has always grinded me. His father is a bonified Arizona icon, but the the son, the junior, is a pompous ass.

Here's another of the three sunrise studies I made last Saturday, inspired by the predawn drive to Wickenburg for the annual Gold Rush Days.

This is a much more accurate rendering of the sky effects I witnessed. In the final, a lone rider will be traversing that distant ridge.

I forgot to mention Jacob Freedman, who helped us hand out mags last Saturday at the parade. Good cowboy.

Also saw John Langellier at the state birthday party (he was manning the Sharlot Hall tent) and I accused him of using the term "hippie" to describe the popularity of the term Buffalo Soldiers. He denied using, or giving the term to us. Here's the email that prompted the debate:

Dear Mr. Bell,

In your "Game Changers" column in the November-December issue you wrote that John Langelier "makes a good case that the term [Buffalo Soldiers} was not popular until the 1960s." I think this is true, although I did not see a case being made in the article. What I did see is the surprising assertion (p. 43) that "Hippies" popularized the term after Bill Leckie used it in his book. Unfortunately, Mr. Langellier provided no documentation or explanation for what is to me a startling claim. It would be nice to see some evidence for this claim or hear the author's explanation for his conclusion.

Frank N. Schubert

I could swear I heard John say this in our conference room, that hippies popularized the term Buffalo Soldiers, but he says no. Not sure who to blame. I was once a weekend hippie, so maybe it was me.

"What strikes me as odd now is how much my father managed to get across to me without those heart-to-hearts which I've read about fathers and sons having in the study or in the rowboat or in the car."
—Calvin Trillin

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gold Rush Days Inspiration

February 12, 2011

Left the house at 6:20 this morning and met Joe Freedman and his wife Linda and their son Jacob at the office, then took off in separate vehicles for Wickenburg. I drove my Ranger with the back loaded with 1,390 back issues. Enjoyed the drive over in the predawn silence. No radio, just enjoyed the desert coming alive. When I topped out just past Lake Pleasant, the western sky began to lighten with a darker blue on the bottom, then a rose band of sky giving way to light blue. A phenom I don't recall seeing before.

Met Rock Holliday and his son at the Twin Wagon Wheels Cafe next to the movie theater in downtown Wickenburg. Rock asked me if I had ever eaten in this place before and I said, "Well, yes, a couple times: in 1963-64 and 65, the Kingman high school sports bus, The Traveler, stopped here every trip on our way to the Valley to play Peoria, Agua Fria, Tolleson and Phoenix Christian. If I remember correctly, in those days it was called Jean's Cafe.

The Gold Rush Days parade came off at ten and was quite fun. As a sponsor of the parade we were in the honorary division right behind the Bill Williams Mountain Men (they weren't there when we arrived, and some local wag said they "never show up because there are too many bars now between Williams and Wickenburg," but five of them showed up, looking grizzled, mean and fantastic. I've always loved those guys) Had lots of help this year with Rock Holliday, his son, the Mohave Mule Skinners (three saloon girls and two gunslingers), plus Ermil, who dresses like John Wayne and has a striking resemblance to the Duke, with his wife Paula (America's Yodeling Sweetheart). Handed out all the magazines. Joe Freedman donned roller skates and worked the crowd from start to finish.

Got home at noon, and went right out to my studio to try and capture that twilight sky I saw going over. Did three roughs. Here's one of them:

There is a butte out there that resembles this one. I call this "They Took The High Road", or "High Road Riders." I'll post the others on Monday.

"Beautiful day for a parade."

—Mary Brown, of Festival of the West fame

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gold Rush Days Tomorrow

February 11, 2011

Going over in the morning to Wickenburg to be in the Gold Rush Days parade at ten in the morning. Joe Freedman and I have a dozen other Old West people who will join us. Meanwhile, Dave Daiss is going to be representing True West at the Bascom Affair down at Fort Bowie. Dave and his pards are going to ride into the Apache Pass area where Cochise and Lt. Bascom had their little dust up. Sorry I can't do both. Really wanted to join John Langellier and the Boys at the Pass.

Meanwhile, worked this afternoon on a portrait of Buffalo Soldier Isaiah Mays who won the Medal of Honor for his acts of bravery during the so-called Wham Payroll Robbery at Bloody Run (between Fort Grant and Fort Thomas). The outlaws (many solid citizens including the Mormon mayor from Pima, Arizona, on the outskirts of Thatcher and Safford) didn't think the black soldiers would fight but they were wrong. Here's my take on Mr. Mays:

"Studios look backward. Filmmakers look forward."

—Guillermo del Toro, Pans Labrynth

The Biggest Leg In Mexico

February 11, 2011

Talked on the phone to the great Texas actor Barry Corbin yesterday. Really a thrill for me. Barry has a long career (he was the astronaut in the popular TV show Northern Exposure) and I told him he absolutely nailed it in No Country For Old Men. Towards the end of the movie, Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell goes to visit his uncle (Corbin) who tells about how one of their kin was killed by In-dins, "They was wantin' this and wantin' that. . ." Just dead on, I gushed. "Well, I knew them boys," was how Barry modestly put it. Barry is coming to the Sedona Film Festival next weekend and I'm going to interview him for What History Has Taught Me. Great guy.

Bailed into the illustration of Sarah Bowman, known as The Great Western, riding a donkey and exclaiming to a line of soldiers in the Mexican War, "Who wants a wife with $15,000 and the biggest leg in Mexico?" She was six two, tipping the scales at 200 and had flaming red hair. Quite a character. Here is my take on that scene:

She was a "camp follower" so I dressed her as more of an 1840s cook-washer woman, rather than some romantic saloon girl, which is the temptation.

One more illustration to finish today and this one is of Isiah Mays, the black medal of honor winner at Bloody Run. That illustration to follow.

"Be not merely good; be good for something."

—Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Thieving Thirteenth Final

February 10, 2011

Sometimes I way over produce. Case in point: the final illustration for The Thieving Thirteenth. I did due diligence over the weekend and yesterday, doing a dozen pen and ink (actually Sharpies) renderings poaching from wonderful old style master inkers out of an original Punch anthology from 1883.

Good enough. I had Abby Goodrich lay out the piece utilizing two of the sketches posted yesterday. Somehow it didn't seem good enough. As accurate as they looked none of them really illustrated the premise—while delegates from south of the Salt River detoured to LA and back on the train, northern delegates carved up the "turkey" and devoured it before the hapless Old Puebloites even arrived.

Went home for lunch and took a brisk walk with Peaches. Going up Old Stage Road I got the inspiration to show some of these gents gathered around a turkey, or bird, that has been picked clean. At the far left, are the late arrivals from south of the Salt River and they still have their bags and coats on and they are just realizing what has happened. Rather ambitious. Spent about an hour sketching in the pencil, brought the piece into the office and over meetings, did the finish. Here tis:

Would have liked to have had a real turkey carcass but had to do this from memory. Not perfect, but it'll have to do. In the scheme of things this is way too much effort for a spot cartoon that will run in the Sunday Arizona Republic, but as one of my heroes puts it. . .

"Be undeniably good."
—Steve Martin, on how to "make it"

Arizona Has Always Been A Cantankerous Place

Frebruary 10, 2011

Here's more on the Thieving Thirteenth:

The Thieving Thirteenth Sets the Bar
On the table at the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature (1885) were two plums: an insane asylum and a university. The delegates from south of the flooding Salt River could not make it to Prescott by road, so they had to take the train to LA then back across on the Santa Fe and down to Prescott, then the state capitol. By the time they got there all the good pork was taken and Tucson got the paltry university ("Who ever heard of a professor buying a drink?" went the local logic) while Phoenix got the coveted insane asylum. Fistfights and padded expense accounts ensued, proving that Arizona has always been a cantankerous place.

And how did the residents of the Old PUeblo take this news? Not well:

When the delegate from Tucson returned home with the news he was allegedly pelted with eggs, rotten vegetables and a dead cat.

"Bear down Arizona. . ."
—University of Arizona Deadcat, I mean Wildcat, fight song

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Thieving Thirteenth

February 9, 2011Worked this afternoon on an illustration for the Thieving Thirteenth, the so-called corrupt legislators who met in Prescott in 1888, and with the army gone, or, greatly reduced because of the capture of Geronimo and the end of the Apache Wars, the locals couldn't gouge Uncle Sam any more, so they started gouging the state. Wanted to do that old pen and ink style from Punch, so brought in my bound volume from 1883 (bought it, and two more, in Santa Fe a decade ago). Here are the first two banks of characters:

And here's the second page of sketches:

Anything catch your eye? Or, which one do you think captures the notion of corrupt politicians in early Arizona— The Thieving Thirteenth?

"You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself."

—Ethel Barrymore

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Midnight Riders & Jack Mule Hatters

February 8, 2011

Went home for lunch and finished three studies. First up is a page of sketches I did over the weekend, studying various hats, including the lid Jeff Bridges almost wore in True Grit (I think I actually captured Jeff better here in the sketch than in the color final posted yesterday).

The bottom row shows a gaggle of caps worn by 1850s troopers (actually an army band). Man, they had some crazy hats. As goofy as some of them look, this is not really an exaggeration. And yes, the rider (above them) is mounted shooter legend Jim Rogers.

Meanwhile, I'm noodling a Graphic Cinema episode to be called "A Fast Jack In Hell": this journey consists of Mick wanting to go one way and Jack the other way.

And here's one I call Midnite Rider:

And my last study is the Mickster lit up by an A-bomb:

All in all a successful lunch. Got back into the office at three. Perhaps it's foolish to keep hammering away at these studies. Each one has potential. . . Gee, I wonder what ol' Huneker has to say about this?

"He dares to be a fool and that is the first step in the direction of wisdom."

—James Gibbons Huneker

True Grit: A Classic Read

February 8, 2011

Finished reading Charles Portis's True Grit this morning. Really enjoyed it and will definitely read it again. I especially enjoyed the journey of Rooster, Mattie and LeBoeuf, the wonderful details of how they ate corn dodgers and how they made coffee, plus the excellent description of the outlaw's crude dugout, and how they ate the Indian dish "sofky." But I think the thing I enjoyed the most is the weather ("When I awoke there were snowflakes on my eyes.")

Plus, the glancing references to history:

Mattie: "Do you know Jesse James?'

Rooster: "I don't remember him. Potter tells me he was with us at Centralia and killed a Yankee major there. Potter said he was a man little viper then, though he was only a boy. Said he was meaner than Frank. That is going some, if it be so. I remember Frank well. We called him Buck then. I don't remember Jesse."

Lots of nuance and historical detail in that short paragraph. It gets even better at the end of the book when Mattie meets Frank James, who is drinking Coca-Cola in a circus railroad car. Glancing history, like this, is riddled throughout the book and Portis shows impeccable taste in how he spins it out. I also love how he illustrates the inconclusiveness of several plot points: Mattie never hears from LaBoeuf again, the second gold coin is never found, her father's stolen horse, Judy, is never accounted for. Even though this is fiction, the enigma of how actual historical events play out, rings very, very true.

Another thing that is just wonderful is the glancing detail missing in both movies. As one example, in the book, when the dead outlaws, Moon and Quincy, are loaded onto their horses, Mattie notes, "The dun horse belonging to Moon bolted and bared his teeth and would not permit his dead master to be placed on his back. A less sensitive horse was found to serve."

And while I raved about the Coen's usage of delayed reports of firearms at a distance, it was spelled right out in the book, "When they reached the crest they paused and turned our way and Rooster fired a pistol in the air. I saw the smoke before the noise reached us."

One embarrassment for the Coens, a line was added in the new film, comparing LaBoeuf to a "rodeo clown." (Mattie compares LeBoeuf's 1876 gun rig to a "Wild West Show" in the book, but that works because she is telling the story in 1903) "Cowboy Competitions" did not originate until the late 1880s and it wasn't known as rodeo until the 1920s and rodeo clowns weren't introduced for another couple decades, but, hey, being off by a half century is no biggie, eh?

Thanks to Dan DeWeese for spotting the "rodeo clown" line.

If you'd like to read True Grit in paperback, we are going to be offering a True West book of the month club discount for Maniacs and readers of this blog. Let me know if you want one.

Worked on a variety of studies over the weekend including this abstract called Gunsight Butte:

"History must always be taken with a grain of salt. It is, after all, not a science, but an art."

—Phyllis McGinley

Monday, February 07, 2011

Rooster Cogburn's 'Stash & Headgear in True Grit

February, 7, 2011

A friend of a friend worked on the Coen brother's True Grit and he shared with me some of the hat styles that were considered for Rooster Cogburn. I can't post the photos of Jeff Bridges wearing these various lids, but I can do a sketch of the one I really thought they should have used:

It has flair and style and more importantly, a period hat band. The one they chose unfortunately makes Bridges look like a homeless detective. As you probably know I hate the fedora look in modern Westerns (Daniel Craig sports another one in the forthcoming Cowboys & Aliens), and while it may be somewhat accurate, there are plenty of accurate cowboy hats that could be utilized, like this sweet lid (above). The other liberty I have taken is straight from the Charles Portis book: "[Rooster] had a mustache like [President Grover] Cleveland. . ." Unfortunately, Bridges as Rooster looks more like The Big Lebowski than a member of U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas' crew.

If the Coen's had insisted on using an open crown I would have suggested this:

I would have suggested a haphazard dent in the crown and I would have given the brim a slight uptick on the sides, along with a wide hatband, and, once again, I would have allowed the unshaven whiskers but with a more walrus overhang on the 'stash.

Don't get me wrong, the Coen brother's True Grit is quite wonderful, but with the right hat and whiskers on Bridges, it could have been a damn straight classic for the ages.

As the nitpickers and Hat Nazis are fond of saying, the devil is in the details.

"If I ever meet one of you Texas waddies that says he never drank from a horse track I think I will shake his hand and give him a Daniel Webster cigar."

—Rooster Cogburn to Texas Ranger La Boeuf, in True Grit, by Charles Portis

Friday, February 04, 2011

Twilight Rider

February 4, 2011

A little warmer today, but still quite brisk. Started a fire in my wood stove in the studio and that felt good. Whipped out a Twilight Rider study before I went into work:

May tweak the rider a bit at the bottom, center, since he kind of gets lost in the brush.

Abby and I are finishing the layout for Paul Andrew Hutton's cover story on the Charles Portis classic True Grit, and, of course how the two movies compare and contrast. Really an excellent piece. Now it goes down to our art director, Dan Harshberger, so he can spin his magic on the piece. Dan did a very nice cover of both Roosters leering out at us. Going to be sweet.

Need to switch gears and go an illustration of The Great Western riding a donkey and exclaiming, "Who wants a wife with $15,000 and the biggest leg in Mexico?!" I Googled women on donkeys and got some great reference.

"Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do."

—Jean-Paul Sartre

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Ed Mell Poses

February 3, 2011

When I was in Corsicana, Texas last weekend I talked with Seth Hopkins of the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA and he said they are having a big Ed Mell art opening in March and asked if I would like to include my painting, "When Tracings Tell Tales That Paintings Make Secret."

The model for this parody of Cowboy Art is, ahem, Mr. Mell himself, who posed for this (full disclosure: I photographed him and projected it). Irony? Yes.

"Art is whatever you can get away with."

— Marshall McLuhan

The Jones & Boze Show Born 25 Years Ago This Week

February 3, 2011

Really cold this morning. Our water heater is frozen, or somehow malfunctioning. Chickens standing on the frozen water trough, making tiny figure eights with their skating talons. Actually, they were very thirsty. Broke the ice, so to speak and they seem fine for now.

Twenty five years ago this week, I was out promoting my latest book of New Times cartoons, titled Even Lower Blows:

This was a follow up to my sold out first edition, called Low Blows:

New Times Weekly hired a promotions person who booked me on local tv and radio shows so I could go out and promote book signings and general sales. If memory serves me correct, I had already done the Dave Pratt Show on KUPD and the Giese and Andress Show on KDKB and the morning show on Kool Oldies (can't remember the DJ but I think it might have been BJ & the Bear, or, something) and the Rita Davenport cooking show on Channel 5.

Around the first week of February, when I came into the New Times offices on the eighth floor of the Lawyer's Title Building, the PR person told me my next assignment: the new morning show on KSLX. I had never heard of that station (there were something like 35 radio stations in the Valley at that time, which I believe was a record amount in the U.S.), and she informed me that 100.7 FM used to be Top Forty KOPA, but just last week they had changed their format and their calls to KSLX (they wanted KLSX, which connotes "classic" as in rock, but those calls were already taken by an LA station, so, in radio think, why not transpose the letters and call it a day, which they did).

There was one caveat: their news person, Cindy Wine, just quit and would I mind doing the news all morning. I told our PR person to call their PR person and ask if I had to do the news straight, or could I have fun with it, and the word came back from the KSLX PR person, Tara Jones, that yes, I could do whatever I wanted. And, by the way it was Tara Jones who called New Times and asked if I could do the show.

David K. Jones was fresh from The Coast, a big time radio station in LA and we hit it off immediately. I did the news all morning and David told me recently that the line that got me the gig, at least for him, was, "This just in: lawyer's are scum." Anyway, the three hours went by in a flash, I got some plugs in for my book and at nine, I sped towards the door and my day job.

The program director, Dick Bascomb, stopped me and asked me to come into his office. We went down the hall to this ratty room with records scattered everywhere. I remember he was smoking and, somewhat nervously, he said, "I want to hire you."

I was dumbfounded. I blurted out that I had no radio experience, didn't have a radio voice and didn't even know what radio people got paid. He asked me what I wanted. So I stalled and said I'd have to think about it and get back to him.

Besides being flattered, I was kind of floored because I had lots of friends in radio (Wonderful Russ, Nina Joy, Toad Hall, among others). And, one of them, Tommy Vascocu, was at the time the GM at KDKB. So I called Tommy and asked him what he thought and he immediately told me that he always thought I had the talent to be on radio and I said, "Well, that's funny Tommy, you've never offered me a job." He wasn't happy about me going to work for a competitor but he told me that if they offered me $15K a year, they were slumming, and not serious.

Of course I already had a full time job at New Times (where I made $30K) and when I told the publisher Jim Larkin of the offer he said, "Don't flatter yourself, they're just trying to get to us," meaning, I guess that it was a stunt to get better ad rates or editorial about the station in the paper.

Kathy's advice was to at least talk to them and see what the offer is.

The next day, after work, I met the new KSLX general manager Carl Hamilton in the bar at the Safari Resort, and over beers he told me, "We are very excited about you being on KSLX and we are prepared to offer you $15,000 a year."

I told him thanks, but that I would pass. I was actually relieved, because I had my plate full at New Times and with my comic strip Honkytonk Sue which had recently been bought by Columbia Pictures. David K. walked me to my truck and told me he was embarrassed by the offer and he would see what he could do. I didn't really take him seriously.

The next day, the phone rang. It was Carl Hamilton. "Okay, we'll give you $30K and you can leave a half hour early."

I called Kathy at home. "Well, these are hours I'm not really using anyway, I might as well try it."

And thus, the Jones & Boze Show was born and would last in various forms for a decade. Here's a photo of the classic version of the show: Jeanne Sedello, David K. BBB and Gordon Smith in the room where I was offered the job by Dick Bascomb. Most of the records on the shelves are from the collection of legendary Phoenix radio DJ William Edward Compton.

We added Jeanne Sedello about a year later and Gordon Smith, on guitar added some much needed zane, as did Wonderful Russ and his zany wife Wendy Shaw. Hard to believe it's been a quarter century since that began.

"And that's the news, smack dab in the middle of the West's most Midwestern town."

—BBB signature sign off on the news

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mexican Cutie & Barefoot Charter

February 2, 2011

Quite nippy out this morning (high teens), which reminds me of one of the plein air painters I met last weekend in Corsicana, Texas. Greg McHuron has to be one of the hardest working painters in the land. By his own account, he works 71-98 hours a week, painting mostly outdoors, on location. He adds, "I'll paint to 20 below." When I asked him if he has painted below that frigid degree, he said, yes, he has painted at 40 below, but below 20, all the moisture in the air goes away and the resulting shadows "are too cold to hang on the wall." By that, I think he means it looks too forboding, not comfortable, or appealing. And, by the way, Greg is a "barefoot charter captain" as well, which has something to do with fishing boats and crew size, I think.

Meanwhile, whipped out a study of a Mexican Cutie this morning before I went into work:

The portrait I poached from an old Cisco Kid movie from the 1940s and the background I got from a series of patina boards I have been doing. Sometimes I'll start 10 or 15 of these and push wet paint around and let it dry. This morning, I grabbed this one and quickly added the portrait. I especially like this old-photo-style-patina.

An English writer, wrote a travel piece about visiting the White Stallion Guest Ranch near Marana, Arizona and in the article she described reading a "fantastically eclectic" magazine called True West which was in her room. Loved that description of our publication. We are going to use it in an ad campaign.

And speaking of ad campaigns we are debating a couple slogans in the office. Sheri Riley and Allison Cabral came up with the slogan, "We make history cool." I rather like this, and think it's true. Others, Ken Amorosano mainly, think "cool" ain't cool enough. Someone suggested "We get history right," but that seems rather pedestrian. What are your thoughts?

"Ordinary histories estrange us from the past, but works of fine are can bring us near it."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Less Ecstacy, More Realism

February 1, 2011
Pretty day out, supposed to get nasty cold tomorrow. Before I went into work this morning I finished a study of Mickey Free on his combative mule. I call this one When Stop Means Go:

While I was in Corsicana, Texas I attended a workshop on sculpture run by Keith McMasters of Washington State. He is a big ol' boy and reminds me of Andy Devine, Jingles on the old Wild Bill TV show ("Wait for me Wild Bill!"). Anyway, he was telling about how he and his three brothers would play Indians growing up and how they took dickies (those fake turtleneck sweater deals with a flap in front and back) and wear those dickies round their waists to simulate Arapaho jockstraps.

Now there's an image I am still trying to get out of my head!

"Some of the artwork here tonight is like a second marriage: less ecstacy, more realism."—Overheard at Pearce Museum on Friday night