Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Albert Bierstadt & Dental Tools Get My Goat

March 16, 2011

Had a major dental appointment this morning at 8:30. While in the dental chair listening to the soothing tones of a suction tube (I won't bore you with the procedure, but here's a two-word hint: sinus infill), I got the inspiration for a painting to be called "Before The Flash," which will be what it looked like in old Fort Sumner, in the winter of 1880, just outside Beaver Smith's Saloon as the photographer set up and the Kid's pals milled around, kicking their boots against the back steps and kidding each other about the weather and the finer attributes of the law. Laughing, the boy outlaw steps into position as the photographer's assistant readjusts the neck brace (that's what gave me the flash of inspiration) and then the flash that exposes the inner camera to the most famous image in the history of the Old West.

Sketches and studies to follow.

The dental procedure cost about $3,600, plus $115 for pain prescriptions. My dental insurance ($81 a month) will probably pay about 1/100th of that. What a country! What a system!

Went home for lunch and pulled a painting out of my Failure Pile. This was a ruined, muddy attempt at emulating Albert Bierstadt's "Storm in the Rock Mountains" (1866). Tried to rectify several problems, saving one patch and making another worse (sound vaguely familiar?) I call this "She Stood In The Clearing—Bitching About The Weather."

You can blame the cynical tone of the title on my mouth condition at the moment. Bierdstadt was such a monster painter. His transitions are so bold and yet subtle and his expansive views of the west in the 1860s made him a superstar. Unfortunately, his style and fame faded rather quickly, making him, by the 1880s, sort of the Three Dog Night of the art world (huge in their day, tiny a decade or two later).

Yesterday afternoon I drove up to Orme Ranch School, north of Cordes Junction on the Dugas Road exit off of I-17, and did some more due diligence sketches of the campus for the illustrated aerial map I have been commissioned to do.

On the way up the Black Canyon, I looked over at the Bradshaw Mountains and imagined what it must have been like to be the five prospectors who were attacked by 150 Yavapais in June of 1864 (we are doing the battle in the next Classic Gunfights in True West). Very rough country.

After sketching the campus, at 5:30 I joined a Vaquero riding group for cocktails in Old Main and was ambushed and attacked by an old timer (a wrangler on the ride) who accused me of ruining True West. His story in the next post.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
—Teddy Roosevelt

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