Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Open Letter to A Certain Woman In Germany

July 30, 2011

Saturday night, just got back from the Beast. Sprinkling out. Big monsoon rolling over the Valley. Hit big puddles at about Desert Ridge, lots of thunder. Very humid out now at 7:56 p.m. Wrote up the following email to Ms. Radina in Germany:

T. and P. and I saw "A Better Life" downtown at AMC in Arizona Center and we all teared up. I clapped at the end (trained by my wife to be assertive when it comes to appreciation). Afterwards we met at 28th St. and Van Buren for a dose of posole heaven. Also got a platter of barbacoa, puerco tacos. Ay-yi-yi. So good. Bill was $30. Pattarapan insisted on paying for half the bill, so with the tip it cost me almost fifteen dollars! For the love of God, when will these kids carry their own weight!!!!

Oh, and P. and T. taught me how to use the amped up and slicked out iPad which they borrowed for the past three weeks. They've both tricked it out with great apps and cool add ons. Great lesson and they didn't charge me, so I guess being gouged on the meal wasn't such a bad thing.

On the way down I stopped at Aaron Bros and bought $191 worth of gouache supplies, including four, count 'em, watercolor tablets (they had a penny sale so two of those puppies were a penny a piece). Sweet. Walked across the parking lot and went into The Wine Pantry Sampler Store and asked Cowboy Steve (remember him?) and asked him to sell me some wine. Got four bottles of great stuff for $10 a bottle. Drinking a nice glass of gunfighter cab even as you read this.

Finally raining on my sky light (8:07), although not very hard, but it is steady. Just thought you should know as you used to live here full time.


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Duke of Dust Delivers A Dusky Dame

July 29, 2011

Yesterday was our anniversary. Ms. Radina and I have been married 32 years. The secret? She's in Germany and I'm in Arizona.

Just kidding. She's in Prague at the moment.

A couple sprinkles this morning, but no rain. Muggy out. Chickens being goofy, but what else is new?

Played with more dust effects. Noodled the dust until it turned into a cloud. Went over and had breakfast, came back and added a foreground figure, before I came into work.

The Duke of Dust Delivers A Dusky Dame
Sorry, I've always loved alliteration to a perverse degree (Razz Revue, Roy Rogers, Jesse James and Bob Boze Bell). Speaking of which, one of the toughest kids I grew up with was Mickey Campa. I watched several of his lunchtime fights in Cerbat Park, conveniently adjacent to Mohave County Union High School. He still lives outside of Kingman and raises bulls (after a lifetime of raising Cain). He sent me a photo of his new bull, which he has named Bob Boze Bull:

I don't think I'll fight him over this. Regarding the name, Charles Waters remarked, "This works on so many levels I don't know where to start."

"Hey, I resemble that remark."
—Pete Figaroa (one of Mick's foes)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life Lessons From Linda Ronstadt's Git Picker

July 28, 2011

Sometimes I paint myself into a corner and attempt to get out. Learned this trick from Linda Ronstadt's lead guitar player (1974, Red Rooster Bar, Tucson). This morning I whipped this study out before I came into work:

I was intending to put in a traditional rider, Mickey Free, or a trio of Rurales, but I remembered the git picker from the Red Rooster. Grabbed an art book, "Ed Borein: Cowboy Artist" and turned to page 88. At the top of the page is a line drawing by Mr. Borein for a 1916 rodeo (The Stampede: Sheepshead Bay Speedway, New York City). Amongst a trio of trick riders is a cowgirl standing in the saddle with a pistol and what appears to be a glass of liquid. Hmmmmmmm. So I did my version of this bizarre scene, changing it, of course. My first reaction was to call it "What the Hell?" but then, on closer inspection, I realized it was "Cowgirl Rides Into Hell With A Glass of Champagne and a Pistol".

Back to the Red Rooster Bar on the Nogales Highway. I was playing drums in this country band for extra money ($30 a night) and the lead guitar player was a very shy guy who was previously in the Stone Ponys, Linda Ronstadt's Tucson band. They went to LA together as a couple. As you may know she soon moved on to bigger things and he came home and picked around town. He played the weirdest lead breaks of any country guitar player I have ever played with. During a break I asked him how he came to play like that and he shrugged and said, and I quote, "I simply play myself into a corner and try to get out."

I never forgot that way of looking at things and have even applied it to my art and my business. Here is my distilled version of this invaluable lesson:

"Jump off a cliff and figure it out on the way down."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cowboy & Aliens: On Familiar Tides

July 27, 2011

Thanks to our Westerns Editor Henry Beck—Carole Glenn, Ken Amorosano and I got to see a sneak of Cowboys & Aliens last night at one of the Tempe Marketplace Harkins' Theatres. Place was packed. It was supposed to be a media sneak peek, but the place seemed to be salted with quite a few civilians (possibly radio show winners, etc).

The good news: it's good. In hindsight, I think it's safe to say you really couldn't have Steven Spielberg, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard producing and have it be a stinker. It may have been flawed (The Missing) but even when these very smart boys miss (Hook) you can still sense the intelligence and craft.

Unfortunately, for me, at around the age of 60, everything has started to remind me of something else. From American Idol (Ted Mack's Amateur Hour) to Lady Ga Ga (Madonna) to The Beatles (The Crickets) I just have a very jaded perspective on all things "new" and "different". In the opening of C&A our Man-With-No-Name, Daniel Craig (Steve McQueen), is accosted by dry gulchers (The Shootist) and from there he goes into a dusty saloon where he gets into a fight (entire Encore Westerns catalogue).

We have a peyote scene (Young Guns), we have a character who cheats death (entire Netflix catalogue) and we have whore humor (Cheyenne Social Club) and we have an ending where the protagonist is framed in a doorway and walks away (The Searchers). There are fifty other examples, but you get my drift (Louis CK).

Cowboys & Aliens is going to open big and now the question is, how big and how long will it run? I kind of doubt it will hit the crazy stratosphere of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which pulled in $600 million worldwide before it opened in the U.S. and has since racked up $1.2 billion in box office. Yes, with a b, and that number is a week old!

Carole Glenn gave it a seven (out of ten) and told me she really enjoyed the humor. Sam Rockwell totally played against type, in fact I didn't recognize him at all. Walter Coggins (Strother Martin) is wonderful and Harrison Ford (Richard Boone) plays mean and crusty quite well. Ken Amorosano "loved it" and our Westerns editor pronounced it:

"A good Western, good sci-fi, but not a great movie."
—Henry Beck

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bruja Wandering

July 26, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if I know how to paint jack. This morning I got inspired to do another dust storm image and had a very sweet background (done at the same time I did yesterday's posting of the Sentry Rider). I remembered I had a cool image somewhere of a Mexican cutie sashaying down the blvd. and I actually found it and then wondered if I married her to this wind scene, if that might be mucho groovy.

Kind of botched the effects I wanted and gave up at nine and went into the office. Posted it on Facebook, as "Bruja Wandering" ("Witch Wandering", or in this context, "Witch Wondering") and someone bought it in ten minutes. Ha.

"You will become a winner only if you are willing to walk over the edge."
—Damon Runyon, who wrote the short story on Sky Masterson, based on Bat Masterson, which became the starting point for "Guys & Dolls."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cartwrights's Presents BBB & True West Moments

July 25, 2011

Here's a fun thing to do if you like good food and tall tales:

Pinocchio Overtime & Century-Sentry Dust Storm Rider

July 25, 2011

Big storm blew in last night at about nine. I was watching Pinocchio, the 1940 Disney classic animation marvel. Been meaning to watch it for years and hadn't seen it since I saw it at the State Theatre in downtown Kingman. I have a cartoonist friend, Bob Steinhilber, who told me he has a friend who believes Western civilization peaked with the animation in Pinocchio and it's been downhill ever since. I think someone told me there is some 200-plus years worth of overtime in the making of the film and it was as a result of all this overtime that the studio unionized. May be an urban myth, but I've long since used that as a benchmark in my own business, where I casually remind my staff from time to time when we are working late, "Hey, we've got a long way to go before we reach Pinocchio territory!"

Heavy winds and rolling thunder. Blew the front door open during the whale scene. Put the movie on pause and closed everything up. Got some rain out of it.

Having grown up in Kingman, I know a thing or two about wind and dust. One of my first paintings after I got out of college was an attempt to capture a dust storm rider at Coyote Pass. Never finished it. Somewhere I have the canvas. Captured a good monotone of dust, wasn't sure how to add any color. This morning I took another crack at the idea and came up with this:

As I walked down to the Aughteron's to deliver their newspaper (I take the Republic, read it, then walk it down to them, in exchange for Tom taking care of my chickens while I'm gone), I noodled the title to this little dirt clod: Century Rider (get it, Century plant?) or Sentry Rider? Or, how about Century-Sentry Dust Storm Rider?

I know. Overproducing. Gee, I wonder what old Gyorgyi has to say about this?

"Discovering consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
—Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Friday, July 22, 2011

John Wayne Alien Final

July 22, 2011

Finishing up loose ends on September issue. Did ten different studies for the cover image of the Duke standing over Cowboys & Aliens spacecraft wreckage. Here's a sneak peek at the final:

Going up the hill today to Prescott. Have a speech tonight at the reopening of the expanded Phippen Museum, north of town.

The urbanization of Arizona has been on my mind a lot lately. I was talking to James at the Phippen about my talk and he mentioned that this phenom–Arizona becoming more and more urbanized—is affecting their efforts: he was shocked, for example, that when the Phoenix Art Museum parted ways with the Cowboys Artists of America that there was a significant portion of phoenix's population that didn't care.

The Phippen and True West share a mission to keep history alive. Sometimes it can be a daunting task.

Believe it or not, I just read some excellent comments in the New Yorker about this very subject. Nick Paumgarten writes about how kids are doing in school, especially in history.

Our children got an evaluation of student's knowledge and understanding of American history (fourth, eighth and twelfth grades) "The findings, like history itself", Nick says, are open to interpretation, but "basically the kids of today got a grade of Kids Today."

Ha. As in, the eye-rolling, "Kids today!" In other words EVERY generation bemoans the past generation's lack of history knowledge. Or as Paumgarten puts it, "Our perennial dismay over the perpetual evaporation of the past is in some respects just another instance of our raging against the dying of the light. If the kids can't remember the Morrill land-grants, they're not likely to remember you, either."

Ouch. Too true for school.

"We haven't ever known our past. Your kids are no stupider than their grandparents."—Sam Wineburg, professor of history, Stanford

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hasta Arrastra

July 21, 2011

Went home for lunch and whipped out a little illio on arrastras. This is for a Cave Creek documentary coming out this fall.

Arrastras were used in mining, utilizing a pit with ore placed inside and boulders on top that would be drug around in a circle to crush the ore.

"A miner is a cowboy with his brains bashed out."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Haboob or Not to Haboob

July 21, 2011

Finishing up our September issue of True West today. Big weekend in Prescott coming up. Speaking at the reopening of the Phippen Museum on Friday night, and then I'll be in downtown Prescott all day Saturday for the Shady Ladies festival and shootout. Will be nice to get out of the heat (from 110 down to a chilly 101, ha).

Yesterday I whipped out a couple illustrations for a feature we are doing on "Size Matters". Fred Nolan gave me the stats on several Lincoln County Warriors, including Dirty Dave Rudabaugh at 5' 7":

No doubt by now you've seen the massive Haboob-dust storm images from our area. We had our second massive dust front invade on Monday night. I saw it sweep around the Seven Sisters on my way home at about six p.m. Here's a shot taken by my neighbor Tom Augherton as he drove home on Spur Cross Road:

Turned everything grayish-brown, but it wasn't as windy as some, just kind of settled, or squatted, on the landscape. Much angst in the Republic the past week on the new, to us, usage of the term "haboob" as a description of these storms. To be fair, "monsoon" was also a new description to us old timers. I never heard the term growing up, and it wasn't until the seventies or eighties that the term gained wide usage. Of course, both terms migrated from Arab lands so there is a natural tendency by grizzled Zonies to reject the terms. We even did a whole show on KSLX trying to come up with our own word. The winning term "Guacamuggy" was funny in the context of a zany radio show, but it didn't have legs, as they say. Or, I guess you could say it didn't have sand. Ha.

"Choosing the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug"
—Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Mythic Billy the Kid Party

July 20, 2011

It was a week ago tonight that myself, Ken Amorosano, fellow artists Thom Ross, Buckeye Blake and Annie H. headed into Santa Fe for a reception to coincide with our Billy the Kid Requiem on Thursday night at the Due West Gallery.

The genesis of the party came from this blog. A lawyer and self-proclaimed Billy afficionado, John "Rocky" Aragon emailed me over the past several years about a manuscript he was working on about the Kid and I answered his questions as best I could. When I mentioned here that I would be in Santa Fe on July 14, Mr. Aragon emailed me and asked if I'd like to have a reception prior to the Billy show. Rocky informed me it would be at a friend's home where Rocky had painted an "85 foot mural" on the life of Billy the Kid. Rocky also asked me if any of my guests had "dietary needs." Given that Mr. Aragon is a lawyer who lives in Santa Fe, I must confess I conjured up a pretty hoity toity image of what this reception might look like. In my defense, having been to several Santa Fe art soirees up in the hills on Canyon Road (I tagged along with Ed Mell on a 1993 trip where we were treated like rock stars everywhere we went), I pictured this as a high dollar deal, with waiters carrying trays of caviar and chipolte jumbo shrimp.

Suffice to say, it was not what any of us expected. I asked all of the participants to give their version of the party and what happened. First up, in Rashomon style, here is Buckeye Blake and Thom Ross:

Where Quervo Trumps Gold

Arteests invited to a dinner party. OH! They must be rich—big house on the hill—a 50 foot mural of Billy the Kid & The Lincoln County War, wine flowing, whole haunches of meat—this will be our chance to sell art to the swells—we hold the treasure map, where we set the direction finder—pile in to the truck, giddy at our good fortune—and off through the maze—our imagination's picture clear—the map directs us away from the grand estates—to the lowlands—toward the barrio side of the city. A flat-roofed casa, dead cars, seedy surroundings—street people, not enough teeth. We have driven out of imagination into reality—hopes dashed we've come down to realize they are just like us—good people sharing what they have with friends—everybody likes Billy!

You savvy amigo?

—Buckeye Blake

A Mythic Moment Where Tequila Flowed Like the Pecos

the unfamiliar voice on the end of my phone.
(how he pronounced his last name
not Err-a-gone
but Aa-ra-goooooone;
how it stayed in the air for just a moment.)

4 of us and Annie
with Google maps we are

"this can't be the place!"
once said, all agreeing.
Truck turned around to leave,
engine running,
disbelief on confused faces.
Ken on the phone questioning this reality.

But we WERE home.
The mural running around the courtyard
("There's Billy!"
"There's Charlie!"
"There's Garrett!")
and we knew we were in the right place;
Billy doesn't lie.

5 shots of tequila in:
one martini glass,
three coffee mugs,
and the top of a thermos bottle.

The liquid, not the vessels,
were what counted
and we hoisted our.....mugs?
high to Billy and our most gracious host(s).

The tour of the mural
"Here's Billy.
Here's Charlie
Here's Garrett.....
and here's me!"

A duo played
"The Ballad of Billy the Kid"
and the food came out on platters
and the tequila flowed like the Pecos.

a mythic moment
when we all entered the poem
that is life.

—Thom "The Kid" Ross

Monday, July 18, 2011

Would The Duke Approve?

July 18, 2011

Spent most of the weekend working on our next cover: Cowboys & Aliens: Would The Duke Approve?

Played with a couple of different ideas, like this one of the Duke lumbering across a desert landscape with a squadron of fifties style flying saucers firing at him:

Also, noodled a close-up of the Duke looking down on an alien invasion:

I'm concerned about a dark cover. We have had a string of excellent white and stark covers, although the last issue with Geronimo is very dark. I'm just not sure I want to do two in a row. Did a third and fourth cover idea, including a very large painting of the Duke standing over a downed alien craft, the crash part of the scene poached from one of the Cowboys & Aliens movie stills. I think it may be the one. Robert Ray sent it down to Dan The Man this morning and he is going to work his magic.

I also want to run some comments from the readers (and you) about whether you think The Duke would approve of the genre mash-up that is Cowboys & Aliens. I need your comment, one or two sentences, plus your, full name, city and state. Need it by tomorrow, so get with it.

Nice to be back in the office after our three-state road trip. Speaking of road trips, a great review by Tom Vanderbilt in the New York Times of The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways, by Earl Swift.

Some of the observations are quite astute, like the fact that old style road rambling "may soon be obsolete as America enters its High Civilization period and no one will get sentimental or poetic anymore about trains and dew on fences at dawn in Missouri."

"With the modern car on the modern freeway, the modern traveler is left with practically nothing to celebrate but the ever-briefer time he had to devote to getting from one place to another." That is the author Earl Swift describing the decline of enjoying a road trip.

It was John Steinbeck who famously said you can now drive from "New York to California without seeing a single thing."

"Whole states have been relegated to vague blurs of asphalt." And, "the windshield becomes a proscenium through which we watch the countryside pass without actually experience it; we're in it, not on it."

"The interstate highways carry us without incident, without drama. They offer up food and lodging with minimum fuss. The carve the shortest path all the way home. And most important, 'we made good time.'"

But is it time well spent? Not really. And finally, "The future [of our roads] it seems, is getting away from us, even as we keep asking, with a plaintive cry from the back seat: "Are we there yet?"

Sweet. As a weekend road warrior, I want that book, as well s the others Vanderbilt recommends:

Divided Highways, (1997) by Tom Lewis

Open Road (1986) by Phil Patton

Interstate 69, (2010?) by Matt Dellinger

"For everything you gain you will lose something, and for everythinig you lose you will gain something."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, July 17, 2011

William Goldman: Almost A God

July 17, 2011

Last Wednesday I spoke to Paul Hutton's American History class at the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque. Big auditorium with stadium seating. Great crowd, lots of laughs and I had fun talking about the Western heroes I love. As a gift, Paul gave me a paperback novelization of William Goldman's 1978 screenplay, "Tom Horn." Of course, William Goldman wrote the screenplay for "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid," giving us all those classic lines:

"Who are those guys?"

"Swim? Hell, the fall'll kill ya!"

"Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

"I've got vision and the rest of the world wears bi-focals."

Goldman also wrote "The Sting" and, although uncredited, he allegedly wrote the best parts of "Good Will Hunting" which, of course, won a writing Oscar for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (don't you think it strange that they've never written anything else?).

Anyway, I came home from my long road trip and cracked the "Tom Horn" paperback book on Friday night. The screenplay has been novelized by one D. R. Bensen, so it's not clear exactly who wrote what, but I think it's safe to say, the dialogue is all Goldman.

I'm curious about this story because Paul and I have been trying for five or six years now to bring the story of Mickey Free and the Apache Kid to life. Also, two of the other characters in our story are Al Sieber and Tom Horn. I also wrote the Classic Gunfight regarding the Emmett Crawford battle in Mexico for the current issue of True West (arriving to subscribers this week) and so I'm more than a little conversant with the scholarship.

If you are a subscriber you know I have done several episodes of General Crook leading a military campaign deep into Mexico, and high atop the Sierra Madres, one of the mules almost goes over a cliff, and Al Sieber is frantic because his long johns are on the mule's pack. Mickey rides a mule. All of this, of course, is original to our story.

Or, so I thought.

Reading Goldman's "Tom Horn" this morning, I just about fell out of bed. Came out to the studio and sent the following email to Hutton:

Sweet Mother of God, is there nothing new under the sun? Evidently not. Goldman has Horn, Sieber and Free, on mules, deep in Mexico, high up in the Sierra Madres, on a cliff. Sieber has them go off the cliff with their belongings (I kid you not). Mickey takes along one of his mules (he has two!). They are about to attack Geronimo's camp on the Devil's Backbone (Goldman doesn't site this, perhaps it came later with Edwin Sweeney scholarship, but Goldman is obviously poaching Maus's account in Mile's book of the Crawford expedition). Decent descriptions of the night marches, etc.

Goldman has Geronimo and the warriors leaving the camp to go hunting and then Sieber orders Mickey and Horn to burn the camp. Mickey Free is "wolfishly happy" and proceeds to torch the wikiups, which leads to this exchange between Sieber and Horn:

Sieber: "I hate this. My home was taken. . .the old country. . .I was little, but still I remember. . ."

Sieber is explaining war to Horn, which is totally unlikely in the circumstance and seems utterly fake, giving us a pinch of relief and hope that Goldman is not totally a God, however, in the next paragraph, he comes close:

"The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the English, the English hate the French. . .Mickey is Apache but he hates Geronimo because Mickey is Tonto Apache and Geronimo is Chiricahua Apache. . ."
—William Goldman

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lessons From The Road

July 16, 2011

I saw a wide swath of the Southwest in the last six days, from Texas to New Mexico and back to Arizona. Road trips always give me a fresh perspective on the world. For me, seeing other towns, other people's homes, different communities of artists, cowboys and even renegade lawyers, helps me understand what others are doing to cope and survive and what some are doing to fly high. In some cases, very, very high.

Random notes from the road: if your art space is cluttered and narrow, that's how you will paint and that's what your paintings will look like. You need to keep things wide open and make space to paint big. Thank you Buckeye Blake.

I admire bold honesty, especially in the world of commerce. When a Southern California art gallery called and relayed a question from a prospective buyer, "Was the painting of Doc Holliday painted by a Native American," Thom Ross told the gallery to tell the customer, "No, tell them it was painted by a bigoted Jew." Thanks Thom Ross!

I enjoy brash and honest people, but sometimes you can be too outspoken. A certain artist friend of mine was in his favorite Seattle bar and the Japanese bartender started going off on the American atrocities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and my friend asked the bartender if he was familiar with the "Rape of Nanking," in China, when Japanese soldiers slaughtered an equal amount of Chinese. My friend was told to never come back to the bar. My friend also admitted he has been kicked out of four bars and one restaurant in his old Seattle neighborhood. Lesson? When it comes to being brutally honest and outspoken, choose your battles (especially if you like the food in the restaurant). Thanks Thom Ross!

If you want a killer Manhattan and a taste of elk meat chaser, check out the upstairs bar in the Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. Thank you Ken Amorosano!

Tequila can be a powerful muse, and can lead to a lawyer attacking an 85 foot wall with a charcoal briquette, illustrating the stations of the Billy the Kid cross, I mean story. Thank you Rocky Aragon!

If critics and fellow artists start sniping at you for your success, make paintings with targets on them, just to rub it in. Thanks Donna Howell-Sickles!

If a minister at the Billy requiem takes twenty minutes to read a book report about Billy the Kid complete with every myth about the Kid that we today know to be untrue, thank him and make a gentle jab at the fact that yes, Billy was a choir boy who loved his mother, but that there are other attributes about him that make him appealing as well. So mature, and oh, so gracious. Thank you Paul Andrew Hutton!

If the locals at one of the last surviving coffee shops in Vernon, Texas asks you to play a high-low coffee game, by all means play. You will learn something about small towns and Texas good ol' boys. Thank you Buddy and Joe Chat and the Perkem' Up Coffee Shoppe!

"Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor."
—Arnold Joseph Toynbee

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two Guns

July 15, 2011

Landed back at the Triple B Ranch at two this afternoon. Long road trip to three states: highlights included, Saint Jo, Electra, Vernon, Goodnight, Quanah and Amarillo, Texas. The Longhorn Museum (long gone but the sign remains), Tijeras, Lamy, Santa Fe (Rocky Aragon's mural), Albuquerque, Cubero, Grants, Gallup and Stateline, New Mexico. Winslow, Two Guns, Flagstaff (don't forget Winona), Munds Park, Tip Top, New River and Cave Creek.

Two Guns, of course, is the notorious town at Canyon Diablo on the Santa Fe line where hell ruled for over a year while the railroad tried to finish a bridge across the formidable canyon (the first bridge arrived on location and turned out to be a foot short!). The history of Two Guns has been amped by infamous writers and two-thirds of the "facts and figures" are probably bull, but I still think there is a story there. As we shot by on I-40, Ken Amorosano said, "Cool name." And I thought to myself, "Yes, and a cool title to a story."

I'm too fried to tell the sordid details of the Rocky Aragon Billy the Kid mural party in Santa Fe, but Ken took phone video and I promise to give the full story when I catch up on some ZZZZZs.

"The road is the only thing."
—An old vaquero's answer when asked which was more fulfilling, the road or arriving at his destination

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Billy the Kid Death Today

July 14, 2011

Just landed at Due West Gallery in Santa Fe. Big "Requiem for Billy" tonight at 5:30. Paul Hutton is coming up to moderate. Already sold a Billy painting. Lots of interest and fun times for me.

Staying at Thom Ross's Alamo house in Lamy, New Mexico. Last night, Thom, Buckeye Blake, Ken Amorosano, Annie Horkan and I went to wild and wooly Billy the Kid wall mural party on the west side of Santa Fe. Rocky Aragon was the artist of the wall painting and people came from miles around to celebrate. Pot luck dinner with massive amounts of tequila. Sordid details to follow.

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vernon, Texas is the answer

July 12, 2011

Finished up our cover photo shoot of Donna Howell-Sickles at five last night. Had a great celebration dinner in her loft in downtown Saint Jo. Solved life and made many toasts to our success.

Ken A. and I took off this morning at seven for New Mexico. Drove for a couple hours up through Wichita Falls and Quanah. Town after town, with the same dynamic: pretty houses and failed businesses. We both got hungry and started looking for a good breakfast place. Got off the freeway at Electra and drove around the downtown. Really sad. Every store closed or not open. Failed business after failed business, finally stopped and rolled down the window. Saw a woman in a nurse's outfit going into a building: "Excuse me, is there a cafe around here that serves breakfast?" She look at us, kind of startled: "Sorry, I don't live around here," she told us. Before we could leave, another woman ran out of the building, "I'm sorry," she said, "We lost our cafe, but we have a Subway up by the freeway." She said it like she had lost a member of her family. We felt her pain and drove on to the next town, Vernon. Ken assured me we would find a great restaurant. I can't say I really believed him. We drove through downtown Vernon and it was the same thing, we saw nothing open. Boarded up restaurants from time to time, many gas stations (also closed), but it was the same thing: failure and doom, very sad. What has happened to our small town downtowns? They are endangered, if not totally gone.

Out of desperation, we stopped at a chain restaurant, Braum's. We went inside with some dread, it had the same freeway choices, picture food and empty calories, cholesterol city, salt and fat. Ken asked two men seated at the window, "is there a cafe in town that we can have a decent, old school breakfast?" One of the guys laughed and said, "The only place in town that still serves that is in the basement of the Herring Bank Building. it's shoulder to shoulder in there with a lot of talking, but you won't learn a thing."

It was an ominous warning, but Ken and I knew it had potential for adventure, and at this late date in American culture, this was a chance we were willing to take.

We drove back toward the same downtown where we had seen nothing open. We spoted the Herring Building (it really was the tallest building at four stories). We saw the sign: "The Perk 'em Up Coffee Shoppe." We parked, got out and walked into the building. The Perk'em Up was a very small and the men inside were lined up, shoulder to shoulder at two tables. As we walked inside everyone looked at us as we made our way to one of the last remaining empty booths.

After ordering coffee and ham and eggs, the waitress warned us not to let the locals take advantage of us. As if on cue, one of the locals, "Buddy" walked over to us and said, "You're not from around here, are you?" We assured him we were not. And, so, Buddy proceeded to explain to us a coffee game of high and low, where we could get our coffee for free if we correctly guessed the high and low of a random number.

We assured Buddy we were up for any game they had to offer and they proceeded to run through the game so that we were the goat, the losers of the game. And when we laughed and accepted our fate, they told us that was just a fake game and that now we were ready for the real game.

After some maneuvering, we got to the number (172), and a guy named Joe Chat (I'm not making this up) lost and had to pay for all of our coffees. The waitress assured us that Joe could afford it since he's one of the richest guys in Vernon. We weren't sure, we weren't even surprised since we were willing to pay for everyone's coffee from the start, so I guess you could say we couldn't lose. And if you were with us this day, you would have to admit that we had a good time, and a good breakfast in Vernon, Texas at the Perk'em Up Coffee Shoppe.

By the way, the game goes off at 9:30 A.M. every day.

"We'll take you there."
—True West Mantra

Monday, July 11, 2011

Donna Howells Sickle

July 11, 2011

Flew to Dallas yesterday, drove up to Saint Jo, Texas. Little town almost to Oklahoma. Story goes Jo Howells was a big time cattleman and a noted drunk. For a while he was on the wagon and when it came time to name the town, one of the wags said, Hell, you're a saint now Jo, let's name it Saint Jo. He later fell off the wagon, as they say.

We are here to photograph Donna Howells Sickle (yes, she's related to Joe Howells) who does retro cowgirl style paintings for major money. She and her husband are renovating the downtown one building at a time. She's going to be our cover girl for October art issue.

"Go big, or go home."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hippy George

July 10, 2011

Big party up at Hippy George's Adobe Farm last night. Homemade carne asada, Victoria beer, two pinatas and major fun. Got home at midnite. Talked to Kathy in Germany on phone. She's on her way to Italy this weekend. I'm on my way to Dallas. Up at five, got to Sky Harbor at six, gate at 6:30, plane delayed.

Shooting a cover story tomorrow, then driving back to Tijeres, New Mexico, then up to artist Thom Ross's new Alamo home near Lamy, and a big party in Santa Fe with John Aragon, Buckeye Blake, Thad Turner and Paul Hutton.

"When choosing between two evils, I always like to pick the one I never tried before."

—Mae West

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Duke In the Can, Louis CK and Friday On My Mind

July 9, 2011

T. Charles and Pattarapan came out last night to hang at the homestead for the weekend. Made tacos de Bell for them. Had chicken, plain, for myself. For grins watched Louis CK riff on Osama bin Laden's final moments. He's got some nachos and he's going back to his room and he looks up, sees SEAL Team 6 and says, with some resignation, "Oh, yeh, I did that thing."

So zany and brilliant, that CK boy.

Got up this morning and wailed on the final for the Duke vs. Cowboys & Aliens cover. Wanted to finish by noon, but didn't make it. Have two other illustrations to do before I head off to Dallas and Santa Fe in the morning. Got a decent likeness of the Duke, had very good reference for the alien craft (publicity still from the forthcoming movie) and got some good effects of blue smoke. Wanted to leave it at the office tonight for Robert to shoot on Monday and get down to Dan The Man, but may hold on to it, and look at it when I get back. Don't want to rush it.

I was at Bashas' yesterday after work, buying some of the taco stuff for the Friday night feed and a nifty tune from 1966 or 67 came over the store stereo system, just as I was checking out. I told the cashier, Beverly, that if she could name the group I would give her a dollar. She looked old enough, but she told me she didn't have a clue and, finally, shrugged and guessed The Dave Clark Five.

Sorry, No Washington for you Bev-Babe. Here's the line that got my attention and made me smile:

"Even my old man looks good."
—Easy Beats, Friday On My Mind

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Duke vs. Cowboys & Aliens

July 8, 2011

They're here!

I'm referring to the juggernaut of Cowboys & Aliens movie trailers playing now and building up to the July 29th opening of the long awaited mega-Western.

Received a packet of movie posters from Courtney Joyner, who is writing a feature on the many genre mash-ups which includes Western classics like "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" and "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter." The entire feature points up the fact that there really is nothing new under the sun.

Dan The Man Harshberger has designed a very cool cover head which emulates and expands on the Cowboys & Aliens movie logo. This sucker literally explodes off the page. I need to get my illustration nailed. Did a fourth study this morning, concentrating on the Duke's likeness:

Still needs work, but getting closer to what we want. Wish this painting gig would get easier and I could mature into a proficient person. Gee, I wonder what ol' Engelbart has to say about this?

"The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate."
—Doug Engelbart

Thursday, July 07, 2011

What Do Hidalgo, Open Range and Deadwood Have In Common?

July 7, 2011

This afternoon we were looking for a quote from Johnny Cash about True West and perusing through issues from 2003 I ran across an article we did in the Feb-Mar issue. The feature-doubletruck was on "Westerns In The Works: Get Ready for a Bonanza of New Westerns!"

Here are the titles of "new" Westerns in the pipeline for 2003. Read 'em and weep:

• Open Range, released in summer of 2003, moderate success

• Westworld, remake with Arnold Schwarzenegger, never happened

• The Last Ride, retitled The Missing with Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchard, box office bomb

• Hidalgo, Viggo Mortensen, summer 2003, moderate hit (anybody know how big?)

• Bounty, supernatural killer, not sure how this one did. Do you know?

• The Lone Ranger, still working on it eight years later with Johnny Depp as Tonto. I believe it's scheduled for 2012.

• Muraya (Mike S. Blueberry), based on the cult graphic novel series by Moebius, I think it came out, was not in wide release. It was supposed to star Eddie Izzard as Mike. That could have been damn funny.

• Men of Destiny, director John Woo, about Chinese and Irish immigrants who built railroad. Sounds vaguely familiar, anybody know if this came out?

• The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise, did pretty good. Anybody know how good?

• Mending Fences, Keith Carradine, an Arizona ranching family struggles with its own emotional issues while trying to solve a murder. Hmmmm.

• Montana 1948, small town sheriff discovers his older brother is guilty of sexually assaulting female Native American patients. Kind of glad I missed this one, but did it even come out?

Made for TV

• Then Came Jones, a remake starring Sean Patrick Flanery, a reported $5 million pilot, the premise is described as "Laura Ingalls all grown up and everything went wrong."

• Peacemakers, Tom Berenger, USA cable channel, "CSI lands in the Old West". Did it air?

• Deadwood, no comment needed, a huge hit, perhaps the biggest on this entire list and a certain columnist of ours said it was a dirty dog and nobody would watch it.

• And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, never liked the title, but Antonio Banderas did a decent Pancho, and for once Villa was not played as a goofball. Not sure how the ratings stacked up.

Quite a list. I remember at the time thinking the project with the least potential was Deadwood. Just goes to show you, when it comes to Hollywood. . .

"Nobody knows anything."
—William Goldman

Duke Downs Cowboys & Aliens Spacecraft

July 7, 2011

Worked this morning on another cover rough for our coverage of the forthcoming Cowboys & Aliens (July 29th). This time I whipped out a rough of the Duke standing with his boot on a downed alien craft and he's sneering out at us.

Could be a strong cover, since we have a mixed camp regarding the theme of the movie. I plead guilty to disliking the old Gene Autrys where he jumped off of the running boards of speeding autos to corral Nazis. Just never liked that mash up, but it's been going on since the beginning.

"Strong beliefs win strong men, and then make them stronger."
—Walter Bagehot

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Would John Wayne Approve of Cowboys & Aliens?

July 6, 2011

Another big storm blew in last night. Rained pretty hard. Overcast this morning. Pool looks like a plugged up toilet. No joke.

Been noodling a cover idea for our next issue. We're going to be featuring the new Cowboys & Aliens movie that opens on the 29th of this month. My first rough, done yesterday at lunch, incorporated John Wayne from "Red River", only with the wrist deal on that Daniel Craig wears in Cowboys & Aliens:

This morning, I whipped out another version, this time utilizing another publicity still of the Duke with the crashed alien spaceship in the background and a question:

"A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees."
—William Blake

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

El Jefe vs. Cowboys & Aliens

July 5, 2011

Another big storm blew in last night, this one mostly lightning and wind, but did get a few sprinkles on the way home from the Wingets (who took pity on a lonely bachelor and invited me over for Fourth of July tequila and bison meatloaf, among other excellent treats).

Over the long weekend I noodled a study I call "El Jefe", which is, the big boss on a hacienda.

May use this for a new Graphic Cinema I'm working on: The Mexicali Stud. Love the vaquero-muy grande-sombrero imagery.

Also working on a cover image for the next issue of True West. Going to do a big feature on the upcoming DreamWorks Picture "Cowboys & Aliens" which opens soon. Unlike our competitors, we are going to do an in-depth study on the old Westerns mash-ups, like "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" and, my favorite bad-as in really bad-Western, "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter." In terms of bad, it doesn't get much better than this. And, of course, there's nothing new under the sun, only the budgets change (the new C&A is reported to have a $150 mil budget). Yikes! Aliens, indeed.

"It's a toss-up as to which are finally the most exasperating—the dull people who never talk, or the bright people who never listen."
—Sidney Harris

Monday, July 04, 2011

Holy Mole It's The Fourth

July 4, 2011
Pretty sweet weekend. On Saturday, at one, I drove down into the Beast and met T. Charles and Pattarapan at the Phoenix Art Museum to see the "Modern Mexican Painting" show. We had our individual favorites (Pattarapan loved the Deer Dancers and a histrionic suicide painting by unibrow master Frida Shallow, I mean Kalo) and Tomas dug a nifty little barefoot, guitar playing black man sitting on a bed jammin'. And me, I'm a sucker for the techniques of the unsung commercial art masters who painted great cows and muy grand sombreros (of course!).

All three of us, upon our review (name your fave and least fave paintings in the show) over tacos magnifico at La Condesa Mexican Food Cafe on 16th St. just south of Oak Street, concluded that the looped films that ran as the title wall at the beginning of the show was a favorite. Fantastic old footage from the 1910-20 era, showing In-dins and Inca faces, blushing senoritas and loping vaqeros flanking Model Ts full of El Jefes. I must have watched the multi-screen mashup at least ten times, marveling each time at the incredible scenes of the real Old Mexico.

It was the Thai one among us, Pattarapan, who discovered the restaurant where we had lunch. Amy and Tommy both recommended the black mole chicken tacos and they were magnificent. Washed them down with a Mexican beer I had never had before, and with a lime wedge on a very hot day, it was a treat, indeed. Okay, I had two.

From there we went back into downtown Phoenix to the Filmbar, a new hipster place where you can drink great wine, or beer, and watch an art movie. The film, which played at five, was "Circo" about a Mexican circus, meandering around Mexico trying to make a living in a brave new world where increasingly, due to the economy, the internet and cartel distractions-destructions, there is a shrinking market for the old time circus-big-top shows. Although it is a documentary, someone, I think it was Kathy, who said it matched the story arc of La Strada, the Fellini-Italian masterpiece starring Anthony Quinn, and I would have to agree. Very similar in that these carnival people don't know any other life and they can't quit the road. it's in their blood. It didn't hurt that the soundtrack was by Calexico, one of T-Bell's favorite bands.

Really enjoyed it. As I told P and T over the mole tacos at La Condesa, if you can't seek out good art, break bread with the people you love and solve life what is the point? We are here to learn something, watch for patterns, all the while trying to figure out the great mysteries of our existence. This was one of those days and I'm a happy dad.

Yesterday, being the smart ass he is, Tomas emailed me this headline:

Stop Making Delicious Food I Can't Stop Eating And Go Back to Mexico
—The Onion

Friday, July 01, 2011

Learning to Fly Southwest Style

July 1, 2011

Going to Santa Fe on July 14, for a big Billy the Kid show and forum at Due West Gallery on San Francisco Street. Yesterday I tweaked a half dozen Billy images for framing, including this little study, "Billy's Backyard Ballet" (McSween house breakout).

I actually worked on another, more ambitious version of this climactic scene when McSween's men made a break for the side gate from the last remaining room of the burning house. The incredible fact of this fight is that the four shooters along the back wall were only 15 feet from the door! One of the back gate shooters brought down the first man to reach the gate (Harvey Morris, a law student), then Billy fired back, forcing the men there to duck, which allowed all the men with Bonney to escape, jumping over the dead body of Morris in the gate and making it to the creek bottom and safety. Of course, McSween himself came out in a second group and most of those fighters were killed. Here's the more ambitious version of this scene:

Learning to Fly Southwest Style

Grabbed the Spirit magazine off of our flight to Denver last weekend. Southwest Airlines is turning 40 and in the mag they discussed some of the attributes that have made them stand out in a difficult industry. Here are a few of my favorite points from the magazine:

• Texas is a place that honors the truth yet harbors a fondness for the tallest of tales. (ditto for True West)

• Texas is a people who value courage and hard work, yet know how to have a good time. (ditto our readers)

• You know how management consultants tell you to think out of the box? Texas is out of the box. it's too big for the box. (now there's an attitude to aspire to!)

• Keep the idea simple enough to draw on a napkin (Southwest's business plan was written on a cocktail napkin in a bar in 1966)

• Recognize the drama (what if the airline was formed by a dozen lawyers in a Manhattan board room. Not the same thing.)

• Raise more money than you think you need. Now double it. (Amen)

• Crazy is no liability (Is America Ready for A Gay Western? Was Geronimo A Terrorist? Do crazy questions sell magazines?)

• Target the overcharged and underserved

• Be the good guy.

• Two strikes is one hit away from a home run.

• Recognize your luck

• Lack of money makes you frugal.

• Promote from within (meet Abby Goodrich, our up and coming multi-media wizard)

• Invent your own culture and put a top person in charge of it.

• Have a recognizable home (Cave Creek is a great home, unfortunately, Anaheim, where our subs go, is not)

• A crisis can contain the germ of a big idea (newsstand is dying, what about controlled circ in heritage hotels?)

• Simplicity has value (clean, simple covers, with an iconic image)

• It doesn't hurt to look like a toy (airplanes painted with animals on them are cat nip to kids. What is our version of this?)

• Get into fun advertising wars (Southwest goes after rivals with biting satire: "We'd like to match their new fares but we'd have to raise ours.")

• Take your business, not yourself seriously (when a rival used the same tag line, rather than going to court, the Southwest CEO arm wrestled the rival CEO, and lost, but the subsequent media feeding frenzy was a boon to Southwest and gave them a Good Guy image)

• Put your workers first (before Southwest planes take off, the pilots get a printout of the value of their stock at that moment)

• The web ain't cool. It's a tool.

• It's OK to be unprofitable for a year (Just be sure to be profitable for a least the next 39)

If this isn't inspiring to you, I suggest you read it again.

"Come to the edge." "We can't. We're afraid." "Come to the edge." "We can't. We will fall!" "Come to the edge." And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew."

—Guillaume Apollinaire