Thursday, May 31, 2012

They Took The Whole Road, Part II

May 31, 2012
   Going to be a scorcher today (109). Got up at 4:30 and did my walk in the cool.

   On the home stretch for a big James-Younger Gang painting "They Took The Whole Road." Here's the painting as it looked this morning before yoga class:

That's Charlie Pitts in the back, behind Jesse. Had good photo reference of Minnesota farm fields in mid-September (the corn fields start to turn brown, in rows, not all of them). Wanted to get that right. Of course, after the gang botched the Northfield robbery, they encountered two storms on the way out: a storm of posses (over 1,000 residents of the state turned out to guard every road and bridge and two, they encountered a huge storm of rain that lasted for almost two weeks). Incredibly, it was the heavy rains which actually aided them in their escape (at least as far as they made it) wiping out their tracks, etc.

Chip DeMann, of Northfield fame, is writing a piece on all the new information that has surfaced about the raid. For example, where they got their horses. For the longest time the conventional wisdom was they rode to Minnesota from Missouri, but we now know they came on the train (ironic, eh?) and purchased horses in the Land of 10,000 lakes. Now we know differently, and soon you will also.

"The future is no more uncertain than the present."
—Walt Whitman

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The History of Monument Valley

May 30, 2012

Getting ready for a big road trip this weekend. Heading first to the Navajo Res and the Monument Valley area. Got a new book in the office about the Wetherill Trading Post in Kayenta, "Shadows On The Mesa: Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond," by Gary Fillmore, who has a gallery—Blue Coyote Gallery—in Cave Creek. In fact, I drive by his gallery every day on my way to work. It's next to Big Earl's Greasy Eats (the old Jim's Full Serve gas station).

The Wetherills were in the Monument Valley area even before the Gouldings and virtually all of the artists who visited in the early 1920s are heroes of mine, including Jimmy Swinnerton, Maynard Dixon, W.R. Leigh and Gunnar Widforss. In terms of the history of the iconic landscape, in the timeline, it's amazing that so many artists and writers, including Zane Grey, were writing about and painting the Monument Valley scenery for a decade or more before a certain director finally showed up in the late thirties to film parts of the classic Western Stagecoach.

Called Ed Mell yesterday and he steered me to some of the movers and shakers in the area (Ed taught at Hotevilla on the Hopi res in the 1960s). In fact, Ed and I drove through Monument Valley two years ago coming back from a plein air painting trip in Utah. We hit a huge dust storm. Here is a photo of the back side of Monument Valley, coming in from Mexican Hat on that trip:

You can barely make out the mittens at left. Meanwhile, here is a frame capture from a film, shooting near the spot where I posed. Can you name the movie? And the actor?

And speaking of which, we ran the photo of me in front of the Mittens in the current issue of True West, which prompted this email:

"Howdy BBB, Are you really in front of the mittens or is that a photoshop job?  One of my favorite places on earth is right there...another great issue."

 —Ranger Rob Dean, Big Bend National Park

    Yes, the photo is real. Last summer me and my True West crew got to Monument Valley at about five p.m. in the middle of a thunderstorm. Looked like we couldn't film (we were there videotaping for a Westerns Channel project). We drove down off the mesa where the View Hotel is, and at the second turn, the rain stopped and a double rainbow arced over the left Mitten. We quickly jumped out to tape a True West Moment and as Ken Amorosano scrambled to set up the camera, I jumped a rivulet of water, climbed the berm and turned around for the signal to start taping. Lucinda Amorosano snapped this photo just before, or just after I started my spiel. She shot another ten or twelve photos but this one just pops. I think it's my favorite photo of any that have been taken of me (appearing to stand tall, in a tall place, maybe? Ha.).  One of those happy accidents as we painters are fond of saying.

If you have the new issue of True West, this photo is on the inside back cover. Check it out.

Oh, and speaking of Maynard Dixon, here is a cloud study that is inspired by his style:

it's called "The Road to Red Lake."

"The eye of the beholder governs what is seen."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frank & Jesse James Flee Minnesota

May 29, 2012

   Worked this weekend on new images of the James Gang in Minnesota. Working on a big sucker called "They Took The Whole Road," portraying the James-Younger crew riding into Mankato (their original target for a bank raid). Here it is, a work in progress:

Of course, after the unsuccessful raid the gang split up just prior to the Hanska Slough roundup and that led to this image: "And Then There Were Only Two Slamming Through The Sloughs":

Working from reference photos I took on September 10, 2001. I can't help but think of the next day when I view these.

"The eye of the beholder my govern what is seen."

—James MacGregor Burns

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dan The Man Pulls Cover Out of Rectum

May 25, 2012

   Working this morning on several fronts. In the middle of a James Gang painting that I need to deliver to Iowa next month. Also angling to complete the Wyatt Earp time travel.

   Just approved Dan The Man's new cover for August. Dan pitched us on the idea of Photoshopping the heads of the real Butch and Sundance onto the bodies of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in their iconic death charge. I told him I thought it would never work and for good measure I told him I would buy him lunch if he could pull that off.

   He did.

   When I got into work I saw this:


You made the front page of today’s Prescott Courier, and it wasn’t for cattle rustling! See the story. Congratulations.

—John Langellier

As a matter of fact, I'll be at the Phippen Museum, north of Prescott, tomorrow showing off the mini-bronze of Not-So-Gentle Tamer. See you there.

"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure—try to please everybody."

—Herbert Bayard Swope

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Desperados Waiting For A Train (To Stop!)

May 24, 2012

   Working on finishing our train issue. I have a pet peeve about horseback riders attacking a train, as they invariably do in the movies (think Shanghai Noon where Owen Wilson channels Led Zeppelin and rides down a hill with other outlaws to rob a train). Most horses hate trains and want nothing to do with riding up next to them, EVEN when they're standing still! Think about it: the train is made of metal. The engineer can duck down. They don't have to pull over.

   The reality of robbing trains in the Old West was to get on the train at a station, sneak up on the engineer by crawling over the coal car and at gunpoint making him stop the train, or, to put obstacles on the track, or derail the train. In my humble estimation, the absolute best portrayal of this, on film, is a Western that was a box office disaster. Can you name it?

   I have spent some time studying the Old Vaqueros. I love their look and regret their current assimilation into the mainstream North American Cowboy Look.

"Sometimes you have to be silent to be heard."

—Old Vauqero Saying

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Director vs. The Dictator

May 23, 2012

   One of the reasons I considered myself the director at the shoot on Monday is because I drew the storyboards for the sequences. Here's the one for the George Warren horse race:

The cell phone videos I posted yesterday were depicting the last three images.

Meanwhile, here is a sketch of Wyatt Earp vs. The Kick Boxer:

And what would it look like if The Last Baby Boomer (wearing Google Glasses) was spinning a tale about Wyatt Earp vs. The Kick Boxer and also Wyatt's race horse Dick Naylor?

Regarding yesterday's post about the number of director's on the set for Outrageous Arizona:

"As long as BBB is present, no production will ever lack a director."

—Charles Waters

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Outrageous Arizona Filming A Scorcher

May 22, 2012
It was a scorcher yesterday, and me and my crazy friends, spent the day shooting video out at Pioneer, Arizona. Thanks to Dr. Buck Montgomery and friends we had some good looks and good actors to choose from. It was a very ambitious shoot with a shot list that topped more than a dozen set ups.

We started at eight sharp and shot in doors without AC in the morning, so we wanted to get those done and "in the can" first. Taped Jana Bommersbach, doing four talking-head segments in the Victorian House, then switched gears for a re-enactment of a Burt Alvord poker game in the parlor (which stood in for a Willcox club room). Finished at noon and had a catered lunch in the Road To Ruin Saloon (which is about ten feet from where I got married in July of 1979). Drank a gallon of water and made it outside at around two to film a horse race. Temperature was at 108 degrees in the shade. This meant it was about 125 degrees in the sun and we were shooting in a big open area. I captured a short segment of this taping with my cell phone. Note all the directors, but also note that the pushiest one is holding the phone:

And here's the second set up of the same scene with even more director's. I guess you could call this the director's cut.

Finished at five on the nose. Long day, but well worth it. Shared a Corona with the executive producer, Ken Amorosano (the last guy in the last shot, above) in the $150,000 motor home. The show has the working title of Outrageous Arizona and we are going to feature the many characters who have made Arizona what it is today.

Next stop Prescott, and then up on the rim, both much cooler shoots to be sure.

"A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of a man."

—John Adams

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fire On The Mountains

May 20, 2012
   Got a big video shoot in the morning. Getting prepped for that.

   Meanwhile, we had 2000 fires last year (a record) and it appears we are off to a roaring start this year. We've got a big one burning not far from Cave Creek, in the Bradshaws, threatening Crown King, the tiny town with the mining past. I believe it's part of the same fire that's decimated Battle Flat (site of a famous 1860s gunfight we just covered in True West). This one is the Gladiator Fire. When you have fires all around you and it's the talk of the town it tends to get into my paintings. Did this impression of it today, based in part by my impressions of driving through the Wallow Fire last summer:

Meanwhile, got another fire burning near Sunflower:

And another fire in Utah, southwest of Salt Lake City:

And another in Coloroado (Fire On The Mountain):

These fires create their own weather system and kick up clouds thousands of feet in the air. Really devastating and spectacular at the same time:

And not to be outdone, I'm still trying to nail the late light painting (similar problems to fire lighting). This is Last Light On Morningstar Study #99:

"Travel is the art form available to Everyman. You sit in the coffee shop in a strange city and nobody knows who you are, or cares, and so you shed your checkered past and your motley credentials and you face the day unarmed. . ."

—Garrison Keillor, in the New York Times

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grandma Guessie

May 18, 2012
Gave a history talk to the Rotary Club at the Anthem Country Club this morning. great group. Very funny crowd, lots of laughs all around.

Last week, Ken Amorosano and I motored up to Prescott Valley to see the new bronze "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" at Bronzesmith. And speaking of the sculpture and the inspiration for it, here is my grandmother Louise Guess with her husband Robert Guess and their first born, Sadie Pearl. Photo taken in 1915 between Steins Pass and Lordsburg, New Mexico. My cousin, Tap Lou Weir, sent me this.

Although I didn't have access to this photo at the time, you can see there is a solid resemblance to my "Not-So-Gentle Tamer".

From Prescott Valley, Ken and I then motored on to Prescott to meet John Langellier at the newly refurbished Elk Opera Theater. We got the royal tour. That's Ken in the cowboy hat and John, seated.

This past week I met the stage director Kate Hawkes, who is doing a play at the fabulous refurbished Elks Opera Theater. I asked her what she is working on and here is her reply:

I am working on Fred and Mary: An Unconventional Romanceby Prescott playwright Micki Shelton (check it out at The world premier of any play is a big deal and this one about Lady Architect Mary Jane Colter and railroad entrepreneur Fred Harvey dealing largely with many of the wonderful buildings at the Grand Canyon, opening IN the year of the AZ centennial celebration is spiced with extra challenge! Telling an historical the story through an imaginative lens of ‘what if’ we take people to the Grand Canyon IN the the Elks Opera House. My biggest challenge right now is aligning all the pieces – costumes, set, images for projection! Oh and finding a place to rehearse for 3 weeks! (our own space the size of the stage of the Opera House) We have a dynamite cast and a great team of designers. Now we have to find the lumber to build the set (any donations out there gladly received!) and then I can get down to what I love the most. Working with the actors!

Meanwhile, my good friend Kevin Mulkins has shared with me some of his original Wyatt Earp photos. Check this one out:

I've never seen this one before. If you want to see more of Kevin's amazing collection you can see it right  here.

Meanwhile, got this from Wild Bill Hickok expert extraordinaire Joe Rosa last week:

I wish someone would write a factual article about Tom Mix, on the lines that I did on Buck Jones back in 1966.   His early life has been made legendary in much the same way as Earp's so it came as a shock to learn that he deserted from the army in the early 1900's.   I still recall the morning of October 15 or 16, 1940 when as a very small boy I came in to the room as the B. B. C. newscaster was reviewing the headlines, and he said something like: "Hollywood regrets to announce the death of the cowboy star Mr. Tom Mix in a car accident."   I remember my nother letting out a large "Agh" which made me ask who Mix was!    Then in 1942 my own hero Buck Jones had similar treatment following his death in the Boston Coconut Grove fire.   Amazing how things like that stick in the mind when more important or life-enhancing or changing things do not . . .

  —Joe Rosa

Sometimes headlines tickle and inspire me:
Mom, 37, Plays College Softball

This was an actual headline in the paper. Here's a headline that I could write:
Man, 65, Thinks He Could Have Played College Hardball

This afternoon I am storyboarding two segments of our proposed TV show that begins filming next Monday. Talking to Dr. Buck Montgomery about actors for the bits. Going to be fun. Love this stuff.

"The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil and tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who suffer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic."
—George Orwell

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Promontory Cowboy Hats

May 17, 2012

Got up this morning and whipped out another take on "Last Light On Morningstar". This is number 98:

Dan The Man Harshberger came out at ten and we had a design review for our next issue. At 11:30 we broke up the meeting and gathered at Robert Ray's computer to discuss train images. I got waylaid by another matter and Dan said loudly, "Myu-ah!" Not sure of the spelling but the phonetical sounds like Mmm-you-ah. This is anglo-mashing of a Hualapai term that means "Come here." We learned this from fellow Kingman athletes and Hualapai tribal members, Delano Havatone, Moon and Squibe Nish and, of course, Alex Suthogomie. Hadn't heard the expression in at least 45 years. Made me laugh. Took this photo to prove it (Dan is quite tickled).

The Cowboy Hats of Promontory Point

I have often studied the famous Golden Spike Ceremony at Promontory Point photographs. I love it because of the variety of hats on display. Did this page of sketches off one of the photos two nights ago:

As you can clearly see, there is one hat (upper, right) that looks remarkably like a 1930s Hoot Gibson hat. You know, kind of like this one:

Yes, this is my custom made Westerner of The Year Beaver Brand hat. Surely this style of hat didn't exist in the 1860s, did it? Well, take a gander at the Promontory Photo one more time:

Do you see it? Here, let me zoom in on it for you:

Now, lest you think this is a photo fluke ("He grabbed it like that but the brim didn't really curl up on the sides like that."), well, there were multiple photographers there that day and one of them took a photo of the same scene one second later. Here's the same dude:

A little grainy (didn't have the original), but not only is the white hat a large Hoot Gibson style sombrero, it also appears to have a pencil curl, just like my Beaver Brand. As I jotted in my sketchbook there are no new hats, just old hats forgotten. Remember this the next time you criticize someone for wearing a hat with curled up sides and pronounce it as "not historically accurate."

"I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it."

—William Sherman

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Love of Triumphs

May16, 2012
   Just got back from the dentist. Got beat up pretty bad (both in my mouth and about my head by the dental hygienist Delea).

   My daughter is marrying a guy who loves Triumph motorcycles (I probably don't need to tell you he gets major points for this). Last week Deena and Mike asked me to draw a picture of the two of them riding away on a Tiger 500 to place on a map that will be sent out to show where the wedding is. Here's my rough sketch:

Obviously they need to be doing a wheelie and the two need a little bit more facial recognition, but, other than that, I know my bikes! Why? I owned several Triumphs, both a Tiger (500cc) and a Bonneville (650cc). Both were stripped down for TT racing. Here's a picture from 1968 of me on a Honda:

This is near Tri-Onda (they sell Triumphs AND Hondas. Get it?) in Tucson where I worked for several years after college. I went through a major motorcycle phase, racing on the weekends and overhauling bikes on the living room floor. I was living, eating and sleeping bikes. Then one day in the parts department of Tri-Onda, a customer came in being pushed in a wheel chair. He was in a big, body cast and he wanted to know the status of his ride. I walked back to the mechanic area and asked about the bike. The mechanics laughed and pointed to the corner where a crumpled up bike, lay in a twisted mass of metal, with the front wheel wrapped under the the engine. He got hit in the parking lot of a grocery store. Some woman didn't see him and pulled out, clipping him good. Long story short, sold my bikes, quit the job and didn't let my son have a motorcycle or even a quad or anything with an engine and two wheels.

I know it sounds rash, but it was like a light bulb went out. Not on, off. Still, as harsh as that sounds, I still love Triumph bikes. Love the sound, love the look, love the tradition.

"Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash."
—George S. Patton

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Red Ghost Raider

May 15, 2012

   Sometimes I get sideways on projects. Need to write four scripts for a shoot on Monday. Whipped out 500 words on George Warren, another 500 on Tombstone and 380 on Goyathlay. Need to write another one tomorrow on Red Ghost:

Also, did some facial work on O.K. Reboot:

"If you're not yelling at your kids you're just not spending enough time with them."

—Mark Ruffalo

Monday, May 14, 2012

Climax Jim's Wild Ride

May 14, 2012

   Been working on a new True West Moment featuring Climax Jim, a notorious outlaw from Northern Arizona. He once escaped custody during a bath in a horse trough, jumped on a nearby horse, totally nude (him, not the horse) and rode through Springerville AND Eager. Didi this rough sketch last Friday.

Went home for lunch and whipped out a new version, working on the sides of the layout and leaving the middle for text:

Met with Kate Hawkes today at three. She is the director of  a new play which will premiere at the Elk Theater in Prescott in July: Fred and Mary: An Unconventional Romance. It features the relationship between Mary Jane Colter and Fred Harvey. More to come on that.

"You have to be willing to destroy what you have made, in order to let it evolve."
—Sarah Sze, artist

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cowboy Hats In Movies and Big Bad Boy Saguaros

May 11, 2012
  One of the reasons I moved to Cave Creek is because of the amazing amount of saguaros in the area. I'm looking at no less than a dozen outside my office window as i type this. Got a few big bad boys on my property. Here's one of them:

Here's a photo I found this morning that I find very interesting. This is a clothing store in Black Hawk, Colorado, near Central City, and advertised as the "richest square mile on earth" in its day. The photo was take in 1878, which is quite early as it relates to our conversations about the evolution of Western Wear.

Note the mannequin to the left of the doorway and the "cowboy style hat" on its head, which modern day movie-makers are so loathe to use because they're "inaccurate to the times." Hmmmmm.

"Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them."
—Joseph Joubert

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wild Women of Carefree, Cave Creek, Kingman and Thompson, Iowa

May 10, 2012
   Had a speech up at the Carefree Conference Resort at noon today. Spoke at the grand finale luncheon for the Desert Foothills Woman's Club in the Mesquite Room. Susan Vanik introduced me. Talked about Wild Women of the Wild West. Told them the story of Diltche, Ma'am Jones of the Pecos, Martha Summerhayes, Louise "Guessie" Swafford, and Minnie Hauan Bell. Told them the genesis of the "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" sculpture, which is shaping up to be a very big project up in Prescott Valley. And by big, I mean huge. The sucker is ten feet tall. Here's a sneak peek from the foundry.

That's Ed Reilly with his arm on the shovel, Bev Gessner and Lora Lee Nye who are riding herd on this project. Really dynamic people. Should have more to say next week.

Meanwhile, still noodling studies for Last Light On Morningstar. Here's two more, #90:

And number 91.

Sometimes I can go on too long. Gee I wonder if ol' Marty Stuart has anything to say on this?

"Saying too much of something is the same as saying nothing."
—Johnny Cash, to Marty Stuart after an extended mandolin solo

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Whiskey Row Fire Last Night

May 9, 2012
Ken Amorosano and I were in Prescott last night at a dinner with the director of the Sharlot Hall Museum, John Langellier when we smelled smoke. People started running by the front of the restaurant, El Gato Azule, just around the corner from Whiskey Row. Then we heard the sirens.

Running up to the corner we saw this scene:

Went around to the park side and saw into the buildings. Really a devastating fire. Took out three businesses, including the bar-b-q place we ate at last December when The Westerns Channel and I filmed a new batch of Buffalo Soldiers True West Moments and ate there after the shoot.

I was struck by the differences between this fire and the famous 1900 fire when the entire block of Whiskey Row (and part of another one) burned to the ground. Last night the fire department moved in with lightning precision and took over the entire block with a command center, crowd control barriers on all the streets and police crime scene tape securing the perimeter. The equipment looked space age with giant ladders that extended some 200 feet in the air with major water pressure and flood lights to direct the flow. I swear it looked like "War of the Worlds". I have a hunch the fire in 1900 would not have stood a chance against these professionals and their space age equipment.

Here's a short video I shot. I apologize for the crappy narration. I was tired and not up to speed with my usual man-on-the-street patter.

"Your spark can become a flame and change everything."
—E.D. Nixon

Monday, May 07, 2012

Deena Bean Happy Birthday!

May 7, 2012

   The Deena Bean turns 33 today. Happy Birthday California Girl! Seems like about two minutes ago you looked like this:

Spent much of the weekend seeking out the secrets of "Last Light On Morningstar". Even went up the road with my watercolor pad and sketched the scene from a variety of locations along the road. Whipped out a dozen more studies, like this one, number 93:

And this one, number 99, which I did this morning before coming into work:

Still not getting the glow of the last light right, but I keep pushing it. The design is better.

Meanwhile, trying to streamline and simplify my Wyatt Earp portraits for the Buscadero story:

Trying to strip it down even further with Patrick Nagel as my inspiration:

Trying to give Brett Smith some running room for color.

"Your spark can become a flame and change everything."
—E.D. Nixon

Friday, May 04, 2012

Wyatt Earp Stands—Lone Ranger Sinking?

May 4, 2012
Before I came into work, I whipped out another study of a subject matter I can't let go of. I call this "Last Light On Morningstar #87".

Also working on a set piece: Wyatt Earp Stands In Dust.

And here's a second stab at it:

Like the dust. Face is still not quite right. I'll get it. Did these this morning as well. Got up at five and bailed in. I could do worse than to emulate this sketch:

Remember Disney's Lone Ranger project, which was so famously reduced in budget from $250 million down to $200 million? Well, the rumor is rampant that the shoot has not been smooth and the budget has ballooned up to $300 million and counting. I still hope they can pull this off, but after the debacle of John Carter this is troubling to hear.

"For what is a family without a steward, a ship without a pilot, a flock without a shepherd, a body without a head."

—Elizabeth I of England

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Hopalong Geezers

May 3, 2012

Sometimes I draw things in my studio. And if you've seen pics of my studio you know it's crowded with stuff I love, like this Hopalong Cassidy clock (from the back, by the way):

I call this series "Artifacts of Dementia," as it goes along with the new time travel Graphic Cinema I'm working on. The theme of the story is a harsh one. Gee, I wonder if Kids Today can tell me what that theme is?

"Get off the stage, Grandpa!"

—Kids Today