Friday, March 30, 2012

Disenchantment Fall Back Position

March 30, 2012

Although he didn't admit it, I think my "Land of Disenchantment" idea gave Johnny D. Boggs heartburn. I emailed him this morning and told him if he'd give me the weekend I'd get him something less edgy and more history minded. Whipped this out before I came into work:

A straight-up vaquero: "Jumpin' On It" is a good place holder. I sent this to Johnny in hopes he can sleep better this weekend, as I take another run at it. Meanwhile, still noodling the layout for Wyatt On The Set. Played with the idea of adding a long shadow of Earp as the looming hulk he was to become.

Dan thinks I might be overproducing (Who, ME?), so the debate is on: does the shadowy, looming visage of the future Wyatt Earp say what we want it to say? That no one on that movie set in 1921, including Wyatt Earp himself, has a clue about how large he will someday come to dominate the image of The Gunfighter in the American West?

Well, does it?

"We must be doing something to be happy. Action is no less necessary to us than thought."—William Hazlitt

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kid Burns

March 29, 2012

Went home for lunch and worked on a cover concept for Johnny Boggs and the Western Writers of America who have their convention in Albuquerque on June 15. Since it's the centennial year for both Arizona and New Mexico I suggested a cavalcade of history style cover illustration. I grew up on these collages of historic figures mashed together. However, as I got to going on it, I noticed that everyone looked rather unhappy. So, this is called "The Land of Disenchantment."

I told Johnny it might be too dark. Yes, that's Mangus Colorado in the upper right. The only guy who is happy seems to be the Kid, so you might also call this, "Ain't Nobody Happy Unless The Kid Is Happy."

Or not.

"Would it hurt you to care about the truth, just a little?"
—Kid Burns to his soon-to-be ex-wife, in the next installment of Graphic Cinema

Brush Poppin', Curled Brim Wearin' Earp Head Gear

March 29, 2012

Working on the next installment of Graphic Cinema where-in we catch up with Wyatt Earp at the so-called Mescal Springs fight in March of 1882. I have a hunch he wore different head gear in the brush than he did in town (you see photographic evidence of this with George Parsons posing in the studio with completely different clothing that he wears out on the trail than what he wears to work in Tombstone).

And, yes, I'm aware it has the so-called rodeo curled brim, but I defy you to prove that he didn't wear this style hat.

"They say they didn't have time to think—to choose to decide, only to react. There's a biological switchlike mechanism that turns on in some people's brains, sending them into action automatically. They go from a bystander to hero in a split second."
—A Fort Huachuca scientest trying to explain Earp's reaction to events in the Tombstone story

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Snidely Whiplash Earp

March 28, 2012

I have been accused of being anti-Earp. Although I don't see it that way, I do understand the criticism. As I have been developing the latest Graphic Cinema for True West I have been sketching the frontier marshal with, what I would call, an unflinching eye. Some might see it as negative.

I see myself leaning on his steely-eyed visage, whereas some might see Snidely Whiplash.

Had a design review this morning with Ken, Meghan, Robert and Dan The Man. Lots of input and trading up, which is a good thing. I rejected my opening spread illustration on "Wyatt On The Set."

I hate it when I miss the original idea (which was MY idea!). My original rough sketch layout is what I want, so I return to the drawing board.

The idea being that Wyatt Earp was in the background watching the filming. He never got close to being in front of the camera. In my defense, I was in a hurry to go to Mexico and perhaps rushed it a bit.

"You will meet your destiny on a road you took to avoid it."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back Yard Wedding Bells

March 27, 2012

Had a small wedding party in our back yard last Saturday night. Here are a couple of photos John Beckett took of the fandango, starting with the newlyweds, Amy Pattarapan Pothong and Thomas Charles Bell:

Here's the latest extension of the Bell family (below), with the next wedding to involve the couple on the right.

Things got a little wild after a four course Thai dinner (cooked by Amy's mother and aunt) and during the snowball dance a certain cowboy cartoonist went and got one of T's friends from Tucson to dance: Believe me, it's not as gay as it looks.

Okay, it looks pretty gay. Still working on frontier marshal faces. Actually did these in Mexico last week.

Still not there yet. Haven't quite got it and it's been 71 days of due diligence. Gee, I wonder what ol' Gide has to say about this?

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
—Andre Gide

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mexico Sketches

March 26, 2012

Back from a week in Rocky Point, Mexico. Great beach, great food and great downtime (no internet access for five days!). Spent the time drawing, drinking and napping (in that order).

Worked hard on the story and the characters, especially the main character. Here's a page of graphic cinema pastiche:

Did, perhaps, 50 drawings on a variety of angles on the frontier marshal. Want it to be clean and lean. Here's one I did yesterday:

Perhaps a bit too Kurt Russell-ish, which, in fact, was the art reference. This morning I took a crack at Morgan Earp, seeing if I could find a common connection to the family facial structure and especially the Earp nose. They definitely had a bulbous schnozz deal going.

Trying to throw this all together into a graphic cinema for the next issue. Getting tight. Need to distill all the writing and art into something that has a strong voice. Here are two quotes that really describe my current dilemma:

"No matter how pretty the picture is, if there is no story or meaning in it, there will be no interest."
—Hal Foster, author and illustrator of the classic cartoon strips Tarzan and Prince Valliant

"Uninterpreted truth is as useless as buried treasure."
—Lytton Strachey

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wyatt On The Set #5

March 17, 2012

My son is getting married today, but I had to finish the Wyatt On The Set opening spread illustration. Worked until about 11 and came up to the office to scan it:

What we have here is Wyatt on the set of "Wild Bill Hickok" (1923) standing next to the actor who plays him and William S. Hart in the title role, on right. This is the first portrayal of Wyatt in a movie. Paul Hutton is writing the piece to accompany the illustration.

Going dark here for a week. Going to Mexico to dodge cartel caravans.

"When a dirty fighter has no legs left, he aims low."
—Wyatt Earp, as quoted in my Extremely O.K. time travel graphic novel

Thursday, March 15, 2012


March 15, 2012

I did an interview on NPR yesterday. You can hear it right here.

Meanwhile, found a half-finished painting in my morgue this morning, saw some potential and tweaked it to a finish.

I call this "Billy Stiles, I Presume" because I think I based this pose on an alleged photo of the outlaw Billy Stiles. I think the photo had some issues in terms of provinance, but anyway, here it is.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on the Wyatt Earp timeline project and plan to run the first two-pages in the next issue of True West. This morning I was playing with opening it at a certain venue in Tombstone:

I'm also playing with a clean look for Wyatt. This was sketched from a photo of Bruce Boxleitner as Wyatt Earp:

Bruce actually had a good look as Wyatt, although I think he had a fake mustache for the Marie Osmond TV movie. We are going to do a comparison of all the movie stars who have played Wyatt and a question as to who resembled him the most.

Edmundo Segundo came by the offices this morning with an art collector who has more than 30 Lon Megargees. Really an impressive art collection (we looked at them on his iPad). Ed Mell was taking Byran Lewis around to see the Megargee sites in Cave Creek. Lon did some of his most famous paintings while living here in the early days. In fact, Lon's house became Tonto Bar & Grill and I drew a map for Ed and Byran to see several other Megargee sites. Here we are standing in the front office before they hit the road:

Ed's giving a talk about landscape painting at the Tempe Art Center this evening.

"Latent abilities are like clay. It can be mud on shoes, brick in a building or a statue that will inspire all who see it. The clay is the same. The result is dependent on how it is used."
—James F. Lincoln

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bring Me The Hea of Bob Paul #13

March 14, 2012

After 27 studies, workups and numerous painting attempts, I hit the wall on the Bob Paul assignment last week. My good friend John Boessenecker did not think the last attempt captured Bob Paul's visage like I had on earlier attempts. The problem is, in one of the only known photos of Paul he looks rather bloated and heavy. I wanted to show him a little more trim and fit, in fighting form. John thought that I had nailed Paul's facial appearance in this study—number 13:

The problem with this study is his body is too short, especially from the waist down. And this makes the rifle ridiculously short. So I needed to expand this and it was very difficult, for me. After a half dozen attempts, I ended up here:

John did not like the face and thinks it is way too thin. So I took a water filled brush and blurred out the right side to expand it. A very chancy proposition. That gave me some width and I tweaked it adding back the eyes, etc. and that got me to here:

John still felt this was not quite right and he kept referring to Bob Paul number 13, so on a long shot, I brought that study in to the True West World Headquarters this morning and scanned it at 600 dpi, gave it to our production manager, Robert Ray, and asked him to put it in Photoshop and see how much of a train wreck it would be to marry the two images. Within fifteen minutes, Robert Ray came up with this:

As you might have already guessed, John loves this and they want to use if for the cover. Amazing. I still need to redo the painting for John's wall with the right face on it, but for now, this mash-up will have to do.

Considering I have a wedding in the back yard to attend this weekend, and a week in Mexico dodging cartel convoys, I am quite grateful to Photoshop AND the skills of Robert Ray. Speaking of new technology and how ridiculous people are about it. . .

"Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
—Dr Dionysus Lardner, University of London professor, 1840

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Arizona Buscadero Rig Discovery?

March 13, 2012

I have thought for a long time that our obsession with the eradication of Buscadero gun rigs in movies was a little over the top. Especially when you look at Commodore Perry Owens in his buscadero rig, but this always elicits a snobby, "Yes, but that's the only one." Well, we published another one about five years ago showing a Flagstaff lawman with a buscadero rig and although it was undated, it clearly was before 1900. This led to a theory in the office that perhaps there was a movement in Arizona, or perhaps a gun leather craftsman in northern Arizona who specialized in the low slung holster (Commodore was from the Holbrook area and later Seligman, both towns on the Santa fe rail line, as is Flagstaff.

Yesterday I was looking for something in my photo archives and found this familiar image from Holbrook:

I've seen it many times, but this time something jumped out at me. The guy in front of the horse appears to have on a buscadero rig. Here's a closeup up:

Or, is it merely the leg of the guy in the background? So yes, the Mexican loop holster was predominate in the 1870s and early 1880s, but I think there was an early movement to build buscadero rigs in Arizona during this same time period. Just a theory, but I have a hunch I'm right.

"People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first."
—David H. Comins

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rubbing Pocahontas The Right Way and Wyatt Earp The Wrong Way

March 12, 2012

Back in Arizona after a whirlwind trip to Williamsburg, Virginia and the Williamsburg Film Festival. Had a great time and met some very nice people. All my life I have heard about Southern hospitality and now I know what everyone is talking about.

On Thursday, the first day of the show, one of my hosts, Larry Floyd, took me to Colonial Williamsburg and I finally got to see first hand that incredible living history site that everyone has talked about. Here is Larry on the square.

If you saw the TV movie series "John Adams" most of it was filmed here. From Williamsburg, Larry drove me out to Jamestown and I got to see the original fort and I also got to participate in a local tradition. According to Larry, locals believe that if you rub a certain part of the Pocahontas statue you will receive good luck. In spite of a couple standing nearby, I jumped up and rubbed her good. Here I am jumping down. Can you guess which part of the statue is supposed to be magical?

Got home last night about six. Worked this morning on my Extremely O.K. Wyatt Earp Time Travel project. Working up sketches of the controversial frontier lawman this morning:

"Police are looking for a suspect who calls himself 'Wyatt Earp.' He is wanted for a hate crime at a convenience store near Casa Grande, Arizona. According to eye-witnesses, several youths were called racial epithets and when they attempted to discuss the situation with the suspect they were hit over the head with the handle of a long-barreled gun. The suspect is believed to be armed and dangerous. He was last seen heading north towards Vegas in a brown Ford Crown Victoria."
—Shannon Bragadacio, Fox News

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Last Day at Williamsburg Film Festival

March 10, 2012

Spent some time talking with the actress Terry Moore this morning. She has led a pretty amazing life. She was married to Howard Hughes, she starred in movies with leading men from Burt Lancaster to Tyrone Power to Clark Gable to John Travolta. She knew John Wayne (see quote, below) is in her eighties and feisty as ever. Still walks ten miles on the weekend. She was a jet pilot, she had her own talk show, she's written five or six books. When I asked her if there's anything she hasn't done, she said, "Rest."

John Saxon is giving a talk at 1:30, then I'm giving a presentation at three on The Real Billy the Kid vs. the Reel Billy the Kid. Banquet is tonight and then home tomorrow.

"Hell, I'm too stupid to lie and keep everything straight. It just gets you into a mess of trouble."
—John Wayne, as quoted by Terry Moore in her book, "So How Do You Stay So Young?"

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Wyatt Earp at the Circle K

March 6, 2012

Been working for the past 50 days on my Wyatt Earp time travel project. One of the things that grinds me is when oldtimers, especially certain cowboys, start pontificating on "dudes" in old photos. I have several photography books where some "local expert" labels an 1880s photo of a guy, with his pants tucked in his boots, or some other mortal sin to a 1930s cowboy, as a Dude, and I'd love to pull out an expert from the past, a la Woody Allen in the movie line, and give the "expert" both barrels. That led to this page of notes:

Another aspect I'd like to delve into is Wyatt Earp interacting with gang bangers in, say, a Circle K. What would he say? What would he do? I have a hunch what he'd do:

Going to be a fun project. Looking to run a short story arc on this in an upcoming Graphic Cinema.

Meanwhile, Juni Fisher and I are scheming on a Dixxy Diamond story for later this year. Got some doozys in the hopper. I have some very ambitious goals, but sometimes those don't help us as much as we'd like. In yoga this morning, our instructor, Debbie Payne had a good quote: "The only limitations we have are the limitations we mistake as goals."

Well, okay, at least I'll be consistent, then?

"Don't be 'consistent', but be simply true."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Cats ON The Loose

March 5, 2012
So my son, T. Charles and his lovely bride to be, treated Kathy and I to a U of A-ASU basketball game yesterday and it was a ton of fun. Have to admit I choked up when, the game began and ASU started playing their sexy-rock-soundtrack to introduce their players, and the jaybirds sitting in the nosebleed section (that would be us and a rowdy gaggle of other Cat fans), started chanting U-o-f- A, with each section taking a letter and a vowel. Ruined their deal, which was really moving to an old man. I couldn't participate because I had tears in my eyes like that French guy in the famous photo from WWII where the Nazis came into Paris and he's weeping like a baby. Too much estrogen, for sure.

Couple of amazing changes to the game which shocked me: they didn't jump centers like we did in the old days before the culture wars. You know what I mean? When two beanpoles faced each other at the center jump circle? First of all, there is no jump center circle anymore, just a huge fork logo that goes from side to side. But, yesterday, the centers lined up SIDE BY SIDE for the jump and the ref, with the ball, stood in front of them. When the hell did THAT start?

Next, remember ten years ago when teams would line up, straight away from the bench and the starting players would be announced, and each player would jump off the bench and run through the gauntlet high fiving everyone, (which eventually evolved to low fiving), come out the end and wait for the rest of the team to be called? Well, now, each guy walks, seemingly bored to the end, several guys didn't even wait until their name are called, but went in twos, totally destroying the buildup by the announcer (I thought it might just be the Cats, but the Sun Devils did the same thing). So that tradition is dead. Can't do what our fathers did. That sucks.

But here is the biggest shock to me. When did coaches get their own coaching box ON THE FLIPPIN' FLOOR?! There is this tan line, like a hash tag, or, half a coaching box, like in baseball, that is painted on the floor in front of each bench and both coaches, stand ON THE COURT to yell at their players. That was unnerving to me, an old guy, who got choked up over a cheer and is outraged over the sanctity of the floor being invaded by creepy coaches in suits.

Of course, ASU won, shooting 58% from the floor, which I hated, but not as much as my son, who didn't even go to school in Tucson, but he's a rabid Cat's fan, so I must have done SOMETHING right.

Got in the new issue of "The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers: 2012." See any familiar magazines featured on the cover?

Meanwhile, over the weekend Ed Riley came down from Prescott. He is the owner of Bronzeworks and he is leading a charge to make my painting "Not-So-Gentle Tamers" into a sculpture for the city of Prescott Valley. His crew, led by Debbie, created this clay model:

What an honor. I have always thought of Prescott Valley as a scattered mess, an incorrigible gaggle of rednecks, immature snowbirds and mighty cranky oldsters. So, I guess the two of us make a perfect fit, no?

"He who sleeps in continual noise is awakened by silence."

—William Dean Howells

Friday, March 02, 2012

Arizona Rough Riders, Saddle Rings & Eagle Eyes

March 2, 2012

Working this morning on a new True West Moment on Arizona Rough Riders. Whipped out this study this morning before I came into work.

Had some good reference: several Remington paintings and Chris Zimmerman photos which he has shared with me, and, in fact, are on this site. Thanks Chris!

This Just In: two retired teachers from Indiana just walked in the True West World Headquarters and bought this painting, and another one of mine. That was sweet.

Meanwhile, our April cover is causing waves. We used a great photo of a Texas Ranger which I had never seen before (got it from Bob Alexander, who got it from Chuck Parsons).

This is one of several letters and emails we have received:


The April cover is great. The guy absolutely epitomizes the American image of the rough, tough, independent man in the old west. However, I did notice a couple of discrepancies. (I probably won't be the only one either.)

1. The saddle ring on an 1873 Winchester rifle is located on the left side. The loading gate is on the right. (re:The famous Billy The Kid mirror image?) This means the photo was a tintype.

2. This also means he was not left handed (re: holstered pistol)

3. Tintypes were not in color.

Just commenting on what caught my eye, not criticizing.

—Lee Anderson


Several others have commented on the saddle ring being on the wrong side (it's on the left side). Perhaps you think this is nitpicking, perhaps you think these people should get a life, but I see this as fun. I love it that these guys are out there paying attention. Besides, ol' Tomas kind of nails it:

"I think work is the world's greatest fun."
—Thomas Edison

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Tombstone Travesty

March 1, 2012

It has become almost an annual event that a journalism student from the University of Arizona calls me to interview me on why Tombstone didn't make our Top Ten Towns list. As I understand it, the U of A Journalism School has a deal with the Tombstone Epitaph to give students real life experience of working for a legendary newspaper.

So every year I get the call and I am invariably asked how the Top Ten Towns are chosen. And, then, the questions get more pointed: "Is it true, if you buy an ad you get an award?" Not true, I always tell them. Many of the towns chosen have never bought an ad with us.

I did an interview on the phone several weeks ago about the travesty of this year's list. Here is the link to the resulting article.

Based on that article we received this from one of our Tombstone friends this morning: "I don't think merchants from Tombstone want to advertise in your magazine, Santa Barbara over Tombstone, REALLY, take me off your mailing list!!!"

As I say in each and every interview, we love Tombstone and we talk about them in almost every single issue, but we do think there are concerns about the historical authenticity of the place. They put dirt on the streets, then some merchants threatened to bill the city over tourists tracking dirt into their establishments, so another regime comes to power and takes out the dirt. One step forward and two back.

According to my parents I first visited Tombstone in 1950 when my Iowa grandparents came out for a visit and we made a trip across the state to visit all the big sites. I don't remember it (I was three). There is a photo album of the trip and in it is a picture of Allen Street. But no photograph of me in the town.

Even though I attended the U of A in nearby Tucson for five years from 1965 to 1969, I never quite made it to The Town Too Tough to Die. It was only about 70 miles away. I even played the Elfrida Prom in 1967, but we drove to it from the Sulpher Springs Valley side and I overshot the town. One summer, circa 1968, I delivered beef to Fort Huachuca five days a week, from Tucson, and as I made the daily run from Benson to Sierra Vista, I often looked longingly off to the east at the Tombstone Hills, wondering what the place looked like.

Finally, in 1974, after watching "Appointment With Destiny: The O.K. Corral Fight" on TV, I talked Dan and Darlene Harshberger into going with me and my wife to visit the place. On the way down from Tucson, I made my wife read the Spicer Hearing out loud, so we could all hopefully get in the mood. After about five minutes, she promptly nodded off and went to sleep. I then handed the Spicer Hearing back to Dan in the back seat, who in turn, read for several minutes and he too went to sleep. Darlene was already asleep. As I drove along in the deathly quiet, I realized I was the only one who loved this stuff enough to stay awake.

Here is a photo taken by Dan the Man of me, Terry Townsend and Darlene Harshberger, standing in the doorway of the Tombstone City Hall (note date at bottom, left). This was in 1974.

Today, I'm almost as old as the building. Not long after this trip, Terry moved out (something about being forced to endure long readings of historic documents).

And so, almost forty years later, here I sit immersed and embroiled in the turmoil and angst of a town that I love dearly. In spite of all the infighting and bickering, it really is a treasure. And, I must admit, it's very stimulating and I've never nodded off. Gee, I wonder where I went wrong?

"Remember, the higher up the flagpole you go, the more people can see your rear end."
—Dandy Don Merideth