Saturday, January 31, 2015

Capturing Ghosts On Ratcliff Ridge

January 31, 2015
   Yesterday at five I glanced out the kitchen window at Ratcliff Ridge and saw that tattered clouds were drifting in front of Continental Mountain. I walked out to see if I could capture the scene.


   Walked a couple steps to the south and took another picture:


   Walked another ten steps:


   Walked out to the end of the driveway and took another photo (I'll spare you), then came back to where I started and clicked off two more. Went back in the house to see what I got.

Bingo! Ghosts On Ratcliff Ridge

"Heroes are forgotten, legends never die."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Toasty Pot Bellied Stove Morning

January 30, 2015
   Rained most of the night. Woke up to a soggy Arizona morning. Here is Ratcliff Ridge at about seven this morning.

Ratcliff Ridge at 7 a.m. on a soggy, fogged in Arizona morning

   I always marvel at that impressive stand of saguaros along that ridge. Something that even Ms. Ratcliff doesn't get to see. And it changes sometimes hourly in all kinds of light. I could spend the rest of my life, just painting that ridge and I would never capture it in all it's glory.

Ratcliff Ridge at Sunrise

Ratcliff Ridge in Late Afternoon Light

Ratcliff Ridge In Twilight

Ratcliff Ridge Just Before The Storm

   I could post pictures of Ratcliff Ridge until the cows come home, but suffice to say I think you get the picture?

   Brought in some wet wood and stoked a fire in my Big-Bug-Creek-Pot-Bellied stove. Very cozy. Now if I can just some work done!

My Big-Bug-Creek-Pot Bellied Stove stoked up and roaring good

   At least three decades ago, I paid $900 for this stove at the Big Bug Creek Antique Store near Mayer, on the road to Prescott. A recent realignment of the roadway killed the once popular store, but I smile every time I drive by there.

   Finally got untracked about ten and whipped out two paintings inspired by the rain.

Daily Whip Out: "A Break In The Storm"

   The funniest thing is, I literally took the painting out on the hood of my Flex and painted in the saguaros. I then did this slightly different take on the landscape but it needs work. Full disclosure: these are paintings out of my Do-Or-Die-Skies file, with the clouds blocked in already. So this morning's "whipout" only applies to the foreground.

"After midday, the rain eased, and the Land Rover rode into Pokhara on a shaft of storm light."
—Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Five Daily Whipouts (Thanks to Foothills Plumbing)

January 29, 2015
   Went home for lunch and waited for the water heater repairman. Had an apple and a tortilla and decided to do some sketches while I waited:

Daily Whip Out: "The Frowner"

Daily Whip Out: "Red Rider"

Daily Whipout: "Headin' Home"

Daily Whipout: "Hi Jolly"

Daily Whipout: "Jumpin' Black Rags"

   Paid $519.25 to Foothills Plumbing and personally thanked the technician for allowing me the time to do some decent work.

"I fall all the time. You know who comes and gets me? The bouncer."
—Chelsea Handler

The Outlaw of Our Dreams

January 29, 2015
   Found an old T-shirt design in my studio this morning. it had the germ of a good idea: an homage to Paul Andrew Hutton's famous Billy the Kid line: "...the outlaw of our dreams—forever free, forever young, forever riding." Took another pass at the image to try and capture him in the sky. Whipped this out before I came into work.

Daily Whip Out: "Billy the Kid, Forever Young, Forever Riding"

   And here is the original T-shirt we designed over at Tri Star back in the early nineties:

Tri Star T-shirt design. Needed to have Billy's name on it though

   Actually, both shirts need a good art director's touch. And that would be this dude:

Dan The Man Harshberger,  fixing my art for 45 years

   Another guy who helped me in many categories is this fellow Kingman boy and at the time, cub reporter (Charlie was actually the publisher of the Prescott Courier at the time, the youngest publisher in Arizona(:

Phoenix New Times, 1979: Left: Dewey Webb, Charlie Waters and Jana Bommersbach

   Speaking of people who helped me, here is a gentleman I helped lose an election. In 1974 I was the campaign manager for this rogue candidate:

Wonderful Russ appearing live on Decision '74 when there was an equal time clause in the media and wherever Jack Williams and his rival candidate appeared, they had to give equal time to my candidate. Great Big Wonderful received 800 votes and even more chuckles from Zonie hipsters. Oh, and they changed the law after that. So we made a difference in people's lives. Sort of.

"I will be blasting California off into the ocean so Arizona can have a seaport."
—Just one of the "wonderful" promises Wonderful Russ made in his run to be governor of Arizona

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The History of True West Moments

January 28, 2015
   Got a new book in the mail yesterday: "Ridin', Ropin' & Recipies" by the legendary Arizona cowgirl Nancy Sheppard. It is a hoot and a half! Full disclosure: she features "The Guess Girls Cowboy Beans" which is my mother's and her mother's and her four sister's recipe. The names in the book are worth the price ($25), including recipes from Clyda, Boog, Tuff, Dally, Beldora, Skeeter, Dixee, Jinx and Cotton, among others. You can't make up better handles!

Nancy Sheppard in the 1950s. She is 84 and still going strong

   Dan The Man Harshberger, Robert Ray and I are working on my next book: The Best of True West Moments. Dare I say "Volume I"? So far I have done a couple hundred of these suckers. It all began some 13 years ago:

The History of True West Moments
    In the summer of 2002 I attended a writer conference in Gunnison, Colorado. One of the perks of the event was a field trip to the ghost town of Tin Cup. On the trip up the mountain, aboard a bouncing school bus, I was regaling a couple friends in the back of the bus with stories about being on the movie set of  "Tombstone" (1993) and "Wyatt Earp" (1994). About half way up the mountain, the bus stopped and we all got out to see a woman setting up a tripod in front of a broken down cabin. On top of the tripod she mounted a big ol' video camera. A guy with a clip board, standing next to her, asked me to come forward and look into the camera and talk about Wyatt Earp movies just like I had been talking on the bus. Fifteen minutes later, Jeff Hildebrandt—a producer at the Westerns Channel—told me to shut up and we got back on the bus and went on up the mountain.

    I didn't think any more about it and, In fact, thought the whole trip was a waste of time. About two weeks later I got a call from Jeff saying they had gotten some good response to my comments that ran before the movies, "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp" and the response was good. And so Jeff asked me if I wanted to do "bumpers" and I said, "Absolutely." Before adding, "What is a bumper?"
Dan Harshberger's original layout ideas for True West Moments

    Well, a bumper is the space between two movies and often the channel needs a short filler to set up the next movie, thus a bumper, where two movies bump together. So by the fall of 2002 my career with True West Moments had began. We filmed many of these short informative True West tidbits, from locations in Tucson, Tombstone, Pioneer and Cave Creek, Arizona. Also, Wichita, Kansas, Durango, Colorado and the area around the National Ranching Association in Lubbock, Texas. The short and punchy True West Moments ran almost daily for the better part of ten years and we filmed around 75 of them and they ran thousands of times.

True West Moment filmed at Cowtown, AZ: Can a bullet go through a water trough?

My Favorite True West Moments still available on CD

   As the Arizona Centennial came into view (1912-2012), I pitched our hometown newspaper, The Arizona Republic on doing a print version of True West Moments as a run up to the festivities on February 14, 2012. My editor, Ken Western (could an editor of True West Moments ever have a better name?) gave me the green light and the first True West Moment ran on March 7, 2010 and proved so popular, the newspaper has continued to run the weekly history lesson to the present day and as of this writing there have been more than 200 that have appeared in the Republic.

    In the spring of 2014 I was contacted by the new director of Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West, Michael J. Fox, about utilizing my True West Moments in a permanent exhibit of the proposed museum. Some 75 of these True West Moments are displayed in the Abe Hays Exhibition, which opened on January 15, 2015.

   And speaking of True West Moments, I'm working on a new True West Moment about drunk posses. it was a bigger problem in the Old West than is usually portrayed in movies. For example, in the Elfego Baca siege in Frisco (Reserve), New Mexico, two large cowboy posses rode up from The Blue and drank all night, all the way, then stopped at a saloon and tanked up during the fight.

Daily Whip Out: "One Drunk Posse"

"I'm Bob Boze Bell and this has been a True West Moment."
—my signature sign off on the Westerns Channel

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dallas Taylor & The Lawman

January 27, 2015
    Just read that fellow drummer, and one-time inspirational bandmate, Dallas Taylor, has died at age 66. I had the privilege of playing "Midnite Rambler" with Dallas playing my drums and me singing lead with Hans Olson and Jack Alves back in 1981 at a hipster watering hole in Scottsdale. Dallas sat in using my Ludwigs and I must say, they never sounded so good. He had the touch and he will be missed.

   It rained last night. Got up this morning and went out to get the newspaper and saw this scene, looking up Old Stage Road:

A Slice of Light On Sugarloaf

   Worked this morning on throwing away weak art and making three piles: Has Potential, Patina Perfect and the Do-Or-Die pile.

The Final Piles

   Grabbed a board out of the latter pile and finished it for good:

Daily Whip Out: "The Lawman"

"There are a whole list of mistakes, peripheral traps that pull you away from the central and only important concern—music. Money, glory, fame, sex, adulation, peer group approval, competition and one's own emotional baggage all distract you from your original purpose. As far as I know, Dallas didn't miss any of these mistakes. They crept up on him, and jerked the rug out from under him and derailed him and almost killed him."
—David Crosby, adding that Dallas got clean and became a counselor for other addicts

Monday, January 26, 2015

When Drummers Fall Out of The Sky

January 26, 2015
   Saturday I started my new goal of doing five warm up sketches and paintings, utilizing my Do-Or-Die pile, and executing them without hope, without despair. Results to follow.

Daily Whip Out: "The Ernest Cowboy"

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse James All Alone"

Daily Whip Out: "Into The Draw"

    Last weekend, Kathy and I booked a hotel in downtown Phoenix in order to go see Eric Church on Saturday night. We got a room at the Fairfield Inn just south of Virginia and Central, so we could have access to the light rail, which runs into downtown Phoenix and by the US Airways Arena, where the concert was being held.

   Before we went to the concert we treated ourselves to a late lunch at Gallo Blanco where I had a flight of tacos (as opposed to a flight of wine). Had the carne asado taco, a puerco taco and a shrimp taco:
A flight of tacos from Gallo Blanco

   We then caught the light rail into downtown Phoenix and fought our way into the sold out US Airways Arena. We had decent seats ($75 each) stage left, halfway down, and as we found our seats, we caught the opening act, Hailstorm, who did a heavy metal set, with the red-headed drummer throwing his sticks about fifteen feet in the air and catching them, in stride. I haven't seen that much drummer flair (i.e. ego on parade) since I saw The Young Rascals at High Corbett Field in Tucson in 1966. After the Hailstorm set, the drummer jumped over his set and ran along the far side cat walk to hand slap all fifteen of his fans.

   Next up was Dwight Yoakam, who put on a great set of old school Bakersfield twang, with the traditional set up of a drummer at the rear-center of the stage with a wall of amps to either side. Dwight closed with "Bad As You," a rousing set. After his set the house lights came on and the roadies cleared the stage. I went to the bathroom, came back and the stage was still empty. I wondered what was wrong. Surely, Eric Church has a band and a drummer? Where are the drums? Where are the amps? Fifteen minutes later, the lights went down and a lone guy approached out of the darkness at the back of the stage and approached a microphone. Slowly, four other git pickers came on stage from the same direction and spread out, without cords, or visible amps.

Old Man Freaked Out By Lack of Amps and Drums On Stage.
   Eric went into the opening refrain from "The Outsiders," one of my favorite songs. In fact, on the train ride down, Kathy and I rode with four high school girls also going to the concert. Out of courtesy, one of them asked me what I wanted to hear at the concert and I said, "Springsteen" and "The Outsiders." Just when the slam-bam opening hit, the scoreboard opened up and the drummer descended from 75 feet up in the ceiling, as he played his heart out on the riff heavy song. I couldn't imagine being that high up on a drum platform with a 75 foot drop on all four sides. Crazy. Scary. Amazing:

The Eric Church Stage: all catwalks and no amps, or DRUMS!

   The show was nonstop laser-sharp, choreographed lighting and set changes, with Eric running to every corner to sing, while his guitarists (one guy appeared to be a refugee from Metallica, another a castoff from ZZ top) went to their assigned positions to rip out a lead break. It was also non stop adrenalin for two-plus hours. I have seen the Beatles, the Stones, Frank Sinatra, The Who, Jethro Tull and the Beach Boys (6 times) but I have to say this was right up there with the best I've ever seen, or heard. Great music and a great show.

Eric gets the crowd to sing along

A Giant Blow-up of A Nashville Devil appeared during a song about Nashville and the devil.

Put Another Drink In My Hand, indeed!

   One favorite moment was when Eric said the last time he played Phoenix was at the Cajun House and Graham Central Station, both night clubs (the Cajun House in Scottsdale and Graham in Glendale) and the crowd went wild at the local mentions. Eric chided the audience saying, "You weren't all there because I remember." The essence being he had graduated from some very small venues to this sold out show. I believe his first album was in 2007.

   The show got out at 11:40 and Kathy and I were flat out giddy, because we were still awake! We got on the light rail at Washington and First Street and lo and behold, there were the same four high school girls we rode downtown with. One of the girls said, "When we heard Eric begin with 'The Outsiders' we knew there was one happy old man in the audience." The way she said it, stabbed me right in the heart.

Old Man and Trophy Wife Ride The Midnite Train to Virginia (and Central)

Light Rail Carrying Heavy Traffic

   To celebrate staying up past midnite I treated Kathy to a nightcap at the legendary Durant's which was a stone's throw from our hotel:

A nightcap at Durant's at Central and Virginia

   They were actually closing but I begged the bartender to help an old man celebrate his long lost youth. He complied although he charged me $24 for two martinis.

"You will live and you will die. Both are good."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do Or Die Skies

January 23, 2015
   It's my son's birthday today. Thomas Charles is 32 years old. Happy Birthday to the newest and soon to be best World History teacher in the history of the world!

Tom Bell acknowledging an imaginary crowd from behind a random podium he walked by in Peru

   Spent this morning sorting out the piles and piles of semi-finished artwork in my studio. Moved it all out to the breezeway and made four stacks, with the biggest one, the "Do-Or-Die" stack. Meaning, don't be afraid to dive in here because I was going to throw it away anyway.

Five piles: The Has Decent Potential file, the Iffy Pile, the Do-Or-Die Skies pile, the Bitchin' Patina pile and the Can't Bring Myself to Throw These Away pile.

   Did manage to throw away a couple dozen boards, but intend to plow through the Do-Or-Die pile at a clip of five a day, just being as bold and crazy as I can possibly be. At the least it will be a warm-up exercise (we called them "gesture drawings" in college) and perhaps there will be a few that land in the winner's circle.

   Here are examples from each pile:

Daily Whip Out: "The Ola Puto page"

   I have long experimented with how to creatively attack a page of panel drawings for a graphic novel that isn't the same ol' same ol'. I like the amber glow of this page, which emulates my love for old photographs to a degree. And, as a matter of fact, so does this one:

Daily Whip Out: "Patina Orogrande"

   I love the richness of the golden tones and the random, erratic border. Not a false note in the piece. Now to find the appropriate portrait, or scene to place within the frame.

   Here's an example from the Can't Bring Myself to Throw This Away Pile:

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Storm Riders"

   Yes, the Duke of Dust just can't stop doing these little studies of infernal dust storms. This one seems almost too thin, but I'm afraid to touch it and try to bring the riders into any more detail for fear it will ruin the effects.

Daily Rip Off: "Ed Mell Sky"

   Fitting, of course, because yesterday I had lunch with my former studio mate, Edmundo Mell down at Z Texas Grill. I bought ($35 plus $7 tip) to help assuage my guilt over this egregious rip off.

   Last and certainly least, are the studies that were better than I thought they were when I did them.

Daily Whip Out: "Cowboy Ground Zero Study"

   This is haunting because I think it's better than the image I ended up using on the cover and echoes a comment made recently that the first painting on the Severed Heads cover was the best and I should have let it go right there. Dang! Wish I knew what this all means.

"The more one sows, the more one may hope to reap."
—Vincent Van Gogh

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Half Finished Projects Done In Fevers of Enthusiasm

January 22, 2015
   Reading "Van Gogh, The Life" a massive biography of the Dutch mad man artist. On this assessment, I can totally relate: "He littered his career with half-finished completed projects undertaken in fevers of enthusiasm that always rejected half-measures."

Daily Whip Out: "A Half-finished Stagecoach Scene"

   So much promise, but hit the wall and chucked it.

Daily Whip Out: "Rusted Bones On The Great Sonoran Desert"

   Whatever. Couldn't apply this to any scene I was doing, so just left it at this stage. I often start off painting sessions by pushing paint around just to see where it goes. This is one of those experiments where it outstripped my talent. Ha. True.

Daily Whip Out: "Fire Ball From Hell"

   Fire effects are elusive and difficult to achieve. This is pretty strong, but I didn't apply it to anything.

Daily Whip Out: "Storm In The Sierras"

   Like this build up but never had the guts to finish it, yet.

Daily Whip Out: "Vermillion Cliffs"

   Nice mood, not sure how to finish it. And thus ends today's frustrating comparison to someone who I will never match. As crazy as he was, though, I admire his attitude toward painting:

"Go to Hell! Go away, you are standing in my light—to hell with anyone who wants to hinder me."
—Vincent Van Gogh