Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Zane Grey On The Cover And Sarah Brava On Her Big, Bad Jack

January 31, 2017
   Our cover boy for March, Zane Grey, brought out a special guest today. We were honored to have the very talented Craig Bohmler drop into our Design Review session this morning at the True West World Headquarters in Cave Creek. 

True West Design Review meeting, 11 a.m. L to R: Ken Amorosano,
Dan The Man Harshberger,  Craig Bohmler, Rhiannon Deremo and Robert Ray.
Ducking out of the photo, at right, is Rebecca Edwards.

Craig picked up six copies of the March issue which features the history
of his new opera adaptation of "Riders of The Purple Sage" on the cover.

   As you will read in the March issue, the opera premieres in Tucson on February 25 and 26, and in Phoenix on March 3 through 5.

  Another cover girl is waiting in the wings.

Daily Whip Out: "Sarah Brava On Her Big, Bad Jack."

   I'm developing this idea for later this year along with a full blown bio by Paul Andrew Hutton.

"Man's bones yearn for the dust." 
—Zane Grey

Monday, January 30, 2017

Stop The Presses! Digging Up Billy the Kid

January 30, 2017
   I once did a New Times Weekly doubletruck on why I should be the publisher of the Arizona Republic (their publisher, Duke Tully, had just resigned over a false military medals scandal), and I warned everyone I would have a slightly different priority when it comes to what goes on the front page. 

Daily Whip Out: "Stop The Presses!"

   I have only had the privilege of saying this—stop the presses!—once and that was for a planned issue on Pancho Villa back in 2003. The week we were going to press, the digging up Billy news out of Lincoln, New Mexico hit the front page of the New York Times and I knew this was our story and we needed to own it. With several days to go, we ripped up our Pancho cover and, replaced it with, what our Art Director still likes to call, A Mexican Wrestling Cover:

August 2003 cover of True West: "Digging Up Billy the Kid"

   It sold like hotcakes. I happened to be in New York when this issue hit and I remember sitting on a couch in a Manhattan Barnes & Noble (at the time there were two B&N stores within sight of each other) and I watched with great interest—okay, with extreme glee!—as three different customers picked up the issue and walked to the checkout with this True West magazine in their little hands. 

   Yes, that is my scratchboard of Billy as a bucktoothed skeleton.

   Got up at 5:30 today and finished a little nocturne study.

Daily Whip Out: "Shadowy Character Study"

"Just the bare bones summary of a terrific story should move a listener to experience pity and fear."
—Charles Johnson, "The Way of A Writer"

Oof! How to Be A Boring Jackass And Other Non-Sequiturs

January 30, 2017
   Some observations on comics and narrative art, gleamed from a weekend of studying and reading about both:

Daily Whip Outs: "Oops! Wrong Date"

   Sometimes I draw random, disparate images on the same page with no goal in mind. But then, if I'm paying attention, I notice they start to create a narrative all on their own. Not sure what this is exactly, but it seems almost like magic when it happens. I've read somewhere that standup comics will take two random words out of a dictionary and then attempt to put them together in a non-sequitur kind of way. It probably has something to do with the fact that everything in our world is connected.

   Or, I could be fooling myself.

"One has fear in front of a goat, in back of a mule, and on every side of a fool!"
—E W Howe

   Speaking of mules and fools, guess who is going to be the grand marshal at the 2017 Bishop Mule Days in May? Hint: some jackass from Kingman.

Yes, the 66 Kid is going to ride a mule at the front of the Bishop Mule Days parade.

Oof! Bam! And Zap!
   Ed Ruscha tells why one of the words he chose [to produce in one of his word paintings] was “Oof”: “ ‘It had one foot in the world of cartooning,’ he explained, speaking slowly and lingering over a word now and then, as though to savor its quiddity. ‘You get punched in the stomach, and that’s “Oof.” It was so obvious, and so much a part of my growing up in the U.S.A. I felt like it was almost a patriotic word.’ ”
—The New Yorker

Nocturn Colors

“I have found that if you put silver underneath blue, the blue sits back, like night, or glows like moonlight."
—Chris Ofili

Conundrums And Things That Don't Follow
   Another thing I have learned is that if you start out in one direction on a drawing or painting, and work very fast, at some point, if you reverse directions and try to accomplish the opposite, it creates something really dynamic. For example, one time when I was on a tight deadline at New Times Weekly, I was drawing an Apartheid figure standing in front of a barbwire fence. My plan was to simply fill in the entire figure and make it all black, but as I was quickly trying to do this, I noticed there were some wonderful highlights in the face—unplanned—and I stopped and marveled at how loose and dynamic it was. If I had started out trying to achieve this, it wouldn't have worked.

   Here's another example of the same phenom, also from The New Yorker:

“When I leave the studio at night, I take a photo of the picture I’m working on,” Ofili continued. “This morning when I woke up, I looked at the photo and thought, I’ll change his shirt.” The barman’s shirt had originally been white, but Ofili had painted it black, to make the figure recede. “It looked ghastly,” he said. “So this morning I decided to make the shirt white again, but the black was still wet, and the paint wasn’t going on the way I wanted. I started to blot it with this”—he picked up an old green T-shirt to demonstrate—“and it left this amazing texture. I got lucky. Until that moment it was all panic and despair, because I thought I was going to lose it.”

"He was just short of being a con man, but no more than anyone in the art world, or for that matter in the world of finance—which, of course, was his whole point."
—Lawrence Weschler on J.S.G. Boggs, the artist who created money and spent it but never sold it

"Art is whatever you can get away with."
—Old Gallery Owner Saying

"To be free you need to be willing to sacrifice everything, to be unafraid."
—Nicola Barker

   If you've ever heard or seen Stevie Ray Vaughn play the guitar, you know what she means.

BBB's Obit Bits: One Sentence at A Time
He hated haters, but loved a non-sequitur

Or, is that a conundrum?

"The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out."
—Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire

Saturday, January 28, 2017

More BBB Obit Bits

January 28, 2017
   One of my Christmas presents from Kathy was a book by Elia Kazan On Directing. In it, he challenged me:

"Study 20 plots of your favorite movies for their story, their fundamental plot, as it could be told in one sentence. . ."
—Elia Kazan

So, I did my 20, which included:

"The Godfather": A king had three sons, who would succeed him? (full disclosure: this is actually Francis Ford Coppala's version of a one-sentence description of Mario Puzo's best selling book)

"Tombstone": Two rival gangs collide in a frontier town.

"The Unforgiven": Turns out Audrey Hepburn is an In-din.

"Theeb": Do not trust wolves.

   There are 17 more, but you get the idea. After I had completed my list I Googled the concept and got these little gems:

• "Mrs. Doubtfire": Divorced man discovers he's trans and loses custody of children.

• "Star Wars: The Force Awakens": Emo teen can't live up to his grandfather's legacy and takes it out on dad.

"Frozen": After the death of her parents, a young socialite causes millions in property damage.

• "Twilight": A love triangle between an 18-year-old girl, a 100-year-old guy and a dog.

• "JFK": Everyone killed Kennedy except Oswald.

• "Bullitt": A car chase and 96 minutes of other stuff.

• "Jaws": An endangered aquatic creature is killed by a small town sheriff.

• "The Shining": A family's first Airbnb experience goes very wrong.

• "Titanic": A great-grandma tells a group of strangers about the time she screwed a bum.

BBB's Obit Bits
   If you praise everyone, you end up praising no one. This is especially true in obits. "Everyone loved him," is so ridiculous and over-the-top, everything that follows is going to be suspect, if not outright unbelievable. Here is a real obit that makes use of specific pettiness and humor in a humanizing way.

"She became a devoted Southerner by choice when she finally defied the wishes of her mother (who was by all accounts and evidence, the Meanest Woman Who Ever Lived) by marrying and following "that hillbilly" back to Mississippi, where they lived happily until Mr. Conner's untimely death in 1982, after which Mrs. Conner never gave so much as a thought to another man."

End of quote. I have a suspicion it helps if one of your daughters is a good writer. See more right here:

A real fine obit

Happy Ending Not So Happy

January 28, 2017
   Yesterday morning I was reading the obits (one of my gallows humor pastimes in my geezer phase) and this poor hip hop dude (43!) died in a massage parlor and I'm sharing this with my children's mother who then jumps me about my own obit and how she doesn't want to have to write it. AND, where the hell do I want to be buried: Kingman?

Happy Ending Not So Happy

   And I think—Kingman?—no, too windy, but then I think about my best friend, Charlie Waters, not having a gravestone (he was cremated), which was so disappointing when I was there last time, trying to find his grave and he doesn't have anything, so, I may remedy that. The end result, basically, is that Kathy asked me to write my own obit and take care of my gravestone.

  My problem with most obits is they are written by grieving relatives who don't know how to tell a story. Good stories need conflict. Here's a typical gushing sentiment: "He was loved by everyone." Please. Or, this toothless gem: "She was loved dearly by all who knew her and will be sorely missed." Perhaps, but I have a hunch if I could share a couple beers with her sister, we'd get a different take on "sorely missed."

"Our little angel went to heaven and received her angel wings," is not a good lead. Remember, if there is no conflict, there is no interest. The other tired obit cliche that grinds me is, "he died peacefully in his sleep." How do you give that cliche a little juice? Well, how about: "He died peacefully in his sleep, not like the others in his car who were yelling and screaming."

   So, I'm taking notes and jotting down a few of the things I want in my obit. I want it to be honest and funny. Not easy to do, but wish me luck.

BBB's Daily Obit Bits: One Line at A Time

   In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family has asked that you make someone you love laugh and if they do, tell them Triple B made you do it.

   If I'm successful, perhaps it will usher in a new wave of obit cliches. Or not. The irony is I won't be here to find out, or to hear you groan about how tacky it is. One thing I already know for sure is that in the end, like "Mr. World Star!" O'Denat, a happy ending is not so happy.

"For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught, nay, the draught of a draught. Oh Time, Strength, Cash and Patience!"
 Herman MelvilleMoby-Dick; or, The Whale 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Doc & Wyatt: The Deadliest of Friends

January 26, 2017
   Once again, we're hot on the trail of the real Doc Holliday. Yes, I've been down this trail before and yet, the spirit of this crazy, alcoholic Lunger, gets me every time. As his good friend, Wyatt Earp put it, Doc was a "long, lean, and ash-blond and the quickest man with a six-shooter I ever knew."

Daily Whip Out: "The Deadliest of Friends"

   This Daily Whip Out led to a cover idea:

Dan The Man's first proposed cover

   But then the talented and astute author, Mary Doria Russell ("Epitaph") turned in a masterful, thought-provoking, take on what the real Doc Holliday means to her and, in her estimation, who exactly has captured him on film the best. That feature led us to this cover idea:

Dan's second cover based on Mary Doria Russell's take on "the best huckleberry."

   This led to an intense argument with me and my staff. First and foremost we are a history magazine and we must emphasize our separation between the "real" West and the "reel" West. Or, as our publisher put it recently, "Don't stink up the magazine with movie stars on the cover."

  I mulled the idea of doing a split run on the covers: with the newsstand getting the Val cover and our subscribers getting the "Deadliest of Friends" cover, but then Greg Carroll weighed in and claimed the two covers would be a "nightmare" for him, as he had promised certain advertisers that Val would be the cover.


   So, last night I had dinner down in Scottsdale with a group of Western afficionados, including author Jeff Guinn ("The Last Gunfight") at left;  historian Tom Gaumer, second from left; collector Kevin Mulkins, second from right; historian and renaissance man Garth Gould and historian Bob Palmquist. All five looked at the two covers and immediately pointed to their unanimous choice:

The verdict is Val.

   So what else can you expect in this issue? Here's a sneak peek:

Daily Whip Out: "The Doctor Will See You Now"

Perhaps, a glimpse of some of the stranger episodes in Doc's life:

 Nice to Meet You, Hope to Kill You Soon.
Daily Whip Out: "Doc Meets Billy Clanton"

The fact that Wyatt and Doc did some jail time in the Tombstone jail during the Spicer hearing:

Daily Whip Out: "Doc Behind Bars"

Daily Whip Out: "Doc Carries The Vendetta Posse's Arsenal Off The Train In Tucson"

Daily Whip Out: "Doc's Last Gunfight In Leadville"

And, a couple other odd angles as well:


Daily Whip Out: "Doc In Glasses?"

"Such then, was the beginning of my acquaintance with Doc Holliday, the mad merry scamp with heart of gold and nerves of steel; who, in the dark years that followed stood at my elbow in many a battle to the death."
—Wyatt Earp

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Amazing Storm & Crazy Sunset Last Night

January 25, 2017
   Heading home from work last night I caught this crazy storm brewing to the north of us. Pulled over and grabbed my iPhone. Very dramatic lighting:

North Spur Cross in Cave Creek, looking East towards Continental Mountain.

Amazing lighting, looking northeast from Spur Cross and Cahava Ranch Road.

This is just west of Spur Cross looking north:

Eye in the sky as seen through the goalposts of Cactusland.

I got home and started putting my stuff away to get ready for dinner. About 30 minutes later, Kathy was in the kitchen and she said, "Come here, you are not going to believe this." I took one look out the window and ran outside to see this:

Crazy amazing burning sunset clouds to the north of us!

Snow clouds (you know, those whispy floating kind) were drooping down over Continental Mountain and were being lit up by the sunset, which is off to the left—West). And this was the view to the east:

Running buffalo sunset clouds over Ratcliff Ridge!

It was a light show that refused to die. I tried to watch the news, but kept looking out the window and them time and again running out to the back patio to catch more views.

Sunset Redux!

"Forgetfulness is a form of freedom."
—Khalil Gibran

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pony Express Controversy

January 24, 2017
   Ran a True West Moment last Saturday in the Arizona Republic on what the pony express riders actually wore, as opposed to our popular image of them. I used an eye witness who famously encountered them on the trail.

Got a snippy email response:

   "Your piece in today's paper on The Real Pony Express Rider states that [the pony express rider] 'tucked his pantaloons into his boot-tops like a race rider.' Four scant sentences later we read, 'He wore light shoes, or none at all.' Contradictory? Yes, obviously. More importantly the reader thinks 'this guy doesn't know what he's talking about.'"
—Frank Stephenson

   Okay, is he referring to me not knowing what I'm talking about, or Mark Twain? Also, the space was tight and I combined two descriptions by Mark Twain of the pony express riders, plural, he witnessed on the trail. So I sent a light-hearted response to Frank:

Hey, Frank, first of all Mark Twain actually saw real pony express riders, plural, and he was describing what they wore, that doesn't make it contradictory, he's an eyewitness.

   But Frank was having none of it:

"The article I read is contradictory. Mark Twain or not."
—Frank Stephenson

   I wanted to argue this point some more, and started to hit "reply,"  but then I remembered a quote by a dude named Stanisaw:

"The only fool bigger than the fool who knows it all is the person who argues with him."
—Stanisaw J. Lec

Monday, January 23, 2017

T. Charles Plus Pure Patina And Lawman Explosion

January 23, 2017
   My number one son, Thomas Charles Bell, was born on this day, January 23, in the year 1983. Happy Birthday Tommy!

Thomas Charles Bell and his old man

   Spent part of the weekend working on patina paintings. 

Daily Whip Out: "Pure Patina"

   The big challenge is what to do with this explosion. Decided to experiment with a dark figure in front of it and how the light from the explosion eats into the figure in front of it.

Daily Whip Outs: "Pure Patina Into Lawman Explosion"

"To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Ghosts of Kingman Graveyards

January 22, 2017
   If Pearl Harbor wasn't attacked, I wouldn't be here today. In 1935 my mother was a cowgirl out in the sticks of Mohave County.

Lillie Louise "Bobby" Guess at the King Tut Mine on The Diamond Bar Ranch

   Her future husband was a farm kid in far away Thompson, Iowa. In 1939, the year my mother graduated from Mohave County Union High School, the chances of them ever meeting were almost nil. Thanks to the Japanese, the war, the draft and the newly built Kingman Air Base, they met and married at Saint John's Methodist Church in downtown Kingman.

The Newlyweds

   And that's where I came in.

   At the end of the war, almost all of the war planes were flown to Kingman Air Base and dismantled for scrap. Here is an excellent photo montage of that chapter in the history of Mohave County:

Kingman Aviation Graveyard

   Both of my parents are buried in the Hilltop Mountain View cemetery, about eight miles from where the Aviation Graveyard briefly existed. In the still photographs from the above video you can spot almost all the surrounding mountains: The Hualapais, The Cerbats, White Cliffs, Bull Peak, Lone Mountain, each landmark chocked full of vivid memories for them and for me.

"A wedding is a funeral where you smell your own flowers."
—Old Vaquero Joke

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cave Creek Is Rippin' And Head Scarf Boy Is Trippin'

January 21, 2017
   Woke up this morning about six and heard the ominous roar outside. After almost 12 hours of rain I could hear it:

Cave Creek Rippin'
And here's some video of it:


   According to my neighbor Tom Augherton, the CFS (cubic feet per second) was down to about 600, after a high of 1,400 last night. In 2010, the CFS hit 45,000 and Cave Creek overran it's banks and spread out all the way to the cave. Back in 1993 it was even worse, and somewhere I have video of this.

Storm Clouds Over Elephant Butte

Cactus Storm

Kathy With Head Scarf Boy

   Hey, my ears were cold! Photo by Tom Augherton.

"It's raining cats and dogs out. I know this 'cause I just stepped on a poodle."
—Old Corny Joke


The Lone Wolf At Bay

January 21, 2017
   When I was growing up in Kingman, my grandmother, Louise Guess—everyone called her "Guessie"—had this painting in her living room and whenever I stayed with her I used to study it intently:

A Lone Wolf at Bay (my made up title)

   I always assumed it portrayed a New Mexico scene, perhaps somewhere around Silver City (my grandparents had a ranch near Red Rock and later in the Animas Valley of New Mexico). I found out a few years ago, the painting actually portrays a rural scene in Europe and this print was widely sold. Ha. That's so crazy. Funny how we can infuse a picture with an entire back story of our own. The theme, of the lone coyote, or wolf, always being an outsider, alone in the cold, appealed to me as a kid and perhaps even more so today.

Another take on the lone wolf, pondering his estrangement. Or, more accurately, we ponder the lone wolf's estrangement and give the scene power through our incessant anthropomorphizing.

   And here's one more along the lines of this theme:

Lone Wolf in the Snow - Stepan Feodorovich Kolesnikov (1879-1955)

"Every picture tells a story. . .don't it?"
—Rod Stewart

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Plethora of Patina Paintings

January 20, 2017
   Working on patina paintings this morning. This is an exercise of letting the paint go where it wants to go, without judgement or ambition. Okay, maybe there is a little ambition, especially if I see something shaping up, but mostly it's free form. I'm looking for happy accidents Got a few.

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #1"

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #2"

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #3"

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #4"

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #5"

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #6"

Or, should I turn it upside down?

Daily Whip Out: "Patina #6 flipped"

Do I add a figure to these? Do I let them stand alone? Ah, that is another story.

"There's many a good story that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Brian Lebel Is The 2017 True Westerner And Victor Higgins Rocks

January 20, 2017
   A great time down at Scottsdale Museum of the West last night. We honored Brian Lebel with our 2017 True Westerner Award and we all got to see the new Taos Artists Show which just went up. My favorite painting is this one by Victor Higgins, called "Hunter In Snow." 

Victor Higgins: "Hunter In Snow"

And here's Victor painting out of the trunk of his car, I believe in the 1940s:

Victor On Location In New Mexico

The irony, to me, is he's probably younger than I am now. Ha. Still, I highly recommend seeing the show if you are enamored of the Taos School of Painting, which I am.

"By the end of his life, his palette was bold, his style confident, powerful, and distinctly modern."
—Dean A. Porter on Victor Higgins