Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When to Let Go And When to Release

October 31, 2017
   Noodling dust storms and dust effects:

Daily Whip Outs: "Aqua Dust"

"Dust Devil Reveal."

   And what do you see being revealed in the dust devil? I want to add a figure, or a horse, or something emerging out of it, or in front of it. I don't want to ruin some of the delicate effects, so this is a constant hurdle for me. I let these go where they want to go, but when I attempt to add something to it, well, it has a tendency to go south. Is it done, should I go farther? And, regarding the difficulty in letting go in a piece of art or of a book, Brian Allison sent me this quote:

"Our films don't get finished, they just get released." 
—John Lasseter

Turns out, the quote is from the response to a fan letter sent to the director Pete Docter (yes, spelled like Doctor but with an e-r ending). Here is the letter he sent back to the fan:

Hey Adam!
First off, let me apologize for taking so long to respond to your very kind letter. Things are pretty nuts around here. You had asked for an autographed photo of me; I don't really have anything like that, not being famous. But here is a drawing of me for you.
I'm sure you can see the resemblance.
You are sure right about the importance of a good story in movies. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of work (and rework, and rework and rework) to get it right. And even then quite often we're not 100% pleased.
As John Lasseter likes to say, our films don't get finished, they just get released.
Hope you enjoy "UP" next year!
Pete Docter

"That film wasn't released, it escaped!"
—Robert Altman

Monday, October 30, 2017

When Books Refuse to Die!

October 30, 2017
   Remember when I said the Wild Bill book was finally done? Remember when I said I could finally relax? Remember when I said a book is not done until the presses start running? Well, one of these statements is true.

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Rides On (Final)"

   Our Commander-In-Chief, Robert Ray, got the proofs back from the printer today and he asked me if I wanted to make any changes at $25 a pop. So I went home for lunch and tweaked three paintings, including the above image of Wild Bill riding on and added it to a weak page that needed something (page 26). I also wanted to add this bad boy, below, but couldn't find a hole for it.

Daily Whip Out: "Stag His Nibs! (Final)"

   And had this painting, below, in mind for the Cheyenne who attacked Wild Bill and lanced his leg, but, once again, no hole, no place to jam it.

Daily Whip Out: "Kiowa Ghost Riders (Final)"

   Got a wonderful note from my son, Thomas Charles, about loving the open road, which led me into Carole Glenn's office where I found this one, below, which I plan on sending to him as a gift, ahem, down the road.

Daily Whip Out: "On The Road Before Dawn"

   This weekend I also started a couple scratchboards, including this one of my favorite captivo:

Daily Whip Out: "Olive's Dark Secret"

   I sure feel for that young woman and all the people who tried to help her.

"We could not erase the wild from her heart."
—Susan Thompson Lewis Parrish, who took care of Olive Oatman after her release from captivity.

Early Morning On The Road

October 30, 2017
   My father was old school when it came to road trips: up at four, on the road before daylight. Drive for an hour and stop for breakfast. With that in mind, imagine the smile on my face when I got this email from my son who lives in Thailand:

"We left the house for Phichit this morning at 4:39 am. Thought you would be proud. An empty road, sleeping girls, hot coffee and mist in the mountain passes. Does life get any better?"
—Thomas Charles Bell

   Yes, I am prouder than a rooster on the roof of a packed hen house.

Daily Whip Out: "On The Road Before Dawn"

"I suddenly saw the whole country like an oyster for us to open; and the pearl was there, the pearl was there."

—Jack Kerouac, "On The Road"

Saturday, October 28, 2017

If Less Is More, When Is Too Much Not Enough?

October 28, 2017
   Artists tend to allow a certain "magical thinking" permeate their process. For example, this is what some people think I look like when I'm painting a picture or doing one of my Daily Whip Outs:

A "Real" Cowboy Artist Pretending to Be at Work

   This is actually a hand-colorized photo of W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton out painting for, what I'm going to call a public relations "staged" scenario for a photographer to enhance the popular conception of what a Western artist, in this case, a Taos Society of Artists, looks like when he paints.

   Honestly, this is what I look like when I paint:

BBB's Daily Break Down

   I don't think I'm alone when I say, "If you'd like to buy one of my paintings, think of that romantic guy in the first photograph." 

   It's all a process, most of it predicated on failure, after failure. But, if thinking about the process adds to the end result, then I think I'm on to something.

"If less is more, when is too much not enough?
—Bob Boze Bell


Friday, October 27, 2017

When Butch Meant That Thing On Your Head

October 27, 2017
   And now for something completely different:

Love the "Flattop Booggie" but have you noticed there is
about a half-a-degree of difference in all nine haircuts?

   Of course, we had our own version of these hairdos in Kingman, Arizona and I featured a few in my book "The 66 Kid":

Daily Whip Outs: "Two-Lane Flattop"

And the full spread for your viewing pleasure.

"A lot of guys preferred what was known as 'The New Yorker Flattop,' which had wings on the side like fenders on a '59 Chrysler and combed to a duck's ass in the back."
—Dan "The Man" Harshberger

Thursday, October 26, 2017

O.K. Corral Takeaway

October 26, 2017
   O.K. Corral takeaway: do not take a drunk dentist to make an arrest. In honor of that dentist on this day, October 26:

 Daily Whip Out: "Doc In His Cups."

"You're a Daisy if you do."
—Dr. John Henry Holliday

Lone Pine Film Festival Gang & Jail Time

October 26, 2017
   The Lone Pine Film Festival Gang captured last year, 2016, out in the Alabama Hills.

. One of these guys almost went to prison, one of them did 24-hours in the Nogales, Sonora jail, another one put a lot of people in jail and the guy who spent time in the Mexican jail thinks he has said just about enough.

"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want  everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs."
—Samuel Goldwyn

Lots of Retiring Going On And The Last Remaining Wagon

October 26, 2017
   The Brewster Wagon Train started out forty wagons strong, but by the time the Mormon pioneers reached the Gila Bend in March of 1851, there was only one. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Last Remaining Wagon."

   Yes, I'm back on the Olive Oatman trail and we're planning on big coverage in early 2018. I even may make it my next book.

   Lots of retiring going on around me. I can count the people who I know, who are my age, who are still in the media game, on two hands.

   And speaking of retirees, David Letterman was honored last weekend with the Mark Twain Award for humor and some of his friends got in some great lines:

“Dave has always had spot-on comedic instincts. What better time than right now to insist on looking like a Confederate war general?”
—Steve Martin

“ ‘I’m dumb. People hate me. I have E.D.’ Oh, Jesus, what a f---ing pity party. Don’t get me wrong: He’s crazy. Not Trump crazy. But who knows?”
—Letterman's therapist, Clarice Kestenbaum, summing up their sessions and him

“You will be able, as the Twain, to walk up to any man or woman and take a burning cigar from their mouth and finish it. You will be able to board any riverboat.”
—Bill Murray, last year's Twain winner, dressed in full Elizabethan garb, giving Letterman advice on what he can expect now that he's an offical "Twain"
  And then Letterman himself summed everything up, by quoting the Twain:

“Mark Twain’s definition of patriotism is this: 'Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.'”

    There are two early retirees I have never quite understood: one is Gary Larson, the hilarious cartoonist who just stopped drawing cartoons (he retired on January 1, 1995) and never came back. What's up with that?

And then, there's this funny guy from my tribe, who also walked away:

"The typical newspaper staff has been reduced to one editor, one managing editor, 14 assistant managing editors, 39 deputy assistant managing editors, and one reporter. The editors spend their days holding meetings to think of new ways to cut costs, while the reporter (who, for budgetary reasons, is not allowed to leave the building) looks out the window, in case news occurs in the parking lot."
—Dave Barry

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Loving "Loving Vincent" But Hating The Assassin

October 25, 2017
   Last night, Kathy and I joined our van Gogh traveling partners, Dan and Darlene Harshberger, down in Scottsdale to go and see a screening of "Loving Vincent," the quasi-animated story of the death of the notorious Dutch painter who cut off his ear and gained immortality.

   It was two years ago that Kathy treated me to an extended tour of Vincent's travels, starting with his home town in Holland—Nuenen—then by train on to Brussels, Paris, Arles, San Remi, and finally Auvers Sur Oise (pronounced Aw-ver Say Was), where Vincent van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gunshot. Or did he?

   You can get a taste of our adventures as we tracked Vincent's last days, to his death, right here.

   Or here.

   As with my recent quest to portray Wild Bill, I left quite a few unfinished van Gogh related paintings in my discard pile, like this one, which I recently found and finished this morning:

Daily Whip Out: "The Assassin?"

   Back to the new movie: the overall result is uneven and my biggest complaint is you really don't get to know Vincent until the last scene when they replicate the self-portrait with the swirls and then freeze frame it. Wow! THAT is the real Vincent, to me, but somehow, maybe because most of the scenes with Vincent are in black and white flashback, he comes off a little wooden, to me. However, there a few sequences that are breathtaking in their accurate portrayal of van Gogh paintings coming to life, and then, more than a few where the second unit, or worse, seems to have colorized live action film to approximate animating (think of the uneven and flat rotoscoping in "Fritz The Cat"). Still, you need to see and support this film. It is a worthy effort and very creative.

BBB Daily Whip Outs: "Van Gogh's World"

 "You must set it down all down at once. Paint in one rush, as much as possible in one rush."
—Vincent van Gogh

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Frontier Clothing Expert Examines Calamity Jane's Outfit

October 24, 2017
   In the forthcoming book "The Illustrated Life And Times of Wild Bill Hickok" we are running a blow-up of a famous photograph:

Calamity Jane mugs for the camera in front of Wild Bill's grave.

A Frontier Clothing Expert Examines Calamity's Outfit

"I've never seen this photo so close up. I LOVE that she has a safety pin holding her bodice closed, the silk bodice is shattered in places and it appears she is wearing long underwear under it. Probably cut the sleeves away, so she could wear the little jacket over it. I'm sure the kerchief around her neck is because the collar to the bodice is eaten away or just plain missing. Skirt appears to be heavy wool. Her 'fancy costume' must have traveled with her for a loooong time. What a great photo."
—Jenny Pekarek Smith

"Imagine what you could accomplish if you knew you couldn't fail."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Does 25 Hats On The Bed Reverse The Bad Luck Deal?

October 24, 2017
   We just published a piece on Cowboy Hat Etiquette and we forgot one hat rule: do NOT put your hat on the bed. It's super bad luck.

   So this was rolling through my head this morning, because Kathy is having painters come to re-paint the bedroom and I had to take down my hat museum, on the walls, and well, where else was I going to put them? 

25 BBB hats on the Alamo bed.

   My hope is that 25 hats on the bed reverses the bad luck. And yes, that is the Alamo bed. Or, as I call it, "Kathy's Last Stand."

"Twenty-five Hats on the dresser, Yes Sir, you know I gotsta get paid."
—ZZ Top, bastardized lyrics from "I Gotsta Get Paid"

Monday, October 23, 2017

Wild Bill Unfinished Business

October 23, 2017
   The Illustrated Life And Times of Wild Bill Hickok goes to press today and I have mixed feelings about it. On the plus side, it is done and it should be ready for Christmas delivery. On the minus side, there are quite a few images left on the train platform, so to speak.

Wild Bill Unfinished Business
   Here are just a few of the paintings that had promise but time ran out:

Daily Unfinished Whip Out: "Dave Tutt And Wild Bill"

   The watch is funky and a glob of mud (my usual default position) and Hickok's pistol butts need some massaging, but I had another version which is running in the book, so I let this one go.

   Other images were abandoned in various stages of completion:

A big old pile of nothing.

   I was really getting into the rain slicked streets effects (middle, left, above) and had big plans to do more:

Daily Whip Outs: "Wet Streets Studies"

     And here's one I feel especially bad about because it represented, perhaps, the finest moment of Agnes Lake's career, during the Battle of Nashville in the Civil War when all her horses were garnished, or requisitioned for the battle and she went and got them back in time for her circus performance in Nashville. Had this little illustration going to cover it. . .

Daily Whip Out: "Agnes Lake Patriot"

There's always next time.

"You can fool too many of the people too much of the time."
—James Thurber

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Colors and Homeward Bound

October 22, 2017
   Took a couple days off after the book crunch to go see these bambinos:

Deena's two bambinos, Weston and Frances do the rock out with Grandma Goose.

FYI: our kids, Tommy and Deena, call us The Gooses. Landed in Seattle on Thursday afternoon in the rain. Very wet for several days (which is heaven to a desert rat). Cleared out this morning. Beautiful fall colors in Bellevue, Washington. Never seen such bright, red leaves before.

BBB at Idylwood Park on the banks of Lake Washington

Kathy and I babysat Weston so his parents could have some fun. So did we.

Weston, age 4, drawing in Grandpa Ha ha's sketchbook

   I took Weston to the art store yesterday and bought him some pens and paints and his own sketchbook, more his size.

   Hasn't been all laid back fun. Receiving PDF proofs on the book via email and making changes as we go. Thanks to the efforts of Meghan Saar and Robert Ray, it's going out on time tomorrow and it looks fantastic!

"I would be willing to take my oath on the Bible tomorrow that I have killed over a hundred, a long ways off."
Wild Bill Hickok

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Last Hangout

October 19, 2017
   Just as you should never say never, a book is not completely done until the press starts rolling, and even then, I have been known to add another 76 pages and multiple new photos and artwork (see Billy the Kid, Book One vs. Book Two).

Kathy took this photo of me last night when I finally got home after finishing the Wild Bill book. I even added the wearing of this T-shirt as an added "ritual,"  making a vow to wear it until the book was done (much to the disgust of any staff member at True West who can still smell).

   This morning I woke up early and got ready to shave off my book ritual beard when I suddenly had an inspiration. The second to last page in the book needs a couple more images, like this:

Whipped this out and sent it via my phone to Robert Ray.

   And, by the way, here's the man who did all the heavy lifting on this project.

Robert Ray, my extraordinarily talented production manager who carried this project on his back, even as he juggles a full load on the January issue of True West, going out the door in two weeks. Look at how tired I look and how resilient he looks. Amazing. Can't say enough about this long time partner. He has been with me for 18 years!

   Oh, and here's one last sketch I did this morning to add to the final page mix:

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Still Looms"

"To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The History of Classic Gunfights

October 18, 2017
      Next year marks True West magazine's 65th Anniversary and when our editor, Meghan Saar, was looking back through our archives, she found some interesting tidbits:

We are often mobbed just trying to drive through town and sometimes we are forced
to get out and walk.

   Meghan also found a few items on my blog that track the beginnings of Classic Gunfights, which runs parallel to my scattered and long exasperating efforts to do a book on Wild Bill Hickok (I actually started the book back in 1996).

The History of Classic Gunfights

March 7, 2000
I came up with the idea of Classic Gunfights and featuring a gunfight every issue. Will start with Wyatt Earp at Mescal Springs in next issue.

June 2, 2000
I worked one of the longest days of my life yesterday. Did three paintings and a scratchboard for Hickok Classic Gunfights piece, plus the usual publisher/radio madness. Finished at 10 last night.

The September, 2001 issue (yes, the 9•11 issue) although we produced it in May.

May 19, 2001
   I drove up to Camp Verde to shoot photos for Wild Bill's 7th Cav Fight, photo reference session at Old Fort Verde, Arizona

          Left to right: Michael Woodcock, Scott Dunkirk, Robert hunter, Garrett Roberts, Chris T.                  DeMille (yes, he's related to that DeMille), Ernest Cummings and Thadd Turner.

May 29, 2001
Working hard on 11 images for Wild Bill issue. I’m not as bad as I fear, but not as good as I hope for.

One of the Wild Bill Daily Whip Outs

June 1, 2001
Mike Melrose is above $14K for Wild Bill! I was so impressed I took him to lunch at El Encanto. Great guy.

June 26, 2001
I did 26 illustrations for the Wild Bill issue [where did I find the time?]

End of Blog archives. On a related note, I just finished the Wild Bill book this afternoon at 4:57. Lots of production left for Robert Ray and Meghan Saar, but I finished all the art and the last caption. Whew! Long strange, trip! Goes to printer on Monday.

"Progress might have been all right once but it has gone on too long"
—Odgen Nash

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Spaghetti Wild Bill Begets The BBB Wild Bill

October 17, 2017
   The Top Secret Writer gifted me a rare Italian comic book on Wild Bill Hickok by the artist Rino Albertarelli. Published in 1994, it features virtually all the episodes in Hickok's life with some accuracy (although the buscadero holster rig, below, is unfortunate. )

Rino's Italian Version of The Prince of Pistoleers

   Back in the nineties, Rino contacted Paul Hutton when the latter was a professor in Utah and Mister Albertarelli quizzed Hutton about various aspects of the real Hickok. Here is an example of an episode I am kind of amazed he covered:

Rino's version of the lance wound story.

   As a scout for the U.S. Army, Wild Bill was carrying dispatches when he was jumped by a Cheyenne war party and lanced in the leg. After a 14-year-absence, Wild Bill returned home to visit his ailing mother. While there it became obvious his lance wound needed to be, ahem, lanced, and so, Doctor Edward Thomas was called on and he came to the house to see what he could do. Lydia Hickok, James's sister, later claimed he would not take chloroform. She also reported that "the doctor made four cuts outward from the wound, making a cross with the lance. The he drew the flesh back and began to scrape the bone. I was holding the lamp and began to feel myself growing feint." Her brother said, "Here, give it to me," and he held the lamp for the duration of the operation, never flinching once.

BBB version: "Bad to The Bone"

   Hard to believe that an Italian would get American history more correct than any American cartoonist, until, well, my next book, which is due out in December.

Pre-orders are being taken now.

"Some things are over, some things go on, part of me you carry, part of me is gone."
—Tom Petty

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Prince of The Pistoleers Meets The Boy General

October 16, 2017
   Buffalo Bill Cody and George Armstrong Custer both had quite a bit to do with Wild Bill Hickok's fame as a frontiersman, but as you might have guessed, those relationships, at least with Cody, are complicated.

The Prince of The Pistoleers Meets The Boy General
   It's unclear exactly when Hickok met Custer but on November 17, 1867 General Carr and seven troops left Fort Lyon on their way to join four companies of the Tenth Cavalry, joined the Seventh Cavalry to do battle against the Cheyenne and Oglala Sioux in what became known as the Great Sioux War. Wild Bill was the guide for Custer on the mission, although he was not chief of scouts as some have claimed. That said, both George Custer and his wife Libby were quite fond of Hickok (see Libby's effusive quote, below) and their florid approval added to Hickok's growing image as a Western frontier hero.

Daily Whip Out: "Custer & Wild Bill"

Wild Bill's 'Undaunted Courage'
"Physically, he was a delight to look upon. Tall, lithe, and free in every motion, he rode and walked as if every muscle was perfection, and the careless swing of his body as he moved seemed perfectly in keeping with the man, the country, the time in which he lived. I do not recall anything finer in the way of physical perfection than Wild Bill when he swung himself lightly from his saddle, and with graceful, swaying step, squarely set shoulders and well poised head, approached our tent for orders. He was rather fantastically clad, of course, but all seemed perfectly in keeping with the time and place. He did not make an armory of his waist, but carried two pistols. He wore top-boots, riding breeches, and dark blue flannel shirt, with scarlet set in front. A loose neck handkerchief left his fine firm throat free. I do not all remember his features, but the frank, manly expression of his fearless eyes and his courteous manner gave one a feeling of confidence in his word and in his undaunted courage.’
—Libby Custer

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill's Undaunted Courage"

Wild Bill Lanced
   The Fifth Cavalry returned to Fort Lyon on February 19, 1869 and Wild Bill acted as a courier, carrying dispatches between Fort Lyon and Fort Wallace. While making a return trip to Fort Lyon, Hickok was jumped by a war party of Cheyenne and in a running fight he was lanced, deep into his upper thigh by a warrior who got close enough to wound him. Somehow Hickok was able to distance himself from the Cheyenne and continued on towards Fort Lyon. He was found the next morning, about a mile from the fort by a group of soldiers out on wood-detail. Hickok had lost his horse and was using the lance which had wounded him to walk with. Suffering from blood loss and half frozen, Hickok was rushed to the fort where Buffalo Bill Cody summoned the post surgeon. Wild Bill gifted the lance to Cody who kept it for the rest of his life.

Bad to The Bone 
  After a 14-year-absence, Wild Bill returned home to visit his ailing mother. While there it became obvious his lance wound needed to be, ahem, lanced, and so, Doctor Edward Thomas was called on and he came to the house to see what he could do. Lydia Hickok, James's sister, later claimed he would not take chloroform. She also reported that "the doctor made four cuts outward from the wound, making a cross with the lance. The he drew the flesh back and began to scrape the bone. I was holding the lamp and began to feel myself growing feint." Her brother said, "Here, give it to me," and he held the lamp for the duration of the operation, never flinching once.

Daily Whip Out: "Bad to The Bone"

With Friends Like These
   Although Buffalo Bill always maintained he and Hickok were best friends to the end, Cody let his true feelings show when he sent a letter to Sam Hall, seeking to discourage him from a stage career: "I would never again have another Scout or Western man with me. . .For just as soon as they see their names in print a few times they git the big head and want to start a company of their own. I will name a few." The first name on the list is Wild Bill.

"With friends like these, who needs enemies?"
—Old Vaquero Saying