Monday, April 30, 2018

Narrative Flows: Dig This!

April 30, 2018
   After the Arizona History Conference on Saturday I spent the rest of the weekend noodling narrative ideas. I am very intrigued by the idea that when you line up frames in a grid, or by rows, they begin to relate to each other, no matter how disparate the subject. You dig?

Narrative Flow #1

   Woke up on Sunday and gave it some more definition, adding black, below. Did I kill some of the subtlety? Hmmmm. Probably.

Narrative Flow #2

   Always a dilemma—when to stop, when to give it one more pass?

"Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Doc On The Block

April 29, 2018
   For all of you who love Doc Holliday, here is a special offer. I've only got one each of the following art prints left, after our show in Tempe last weekend and they are $40 each, plus shipping. First come, etc:

"Doc's Last Gunfight #1"

"Doc's Last Gunfight #2"

"Doc's Last Gunfight #3"

"Doc's Last Gunfight #4"

"Doc And Wyatt: The Deadliest of Friends"

"The Walkdown"

"Doc Looms Large"

"Doc Spins Cup"

"This is funny."
—Doc's alleged last words

Friday, April 27, 2018

There's Always One

April 27, 2018
   I keep a narrative clip book to inspire me. Because I'm a cartoonist, I am fascinated by the repetition of images and how they start to tell a story, even when they aren't intended for that purpose. One spread in my clip book in particular has intrigued me:

Narrative Clip File: The Power of Repetition

  This morning I took a crack at this idea, applying it to a concept I have for our upcoming In-din Humor issue. As I was sketching in the idea, my neighbor from down on the creek, Tom Augherton, wandered in and captured me in my studio, deep in the process:

"The Lonely Whip Out"

   And here is the sketch:

Daily Whip Out: "That's Not Funny"

   The premise is that in every tribe, including yours and mine, there's always one guy who doesn't get the joke.

   It's not quite there, but I am in the water. What to do next? I think Samuel has the answer:

"Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better."
—Samuel Beckett

When Tequila Talks, I Listen

April 27, 2018
   When tequila talks, it says to me, "Trust me, you are a really good dancer."

Don't mess with me, I can dance real good!

More Random Tequila Wisdom

"If I had a shot of tequila for every time I thought of you, I'd be sober."


 What Can Cosby Do Now?

"He can't do anything now except maybe run for president." 
—Trevor Noah.

   In Cave Creek in the old days, it was traditional to kill a snake before you went out with one.

"Deena On Her Prom Night"

"The first half of our lives is spent ignoring our parent's advice, and the second half in trying to keep our children from ignoring ours."
—Old Parental Saying

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My Eyes Are Up Here And Other Bits of Weird Wisdom for These Weird Times

April 26, 2018
   I read with tired alarm, the other day, about some ridiculous development in Washington and the writer claimed that this was when "America went off the rails." Is that true? Have we gone off the rails?

"Go home, 2018, you're drunk."
—Jake Tapper

   As things get weirder and weirder, I find myself seeking out books that attempt to explain how we got here and why. Last night I started this book:

"The test of a good theory lies in its ability to explain the past, for only if it does can we trust what it may tell us about the future."
—John Lewis Gaddis, in his new book, "On Grand Strategy"

Daily Whip Out: "The Law In His Hands"

My Eyes Are Up Here
   In the Can't-Leave-Good-Enough-Alone Department, I grabbed a board from last week and gave it another pass. Changed the title, too. 

Daily Re-Whip Out: "My Eyes Are Up Here"

   Everything in this world tries to be round (including those overgrown ta tas, above), and I can't help but think that the more things change the more they remain the same. What appeared to be a progressive arc away from fascism has turned into a circle and here we are, back in the year 1939.

   "If you fail to prepare for all that might happen, you'll ensure that some of it will."
—John Lewis Gaddis

   Or, put in a more sarcastic way:

"It's a weird time, if you've noticed."
—Michelle Wolf

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Froggy Hauan and The Hilarity of Robbing Norwegian Banks

April 25, 2018
   Kathy and I met my Thompson, Iowa cousins last night at El Encanto Dos out on the Carefree Highway. Norm and Trudy Hauan are leaving today for home, after their annual winter stay in Arizona.

The Hauans and the Bells at El Encanto Dos

   Left to right: Kathy, Norm, Trudy and BBB. Norm, 82, is legendary in northern Iowa where he is known as "Froggy" Hauan. He created an empire of farms that is still talked about today. My father was a big fan of Froggy and so I honor my dad by staying in touch with our Iowa kin. Norm and I are related like this: our great-grandfathers, Peter and Ingebrit Hauan were brothers. Norm is a descendent of Ingebrit, and Peter had a daughter named Minnie, who married another Norwegian farmer named Carl M. Bell and they had a son they named Allen Peter Bell (my dad's middle name was in honor of his mother's father). Unfortunately, my father was teased incessantly by the middle name—Peter—and always styled his moniker as "Allen P. Bell".

   Like most extended families we love to talk about old times and one of my favorite stories is the time bank robbers hit the Peoples State Bank in Thompson in 1974. The robbers got away with about $7,000 and were never caught, but they forced the tellers and the customers on to the floor and then tied them up. It sounds terrifying but the way Froggy tells it is hilarious because he invokes the niceness of small town Norskys dealing with armed criminals. And, it helps that nobody was hurt. Norm asked me not to use several of the stories because some of the people are still alive, but one of the customers, "Shorty" Hagenson was forced on to the floor next to an attractive bank teller, Betty Johnson. Later, over a beer at the only bar in town, Shorty admitted, "I always wanted to lay with Betty Johnson, but there I was with my hands tied behind my back."

   And, here, courtesy of the Thompson Courier, for your viewing pleasure are Shorty and Betty looking at the floor where they were forced to "lay" together. 

"Did you hear about the Norwegian farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her?"
—Old Norsky Saying

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dust Devil Rider

April 24, 2018
   Went home for lunch and took a shot at a sketch:

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Devil Rider"

Also did a couple more sketches on a summer project:

Daily Whip Out: "In-din Humor Sketch"

"The idea that Indians aren't funny is so funny."
—Paul Andrew Hutton

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Long Road Home

April 23, 2018
  It's a long road from our daughter's house in Seattle to our home in Cave Creek. In fact, it's 1,486 miles. So we flew home from Seattle yesterday and as we cruised at 30,000 feet over the Grand Canyon I started looking out the window for my homeland. Was that Frazier's Well down there, or were we farther to the east? I finally recognized Ashfork, and quickly scooted westward up the twin lines of I-40 to find Seligman, then beyond the Sno-cap Drive-in lies the longest surviving stretch of old Route 66 snaking its way across Long Valley and onward to Peach Springs, Truxton and Valentine and then around the corner to Hackberry where my great-grandmother, Dolce Guess, is buried.

   It always makes me feel good to see my home country from the air. I have been down many roads in many parts of the world, but few places stir my soul more than this land.

   My curator, Kristi Jacobs, is putting together some of the themes I have painted on over the years to consider as art pieces to show at the Arizona History Conference which takes place this coming weekend in Tempe.

   One of the themes she has curated ("66 Kid Headlights") naturally caught my eye and I grabbed a half-dozen of them to paint and "improve" over my lunch hour (and she's going to hate this: I have renamed most of them!)

Hailstorm In Truxton Canyon

Blasting Thru Truxton After the Rain
  Kind of interesting how much many of my road memories involve rain. Perhaps because it is so rare in Arizona, or, maybe it's because those are the memories I cherish the most.

Cloudburst at Coyote Pass

Late Night Driver North of Grasshopper Junction

T-Bird On The Move South of Perfume Pass

Oatman Road at Dusk

  Why am I obsessed with road pictures? Here's one possible explanation:

"We spend our lives trying to understand our parents."
—Thomas McGuane

Sunday, April 22, 2018

In Praise of Nut Job II

April 22, 2018
   Had a glorious week in Seattle babysitting the grandkids. It was challenging grandparent work, but someone's got to do it.

Weston tries his first bite of a green chile chicken burrito

   Grandparents get along so well with grandkids because they have a common enemy. Ha.

Frances Grooving On An Empty Box of Fiber One

   Lots of fun picking through the trash and I'm always amazed at what the little tykes find amusing. I was holding Frances in the back yard when I randomly kicked a soccer ball and she started laughing, so I walked over and kicked it again and she laughed and laughed. I must have kicked that ball 25 times and she just kept on laughing. It's the little things.

    We gathered every morning in the kitchen.

The Morning Gathering

But my favorite time was the painting sessions:

Weston does the first of many Daily Whip Outs.

   Of course it wasn't all art sessions:

The Tree Climber

Weston Abstract

   I got to catch up on a lot of cartoons. I must say Nut Job 2 is pretty spectacular with superior animation and funny sight gags. We watched it twice. Nut Job 1 was okay—one of those rare cases where the sequel is better than the original—and I thought the animation on Coco was crazy amazing, although the story about the Day of The Dead and how it was related to the little boy was a little overcooked. Of course there were insufferably bad cartoons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Stagecraft Edition was terrible (Weston loved it) and there was a Monster Truck show where the animation looked like it was done with two pieces of plexiglass and three rejected truck drawings from Cars III. But what do I know?

   Quite a bit, actually. Hard to believe that I have lived long enough to see movie shorts (when cartoons played before a movie) and then the beginning of Saturday morning cartoons where we saw the same 15 cartoons over and over because there wasn't enough product to fill the pipeline for one hour of one day, much less seven days.

   And then all the different genres, like claymation which Wes Anderson has revived in his brilliant Isle of Dogs.

   Kind of crazy when you consider what it all comes down to:

"It's just lines on paper, folks."
—R. Crumb

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Old Squat And Spit Rule

April 20, 2018
   When cowboys gather, they tend to form a semi-circle and squat down on their haunches. After pleasantries are exchanged, one of the cowboys will offer up a "true" story. And, when that story is finished, there will always be one cowboy who spits and says, "That's nothin', one time I. . ."

Daily Whip Out: "The Ol' Squat And Spit"

   And off they go. It's not a law or anything, but it is quite prevalent throughout the West. It has become known as the Old Squat And Spit Rule. Oh, and one more thing:

"The last liar wins."
—Old Vaquero Saying


Thursday, April 19, 2018

The BS-er vs. The Natural-Born-Storyteller

April 19, 2018
   We all have been abused by an overbearing storyteller. This usually happens at the bar, where they have a captured audience. 

Daily Whip Out: "The BS-er at The Bar"

   We have a tendency to flee from these BS-ers and, when asked why, we accuse them of telling windies, at best, and outright lies, at worst. The main reason for this is most BS-ers have a hard time getting to the point in an efficient manner. The problem stems from false flamboyancy, or, excessive, exuberant story-telling. Or, as my Texas friends like to put it, "If you can't improve on a story, you have no business telling it in the first place." Well, unfortunately, when it comes to "improving" a story, most BS-ers confuse quality with quantity. Just because you add a half dozen goofy set-ups and sidebars, doesn't make the joke, or the story, better. 

   On the other hand, some old-timers just have the gift. Thanks to the editor of Arizona Highways, Don Dedera, I met one of the best. Don gave me my first illustration assignment for Arizona Highways in February, 1985 for a story on everyone's favorite home town. I traveled to Prescott to meet and draw several Prescott living legends, among them Budge Rufner and Gail Gardner. 

Gail Gardner sketches, February, 1985

   When I got to his house in downtown Prescott, Gail was in a wheel-chair in the living room with a hand-knitted afghan on his lap and chain-smoking. As soon as I came in he started with the stories and the whole time I was there, it was just one story after another, and they were all good. At one point, his caretaker leaned in from the kitchen, and yelled, "Gail, he's here to draw you, not interview you!" He didn't give a rip, and he never even slowed down. He just loved to spin tall tales. And, he never stopped smoking. When I joked he wouldn't live very long if he kept that up (he was in his nineties!) he just laughed and lit another one. As I continued drawing him he told many stories complete with outrageously funny locations, which I jotted down in the corners of my sketchbook, above; including "Fart-Knocker Flats," "Skin-Chin Canyon" and "Freeze-Ass Ridge." There were more, but I couldn't write them down fast enough. When I asked him how a place got the name "Fart-Knocker Flats," he laughed, gave the location, and said, "These flats had big, round rocks all over the place and when you'd come ridin' hell bent out on to those flats, your horse would stumble and it would knock the farts plumb out of you." Even his asides were hilarious and I could have listened to him all day long. Here's the kicker: not once did I think of him as a BS-er. True, the stories were laced with tall tales, but he somehow rose above that.

   His parting comment: "Nobody's had more fun than I've had." No BS there at all.

"A joke is a question, artificially inseminated with tension."
—Hannah Gadsby

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What Makes Me Happy Besides A Forest of Sombreros?

April 18, 2018
   Not much makes me happier than a gaggle of big hats.

Daily Whip Out: "A Forest of Sombreros"

Unless, maybe it's an old photo of an overloaded stagecoach:

The stage to Rhyolite, Nevada


"Crazy explorers on a Mule"


Goofy named frontier saloons.


Moonrise Beside A Massive Saguaro


Frontiersman In Snow

Or, wolves in snow:

The Outsider


Budding Artists Giving It Their All

"Painting is marvelous. It makes you happier and more patient."
—Hermann Hess

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one." 
 —Charles Horton Cooley