Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Whole Bunch of Wild Bunch Covers

May 22, 2019
   Well, here we go again on a cover hunt for the August issue with the intrepid Dan The Man Harshberger leading the charge. Our art director has already done seven cover mockups so far. Here's my fave, so far:


   Some on the staff think we should zero in on Redford's red glare, like this:



   My concern with this one, above, is the hat is lost and he looks like a big, bad surfer (Joe) from 1968. Then there's this take:


Straight Up Western style

 What do you think?

IN PRAISE OF WILLIAM GOLDMAN:

BUTCH CASSIDY (Paul Newman): Then you jump first.

THE SUNDANCE KID (Robert Redford): No, I said.

BUTCH: What's the matter with you?

SUNDANCE: I can't swim!

BUTCH: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill ya!

Bonus Butch:

BUTCH: Kid, there's something I ought to tell you. I never shot anybody before.

SUNDANCE: One hell of a time to tell me.


“Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”
—William Goldman

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Control Your Children If You Can Por Favor

May 21, 2019
   Flew back from Seattle yesterday and after landing at Sky Harbor, Kathy and I decided to try an old standby.


We tried. Believe me, we tried.

   In the end they have a mind of their own. One kid moved to Seattle and the other to Thailand. So much for the "control" theory.

   This is a sign, above, in Rosita's on McDowell Road. We haven't been there in a decade, or two, but decided to give the Mexican food joint another try. I had the mole and it was quite good.

   Lots of reflection on the old days.

Bullhead City aerial, early 1960s

   This photo was posted on Facebook by Andy Sansom, a Bullhead river rat from way back. This part of the river has exploded with growth. Virtually all of the Nevada casinos were built on that naked strip on the left bank of the river.

   Big storm blew thru yesterday with a report of hail up the road, a piece.

Sunset over Ratcliff Ridge

      Heading back to graphic novel territory. Got a new plan, based on the old plan, but tempered with the fire and ice of Game of Thrones.

"Novels rise out of the shortcomings of history."
—The German Romantic Novalis




Monday, May 20, 2019

Casper Babypants, Honkytonk Frances & The Uber Lecrae History Lover

May 20, 2019
   In Seattle for a birthday party.

Honkytonk Frances

   She's two. And she knows it. Meanwhile. . .

The Chess Champion

    He's almost six and he handily beats grandpa (check out the board, Grandpa Ha ha in black).

   We watched the finale of "The Game of Thrones" last night. A full report later.

   Took off for home this morning.

The Uber Wavers including a couple fans of Casper Babypants

   I'll explain the Casper Babypants connection in another post, but I must say I enjoy traveling because it exposes me to music I would never hear. Our Uber driver to the airport is a fan of Lecrae and he had it blastin' in his Kia, so I sat up front with him to find out why and I didn't have to wait long for the answer.

"Yeah, it's all fact no fiction
It's my interpretation
You wanna know how it went down?
I'll tell you"

—Lecrae

Saturday, May 18, 2019

George R. R. Martin Delivers The Goods

May 18, 2019
   Good storytelling involves withholding information AND evoking emotion through conflict.

   Imagine my surprise when I discovered both at a birthday party in Seattle, Washington.

Birthday party for Frances

   The birthday girl is two.

   It's a cliche that good writing feeds on strong conflict. I brought along the first book of "Game of Thrones," to read on the plane. Here's a nice short scene that has both conflict AND emotion: the bastard son of Eddard Stark, Jon Snow, is leaving Winterfell to join the Nightwatch, but he wants to say his goodbyes and so he shows up at the room where his brother Bran is in a coma and his mother has been at his bedside for a fortnight. Jon is nervous about going in and when he does, the mother rebukes him. The tension between the two is at a two on a scale of one to ten. When he insists on staying, she says, "I told you to leave. We don't want you here." Each comment and exchange escalates the tension. When Jon pleads for sympathy, "He's my brother," the mother says, "Shall I call the guards?"

   "Call them, Jon said, defiant. "You can't stop me from seeing him." Now we're at a seven, or eight on the conflict scale.

   The mother, in her grief, confesses she prayed for the boy in the coma to stay behind with her. In an attempt at compassion, Jon says, "It wasn't your fault." Then we get this:

   "Her eyes found him. They were full of poison. 'I need none of your absolution, bastard.'"

   Jon retreats to the door but she has one more vicious comment: "It should have been you."

   In other words, it should have been the bastard son who fell out of the broken tower and is in a deep coma. She collapses in sobs, weeping. George ends the short scene with "It was a long walk down to to the yard."

   Boy howdy. That is a short, masterful confrontation pegging at ten and staying there. At the same time we don't feel anger towards either character, the mother guarding her injured son, or, the injured son being rejected by his step-mother. Just a tragic situation with well earned emotion on both sides. How does Martin do this? Well, a friend of mine knows him and has this to say:

      "George is one of those 'overnight successes' who toiled for decades to get there. He was a moderately successful horror writer for a long time. A writer's writer, who's always been good and was read by everybody else in the field, received awards, etc., but could walk into almost any bookstore in the country without being recognized. 

   "Somewhere along the line he got it into his head to combine epic fantasy with epic horror in a way that's never really been done, and to make it all seem utterly realistic. It worked. The books caught on quickly and made him a household name in fantasy-loving households. But it wasn't until HBO came along that he became a household name almost everywhere. Now he's so famous they made a Funko Pop out of him (one of two authors so honored, that I know of. Proud to say I've met them both, George, of course, and Ted Geisel, who lived in La Jolla where I managed a bookstore for a decade.). And as he says, trucks roll up to the front door every week and unload money into the house. Another friend, Charlaine Harris, had a similar experience when HBO made True Blood, She'd had a pretty successful book series with her Sookie Stackhouse books, but when the TV series hit big, suddenly she had 8 books on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously--an unmatched feat, I believe. 

   "Anyway, he's a fine writer and a really good, deserving guy. I'm envious of his success, but don't begrudge him a second of it."
—Jeff Mariotte

"I always expect the best from George R. R. Martin, and he always delivers."
—Robert Jordan

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Future of The First Bloom

May 17, 2019
   The palo verdes started blooming in April, now it's the mighty saguaros turn.

A Giant Flower Gets Its First Blooms


A Closer Look



"I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate."
—Sir Arthur Wing Pinero

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Prelude to a Deluge

May 16, 2019
   Last night Kathy and I watched the Game of Thrones episode (season three, episode nine) known as "The Red Wedding." Ay-Yi-Yi. Haven't seen that on my TV set, ever before. Crazy—and bloody—good.

   I wonder if there is a big, sprawling epic to be made involving In-din slavers, Conquistadors, hacendados, vaqueros and American cowboys, all colliding like the Starks and the Lannisters? It seems to me the trick would be to play all the tribes as powerful and not wimpy. Might that fly?



"Hell yes!"
says Arapaho Black Bull



   Noodling clouds this morning involving the incessant wind of my home region.


Daily Whip Out:
"Prelude to The Deluge."
Or,
"A Gully Washer Rolls In Over Red Lake."


"Sometimes, a windy is what keeps history sailing."
—Chris Casey

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Wild Bunch vs. The Mild Bunch

May 15, 2019
   At my recent book signing at the Powerhouse Museum in Kingman a few old friends showed up and Darlene Harshberger took this photo, which her husband, Dan the Man, turned into a True West cover, parodying our current cover search to find a suitable image for The Real Wild Bunch. Coach Byram is ninety!

The Mild Bunch Indeed

   The good news is we are still here.
    
   Picture this tall (6' 5") escaped slave. She is Zulu and escapes and becomes a legendary outlaw in the great Southwest.

"Zulu Bandida"

   Just curious, has this been done before?

"I'd say most of my mistakes can be traced back to when I decided to get out of bed."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Edmundo Segundo Is The High Sheriff of High Clouds

May 14, 2019
   Ed Mell and I go way back. I will say this: the bastard can paint. From 1982 to 1986 we shared studio space at 10th & Oak in downtown Phoenix. 

   Learned a ton from this guy and when it comes to painting and the laws of atmospheric effects, Edmundo carries the badge.


High Cloud Sheriff Edmundo Segundo

   To say that I am often accused of ripping off the Mell clouds is, well, not out of the ordinary.


Daily Whip Out:
"Lone Cloud Over Sugarloaf"

   When I posted this, I got this response:

Steve Opitz Looks like Bell Clouds over Mell Mountain?!?


   Retro Sketch Page Mell Reference Poaching:


   Okay, wise guy, no Mell reference here!

"Billy the Kid Walks Thru The Smoke
On The Deadliest Street In America"


   Jamming on a bunch of paintings and subjects.


Daily Whip Out In Progress:
"Saguaro Dust Storm"


Winter Is Coming, Part 38:

"I never thought dragons would burn MY city," sobs woman who voted for the Dragons Burning Peoples' Cities Party.

   Just got contacted by a TV show that wants to use a painting I did to commemorate Columbus bringing horses and cattle to the New World:


Daily Whip Out: "Sea Change"


"Every artist was first an amateur."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 13, 2019

See How They Do It. Then Do it!

May 13, 2019
   We learn by copying, then going off on our own. Taking off the trainer-wheels, so to speak.

Daily Whip Out: "Borrowed Likeness"

   The trick is not to take credit for something someone else pioneered. I found the model for the above, online, and thought it had some merit to learn from. Soft facial, solid background. I forget who painted it. Someone famous and very good, which harks back to the old saying, "Half of originality is remembering the prose but forgetting who said it."

Daily Whip Out: "Beady-eyed Bill"

   I swear I went to school with this Ka-boy. Meanwhile, I had fun all weekend, doing anything BUT Billy the Kid!

Daily Whip Out:
"Lone Cloud Over Sugarloaf"


   We're still enjoying "Game of Thrones" and I'm reading the first book and continue to be amazed at the supple prose of George R. R. Martin:

"Catelyn softened then, to see his pain. Eddard Stark had married her in Brandon's place, as custom decreed,  but the shadow of his dead brother still lay between them as did the other, the shadow of the woman he would not name, the woman who had borne him his bastard son."

   Now THAT is exposition with more than one hook! Wow! How can you possibly stop reading after those two sentences? I can't. Brilliant.


“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.
Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”

― William Faulkner

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Aerial View of The Orchard Ranch As The Morning Fog Burns Off

May 12, 2019
   Yesterday was my first full day off after the Billy cover death march. That was a three week sidebar and I needed a breather. So I did some fun paintings. Wherever my brush wanted to go, I let it go.


"Lone Cloud Over Sugarloaf"

Eight Starter Paintings

   There were actually ten, but you get the picture.

   Decided I needed some levity, so I took a step back and aimed at an overview of things and gave that a go.



Daily Whip Out:
"Aerial of The Orchard Ranch
As The Morning Fog Burns Off"

   I love aerials and topos. Always have. I was a draftsman for several years, you know.

   I also rounded up all the loose Billy art and put it in Kristi's area for filing:

"Four Billys"

Summer Is Coming
   Kathy and I are late to the "Game of Thrones" phenom. About a month ago we decided to watch an episode a night and we are currently on season three, episode four. I am so inspired by the storytelling, I started reading the source material. I must say George R. R. Martin has earned every penny he has made (reportedly $15 million a year).

   Great flawed characters thrown together with life or death consequences and it rarely goes where you think it's going to go. In addition to the snappy plotting and character collisions Martin is also a master of scene setting. Here is the set up to the bastard son Jon Snow getting drunk in the great hall:

   "The Great Hall of Winterfell was hazy with smoke and heavy with the smell of roasted meat and fresh-baked bread. Its grey stone walls were draped with banners. White, gold, crimson: the direwolf of Stark, Baratheon's crowned stag, the lion of Lannister. A singer was playing the high harp and reciting a ballad, but down at this end of the hall his voice could scarcely be heard above the roar of the fire, the clangor of pewter plates and cups, and the low mutter of a hundred drunken conversations."

   That is just crazy good. Every word chosen for maximum effect. Bravo.

"Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.”
—George R. R. Martin



Friday, May 10, 2019

Billy Lit Up

May 10, 2019
   Thanks to Robert Ray, JC Printing produced six black and white Born to Run Billys on watercolor paper so I could paint on them for a possible cover. I had one left over, so this morning I decided to do something bold and completely different. 


Daily Whip Out: "Billy Lit Up."

   I know I said I was through with the Kid, but I lied.

"The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else."
—George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Historical Twin?

May 9, 2019
   Mark Lee Gardner sent me this image of Robert McReynolds (1854-1928) with Red Jacket and Spotted Eagle, Shoshone Indians. McReynolds published a book in Colorado Springs in 1906 titled "Thirty Years on the Frontier." This image appears in the book.



Robert McReynolds Meet Robert Bell



"I'm pretty sure a photo authenticator would determine this is a match."
—Mark Lee Gardner

In Praise of the Harsh

May 9, 2019
   Believe it or not, I had better things to do. My graphic novel, for one. But I've spent the past three weeks trying to nail down a worthy cover image for our July issue which goes to press today. Talk about cutting it close. Thanks to the patience of my art director and production manager, I finished up the last minute tweaks on my final Billy this morning and sent it off to Dan (his studio is in downtown Phoenix).

The Final Final Billy Cover Image

   Yes, he's a little more demonic and Mick Jagger-ish than I intended but this is what we're going with. One of the other versions had a sweeter visage:


Sweeter Billy

And I did a number of other takes as well:

Billy Walks The Most Dangerous Street In America

And I kept sending them down to Dan and he kept pumping out the covers.


17 covers and counting




Eight versions earlier

   Of course, Dan The Man and I go way back. 



BBB and Dan The Man Along With
Bell family at a Chloride slag pit, 1959

   This morning we ended up here:


   Thanks Dan. Really strong.

"An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way."
—Charles Bukowski

You may not be interested in history, but history is interested in you.

May 9, 2019
  Here's what I love about studying history. It's the crazy connections that continue to thrill me. My good friend, fellow artist and baseball fanatic, Thom Ross, once regaled me with this historical fact: a mere two weeks after Custer and his crew were wiped out at the Little Bighorn, George Bradley of the St. Louis Brown Stockings threw the first official no-hitter on July 15, 1876.


The St. Louis Brown Stockings

  That is just too cool for school. And speaking of school, I'm sorry to report that the study of history in colleges and high schools is being reduced to an evaporating hotbed of competing revenge narratives. It doesn't help any that history classes being taught in public schools are hamstrung by ethnic politics and the PC police, but it goes beyond even that. One of my Native American friends tells me his tribe (Apache) is hell bent on removing all mentions of scalping in all narratives of wagon trains or encounters with White People in all the history books. Okay. Were the popular narratives of scalping in the Old West overstated? Yes, especially in the 1920s when you almost couldn't get published unless your wagon train was attacked by Indians. And, to boot, your hero also needed to kill a bunch of buffaloes. Was that highly inaccurate? Boy howdy. Does that mean there wasn't any scalping by Native Americans on the frontier? BOY HOWDY!

   And, so it goes. Is this a threat to our country? Some think it is.

Is The Declining Interest In History A Threat to Democracy?


"There is no scientific metric for gullibility. Nor can we quantitatively prove that civic ignorance imposes a political cost on society. These are questions of judgment. But if America’s origins tell us anything it is that a well-informed citizenry creates a stronger society. We may no longer be interested in history. History is still interested in us."

—Edward Luce

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Three More Billys: Sepia Billy, Buck-toothed Billy and Purple Billy

May 8, 2019
   Just for the hell of it, I colorized three more Born to Run Billys this morning before I came into work. With luck, one of them will probably end up on the cover of the July issue.


Buck Tooth Billy


  Slightly overdid it on the mouth, but I like the shorter vest (too long in the other versions and it covers up the pistol).

Purple Billy

   I was going for a van Gogh-esque take on this one. Green shadow on face is a bit heavy-handed, but it has a rawness missing in the others.


Sepia Billy

   Straight ahead on this one. Nice amber glow. Plus, I like the hat expanding (the brim is a little short on the others). Somewhere between all of these is something decent and good.

   We'll see what Dan The Man does with it. Stay tuned.

"The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others."
—Vincent van Gogh


Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Too Many Billys And A Miracle Over Ratcliff Ridge!

May 7, 2019
   Woke up to rain this morning. Made for great skies.


Miracle Over Ratcliff Ridge 

  In spite of the rain, I dressed up as Squire Wilson and made Kathy follow me out to the pump house, where she shot three photos of me posing as if I'm hoeing onions. I plan on using this image, funked up, of course, in the Brady Ambush section of the Billy the Kid package we are completing for the July issue.



   My number one daughter turns 39 today. She is a road warrior, en route to Des Moines for her job, on her birthday.


   Deena Bean Fires Back

   Had our final Design Review this morning to try, once and for all, to narrow down a good cover for July.



Dan The Man rolls his eyes at the many, many versions of Billy the Kid covers he has been forced to do (21 by my count).

   True, there's only 17 on the board, but there are others that didn't make it up there. The consensus in the meeting is that the top two, middle right, are the contenders. Still arguing over cover heads.

The Ultimate April Fools Joke
   On April 1, 1878, Squire Wilson was hoeing onions in his back yard in the quiet town of Lincoln, New Mexico, when a stray bullet, fired by Billy the Kid, or one of the Regulators, at the sheriff, from across the street, sliced through Mr. Wilson's buttocks.

Rebecca Edwards provides patina and bullet

   He lived and, no doubt, the onions grew in spite of the lack of immediate maintenance.

   Speaking of Billy the Kid, I received a cool little gift from The Top Secret Writer to commemorate the epic struggle to get all the Billy coverage into our July issue.


Paul Andrew Hutton bagged this treasure.




   Here's a photo from last Saturday's Fun Run, taken from the Hackberry cemetery where my great-grandmother is buried.

Hackberry Cars Rolling Both Ways
By The Hackberry Store

   We're looking across the valley at the Hackberry Store on Route 66, with classic cars lined up for miles to get in, while a Santa Fe freight train chugs by going in the opposite direction. That power pole, at right, has its own story, which Fred Grigg told me about in bloody detail (Fred earned a $75,000 settlement over its placement).

"Wonderful stuff. Boze paints what the rest of us can only imagine."
—Fred Nolan, Chalfont St. Giles, England