Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Illustration vs. Fine Art

July 31, 2019
   As someone who has been labeled an "illustrator," I must tell you, in the pecking order of the Art Word, it's not a compliment. Especially when the term comes from an expert who likes to pontificate about "Fine Art." 

   Fine Art is by definition an offshoot of the avant-garde movement which prioritized concept and intellectual purpose over aesthetics (i.e. something that looks "like a photograph"). This judgement has more to do with "the true expression of the artists, distinguishing it from decorative art or applied art." In other words, artwork that doesn't look like a photograph. Although, it must be said, there is an off-shoot of Fine Art that includes photo-realism as an art form. I have to agree with some wag who quipped, "Art is anything you can get away with."

  Speaking of which, we are doing a cover story on the greatest Western artist, and I've been working on an idea—an illustration—for the issue.

Daily Whip Out:
"Maynard Dixon Rocks, #3"

   Big idea, but it needs big skills. Here's the original sketch, which has a looseness, lost in the finals. So typical, of me.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Full On Ed Mell Version"
(With apologizes to my former studio mate)

I had a decent one with him standing on a lava flow, but alas, I worked it to death and I don't even want to show it to you.

   Okay, dammit, here it is in all its failed glory.

Daily Whip Out:
"Maynard Sketches a car hood?"

   It has a couple decent passages (the igneous rock at bottom) but decent passages don't add up to a successful painting. Much less a successful "illustration."

 The Fine Artist
   Maynard Dixon earned his spurs on several fronts. He did his due diligence (see the Wandering Lunatic blog post of last week), he escaped the ghetto of being labeled an "illustrator" and he showed his skill on a couple dozen monumental murals. But, more importantly, he blew the roof off of Western Art and took the genre to a new and modern level that Remington and Russell did not. As Dixon himself put it, "The artist's job, as I see it, is to try to widen peoples horizons—show them the wonder of the world they live in." You might make a case that there are better painters, but in the end, he is the West's greatest artist. He made the transition to modern art with integrity and authenticity. 

   Oh, and he had sand.

Daily Whip Out: "The Enigma"

"Oh, you mean the 'illustrator'?"
—A Famous "Fine Artist" referring to moi

Monday, July 29, 2019

Maynard Dixon Rocks!

July 29, 2019
   Worked all weekend on artwork.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Maynard Dixon Looms"

   This is for our big cover story package supporting the show at the Scottsdale Museum of The West in October.

   Meanwhile, took a couple swings at the G-Man.

Daily Whip Out: "Geronimo In The Rough"

   And, I also got another inspiration for a Maynard Dixon illustration for my editorial:

Daily Whip Out: "Dixon Rocks!"

   I was struck by a couple comments in the recent obits for Rutger Hauer, who pass last week at 75. Hauer is the actor most famous for the smoothly diabolical villain in "Blade Runner."

"An actor is a clown who does his trick, and the audience pays to see your trick, and that's it—you shouldn't go beyond that." He also added to the explanation by saying, "We are a luxury. We're just like paintings on the wall, except we're moving."
—Ruger Hauer

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Forty Years of Good Luck

July 28, 2019
   Forty years ago today, I attended a little ceremony out at Pioneer Village.

Hans Olson and The Razz Band jammed
and the Rock 'N' Roll Judge presided

    As often happens after these kinds of events, five years later, I found myself on the road with a new generation of road warriors.

The Road Trip Kids, Fina gas station
north of Socorro, New Mexico, on the way
to Billy the Kid's grave, 1984

"The road is the only thing."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Cover Boy And The Cowboy

July 26, 2019
   Maynard Dixon got his commercial art jump started by doing magazine work for Charles Lummis in 1900, but by 1903 he had landed on the cover of Sunset.

A Classic Dixon Cover, 1904

The Cover Boy
   Over the span of several decades Dixon's strong design sense and captivating artwork appeared on  dozens and dozens of magazine covers and numerous book jackets.

Just a taste of the many Dixon covers

   In May of 1901, Maynard and his artist friend Edward Borein, took off from Oakland on horseback, bound for Montana. Averaging about 25 miles a day, they rode through Carson City and Reno, Nevada. From there they headed north into southeastern Oregon they spent two months on isolated ranches, including the P Ranch where Dixon made rapid pencil sketches. These gesture drawings are brilliant in their simple lines with dashed off detail done with precision and amazing skill.

   "The results of the trip," Maynard wrote to Lummis, "were plenty of sketches, no oils, new knowledge of Indians and cowboy and range life in a tough country, and a greater respect for facts."

   But the memory muscles of the trip returned when he later did wonderful oil paintings like this one:

"Desert Journey"

In-din Stalker
   Maynard explained how difficult it was to capture In-dins as subject matter: "Indians have a silent way of being not sketchable when they so will it, though they remain in plain view. The Navajo are all right to paint if you nail them to a post and have somebody hold a gun to 'em while you do it."

"Apache Scout"

   Maynard spent some time in New York and was successful there but he didn't like where Western publishing and story telling was going with the increasingly exaggerated conflict. He wrote to Lummis, "I'm being paid to lie about the West. I'm done with all of that. I'm going back home where I can do honest work in my own way."

   And, after all this time, it looks like Maynard will have one more cover for his still expanding portfolio, this coming October.


"The melodramatic Wild West idea is not for me the big possibility. The nobler and more lasting qualities are in the quiet and most broadly human aspects of western life."
—Maynard Dixon

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sell drawings but don't sell yourself

July 25, 2019
   It was Charles Lummis who told Maynard Dixon to go east to find the west. And east, that Fresno, California boy did go in the summer of 1900. From Los Angeles to Needles and Fort Mojave, then on to Prescott, and down the Black Canyon, Dixon sketched all the way until he ran out of money in Phoenix and had to wire Lummis:

   "Send check to Phoenix, I am busted."

Maynard sketched his boss in August of 1897

   Maynard addressed Lummis as "Dear Pop" and "Dear Boss". Lummis called Dixon the "Kid," of course.  Lummis published a couple magazines, Land of Sunshine and later, Out West, and he championed Dixon's art and encouraged the Arizona-New Mexico trip because Lummis had lived in New Mexico for several years until he was shot in the face and chest with a shotgun for photographing the Pentitentes.

   Welcome to the land of Enchantment!

    So, Charles Lummis left New Mexico and settled outside of Pasadena and built a wild and crazy house on the banks of the Arroyo Seco. It still exists and, if you, like me, love Lummis and Dixon, you need to go visit like I did a couple months ago, on the way to Carson Mell's wedding:

Charles Lummis's crazy, hand built house,
 El Alisal where the windows don't really fit.

Alisal is Spanish for sycamore, which is what that tree is in the foreground. Maynard sketched one in the same yard, only 119 years earlier:

Dixon's sketch of sycamores at El Alisal.

Three issues of Out West
(formerly "The Land of Sunshine") 

   Note that the printer is advertised on the cover, see at bottom. And according to the historian at El Alisal, Lummis burned through multiple printers in the Los Angeles area, so putting their name on the cover was probably a "trade." In other words no cash. Oh, these damn publishers and their cheap and devious ways.

   I know, it takes one to know one.

   Okay, back to Phoenix in 1900, which Dixon called "Chihuahua Town." He soon departed for nearby Tempe where Dixon stayed in various Mexican homes for several days (according to Don Hagerty, Dixon's biographer, the town was "nine-tenths Mexican") and Maynard drew some great scenes of adobe-lined streets, like this one. 

Tempe, Arizona, September, 1900

      I'm guessing but that looks like Mill Avenue where the church is and I would bet that is Hayden Butte (also known as A Mountain) on the left. Great effect of tree shade. Not easy to do. 

   When Dixon finally made it to the Four Corners area (where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet) he fell in love and returned many times, creating several masterpieces, including this stunner:

"Cloud World" by Maynard Dixon

   And, although Dixon created this cover illustration for Sunset magazine, it has all of the bells and whistles that Lummis encouraged.

Navajo Indian from Life, 1903

   Tomorrow, we'll take a gander at some of Dixon's amazing commercial cover illustrations, before moving on to his last period, when he kicked the roof off of Western Art.

"Sell your drawings, but don't sell yourself."

—Charles Lummis advice to the "Kid"

The Wandering Lunatic

July 25, 2019
   As a mere boy, Maynard Dixon, 16, quit school and sent some of his drawings to his hero, Frederic Remington, and got this reply: "You draw better at your age than I did at the same age—if you have the 'sand' to overcome difficulties you could be an artist in time."

   The term "sand" is an American frontier expression conveying stamina and courage.

   Leaving his home in Fresno, California, Dixon traveled down to El Alisal, on the Arroyo Seco, six miles out of Pasadena and met Charles Lummis who assigned him to take a road trip east, to find the true West.

   Maynard launched himself east, by train, and landed in Needles, California, in July of 1900. He was determined to draw the people he met, especially the Mojave In-dins and he found them, up the Colorado River, at Fort Mojave where the average temperature in the shade was 120 degrees! Here are a few of the sketches he made, on the banks of the Colorado River.

   From Fort Mojave, Dixon went further into Arizona and sketched his way from Prescott (where he stayed with Sharlot Hall's family), down to Phoenix and Tucson. Everyone he met thought he was crazy, but I think it's safe to say, the boy had sand.

"In those days in Arizona being an artist was something you just had to endure—or be smart enough to explain why. It was incomprehensible that you were just out 'seeing the country.' If you were not working for the railroad, considering real estate or scouting for a mining company what the hell were you? The drawings I made were no excuse and I was regarded as a wandering lunatic."
—Maynard Dixon

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Geronimo Round Up

July 23, 2019
   We are rounding up so many great Geronimo photos, I have added another 16 page signature to the book. And, as the images mount up, you can surely tell he was much more complicated than the poster boy for Homeland Security. Or, even as a Freedom Fighter Saint. He was called a "human tiger" and a "bloodthirsty fiend" for a reason. And, at the same time, he loved his cat and always left out a saucer of milk for his tabby.

Geronimo saddling up for a parade
in Ponca City, Oklahoma

   Ponca City is near the headquarters of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch where another famous photograph was taken of the G-Man.

A Dan The Man concept cover

Geronimo's Translucent Eyes, 1905

   Just got this Fly card from Dr. John Langellier:

Check out what it says on the back:

Address all orders to C.S. Fly,
 Tombstone, Arizona

   And thanks to Lynda Sanchez and Michael Farmer, we have scored this postcard photograph of Geronimo's house at Fort Still, Oklahoma.

Photo by Jack Keeans, 1909

   He may have lived out his life in Oklahoma, but his heart belonged to his homeland.

"There is no climate or soil which, to my mind, is equal to that of Arizona."

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

More Knucklehead Imagery

July 23, 2019
   Got some rain last night. Got out on the road early to avoid the heat and ran into this sight:

First Light on Ratcliff Ridge

   So, coming back from visiting Bill Ahrendt's art studio on Sunday, Sherry Monahan begged me ("Please Daddy! Pretty Please!") to stop at an antique store in Pine and I reluctantly agreed. We went in and I immediately buy a framed Maynard Dixon print ($35) and she leaves with nothing. Ha.

   Here's another one of my purchases:

Emery Kolb gets the shot

   Picked up this photograph in Pine of one of my knucklehead heroes, Emory Kolb, seen here hanging out (literally!) at the Grand Canyon in 1905. I met Emory in 1974 when he was in his nineties. Crazy guy. Love him.

   Speaking of hat styles, got this from the Top Secret Writer this morning:

First issue of Famous Westerns magazine

   According to the Top Secret Writer it was a Mad magazine knockoff.

"That's not funny, that's gross!"
—Old School Girl Saying

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Payson Manifesto

July 22, 2019
   Just got back from Payson and our first True West Writer's Retreat. We were guests at the Don Dos house (Don's second home across the street from his real home), owned by the legendary Don Dedera (too lazy to stand, lower right). We solved some life and schemed on how to put out a magazine that people actually want to read. Here's my hardcore crew:

L to R: BBB, Sherry Monahan, Marshall Trimble, Kevin Schirmer, Stuart Rosebrook
and Don Dedera

The Payson Takeaways 

• We need to expand our social media and make it more robust with our in house talent and editorial team.

• There shall be a surprise in every issue.

• Cover planning is essential. Let's get out front of this.

• The best things come from the bottom-up rather than the top down.

• We need to tackle bigger themes, like, Damn Yankees! The Invaders Who Ruined The West (hint: this includes everyone who arrives out West and then wants to prohibit anyone else from coming. I call this the "Last Man In" syndrome)

• On The Whiskey Trail, tackle the rise and fall and the rise again of whiskey through the Old West, then through Prohibition and out the other side to the current trend of distilleries galore.

• Don't doubt the strength of who we are. We have the resources to tackle any subject.

• Expand and develop this Writer's Retreat concept and have a contributor's conference and an annual meeting with True West editorial during the True Westerner Award weekend and, or, at the Tucson Book Festival.

• Continue to expand and strengthen our presence at writer's conferences like WWA (Western Writers of America) and WWHA (Wild West History Association).

  And, at least for me, the biggest question of the weekend: Don is 90, Marshall is 80 and I am 72. So, what are you kids going to do with the farm?

   Both kids, Stuart (56) and Sherry (56) assured me they would do me proud. I believe them.

"Old men delight in giving good advice as a consolation for the fact that they can no longer set bad examples."
—La Rochefoucauld