If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a magazine or how crazy my personal life is, be sure to read the behind-the-scenes peek at the daily trials and tribulations of running True West. Culled straight from my Franklin Daytimer, it contains actual journal entries, laid out raw and uncensored. Some of it is enlightening. Much of it is embarrassing, but all of it is painfully true.
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February 18, 2020 Having fun in the sun with the beach all to ourselves.
Another Day, Another Empty Beach
Lots of free time to sketch and enjoy the solitude.
On The Beach With El Pendenjo?
Yes, misspelled Pendejo with an extra "n." A near miss, as it were. That is Steve Canyon inspired lettering. Could work. Meanwhile. . .
My Board of Inspiration
I'm reading a couple of beach books. "The Dept. of Speculation" by Jenny Offill, and "The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and The Last Years of Hollywood" by Sam Wasson. Both are inspiring and instructive. Jenny builds a narrative based on snippets (Kathy calls her "The Sentence Lady") and Wasson is pretty profound himself as he spins out the Roman Polanski-Sharon Tate tinged tragedy. This is a good example.
"They were golden, their friends were golden, and with so much gold to go around, all were happy at one another's shine."
Wasson also has an ear for summing up eras like this:
"Dreaming you're in paradise and waking up in the dark—that's Chinatown. Thinking you've got it figured out and realizing you're dead—that's Chinatown."
February 16, 2020 So I'm flying this small airplane and I need to land it on a narrow river and I'm going pretty fast and I'm debating whether to put the landing gear down, or not. Will it slow the plane down enough to walk away, or will it catch on a sandbar and flip the plane over? And, did I mention I have never flown a small plane? Or, any plane, for that matter.
Daily Whip Out: "Narrow River Landing"
And then I woke up. David Mamet maintains we dream about things we can't resolve with our rational mind. Perhaps the dream had something to do with this:
Diane Harris Moves True West
to front row at Books A Million
Or some aspect of this:
Empty Beach Except for Babe In Lava Bed
"If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people."
February 14, 2020 After a crazy, hectic couple of months, we have had a few nice, quiet days on the home front.
Moon Over The Crow's Nest
One of my pet peeves in Westerns is that invariably everyone is wearing the same style hat, and often the same size hat (same brim, same curl, etc). This is usually because they come from one hatter, or wardrobe tends to stock the same kind of "cowboy" hat. Well, take a look at these gents in the wild.
Hayden Survey, 1871
And look at the crown on the clown sitting down. Ha. Sorry, I'm being too harsh. He is not really a clown, but, you have to admit, a rodeo clown from 1956 would be very excited to find a hat with a crown like this.
Meanwhile, we are doing an insightful piece on what war does to kids. Or, more specifically, how brutal 19-year-olds are. Case in point:
When Boys Go to War
Imagine the things this boy has seen.
Prairie Rose Rising
And now for something completely different:
Arizona Diamond Fields
Which were a complete fraud by the way. But, welcome to Arizona, home of the big con job.
This is an update on the Ds updating their Christmas card and finding the same saguaro they posed under back in 1978. We made a special trip down to the Eastside Saguaro National Monument in December but we couldn't find this monster. Now Darlene found these pictures taken at the same time that point more towards the campsite, picnic area of the park. Hmmmm.
BBB at Janey's
"We still have dreams, but we know now that most of them will come to nothing. And we also most fortunately know that it really doesn't matter."
—Raymond Chandler, in a letter to Charles Morton, October 9, 1950
February 13, 2020 Here's a photo that makes me happy:
Standing On A Saguaro
Standing on a saguaro in a desert called Sonora, such a fine sight to see. It's two dudes on the arms who jumped up there from a flat bed Ford. I know, it needs work, but take it easy on me. The Duke of Dust vs. Mr. Mud One of the aspects of my artistic journey is the wrestling match I constantly have between letting go and holding on, or as those .38 Special rockers put it, "hang on loosely." Two cases in point:
And then there's this:
Overworked and overwrought, the Duke of Dust vs. Mr. Mud, that is the story of my life in that arena. I take some solace in the words of Miles Davis. "Do not fear mistakes—there are none." —Miles Davis
February 12, 2020 Went home for lunch yesterday and worked on trying to capture the peculiar distribution of ruddy, campfire light.
Daily Whip Out:
"As The Flames Climbed High Into The Night, We Saw Satan Laughing With Delight"
Not easy to do, controlling those smokey browns being swallowed up by the night. Meanwhile, got up this morning and took a whack at another lighting dilemma
Daily Whip Out: "Dusk Rider"
Shapes start to face and meld. Also not easy.
Here's a sneak peek at Dan The Man's layout for a double whammy we are producing for the April issue. Goes to press a week from tomorrow.
Blood Brothers: Jesse James and Billy the Kid
The feature has some great minds deciphering our enduring attention on these two desperadoes. Love what Utley says about the Kid:
"By the time of his death, the public had already come to look on Billy the Kid as larger than life, a peerless outlaw in a land full of outlaws. Until the end of his life, he could thank the newspapers for this standing. His actual exploits did not support the reputation. Then a sensational capture, trial, and escape gave validity to the newspaper portrait, and a violent death, publicized to the entire nation, fixed it indelibly in the public memory for all time."
—Robert M. Utley, "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life," University of Nebraska Press
February 11, 2020 Here's a sneak peek at Dan The Man's latest cover for book number three on Billy the Kid.
Daily Whip Out:
"Dan The Man's Kid, III"
As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, I have a whole bunch of new stuff to include. Of course, not everyone thinks new information is necessarily the best thing for us all. "We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quality being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns." —Tom Waits
February 10, 2020 Couldn't resist taking another pass at yesterday's Whip Out:
Daily Whip Out: "Billy's Biggest Regret"
In late September of 1992, I was flat out, beside myself. I had booked an art show at Suzanne Brown's Art Gallery in Scottsdale on October 22, 1992 to coincide with the publishing of my first history book and the annual Cowboy Artists of America Show at the Phoenix Art Museum. And, with several weeks to go, I was far from being done with my Billy the Kid illustrated opus. What to do? Kathy calmly told me to go to my typewriter upstairs in the studio. It was a Corolla. Yes, this was a long time ago, in a place far away. "Go to the title page and type these two words," she said, calmly—"Book One." And so I did, and it freed me, and the book was printed just in time for the art show. Here is how the title page looks in the first edition:
And, here is how the cover looked:
Billy Book No. 1
This first Billy book eventually sold out and four years later I did book two:
Billy Book No. 2
This book sold out last year and now I am considering a book three. Dan The Man Harshberger did me a great cover concept. Much has happened since the second book, like this:
Daily Flashback Whip Out:
"Digging Up Billy"
"Are you going to Disneyland, Mr. Koch?"
When this photo was taken in Denver, Bill had just paid $2.3 million for a little piece of tin.
Not to mention the newspaper find by our intrepid Australian historian, James Mills. To wit:
"If you got out, you could get up a show like Buffalo Bill; you have had advertising enough."
"If—" was his only comment."
—Billy the Kid scoffing at the odds of him being able to rival Buffalo Bill
February 9, 2020 Lots of activity around the True West World Headquarters this weekend as we prep the next issue with a fascinating, never-before-published interview with the Kid (Okay nitpickers, it was published in the newspaper, of course, but it went missing for the last 139 years). That would be this Kid:
Daily Whip Out: "Leaping Billy"
When the Kid jumped over a dead body in the gate at the McSween house in July of 1878, he became the most famous person in New Mexico. Three years later, when he killed his two jailers, just down the street, and escaped hanging, he became a national celebrity.
Daily Whip Out: "Billy's Biggest Regret"
Billy said he regretted the killing of Deputy J.W. Bell. I have always thought Deputy Bell (no relation) was a good guy who went a little soft on his treatment of the Kid in confinement, and lost his life over it. The missing interview, found by historian James Mills, was taken between these two events. In the interview it's clear the Kid had no idea how legendary—and commercial—he was going to become. "I don't see any money in it." —Billy the Kid, to a Las Vegas Daily Gazette reporter when asked what he thought of his notoriety.
February 7, 2020 Thanks to an intrepid, young and up-coming historian out Australia way, we have a new insight into the Kid in the Santa Fe jail. James Mills was perusing newspapers.com online when he happened upon an article in the Las Vegas Daily Gazette, dated January 20, 1881. Somehow this article slipped by all of the noted Billy the Kid researchers from Mullin to Nolan, from Utley to Gardner. Here is the slug line of the piece:
Yes, I know, you can't really read it, well, that is partly by design. You need to wait until you get your next issue of True West to see every word in all its glory. Here's a tease: when the Kid is asked if he is going to cash in on his fame, like Buffalo Bill, he says: "There's no money in it." —Billy the Kid
Get Your Art Print of "Best Damn Billy"You can find them at bobbozebellart.com and click on fine art prints. "Common sense is not a gift, it's a punishment. Because you have to deal with everyone who doesn't have it." —Old Vaquero Saying
February 6, 2020 We get some interesting letters from observant readers. This is one of them. Drunken Sign Painter? In your January 2020 'Collector's Edition" you have a picture of a watering hole owned by one J.W. Steward (attached). But the sign above the door reads, "J.W. Swart." Did he simply run out of room or what? LOL.
A loyal Reader,
Gary L. Sowers
J.W. Swart's Saloon in Charleston, A.T.
(that's Richard Gird's house, at left, in background)
"Artist are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide."
February 5, 2020 When I was just a lad I needed examples of courage when I had none. So it makes some sense that at ten-years-old, I gravitated to this guy:
Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
I struggled with low self-esteem, and I was skinny and I was a target. I loved it that Billy the Kid made bullies a target!
Then, of course, I grew up and discovered that all I believed about history was not exactly the truth. "There's so little truth in the popular culture." —Anne Lamont I finished another sketchbook, so I went through it and pulled out some quotes for future use. "Everyone is screwed-up, clingy and afraid, even the people who seem to have it together the most. Try not to compare your insides to the other's outsides." —Anne Lamont Speaking of this, Kathy and I watched "Miss Americana," a documentary on Netflix about Taylor Swift. I had no idea she was such a good songwriter. Also, I agree with President Obama: Kanye West is a "Jackass."
Daily Whip Out: "Billy From The Side"
Irony is when someone writes, "Your an idiot!" "Everything is funny eventually." —David Sedaris "I never really thought I could write a novel." —Delia Owens, author of "Where The Crawdads Sing," the number one best-seller for 70-plus weeks
Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Bravado"
"A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether to say it or not." —Old Vaquero Saying
"The only predictable thing about a bullet is that it's unpredictable." —El Pendejo "Times change, the complaints remain the same." —Old Vaquero Saying "Everything good in my life came because I drew a picture." —Lynda Barry "My legacy is I'm a jerk-off." —John Malkovich "Don't look at things—look between things." —John Baldessari Most of my wives think I'm a Mormon.
"On the whole, authors have their writerly subjects laid down inside them, waiting to emerge like an antelope from a small shell." —Deborah Levy
February 3, 2020 Some places you visit stay with you.
Daily Whip Out: "Divisidero"
Tall tales around a campfire. That is the setting for a story I want to tell, with this guy.
T. Bell, the good uncle
At Divisidero there are armed guards in the pass that leads to El Forte.
Daily Whip Out:
"Midnight Guards In The Pass"
Daily Whip Out:
"Midnight Guards In The Pass
Take A Smoke Break"
Same illustration, couldn't leave it alone.
Daily Whip Out:
"Jesse & Billy Share A Cover"
A random cover idea. David Mamet's Storytelling Rules • Tell the story from start to finish and don't deviate. • Tell the best story you can and throw out all the best lines (that's Hemingway). • There's only one law, and that is "Don't be boring." • If anything gets in the way of progression, throw it away. • Save your biggest laugh for the end of Act II. • At the beginning of Act II remind the audience who they love and hate. • Stop giving your best lines to secondary characters. • The end should be inevitable but surprising. • We tell stories that unite the tribe. • Good drama doesn't teach. • Myth is unverifiable truth. • Every hero wants to quit. • Drama is a step-child of religion! ("'cause we're nuts!" • Keep it simple so the audience can be misled. • All drama is based on lies. • The truth is not where you expect it. • If you master these rules, no one can defeat you. "I'm just the class clown of writing drama." —David Mamet