Gunslinger – A Western Illustration

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This is an older painting that only a small number of my cohort have correctly identified.
I never had much of an appreciation for the Western genre of film-making. My father was raised in an era in which westerns were incredibly popular, and he tried to share his love for ‘Have Gun, Will Travel,’ ‘Gunsmoke,’ and some of the old John Wayne classics like ‘The Cowboys.’

Admittedly, I liked ‘The Cowboys,’ but there was always something about the genre that never really gripped me.
Well, all things in good time, I suppose.

I pretty-much accidentally rented disc one, season one of ‘Deadwood’ from Hollywood Video, back in the day when Hollywood Video and Blockbuster still existed. At the time, rental houses were just starting to feel the strain that Netflix had been putting on the rental industry, and Redbox was just around the corner. I had a cheap-as-dirt membership that allowed me to have any three movies I wanted for any amount of time I desired. Derelict that I was, I would pick up three discs on my way home from work, rip the content, and then swap them out for three more the next day; this was before the whole RealDVD debacle and I was, for that brief window of time, actually ripping the content legally (read about it here).

This unchained freedom to stockpile media led to me watching a lot of content I probably would have passed over otherwise, including almost all Westers. But I devoured the Sergio Leone films, ‘Shane,’ ‘Unforgiven,’ ‘3:10 To Yuma,’ and dozens of others. And when I found ‘Deadwood,’ it was all over. I was astonished by the writing, the set design, the costuming, the music and texture and magnitude of the whole thing.

And I started making illustrations with a western theme, occasionally hybridizing the theme with Dia de los Muertos imagery – skeleton cowboys, sugar skulls, and the like. The illustration above is inspired by a lesser-known Western that captured my attention a few years ago – let me know if you can tell what it’s from in the comments!

Have a great day, everybody!
-joe

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The Wounded Cowboy

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This is one of those old illustrations that sat, untouched, for years at a time. I’d eventually get around to it, do a little bit of work on it, get discouraged, and set it aside for another year. Just one of those projects that, at the very beginning I thought had some promise and I eventually lost my passion for.

But my passion for taking these orphaned, unfinished projects and finishing them? Definitely stronger.

Forcing myself back into this piece – inspired, as many of my illustrations are, by the cinema – I thought about the tradition of Western Films in American cinema, and how these themes have begun to resurface in movies like Logan, which intentionally and overtly borrowed from movies like Shane and The Cowboys. This piece, in fact, is a study from James Mangold’s 3:10 To Yuma – James Mangold also happens to be the same man who directed Logan.

This didn’t feel like work. It wasn’t a headache trying to finish it. I found a good flow and I’m glad to close the chapter. I hope you like it.

July 21, 2017 – Buckey, A Real Cowboy

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“If you haven’t fallen off a horse, then you haven’t been ridin’ long enough.”

Buckey was a real cowboy. He loved trail riding and he had a stable of horses that he took incredibly good care of. Sadly, he passed away not too long ago; I’m proud to have had the chance to ride with him and make this photograph.

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July 15, 2017 – David

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“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
“If you haven’t fallen off a horse then you haven’t been ridin’ long enough.”

Today’s portrait, for ‘Portrait Month,’ is a gentleman I met in Tombstone some years ago. David was always – and I imagine still is – a very kind and soft-spoken man with a severe gaze that betrays his gentler nature. I enjoyed our conversations, and I’ve been following him in his feature-film endeavors. He certainly looks the part.

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May 21, 2017 – Drifter

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Silver City, New Mexico is a special little town. It’s the kind of town my family would stay the night on the way from one destination to another during vacation. It’s the kind of town that begs you to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and walk around for a while, with a greasy-spoon diner and some art galleries to explore. It’s the kind of town you tell yourself “gosh, if I could only find t he excuse, I’d love to live in a place like this.”

Sadly, it is also a small town and opportunities are scarce.
Sadly, it’s the kind of town that’s easy to talk yourself out of ever moving to.

So, from time to time, I would find an excuse to spend the weekend here. A drive through the Gila National Forest with frequent stops to take photographs of the landscape and wildlife. Coffee shops and leisurely strolls downtown. I’m not sure if “The Drifter” is still there, but I’m guessing it is. I could look it up, of course, but I’d rather just find out for myself the next time I roll into town.

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May 02, 2017 – The Western

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Along the Benson Highway are several old-world motor lodges, with neon signs that date back to the 1960s and 1970s (and perhaps some even earlier than that). Not all of the old businesses survive; once the Interstate Highway system was built, the thriving motels, restaurants, and service stations (most off which were privately and family owned) began to disappear.

This here is one of the remnants. It’s a photograph I made several years ago now and I was thinking about driving back to see what kind of shape it’s in, but I’m kind of afraid that it won’t even be there anymore.

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February 27, 2017 – Rodeo Finals

Mason Clements didn’t earn Sunday’s highest score, but his aggregate put him in the number one slot for this year’s Tucson Rodeo.

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I missed last years’ rodeo. Instead, I spent the time in Kansas with my family. It’s the first rodeo I’ve missed since 2011, and I certainly don’t intend to miss any future events. I’m not a huge advocate, really, but I do find the experience interesting. I put on what a close friend once called “Joe’s Rodeo Drag,” meaning my denim and cowboy hat, and I spend the week with people that I otherwise likely wouldn’t be around.

It’s challenging to photograph, and the people who participate are hard-working, genuine people – even if we are ideologically different. This is red-state territory, and I’m pretty much a blue-state kind of guy. But I appreciate all of the stories, conversations, and casual interactions with the staff, athletes, and volunteers.

It was an exciting year at the Tucson Rodeo, and I’m thankful to report that there wasn’t a single injury this year, livestock and human competitor alike. A couple of near-misses, and a few rough tumbles, but the crowd was pleased and everybody walked away in good health.

See you next year, Tucson Rodeo. I had no idea how much I missed you until I finally found my way back.

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