Tuesday, March 26, 2013


     I dropped off my french easel in my room at the Silver King and went down to check out what was billed as "Arizona's Smallest Bar".  It was in room 4. It use to be just one of the hotel rooms, but was now fitted with a mahogany bar and full selection of booze. The sign on the wall said it had a room capacity of 6. I never was fond of crowds so it suited me fine. I drank a couple of beers and chatted with the bartender...then decided to take in the sights of Bisbee.  It revealed itself to be a town full of character and characters...an old copper mining town that use to be full of brothels and bars...the brothels were gone, but there were still plenty of bars. The town is vertically arranged with hundreds of stairs going off in every direction, leading through tiny neighborhoods of tinier houses.      I decided to grab my easel out of my room and paint one of the buildings that caught my attention down on the street.
  I climbed the stairs and unlocked the door to my room...then I stopped cold...a long-limbed redhead was stretched out on my bed.  "I thought you'd never get back..." she said.  
     "Who are you and how did you get in here?" I asked. "I coulda sworn I rented this room alone."
     "My name is Dinah DeMeanor..." she replied, "and as for how I got in here...well, a girl has to keep some of her secrets to herself."
     "Well, Miss DeMeanor, not to be rude, but I was just on my way out...wanna tell me what you're doing in my room?" 
     "You're not very friendly, are you?" she said. "That's no fun..."
     "Sorry toots, but I've had a tough week and it's put me a little on edge...and you still haven't answered my question..."
     "Very well," she replied, "I'll get straight to the point...I saw you come in here with your easel and I want my portrait painted...it's a gift for my boyfriend."  It was a good story, but she didn't act like a dame with a boyfriend...
     "Sorry sweetheart, but I'm here on vacation...I'm not accepting any commissions ..."
just then the door burst open and a guy with murder in his eyes stepped into the room. He looked at the broad laid out on the bed and then at me. I was guessing that this was the aforementioned boyfriend, and I could see he probably wasn't in the mood to hear any explanations.  I knew I had to act fast   or both me and the dame were gonna end up in tomorrow's obituaries...but I wasn't quick enough.  The guy lunged at me and I took a step back and grabbed the only thing at hand...my french easel.  I swung it hard and caught him square in the face...probably broke his nose was my guess.  It only gave me a few minutes though...I knew I needed to get the dame to somewhere safe till he cooled down. Then I remembered the guy I met when I came into town...the artist with the cheesy bling around his neck.  He had introduced himself as Jake Harrison.  I grabbed the girl by the hand and pulled her downstairs to the bar..."where's Jake Harrison's room? " I asked the bartender..."Room 12" she replied, wiping a rag over the bar. 

 I bolted out of the bar and up the stairs and found Jake's room. I didn't bother knocking, I just pushed the door open and pulled the redhed in after me.  "This is Dinah  DeMeanor, " I said breathlessly, "she wants her portrait painted..." Jake sat up in bed and pushed some pizza boxes and beer bottles off onto the floor. " I just happen to have an opening in my schedule Miss DeMeanor..." Jake responded, doing his best to shake himself out of a drunken stupor.  "If you'll just lie down here on my bed," he grinned lasciviously, "I have a few props to, ya know, make the composition a little more interesting."  He handed her a black low-cut bra with red tassels and a pair of pink fur-covered handcuffs. "If you'll just slip into these," he said...Then I heard angry footsteps coming up the stairs.  I dove under the bed just before the door flew open...the boyfriend, blood streaming from his nose, took one look at the scene and threw himself over the bed and knocked  Jake and his easel crashing to the ground in a pile of paint tubes and brushes.  In the ensuing mayhem,  I managed to slip out from under the bed unnoticed and out the door. 

 I walked back down the stairs to the room 4 bar and ordered another beer.  It was just another typical day in the life of an itinerant artist.  Bisbee was turning out to be a pretty interesting place.

Monday, March 25, 2013


     I walked into the bus station and pushed a handful of crumpled bills across the counter..."give me a one-way ticket south..." I said, "as far as this will take me."  The surly woman on the other side of the counter gave me a disapproving look and uncrumpled the bills...she counted them, punched in some numbers, shoved a ticket at me and pointed to a bus.  I didn't bother looking at the destination...I didn't care, I just climbed on board and took the empty front seat. A few minutes later a portly driver that smelled like Johnny Walker and looked like Elmer Fudd,  climbed up the steps and strapped himself in. He closed the door, put the bus in gear and pulled out onto the highway.  I shut my eyes and managed an uneasy sleep. When I woke up the landscape outside the window had changed...I recognized the barren ancient hills...I had driven through here before...the Chuckwalla mountains.
OUT OF GAS ©Barry Howard
  I had spent a week here once, camping out in my recently deceased van and painting the barren scenery.  Up ahead I noticed a circle of dead date palms...just the trunks sticking up in the air without their fronds.  I remembered them too...Desert Center, a strange little, almost ghost town. The only business that still seemed alive, (barely) was the cafe.  The bus driver pulled in and announced a lunch stop.  I went inside and ordered a BLT and a cup of coffee to go...then took it back to the bus. A few hundred miles back, before I got on the bus, I had passed an art supply store.  I had gone in and bought a new french easel, some tubes of oil paint, some brushes, and a couple of blank canvasses to replace what the busty blonde had driven off with. Other than the BLT and the coffee, it was all I owned in the world now.  I pulled the easel out of the overhead and carried it over to the abandoned gas station next to the cafe. I liked the look of the faded gas pumps. The little numbers said gas was 34 cents a gallon.  This place had been closed for a while. I did a quick oil sketch in between bites of my sandwich and sips of coffee. I got the easel packed up just as the other passengers started making their way back to the bus.  Back in my seat, I decided to look at my ticket and see where I was going....Bisbee Arizona, it said.  I had seen it on the map...a couple of miles from the Mexican border...sounded as good as anywhere.  I leaned against the window and fell back asleep.  
     The bus finally delivered me to Bisbee and I had managed to sleep most of the way. I found myself walking through an area of old Bisbee known as brewery gulch.  I came to a bar called St. Elmo's...and although a beer sounded good, it looked like the sort of bar that no reputable artist would ever set foot in.  A bleary-eyed guy stumbled out of the darkness into the blazing sunlight. He had his own, unique sartorial style...cargo shorts, ratty t-shirt and a pound and a half of cheap gold bling hanging around his neck.  He wore crappy rubber flip-flops on his feet and a shit-eating grin on his face.  One hand carried  a french easel and the other held some kinda low-price-high alcohol content beer in a plastic cup. I liked the guy immediately. We exchanged introductions and he showed me the still wet painting on his easel.  His use of color was fearless...the light and shadow, dynamic...and his buildings and trees wobbled and swayed as much as he did.  It was excellent.
BISBEE HIGH SCHOOL ©Ethan Jack Harrington

  I asked if he knew where I might get a room and he pointed across the street to the Silver King Hotel. "That's where I'm staying..." he said, swaying slightly on his feet.  A sign out front advertised "ARIZONA'S SMALLEST BAR". 

 It was a funky, crumbling brick building that smelled of faded glory...it appealed to my low-brow sense of taste,  so I climbed the wide squeaky staircase and rented a room.

 My first impression of Bisbee was a town populated with social misfits, outcasts, hippies, derelicts and drunks.  My kind of place. I decided to stay for a while.

Friday, March 22, 2013


BELLADONNA camping trip to Harbin Hotsprings
     It had been couple of weeks of bad luck in the Lonely City, and I was in need of some R&R...I needed to get out of the noise and hustle and get some fresh air.  First it was the leggy, boozy brunette and then my van bit the dust....I just couldn't seem to catch a break, so pulled my 1980 GL1100 motorcycle out of the garage and packed the saddlebags with a few clothes, my travel easel and oil paints and a bottle of Hornitos. Then I tied my bedroll and tent on the seat, climbed on and punched the button. The little sweetheart fired right up and purred.  I dropped it into gear with my foot and twisted the throttle.
       Before long I was winding my way up Coast Route One...destination: Harbin Hot Springs.  The hot springs was a great place for a guy that wanted to get outta Dodge and not be followed. I planned to spend a couple of days camping along the shady creek and soaking in the hot baths...maybe get out the pochade box and paint some of the local beauty...yeh, that was the plan...but I had learned by then that things don't always go according to plan. 
     Sometimes in life, a guy looks back and wishes he'd done something different, and I was destined to have one of those times in the very near future. In my case, I wished I hadn't pulled into that little town on the coast....I wished I hadn't decided to  get some coffee in that little cafe called the Chat & Chew, but I needed a cup of joe and maybe some breakfast, so I parked Belladonna in front and eased her onto her kickstand. It looked like a typical small-town greasy spoon...not too bad...you know the kind...a cook back at the stove that looks somewhat hygienically  challenged and a middle-aged waitress that calls everyone "hon".  I slid into a booth,  threw my keys on the table and ordered coffee.

 I had just taken a couple of sips when I heard the sound of cheap high heels on a linoleum tile floor approaching from behind.  I didn't think much of it until the occupant of the cheap high heals suddenly stopped and slid into my booth across from me.  She was a tall, busty dame with too much lipstick.  If her car insurance was anything like her blouse, she was driving without full coverage. She leaned across the table, nearly spilling my coffee in an avalanche of cleavage.  With enormous effort I looked up at her face...she was pale with fear...her eyes looked desperate...
    "Please...." she whispered, "I need help!" I had taken this trip to get away from trouble, but it had tracked me down like a bloodhound on the trail of a bacon thief...I'm a sucker for a broad in trouble and I could tell I wasn't gonna slip out of this one.  "There's a man following me," she rasped, and then her eyes grew wide..."he just walked in the door...please help me!!"  I turned around to see a big ugly brute of a guy looking around the joint...then his eyes settled on the dame and he smiled...it was a cold, evil smile that would freeze a blow torch.  He wasn't the kind of guy that I would wanna go up against...he was nearly a foot taller than me and out weighed me by a hundred pounds. His tattooed biceps looked like sacks of cement, and he was heading my way.  I stayed where I was, trying to plan my moves if things got ugly..."Hey sweetheart," he growled, "how about you and I go for a little walk, eh?"  The dame looked terrified and I knew my only chance to stop this guy was to catch him by surprise...he probably wasn't use to anybody challenging him.  I didn't have time to consider the consequences,  so, hoping this place gave free refills,  I threw my coffee in his face, mug and all, and dove at him, knocking him backward before he had time to react. He crashed into a glass display case full of homemade pies and landed on the floor in a pile of glass and custard and whipped cream. I only had a moment before he would recover and throw me through the plate glass window, so I grabbed the coffee pot off the warmer and smashed it over his bulldog face. He screamed and I kicked him as hard as I could in the groin and smashed the other coffee pot over his head. That seemed to put him out of commission long enough for me to toss a couple bucks onto the table, figure a twenty percent tip, and head for the door. Then I heard a familiar sound...it was Belladonna's four cylinder engine firing up, the clunk of the gearbox, and I got to the door just in time to see the blonde roar off down the highway.  She had grabbed my keys off the table while I was having pie and coffee with the incredible hulk. I just stood there like a sucker and watched my beloved bike disappear out of town. 
        The life of an itinerant artist isn't always an easy one...ya never know what's around the next corner.  It's a chancy job and it makes a man watchful...and a little lonely. 
  I walked on down the street and headed for the bus station.

And now a word from our sponser: "Hey dear readers, don't forget the big BROKEN-DOWN-VAN/STOLEN-MOTORCYCLE HALF-PRICE SALE, going on until the end of the month here: http://www.facebook.com/BarryHowardFineArt/photos_albums

50% off the priced marked! I want all my fans to head over there....BOTH of you!

Monday, March 18, 2013


BOHEMIA under sail
    A few years ago I was sailing my trimaran, Bohemia, down the west coast of Florida...I spent days sitting on deck or lying in the nets between the hulls and watching miles of beach pass slowly by. I would look over my chart in the morning a decide how far I wanted to sail that day and where I would anchor for the night. One particular evening, I pulled the boat into the inland waterway in Sarasota and found a little Tiki Bar with an anchorage out front. I rowed the dinghy ashore and pulled it up onto the beach...then headed straight for the open-air Tiki Bar and ordered a Margarita. As I sat there, licking the salt off the rim of the glass and relishing the cold concoction, I began reflecting on my life. It seemed pretty damn fine right then at that moment...cold drink in my hand...bare feet with sand between my toes...my beloved sailboat bobbing at anchor..
BOHEMIA at anchor

I had my paint box aboard so I could do my best to capture the beautiful sights I was seeing along the way...tiny mangrove islands with ibises and roseate spoonbills feeding in the mudflats...long beautiful beaches and swaying palms...and I began to ponder what it is that motivates people to do what they do.  I know it's different for everyone...but for me personally it's always been the quest to create a life that is well lived...and I have learned that the path toward that goal is not always a straightforward one. At times, it has been pure bliss...like stopping off at the Tiki Bar on the sail south...

 the Tiki Bar in Sarasota
and other times it has been pain and struggle...the stereotypical life of the restless artist, with all the creative angst, money problems, self-doubt and total lack of material security.  In spite of the challenges though, when I step back and look at the fabric of my whole journey thus far, I am pleased to say that, even with the ups and downs and challenges and setbacks, I am painting a picture of a life well lived...at least by my definition.  The two primary ingredients in my life have been travel and art and they shape and inform one another. I travel because the land, the ocean, the beauty of the planet feeds my soul, and I paint because it is how I express that beauty. When I travel I breathe in, and when I paint I'm breathing out...and it creates a rhythm to my life that has given me a sense of consistency where otherwise there would be none. There comes a point in most people's lives, though, where we begin to ask ourselves what good we are adding to the world...does our life contribute something of value or are our motives just self-indulgent? I think about that a lot, especially as I get older...and the first answer that comes to mind is, "well, hopefully the art I create will serve to inspire someone else", and that is what makes me strive so hard to get better as an artist...so I can create something that is good enough that it will inspire someone, maybe uplift someone...and because the paintings I create will outlive me, it is a way to achieve a kind of immortality...something of my own heart and spirit that will live on after I leave this world.
TRI-COLORED HERON painted on Bohemia
 There is another part to it though....because if I could have accomplished anything with the path I have taken, it would be to live the kind of life that makes people stop and think about their own lives...and the path they are choosing...and to live a life that makes the world a more interesting and colorful place...to live a life that adds more love and more passion and more creativity...to create a life intentionally rather than by default.  There are many people who's lives have done that for me...and I think it's the greatest gift I have ever gotten. When I meet or read about someone who is living life in full-blown living color, it makes me both dissatisfied and inspired at the same time...and it compels me to go beyond what is easy and comfortable.  It gives me the strength to get back up when life has knocked me down, and marshal my forces and keep pursuing the things that make life something more than just passing the time and paying the lousy bills. It takes courage and vigilance...there is a whole world out there that will try to convince you that you should conform and fit in and be normal. There is nothing wrong with choosing a normal life...I don't mean to suggest that there is...but it's those who choose to not be normal that make life really interesting.


      Well as you remember last time, I had escaped the leggy barfly and was heading off down the road, outta the Lonely City...  I looked in the rear view mirror to make sure the leggy brunette wasn't following me...she wasn't.  I decided to head out to a little bar and grill on the Ortega Highway ...a biker joint where I thought I might get a good margarita and set up my easel to paint the local color. It wasn't in the cards, I guess...I seemed to be drawing nothing but jokers...and not the good kind. As I rounded the corner I heard shots ring out..."the broad has tracked me down after all, " I thought...I swerved onto the shoulder and tried to figure out where the shots came from...I was disoriented and there was dust and smoke everywhere...and then it all began to become clear...they weren't shots at all...(though I could have used a couple by then).... it was my engine, making all kinds of unfriendly noises and smokin' like a hooker after a three day weekend...

Damn, just my luck...I popped open the hood and burning smells hit me in the nose like a prizefighter...it was still running though, (the van, not my nose) and I was in no mood to be sitting beside the road, so against all good judgement I pulled a fast U-turn and floored it back toward home.  Luckily I wasn't too far away by then, and I figured if I drove really fast it might not have time to burn up completely.  Somehow, against all odds, I made it back to my little casa.  I pulled into the driveway and killed the engine, which wasn't hard...it was already dying. By then there was so much smoke I thought it might catch fire,so I sat beside it and sang it a lullaby while it cooled off, but I could see it was falling into a coma and I wasn't sure if it would survive.  Gradually, sobriety began to take hold and I could see there was only one possible solution...I went into the house, pulled the blender off the shelf and made a pitcher of Margaritas.I sat out on the patio and looked out at my van, still smoking in the driveway...this was gonna put a serious crimp in my  plein-air painting travels. Nobody said the life of an itinerant artist would be easy...and they were right.  I poured myself a second Margarita and settled back...I was taking the rest of the day off. 

                                                     Which brings me to a major announcement...I am having a "BROKEN DOWN VAN SALE!!!" on my facebook page...starting now and running until the end of the month all my paintings are...HALF PRICE...yes, you heard it right...just go to my albums at http://www.facebook.com/BarryHowardFineArt...they are arranged according to price range...click on the painting you like and take 50% off the price marked...write SOLD in the comment box...pay me through Pay Pal...message me to get payment and shipping details...I probably won't be doing this again any time soon, so if you ever wanted to get one of my paintings, this is probably the time to do it....

Thursday, March 7, 2013


     I parked the van in front of a sleezy bar and killed the engine. The sky was grayer than the audience at a Rolling Stones concert, and I was in a foul mood. I pushed my way into the bar and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dimly lit, smoke-filled room. A leggy brunette  at the bar looked me up and down through half-closed, blood-shot eyes.

 She looked dimly lit too. I could tell she was selling trouble and I wasn't in the market, so I chose a vacant stool at the end of the dirty mahogany bar and asked the bartender for a double shot of tequila. I hadn't sold a painting in a week, so I was drinking the cheap stuff...the stuff they use to disinfect the bathrooms ...and from the looks of the joint I'm pretty sure they weren't using it for that purpose anymore. The leggy brunette slithered off her barstool and weaved her way over to me...a lipstick smeared cigarette dangling from her Ferrari-red lips. "Hey, handsome..." she slurred through wafting vodka fumes, "gotta light?"  I pulled my Bic out of my pants and flicked it toward her. She pulled it toward the Chesterfield and sucked until it started to burn, and then blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling. My mood hadn't improved, in spite of the cheery atmosphere and i wasn't appreciating the interruption.

 "I noticed you were sitting here all by yourself and thought you looked lonesome," the broad  continued..."no need to be lonely when there's two of us," she slurred. She had a voice like an Evinrude with a dirty carburetor.
     "Listen Toots, " I replied, "I,m sure you're a nice girl, but i'm having a lousy day and I just came in here to get suitably drunk....so maybe another time...""Well you're wrong, " she said, "I'm not a nice girl at all...."    I could tell she wasn't gonna take the hint...she was looking for a victim and I was the only guy in the bar...she was on me like a cockroach on a plate of food at a Key Largo greasy spoon.. Without saying another word, I ordered one more shot, tossed it down, shoved a ten under the glass and walked out the door. I got back in the van and fired it up...no sense in sticking around...just another day in another city...a city with a cold heart and plenty of secrets...another day in the life of an itinerant artist...it's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful....and a little lonely.  I put the van in gear and drove deeper into the  gloom.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Ahh, new beginnings, new wanderings and a new adventure calls for a new blog...first an introduction for my new readers...I am just a guy who has been painting and wandering aimlessly for over 40 years...I have traveled by thumb, by car, and by bicycle...always with my paintbox. I have built and traveled in numerous housebusses, housetrucks, vans and sailboats...I have stopped and settled in at various times, but inevitably, I get restless, start drumming my fingers on the table, and then suddenly I am off by whatever means are available. Most recently I have been travelling in my trusty mini-van, which I have been designing and redesigning during the whole time I've owned it...always working to make it better and more suited to a travelling artist. In the next day or two I will be working my way up the coast of California toward Big Sur....one of my all time favorite places to wander.

 My trusty van is newly redesigned and I have it packed with boxes and bags and bins of oil paintings and a couple of small stained glass panels and a couple of dragonflies with hand-carved maple bodies and stained glass wings, and a french easel, and a pochade box, and lots of brushes and tubes of oil paint. The mini van is one of my smaller conveyances, though not the smallest, and it suits that part of me that loves going small and going simple. I love all things micro...micro-houses, (I've built several), and micro-businesses, and I think I would probably love living in Micronesia...at least for a while...So I have created this new blog to chronicle my current journey and to share it with any and all who would like to follow along...I will post photos of the places I travel, and the paintings I paint. I would love to have you along for the adventure, so please follow along, subscribe so you won't miss any of my ramblings. Thanx for being here.