Last year, I was blessed to be able to sketch on board a US Navy vessel -- Specifically, the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). What a privilege it was, to see so many people and sites aboard the floating city, and to be able to sketch what I had the good fortune to see.
I sketched continually, and was escorted by good people around the ship, showing me all the cool spots, where interesting Navy stuff was happening.
While on board the Harry S. Truman last year, I got to witness a common but very important training event, conducted by the crew-- a GQ Drill (General Quarters).
"General Quarters" is regularly sounded to keep the crew sharp, and on their toes, ready for any contingency. Every crewman has a duty station when this happens, and they all rush to their battle stations, put on their gear, and do drills. It's a very interesting thing to watch, and it makes you admire the efficiency and teamwork the Navy engages in with every sailor and section on board a naval vessel.
Getting geared up fast for fire control...
"Fire Drill in Aft D.C." 2015, oil on canvas, 20" x 24"
The last few weeks have held a lot in my life, and I have a lot to post!
I just got back the 30th of September, from a ten-day trip aboard an aircraft carrier and two smaller vessels in its strike group.
I was sent by the Naval History and Heritage Command, to deploy aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and document the life and activities of sailors as they trained for deployment.
I drove down to Norfolk on the 19th, where I took a commercial flight down to Jacksonville, Florida. The next morning, the 20th, I got a taxi out to Naval Air Station Jacksonville to get on a military supply aircraft-- known as a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) and was flown out to the USS Harry S Truman, which was not too far out in the Atlantic, undergoing its pre-deployment training, known as COMPTUEX.
The C-2 "COD" ready to take us out to the carrier.
They gave me this "cranial" to wear. "VIP". Crazy, right? It hopefully means, Very Interesting Person...
The chairs faced backwards (this is looking forward from the last row).
The air crewman, looking forward, getting ready to sit down before saying, "HERE WE GO...!
We'd been told to strap in of course, and when we heard one of the crewmen saying, "Here We Go, Here We Go, HERE WE GO...!" we were to sit back in the seat with our head facing straight to the rear, and await the "trap:" when we'd touch down on the deck and hit the arresting wire, coming very quickly to a stop (from around a hundred fifty miles an hour to zero in around two seconds!).
Well, sure enough, that's exactly what happened and boy, what a rush! I've never felt such a huge force upon my body-- as if I was going to be torn apart. My head was tugged back into the headrest, my whole body was sucked into the seat, as if I were going to be sucked through it. I can only describe it as feeling like the old sequence in the movie, Star Wars, where they make the jump into hyperspace and the stars rush by suddenly-- or I guess it's rather more like when they come out of hyperspace, and it all suddenly slows down (the only experience to which I could compare the sudden change in speed would be "The Volcano" roller coaster at King's Dominion)! I found myself thinking, "WE'RE GONNA DIE!!! and then the second it was over: "Can we do it again?!"
First view out the rear door of the COD, just after landing.
We were told to follow the crewman out of the plane, and we did so. We were led to the edge of the flight deck, down some stairs and into a hatch in the carrier itself, where we were taken to the Air Travel Office and we were checked in. I was met there soon after arriving by LT Tabitha Klingensmith, one of the Public Affairs Officers on board the Truman. She was to be my sponsor while there-- and not only was also a combination of supervisor, guide, event planner, organizer, and agent throughout my stay-- and proved to be invaluable in the successful completion of my art mission. I must say, without her skills in logistics and networking, I would never have been able to fulfill my mission as much as did, which will be evident in future posts on the experience.
I was shown my quarters, given a tour of certain parts of the ship, and within an hour of being on board, I was back on the deck, being led by the Safety Officer amongst the "controlled chaos" that is Flight Deck Operations on a super carrier, taking photographs of the crews at work, and the aircraft and pilots catapulting off the ship!
It was a great start to what would prove to be a very fruitful visit.
I just read a great feature story about Gale Munro, head curator (and my boss) at Navy Art, and how Gale and the staff at Navy Art cherish the art under their care--and will take great steps to bring lost or "misappropriated" art back into the fold.
Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet by Frank Zuccarelli, Oil on canvas, 1972, misappropriated circa 1998, recovered in early 2009
I've been doing a lot of visual research recently as part of my professional artistic development, being still somewhat of a neophyte Naval Combat Artist. In my research on Navy art and artists, I have found quite a few artists of note, especially when it comes to the combat artists of World War Two.
One of these great WWII artists is McClelland Barclay, an artist who had made a name for himself as an illustrator before the war, and who did some of the great Navy art of the period. He served faithfully, creating powerful art for the Navy and his country, and gave his life in that service (he was lost when LST-342 was torpedoed in the early morning hours of July 18, 1943 off New Georgia. Part of the wreck can still be seen today).
What I admire about Barclay's work is his use of dynamic compositions and dramatic color. There is a power in Barclay's simple yet realistic style. "Less is more," as the adage goes, and is proven true in Barclay's work. Though almost minimal in execution, his compositions maintain an almost frenetic energy. All extraneous details are omitted, and all remaining visual elements work together, moving the viewer's eye though the piece, fulfilling the visual and emotional goal the artist sets out to do.
4" 50 Caliber Mark XII Gun Crew in ActionOil on Canvas 1942
by McClelland Barclay (used as art for Navy recruiting poster, "Dish It Out with the Navy - Choose Now While You Can")
Back Him UpPencil on Paper 1942 by McClelland Barclay
(original concept drawing for art used in recruiting poster, "Dish It Out with the Navy - Choose Now While You Can")
Drive Home the Punch - Join the NavyConté Crayon on Paper 1942-43 by McClelland Barclay
Gun Crew Loading a 5" 38 Caliber GunOil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay
Sailor Loading Fixed Ammunition Oil on Canvas 1942 by McClelland Barclay
(used as art for Navy recruiting poster, "Man the Guns--Join the Navy")
Barclay's WWII Navy work is powerful, given the choice of subject matter and his method of depicting the strong young men fighting for our way of life (some have described a homo-erotic subtext to his Navy work, though I won't go into that here. Barclay's pre-war work, a lot of which was pin-up or "cheesecake" art, could be said to glorify the female sensual ideal. So one would probably have to categorize his work more as worshiping the "young and beautiful" than promoting eroticism).
I think it is not only the power and energy Barclay portrays in his images, but also the power and energy of his compositions which is worthy of emulation. He is a master.
Blue Jackets Loading A Depth Charge Rack Oil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay (used as art for recruiting poster, "Sub Spotted-- Let 'Em Have It! Lend a Hand - Enlist in Your Navy Today ")
General Quarters, Battle StationsOil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay
Though Manet himself didn't witness the battle, he almost certainly drew from first-hand accounts of other French citizens, hundreds of whom witnessed the battle as it unfolded just outside the Cherbourg harbor.
I find it a powerful composition and a good example of marine art and historical illustration.
In October, I had the privilege of once again touring the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," and go aboard her as she was taken out for her last "turn around" cruise before entering dry dock sometime this year.
(Click here for my first experience seeing Constitution at Marine Week Boston in 2010).
I am now painting as a civilian artist for the Navy Art Program, and they sent me up to sketch, photograph, and paint the ship and crew-- to document for posterity the wonderful anachronism of the oldest commissioned ship still in the naval service.
Since I got back, I've been drawing and painting scenes from my time on board, and am beginning to see the fruits of my labor.
I've got several paintings in process, both oil and acrylic, as well as some drawings...
Yesterday I finished an acrylic study of a Constitution sailor, with full 1813 uniform complete with coat and cover, working with rope:
Other works, still in process, are several oils, including one featuring one of the female sailors aboard (I refer to this painting unofficially as "Rosie the Sailor"):
Also nearing completion is this oil painting, based on several photos I took of the crew in action, here shown hauling in the lines so we can cast off and get underway.
Yesterday, I began this little acrylic (9" x 10") study of a gunners mate cleaning the "salute gun" after Constitution did a 21gun salute while out in the harbor:
I will keep you posted, perhaps even later in the day, as this one progresses...
Anchors Aweigh! UPDATED @ 1630, 4 Feb 2015
here's the progress on it from this afternoon:
I am a fine artist and illustrator in the Classical Realist school, inspired by the masters of art history as I sketch and paint the world around me.
"The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
― Steven Pressfield