Wednesday, September 01, 2021

A Mule and His Marine -- the sculpture is cast!

How joyous it is when a project comes to fruition-- especially when it's been a long, intense process involving every bit of your creativity and skills.

Sculpture can be challenging. It is difficult to create something from materials such as clay or wax, and to make it look as you want it to look. To capture the emotions, form and texture of a thing in three dimensions requires hard work, focus, and faithfulness. But with bronze casting, THAT'S ONLY HALF OF THE STORY.

It takes a whole, involved creative process to take the original sculpture, formed by the artist in clay, and cast it in a metal.

Foundry work is the big unsung element of sculpture. So much work is done by the foundry craftsmen, yet the artist gets all the credit!

A couple of years ago I was blessed to have one of my sculptures cast in bronze for display by the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico.

I had begun the work several years before that, and posted about it on this blog, here and here (at the bottom of the post).

Well, the sculpture was brought to a pretty high level of finish when I was on active duty, but due to an early end to my active duty career (I'd been a mobilized Reservist on active duty for eight years, and could no longer stay on active duty in the combat artist billet according to law and regulation), the sculpture sat in the Combat Art Collection gathering dust, hoping for  finish and fulfillment.

A few months ago, the National Museum of the Marine Corps contacted me and asked if I'd be willing to finish the mule sculpture for them, and to assist the foundry to get it molded and cast in bronze, for display at the Museum! I said "yes" of course! So a few dozen hours of sculpting later, and another several weeks of good, hard foundry work at Wegner Metal Arts in Fredericksburg, VA, the sculpture was finally realized in bronze!

Here are some of the photos of the process:

The original, finished in wax, metal, wood, and plaster, arrives at the foundry:

The original is segmented out into its constituent parts, for the next step in the process:

Rubber Molding: (I call this the "chocolate bunny" phase, because the resulting cast wax model is a lot like a hollow chocolate bunny...!):

(the nylon strings I'd used had to be replaced with twine, in order to not leave a residue and cause trouble during the lost wax "burn out" phase...

The wax model is dipped in a liquid ceramic "slip" and coated in silica, several times, until a shell is around the model. Then, this shell is heated to harden the mold and melt out the wax, leaving an empty mold in the exact shape of the wax model which once occupied it.
Then, the mold is heated once more and molten wax is then poured in, creating an exact replica in bronze of the wax model, and thus the original piece.

Steven and Stewart Wegner of Wegner Metal Arts in Fredericksburg, VA pour the bronze into the ceramic molds.

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Painting on Fire

I was looking once again at the works by Col Charles Waterhouse in the Combat Art Gallery at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and specifically this piece in the Medal of Honor series about Cpl. Hershel W. Williams and his flamethrower.

It struck me how "on fire" the whole piece is, not only in its colorful and energetic depiction of the scene from Iwo Jima in 1945, but also in the WAY Col Waterhouse expressed it WITH THE PAINT ITSELF: If you look at some of the detail photos, you'll notice that he captured the heat, drama, and chaotic nature of a flamethrower in action using a very modernist technique-- splattering and dripping-- it's like "Jackson Pollock goes to war!"

Though Pollock was non-figurative in his signature technique, Waterhouse utilized that abstract technique to represent something from nature-- and to both denote and connote a visual and emotional truth. The paint tumbles and falls over itself as the colors burst amongst and on top of each other-- it's chaos with an order to it, guided by the artist's hand.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Marines of the 24th MEU on the USS Bataan (LHD-5)

I mentioned in the previous post about my experience as an artist for the Navy Art Collection, and of coming across Marines on USS Bataan (LHD-5), who were training for an upcoming deployment with the 24th MEU.
Here is a painting I did based on that time on board and observing the Marines:
"Filing out to the Birds," acrylic on canvas. 30" x 20".  Marines on the flight deck of USS Bataan (LHD-5) head out to board MV22 Ospreys.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Marines on the MEU

I recently had another great opportunity to go out to the fleet and sketch Marines in their natural habitats. Though the trip was part of my job as an artist for the Navy Art Collection, I of course came across Marines on the LHD (USS Bataan, LHD-5), training for an upcoming deployment with the 24th MEU. These are modest and few, but I thought it'd be appropriate to post them here in this venue.  It's all about the sketchpad, after all-- drawing what you see on location.

In the next month or two, I will have completed several full-color oil paintings and sketches based on what I saw on board the Bataan.  Stay tuned!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Sketching in the Cool Spaces, continued...

 Here are more sketches from my time on board the USS Harry S. Truman:

In the Ready Room for VFA-143, The Pukin' Dogs.
 In Flight Deck Control in the island.
Another cool place on board was called the Smoke Pit (Reminds one of the phrase, "The Smoking Lamp is Lit")!

Sketches and the Cool Spaces on a Carrier

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.

Here are a few of the sketches I did:
F-18 in the hangar bay.
 On the bridge.
The Captain in his chair (Capt Ryan Scholl)
Primary Flight Control ("Pri-Fly") .

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Damage Control: Always Vigilant

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" 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ten Days Out To Sea! Part One-- Out to the Ship

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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It will be ours (again). Oh yes, it will be ours...

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Featured Artist: LCDR McClelland Barclay, USNR

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 Action Oil 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 Up Pencil 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 Navy Conté Crayon on Paper 1942-43 by McClelland Barclay
Gun Crew Loading a 5" 38 Caliber Gun Oil 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 Stations Oil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay