Tuesday, December 07, 2010

TBS War Gaming... MOUT City

I was tasked with covering the M.O.U.T. (Military Operation in Urban Terrain) training of Marine 2nd Lieutenants on the TBS side of Quantico a few weeks back.
Out of this experience has come several sketches and an oil painting so far, each featuring the new officers getting their first practice taste of urban warfare...
One image that really struck me was of a Lieutenant who'd been "killed" in the training, and was lying there, as many others were also doing, probably contemplating the brevity of life, his own mortality, and the would-be permanent consequences of quickly-made temporary decisions...!
("I can't believe I died so quickly! Man, life is short ... I wonder what's for lunch?")

Sunday, November 21, 2010


"Marines Fall Forward" by Kerr Eby
67 years ago, from 20-23 November 1943, Marines from the 2nd Marine Division assaulted and captured Tarawa atoll from the Japanese, marking the beginning of the hard amphibious campaign in the Pacific during WWII.
"Landing on Tarawa" by Richard Gibney

"Tarawa-Betio" by Harry Jackson

Great examples of Marine heroism came out of the three day battle, where Marines went forward against terrible opposition-- and the Marine Corps itself gained not only glory, but also hard-gained experience which would prove invaluable in the years ahead.
"Long Thoughts" by Kerr Eby

Some great combat art also came out of the battle, as several artists, like Richard Gibney, Harry Jackson, and Kerr Eby, were witnesses to the battle.  These men went through the hell of Tarawa, and created powerful images based on their experiences. They're worth a second (and third and fourth...) look.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Facing Movement

 The Mortar Crew Marines have faces now...
The assistant gunner hanging the round...

The gunner crouching out of the way and bracing the mortar...
The squad leader, preparing to shield his ears...
They may look strange without their bodies-- but don't worry; they will soon be developed.  I only have to get some models to pose in the exact positions a mortar crew does while firing rounds, and then I'll build up the figures.

Got it Covered

Working on the kevlars I'd cast recently in wax--
The basic kevlar form
(I cast this so that I could have a bare kevlar if needed for a particular sculpture, and also so that each "cammie cover" I sculpt will be unique for each individual):
Now comes the "cammie cover"--  I rolled wax and put it on the helmet's front and sides, to make for smooth transitions where the cover stretches over bill and side forms:
 Then, I began applying a very thin layer of wax, very much like an actual fabric cammie cover:

 Thin wax is applied to the sides:
(pardon the wax in my fingernails!)
 Once the cover was fully applied, I worked the surface to begin forming the folds and seams:
Just a bit more work, and the chin straps, and this Marine is covered...!

MCCCA Merit Award

Col Motsco of History Division presented me with the award 17 November.

Friday, November 12, 2010

They Got Brodie...

Well, none of us lives forever...

I just found out about the passing of one of the greats in combat art-- Howard Brodie, who sketched his way through several wars, producing some of the best war art in history.

He made some powerful images...

His expressive line, and talent with the pencil, makes him one of the artists I (and I'm sure many combat artists as well) look to for inspiration.

He will be missed. His work, thank God, will continue to inspire..

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To Get Ahead...

As you know, I've been working for some time on a sculpture of two Marines in Belleau Wood. Well, I'd been having trouble sculpting the heads, and decided to start over on them and rework them to a better level of quality.

I figured that today, Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day), would be a good day to work on these WWI figures.

Here was the process involved in making one of the heads:
I started, using the 1/4 scale pre-cast skull I'd made for just such a contingency
 Front view

 side view
 Eyeballs (click, sir!)
  I added wax to form muscles and skin around the mouth and chin
 ...nose and cheek muscles, etc.
  I continued the fleshing-out process until the head started taking on lifelike qualities...

 With the helmet added, one can see how the finished product might look
The figure really begins to look quite dramatic in the light...

Bridgeport Blisters

Back in June, I had the privilege (and challenge!) of attending Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, California, where I drew, sketched and photographed my way around the area, covering the training of several of Reserve units, including 1/24, 1/25, and 3/23 during Javelin Thrust.

The two-week exercise took place at both Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, CA; and both Hawthorne Army Depot and Hilton Ranch in Nevada.

One event which will stick in my mind forever, was the "movement to contact" I did with members of 1st Bn 25th Marines in the mountains.

If you've ever humped in the mountains, you know what kind of challenge it can be-- a 4-klick movement to contact in the mountains really means 10 klicks by the time its done!

We finished the movement to contact, attacked the objective, and marched back to camp on the roads. I had an old, loose-fitting pair of boots, which began to give me pains after only a klick or two. By the end of the forced-march back home, which was a lot of down-hill stepping, in which my toes were rammed into the fronts of my boots, over and over, heating them up and forming serious blisters on several toes.

The Corpsman went around after the event and we took off our boots to be inspected.
Most people had survived the day with little or no problems, but several of us had blisters and hot spots on our feet... I was one who had some serious blisters! We were sitting there, with out boots off, letting our feet dry and rest, and being inspected-- and those who needed it, got treatment.

After getting some care, I went around, taking photos of some of the Marines, and saw a young marine sitting with his feet on his boots, his socks draped over his leg, with a sad look on his face.
It stuck out to me as an almost Rockwellian image.

I sketched him, but I also took photos, because I knew I had to capture the color of the scene as well.

Here's the Painting, "Bridgeport Blisters" in process:
Step One-- the Toned "Imprimatura":
 After the Imprimatura, I begin the process of "blocking in" the colors, also called "underpainting"...
 When blocking-in, it's best to use the general rule of applying my "lightest lights and darkest darks"...
 My intent is to have an abstracted area such as the wooded background, stand as an abstracted area of light and color, as well as being a recognizable image.

The underpainting of the figure and objects in the foreground is primarily "Coyote" tan/green (which makes sense, as that color runs throughout the MARPAT woodland pattern! Over that I will scumble and drag color across the undertone, to create the digital look of the cammies and gear.
A few more layers, and some detail on the face and gear, and you'll be able to sympathize with a young Marine who's feet have seen better days..!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Iron Sergeant Advances

Working more on the "Sharing the Courage" series, #3: 
"The Iron Sergeant, Jesse Leach"

I've begun to color in the scenes from the storyboard...
The sequence where Sgt Leach has grabbed a wounded Marine and drags him to cover:
 Sgt Leach provides first aid to his Marine, while the Quick Reaction Force is called...

This was a dramatic event which happened in Iraq, to those Marines involved especially. Yet it showcases the type of day-to-day heroism that typifies Marines in combat--  the kind of thing that people back home need to know more about. That's why we are doing this series.

More to come this week... stay tuned!

I Get a Round, Again

I worked on the lathe again the other day, to craft a better miniature 81 mm mortar round:
Then I added the tail section, sans fins...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Casting the Clay "Kevlar"

Layin'  on the Latex--
As I mentioned in the previous post, I have built a 1/4-scale "Kevlar" helmet in clay, from which to cast as many helmets as I need for future sculptures of helmeted Marines.

I used latex rubber casting material to begin the mold making for my miniature helmet...
The Latex goes on an opaque, off-white color

First Coat-- the latex dries translucent yellow-tan...
Third Layer...
Sixth Layer... almost there...
Next Step: embedding it in a two-part plaster mold...

Clay Pot

I've been working on The Marine Rifleman lately, and began work on the Kevlar helmet in 1/4 Scale.  This was delicate work, and required a lot of shaping, squinting, smoothing, comparing, cutting, molding, etc. to get it to a workable likeness.

I made the basic "kevlar" out of modeling clay, and plan to use this mini helmet as a template, making a latex mold of it, for replicating the other helmets for the Mortar Crew sculpture I'm working on.

The helmet itself is quite a complex form, with subtle angles and curves. It's not like the "doughboy" helmet of WWI, or even the steel pot of WWII, which were basic ovals and curves. You can almost tell it was designed in a computer (I'll have to research that)!
Here is the helmet, as it looks before casting:

Building up the Uniform and "Flak"
 I also began the construction of the uniform and "flak jacket" also, with "broad brushstrokes" of wax:

Next I will use a heat gun and tool to smooth out the rough edges, refine the form, adding folds and wrinkles...