Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's All in the Wrist

I've been painting with gusto lately, trying to explore the border between abstraction and realism in painting, as well as trying to increase my vocabulary regarding texture and surface.

he subject I've been utilizing is perfect for this, which is Haiti (You may recall that I recently deployed to Haiti for Operation Unified Response, the humanitarian assistance action following the devastating earthquake in January).

Haiti is full of the rough and smooth, the dingy and brilliant, frenetic and restful... it is a land of extremes, and thus, as I've been trying to get more expressive with my "mark making" and brushwork, I've found that my photos and sketches from Haiti are good source material.

Here are some process photos to give a glimpse into technique:

Step One: After the sketch, I applied an Imprimatura, a toned wash/glaze.

Next Step: I began Blocking In basic color, starting with the trees and sky...(I used  a big brush to force me to be more loose, and I also used the palette knife... 
Further Steps: I began defining edges with tonal darks (this will help keep the drawing going during future layers)...
Texture and Form: I applied paint thickly in some areas, and glazy and thin in others, and alternated using brush and palette knife...

(here is the progress from May 26 2010)
Here is another little oil sketch on paper. the subject is a Haitian boy watching our activity from a tree, as other Haitians gather and pick up bags of rice at a Distribution Point in Carrefour.  One thing to note is the fact that less can be more as far as brushwork is concerned-- that is, one stroke well and quickly applied, can say a lot more than several slow, tight strokes. I also made sure that some of the underpainting could show through and that the texture of the paper could help depict foliage...
I'll  post more photos tomorrow, as these works progress to completion.  More to come...!
UPDATE 26 May 2010: Here's the finished product!
(It's hard to see the depth because of the glare on the surface glazes...)

(A detail of the kid's face).

Sunday, May 16, 2010


While at Marine Week in Boston, I finally got to see the Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, near the State House and Boston Commons.

Face of the monument, across the street from the State House

Reverse side of the monument, facing the Commons
A work of true Glory it is!

I'd seen the plaster duplicate at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, along with the great portrait head studies that Mr. Saint-Gaudens did from live models.

This Sculpture took monuments to another level-- a tour guide I met up with there told the crowd there that this was to be his "leader on a horse" sculpture, but he wanted to memorialize the unit as well as the leader.

The sculpture is bas relief, but has in-the-round elements as well. Some of the rifles, the main figure and horse also, are almost completely separate from the background. 

The composition is full of energy and movement, and the faces show intense emotion --even the horse has an expression! An interesting part that the tour guide pointed out is that the soldiers to a man show resolute commitment to their cause, and a firm determination to reach their destination and gain the victory.

The horse shows fear and trepidation, however, as if he didn't sign on to what's about to happen!

Another very intriguing thing about the sculpture is the angelic lady at the top of the image, floating above the action, watching over them and urging them on.
She has been called Lady Liberty, and also Victory-- and yet she's not so easy to decipher.

She carries laurels which represent Victory, yet she also holds poppies which represent blood and Sacrifice (they're slightly hidden and more subtle than the laurels). Her expression is forlorn, as if she knows the coming deaths which will shake the regiment before victory is fully realized-- yet she must urge them on. She thus represents Victory through Sacrifice, and the idea that Liberty isn't free.

The entire monument is an experience in itself. Take the time to go see this monument if you can; whether the original in Boston, or the copy in the National Gallery in DC.

It is not only a breathtaking work of art, but also a great monument to the American struggle for Liberty, and a poignant statement about the human spirit in the face of war and sacrifice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marine Week Boston

Marine Week was held in Boston from the 2nd through 9th of May.

I was there with a group of Marines representing the National Museum of the Marine Corps, showcasing the Museum with a static display which featured Marine Corps history, Combat Art, and a video explaining the NMMC and the Marine Corps itself.

Most of the time I was in a WWII period Marine Uniform, the utilities with leggings and the steel pot...
(L to R) Cpl Miller as Continental Marine, SSgt Rapoza as WWI Marine, Me as WWII, and Sgt Bustamante as Vietnam
Cpl Miller needs a chaperon as he wishes to court the lady...

A static display, the "Triple Seven" 155mm Howitzer

It was quite a time. There were static displays for people to see, and Marines from the local Marine Reserve units where demonstrating and answering questions.  They had LAVs, "Triple Sevens", all sorts of small arms, an Osprey or two at various locations for people to climb aboard. The Albany Marine Band played several times, and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performed as well (once interrupted by a severe and sudden hail storm!)...

One honor I had was to have some of my artwork on display at the USS Constitution Museum at the Navy Yard in Boston... I got to talk to people looking at the work, and on the 5th of May there was a reception, where I got to speak as the guest artist. I was thrilled to have the opportunity.

I got to see and go aboard the USS Constitution-- it was like being a kid again! They showed us the whole ship, to include parts that civilians can't go in usually. For a history buff and proud American, it was an incredible thing to experience.

Hey, what year is this, anyway?!(No,  Mom-- we're not having severe budget cuts in uniforms and equipment!)

Every once in a while I was able to sketch the happenings-- though it was a real difficulty, due to wind & weather, as well as nice citizens coming around to chat me up...!

I also had the honor and privilege of going to Harvard to have some of my art on display for a day at the Forum in the John F. Kennedy School of Government.  (click to view the article in Marines.mil)

Sgt. Kristopher J. Battles, the combat artist with the National Museum of the Marine Corps, talks to retired Army Brig. Gen. Kevin T. Ryan, the senior fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government for Harvard University, about his art, May 5, 2010. , Cpl. Alicia R. Giron, 5/5/2010 9:56 AM