Thursday, January 27, 2011

VMFA to Allow Crazy Combat Artist Presentation 28 January!!


If you are in the greater Richmond area on Friday, the 28th of January, 2011, and you want to hear about contemporary combat art, see a great film about WWII combat art, and see a great collection of Civil War art, then stop by the Virginia Museum  of Fine Arts at 6:30 pm.

I will give a presentation on my work and the combat art of today, followed by a question and answer period, and a screening of the PBS movie, "They Drew Fire". In the Museum itself will be an exhibit, Civil War Drawings from the Becker Collection.

Sounds "sketchy" I know, but it promises to be fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Combat Artist in Action

Here's a drawing I did today, featuring a combat artist in action, fulfilling his prime directive-- visual "reportage"!

CWO2 Mike Fay is pictured, sketching while at Mojave Viper out in 29 Palms CA, back in 2008. We'd just gotten done with a hike and the Marines were sitting down for a rest, and CWO2 Fay took advantage of the situation, set up his stool and sketch gear, and recorded what he saw.

I have been wanting for years to do a painting of a combat artist to match the one done by Tom Lovell in the late 40s. Now at least I've done the basic drawing for it, if I never get around to the oil painting!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Evening Parley

This is a small oil painting nearing completion, showing activity late in the evening at an Entry Control Point (ECP) in the FOB outside Rutbah back in 2007.

In the scene, two local Iraqi gentlemen talk with a Marine officer (back to viewer) about some issue or concern they are having...

The figure on the left is the interpreter, female, assisting the meeting (this ECP had a lot of civilians coming through, and the women had to be inspected by our women Marines-- so she served an interpreter for that activity as well).

I find the subject interesting, as one can have fun guessing what the narrative might be...

& from an artistic standpoint, the harsh floodlights made a dramatic effect that is fun and challenging to depict.

UPDATE Feb 5, 2011:
Finished!! (Well, at least it's signed-- a painting is never really finished...)

A Great Book of Combat Art From the Great War

Today I was clued in by a friend of mine (Mike Fay) to this great book of combat art made by an American "Doughboy" in France named C. Leroy Baldridge. It's in the public domain, and free for downloading here. What a great source of authentic, well-crafted art-- and as a bonus, along with the great art, there are many war poems by a soldier named Hilmar R. Baukhage.

PVT. A. E. F.

PVT. A. E. F.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-e-e-e-e-E-E-------------b Boom!
There's another!
God, this pack is heavy.
Glad I pinched the extra willy,
Guess I'll need it.
And the sweater, too,
out there.
-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-E-E-E-EEEEEE- - b Boom!
There's another!
Jesse! that was a close one.
Wonder if......good Christ! Where's Charlie?
Got him clean. God curse those Jerries!
I'll get even,—p'raps—
out there.
z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-E-E-E-E-e-e----------b Boom!
There's another!
Well, if one has my name on it
Then the guv'ment pays ten thousand.
What's the use? I couldn't spend it.
Leastways not—
out there.
z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-Z-Z-Z-Z-e-e-e-e-e-E-E-E-E----b Boom!
There's another.
Where'd I put that plug of Climax?
Oh, I s'pose somebody swiped it.
Gee, I never thought that Charlie...
Glad I ain't out on the wire.
This damn trench is dark—ouch! Damn it,
Wait a minute.... Hell, I'm coming,
I can't run in this equipment.
What the hell's the rush to get—
out there?


Form a line!
Get in line!
From the time that I enlisted
And since Jerry armististed
I've been standing, kidding, cussing,
I've been waiting, fuming, fussing,
In a line.
I have stood in line in mud and slime and sleet,
With the dirty water oozing from my feet,
I have soaked and slid and slipped,
While my tacky slicker dripped,
And I wondered what they'd hand me out to eat.
Get in line!
For supplies and for inspections,
With the dust in four directions,
For a chance to scrub the dirt off,
In the winter with my shirt off,
In a line.
I have sweated in an August training camp,
That would make a prohibition town look damp,
Underneath my dinky cap
While the sun burned off my map
And I waited for some gold-fish (and a cramp!).
Get in line!
For rice, pay-day, pills, and ration,
For corned-willy, army fashion,
In Hoboken, in the trenches,
In a station with the Frenchies,
In a line.
I've been standing, freezing, sweating,
Pushing, shoving, wheezing, fretting,
And I won't be soon forgetting
Though I don't say I'm regretting
That I stood there, with my buddies,
In a line.

(Here is a classic drawing which anybody whose ever been in the Service can relate to!):

The job that's never ended—Cleaning up for inspection

"Shot, Out."

 A sketch of the Fire Control Center for the 81 mm mortars of Weapons Company, 2nd Bn 25th Marines during live fire exercises in Mojave Viper, 29 Palms CA.

As We Go By, They Watch

 Once while on a patrol in and around Delaram, Afghanistan back in 2009, as we were nearing the edge of town, I looked over to our left and saw a group of local kids watching us as we passed. They weren't afraid or angry, but seemed interested in these exotic American Marines walking through their neighborhood...! We were the local entertainment, I guess.

The sunlight falling on the adobe buildings and the children's colorful garb stood out to me, and I knew one day I'd try to depict the scene. I applied color with intentionality of stroke, and the buildings lent themselves to palette knife application... almost as if I was spackling real stucko!
 Here's a detail...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Burton's Coffee Shop

A "Slice of Life" in the FOB

When one thinks of life in a combat zone, one thinks of ... well, combat.

And when people envision art depicting such activities, most people probably envision  "poster art" or grand depictions of Marines attacking the enemy, and so on.

Of course, Marines do attack the enemy, and some of the finest art out there depicts Marines in combat.

But  the majority of a Marine's time is not spent in combat, or in a convoy, or on patrol; but in the FOB or Combat Outpost-- and most people may not be aware of what life is like there: dark spaces, surrounded by dingy cement-block or dusty HESCO walls, stacks of sandbags, wire, & strewn with some rubble or other detritus of war-- hardly "homey" surroundings. 

Creature comforts are sparse out where the infantry lives. A good ol’ cup o' Joe or some cocoa can really hit the spot. Anything to make life a little more like home is a relief from the drudgery of a place like Saqlawiyah.

This sketch is of Cpl D. Lee Burton, of 2nd Bn 8th Marines, making himself coffee in his trusty canteen cup (one of the longest-lasting and useful implements in the US inventory, by the way…).

Ahhh... a little closer to home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blisters at Bridgeport update...

The painting of Jellison's Blisters, from the training evolution at MWTC in Bridgeport-- a Movement to Contact in which the subject carried his weapon and gear for ten to twelve "klicks"-- is coming close to full maturity...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti-- one year ago today, the earth shook

I can't believe it's been a year since the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti, physically and emotionally...

I was deployed there back in February, to assist the humanitarian assistance activities of the 22nd MEU in Operation Unified Response.

I sketched, watercolored, and  photographed my way around the affected area, documenting the activities of the Marines as they helped the people (I also helped interpret on occasion, as I once lived there for two years as a missionary and learned Creole)...

I've been working on an oil painting which features the activities at a rice Distribution Point near Carrefour.
The painting in still in process, and much of it is still in the blocking-in phase, but you can still get a sense of the color and composition, as well as the important human element and narrative in the image:
A sea of humanity, a sea of emotions...

Update 1/13/11:
While we're remembering Haiti-- Here's an small painting I did last year, based on experience in Haiti with the people.... Here, a Haitian boy watches us as we provide security at the Rice Distribution Point:
 A detail of the work:

Civil Affairs-- Winning the War, One Heart at a Time

Though not normally something associated with fighting and winning a war, Civil Affairs has played an enormous role in the successes we've seen in Iraq, and it carries on today in Afghanistan. Successful Civil Affairs activity is vital to any victory it today's "asymmetric warfare" (winning the proverbial hearts and minds is important, not only  in winning a war but also in winning the peace...).

Here is a drawing I did today, showing a Civil Affairs Marine-- Sergeant Scott Spaulding-- engaging in conversation with a local Afghan farmer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, summer 2009.

 These Civil Affairs Marines are the unsung heroes, in my (sketch) book...

Home on the Range

"Every Marine is a rifleman", as the saying goes, and since its inception, the Marine Corps has instilled in its Marines not only pride in their profession, but also a love of their rifle-- and skill in its employ.

To insure that this tradition continues, each year all Marines must qualify with their weapons on the Known Distance (KD) Course,  known by most as the rifle range. Shooters must learn how to hit targets from 200, 300, and 500 meters.

In August, I had the privilege of firing on the range here at Quantico, and qualified "Expert" with the M16A4. Out of that experience came several sketches, as well as this graphite wash drawing:

It depicts a shooting coach giving some helpful pointers to a shooter on the two hundred meter line.

 passing on the wisdom, keeping the tradition...

Making and Recording History

Another drawing of a Marine Historian in action

CWO4 Timothy McWilliams, seen here in Helmand Province, July 2009. He's talking to a DEA agent after the Marines and the DEA raided an Afghan bazaar which was suspected of involvement in the opium trade. The raid yielded chemicals for opium manufacture, as well as thousands of bags of poppy seeds, which were later destroyed by the Marines.    See also here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Two Wars, Two Warriors Meet

Here is a graphite wash drawing I did today using a "Sketch & Wash" pencil (a pencil with water-soluble graphite, which allows the use of line and watercolor effects with the shading).

The subject is Marine historian, CWO4 Timothy McWilliams, in July 2009, talking with a DEA agent about a patrol and drug raid made that day by Marines working with the DEA to help eradicate poppy seeds being used for opium production.