Thursday, March 31, 2011

"If You Only Knew Where I Have Been" The Faces That Launched This Series

Its about time I put what started this "Military Series - A Parent's Perspective".  As a parent you see so much when your son is in the military.  Only 4.4% of the US population is in the military.  The average American citizen is oblivious to the sacrifices this small percentage of the population makes to protect and serve them.  Because the average person does not know what our sons and daughters do, listen carefully America, their story needs to be told.  These brave men and women are your sons and daughters too.  You need to know "If You Only Knew Where I Have Been".  

  In September, last year I had been looking for a photo of Forest to sketch.  Deployment was at long last ended and I wanted a photo that could convey what I saw in my son.  He had been through so much and there were so many photos.  An artist here in Syracuse had inspired me to use a Wolfe's Carbon pencil set.  It was so perfectly black and the tonals were wonderful.  In my search, one photo of Forest on the transport coming home stood out, and I felt compelled to make a quick sketch. 
He looked so tired and yet so accomplished.  His eyes seemed to say, "Can you see what I have done?  I made a difference for you in this world.  It's a better place.  I kept you safe and our guys started to change the hearts and minds of the Afghan people just a little bit.  We lost good friends.  We fought hard everyday. I'm coming home safe, just the way we prayed."  That is my son, one of the "Marjah Marines".  All my prayers answered; the 3/6 was home and Lcpl Forest Blair was safe at last. 
In between homecoming in North Carolina and awaiting Forest to come home on post deployment leave, I went to the Syracuse Marine Parent picnic.  They have been a vital part of my marine family here at home since Forest went to boot camp at Parris Island on graduation day from Baker High School.  As parents we shared all that our sons and daughters were going through.  We shared our fears, joys in their accomplishments, and deciphered all those cryptic initials the military uses.   While at the picnic, I shared my sketch with Tina O'Shaughnessy.  We were watching her son Jared playing frisbee with our group.  He had just returned from Okinawa.  She asked if I would draw Jared. 

As Jared continued to play frisbee we shared an observation as I sketched preliminary sketches and snapped carmera shots, "They all have that look in their eyes.  The way they stand and carry themselves.  You can tell they have been through something." - "Yeah, you can."  I wanted to capture that.  Something inside me started.  This is not about me an artist; it is about them.  I very compelled to tell their story.  Their story is much bigger than me.  I am just the vehicle that tells the story in the visual, just trying to get the heart and soul of what I see as a military mom.  

Cpl Jared O'Shaughnessy had been through so much while stationed at Okinawa.  His men may not have been in a warzone such as Afghanistan, but they were in harms way many times I would guess.  Remember the world is not a safe place.  It takes our military to help where it is needed.  I am sure Jared's thoughts weigh heavy on his friends who are most likely helping the Japanese people in the midst of their disaster. 
I wanted to capture with that new carbon pencil, his telling eyes.

Did I get it right?  

Remember this series is not about me the artist it is about them, our brave sons and daughters.  It's also about what we parents and family members experience in the midst of our sons being in harms way.  Having them home and not going off to war and conflicts around the globe would be utopic.  There is a world out there and this few percent of the population in the USA have committed themselves to making a difference.  They are due your honor. 

(A technicality.  I could not crop out the matting from the frame.) 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Progression on "Role Models"

"Role Models"  is progressing along.  When I first saw this posted on facebook it captured my attention, because I had seen rescues in process from the embedded photographers with the 3/6.  This photo tells so much of the real drama that goes on in heroic proportions to save a life everyday in Afghanistan.  I did talk with Forest at some length asking him what this moment was like when someone was airlifted.  Their care, protection, their concern, is an automatic response of teamwork that is truly amazing. 

 I color blocked the first time I showed this on my blog, now I am in the middle of this almost mono color painting.  There was an army photographer taking classes at Syracuse University who had seen the painting in its starting stages and told me about the yellow flares to use to signal the medical transport.  I thought that color in the background added to it. 

One of the parents had posted it and it looks like it got a good fair share of reposting and the photographs had been tagged with names.  Thought I had the correct names of the ones photographed and I finally got a hold of one who informed me that was not him.  So I am searching for the real names of the guys in the photograph and their photographer.   As of now it is an unknown photograph and I would like to give credit where it is due.  All the others are from photos that I personally know them and or their parents.  Because I can so identify where the guys are in this scene they are my adopted heroes and I am so proud of them.  God Bless them and keep them.    

Monday, March 21, 2011

A very sensitive piece called "Grief"

Out of my series I have portrayed what I have seen as a parent whether it be joy, intensity, purpose, honor and now with great sensitivity, "Grief".  This is an emotional piece portraying Lcpl Tony Robertson, Nathan McCormick, and Branden Sprat at Lcpl Gabe Rainey's burial service.  This is also about relationships our sons developed out there in Afghanistan and the families who grew stronger in the midst sharing the loss of  their hero.  

As parents we got to know each other in the 3/6 Battalion very well.  I will never forget meeting Penny Riley on facebook and we wrote back and forth often.  She was an anxious mom worried about her son Gabe.  Penny did not hear from Gabe in the first phase of their mission, whereas, other would report that we had a call from their marine.  That phone contact was vital to us as parents.  For a moment in time on that satellite phone, even with constant delays while trying to communicate and listen to their voices beyond the wind whistling around our sons, there was a great peace we shared.  For a moment in time all was okay in Afghanistan and here in the USA.  

Penny needed to hear his voice and after reading many posts stating miss my marine and she was only getting, We are praying for you.  He'll call soon.  Hang in there Penny", I finally fired back a post.  "Wait a minute!  We are marine parents.  We raised these guys and Gabe needs to call home.  The next time one of your sons calls, tell them they need to get a message to Gabe to call home!"  I couldn't imagine the anxiety I would feel if it were my son not calling."  Very shortly after that post Gabe called his mom.  The relief was a resounding Ahhhhh!  Being a "Marine Momma" is a very new thing in my family and many of us military parents, having their son in harms way is very uncharted water in our experiences.     

Last July, I went away for a few days to the Adirondacks to paint.  When I came back I opened facebook to find Penny's profile photo had changed to a flag draped box being carried off a transport by Marines in Cammi's.  The post read, "There goes my hero, I just wanted to jump over the barriers and run."  My heart sank as I said, "No Penny, No.  Not Gabe." as I read the posts stating, "Penny, so sorry...So sorry...Our prayers are with you."  During the days and weeks that followed we watched the funeral, burial service, memorials and the purple heart award ceremony.  In the back of the minds of us parents were, "This could happen and this is what it looks like to loose a son, a marine, a hero.  What was happening to our sons out there in Afghanistan when they lost one of their friends?  Our hearts grieved with them."

Forest told me during one of those calls about the bond they had for each other.  They would fiercely defend with everything they had to keep each other safe.  Even with their very lives.  So America wake up and understand these men will face even death itself to serve and protect you.  If that brings tears to your eyes then I have conveyed with all respect what is truly in their warrior hearts "...for the land of the free and the home of the brave." 

Thank you my heroes for your sacrifice and the families that surround you and will support you always with our hearts. 

The emotion is evident in their faces; brave hearts breaking.  Notice, if you will Tony with his purple heart, leaning on a cane, evident of his heroism and to be present here, a testament to his fallen brother.  As parents we all cried with them.  Their grief became ours.  Never forget how precious life is and those who died to protect your freedom. 

This is an oil painting using watersoluble oils.  Because it is difficult to look at "Grief", I will not travel until it is complete.     As with all of the paintings and prints sold, 10% will go to the Wounded Warriors.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New painting - "Role Models"

"Role Models"  is very unique and its story is nothing less than dramatic.  The 3/6 Battalion dealt with some of the most difficult conditions in so many ways.  Here is an oil painting using a limited pallette.  I am using mainly a pigment called Asphaltum. It is done on a 36"x36" Ampersand Panel.  What you see is day one of the underpainting.


In this picture an Afghan soldier is injured.  A transport is on its way.  In the back ground there appears to have been an explosion and you can see the yellow signal to help guide the transport.  A group of the 3/6 Lima Co and Navy Corpsmen are sheilding the wounded Afghan from two things.  While waiting they are now targets and they are protecting him from the dust that is about to be kicked up by the transport. 

What do I see?  I see our sons.  Any one of the 3/6 battalion would do what you see here in a heartbeat to help the wounded.  Our heroes working to save a life, no matter how difficult, dangerous or desparate.  And this was normal in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. 

Maybe your son less than a year or two ago didn't clean his room, or do his homework, but look at the kind of man he is now.  So many of these young heroes became Marines and Navy Corpsmen to make a difference in this world.  This is what "The Few, The Proud" signed up for. 

They make a difference in my world and I hope after looking at this it makes a difference in yours. 

I will continue tomorrow with "Embassy Duty", and "Grief".

Okay so here are the new painting starts.

These paintings are fun.   I can't believe I have 8 paintings in different stages soooooo, here we go!
Progress on "Homecoming Hug"  This painting is past the stage you see here, as CJ's hair is now filled in the back, his nieces hair and forhead is corrected.  Still more to go.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

5 New Starts on New Paintings

This has been a very productive week.  Working on the finishing touches of my acrylic, "Homecoming Hug" with Lcpl Carl J. (CJ) Sher, his fiance, niece and nephew.  Will be taking a photo to update that progress in the next couple of days. 

Started carving out a block print of "Wiener Wolf", a puppy that was adopted by Forest's Squad, (I think that is an FOB-Forward Operating Base?  Sorry I am such a "civvy" when it comes to all those abbreviations the military puts out, so just bare with me.  Personally, I think Wiener Wolf should be wearing a superhero cape.  Most times she looks incredibly happy and from a video I had seen, Wiener Wolf knows she is invincible.  "Look out Chesty, you have some competition!"  (That's the Marine Corps mascot-a bull dog).  In other stories I have heard canals can bring her to a whimpering state until, Forest pulled her out, while muttering "You are a stupid dog."  But at least I know those big fearsome warriors with their minds on their missions still had a soft heart for a little dog.  I found pictures of this short-legged Shepard mix with so many of our sons, holding her, petting her, sleeping next to them, and taking her brave responsibility of protecting them as her job. 

There are so many of my friends that do rescues, I suggested maybe we could see about rescuing Wiener Wolf.  I spoke with Forest about it and the answer came back that Wiener Wolf was in her element back in Afghanistan.  Wiener Wolf was used to all those guys in combat gear and didn't like the locals.  She did not know what a leash was and would not thrive here in the US.  She was being well taken care of by the guys who took over their outpost and that would not end.  Pets enrich our lives so much.  In such a difficult place this dog gave our 3/6 guys some normalcy in the midst of a very hostile environment.  Wiener Wolf the Superhero! 

Next month is our CNY Art Guild Show and Sale where I will demonstrate on  making block prints.  I will print off as many as I can for the guys who knew and loved Wiener Wolf.  I will have more prints reproduced for the series.  

Other pieces I have just drawn out.  They will be oils and I will be blocking out the color this week.  The next few posts I will give you their stories. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New work. Mixed Media. "We All Prayed"

"We All Prayed" is the name of the next two portraits of my son Lcpl Forest Blair and Lcpl Nicholas Said.

And pray we all did, from the military families and those who offered to pray for our sons, to everyone of our sons fighting in Afghanistan. We all prayed everyday for their protection, for each warrior their success in battle.
Prayer the most powerful weapon. During the deployment, I received a satellite phone call from Forest. I was at work and just arrived in the lunchroom to hear "Sharon, Call on line one" I thought, "It figures, just as I get to lunch, ok... Hello"
"Hey mom" delay in the line,
"Forest! How are you?" delay in the line,
"Mom, are you sitting down?" delay as I sit down.
"Okay, I am sitting down" delay in the line and then he speaks as if all his words were one. "Well-I'm-ok-everythings-all-right-nothing-happened!" delay in the line and then my response,
"What happened?" "Well, the other day?-I got shot."
A 7.62 ml bullet went through my camel pack, around my sappy plate, through the Kevlar and then ricocheted back out of the jacket" delay in the line again.
"Mom, God's got my back. Keep praying.", delay in the line.
"Okay." delay in the line.
"Love you mom, Gotta go" Good bye"
"Love you Forest, Be safe, Stay on mission" End of call.
Prayer got us through. Knowing was priceless, because it directed my prayers and those who prayed with me. That day I went around thinking Oh, my God. Oh-my-God! Thank God for flack jackets!"
I told Forest often that for every brave warrior, at least 1,000 people praying for them constantly, some upwards into the thousands. He shared that number with his unit. They got it. We all prayed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"No Greater Friend, No Worse Enemy - Lcpl Nicholas Said" is complete.

It's about time and there is a lot to cover and catch up on. Here is the progression of the work in process.
Now the work is going on to be photographed for prints and framing. More to come tomorrow with new artwork. Officially 5 more pieces in process.