I love working in a sketchbook. Unfortunately, since moving to Boston three years ago, my sketchbook work has fallen by the way-side. Living in New York, it was easier to do reportage drawings in the sketchbook because of all the mass transit I used to take which offered me specific alotted times to play around. In Boston, I don't ride mass transit so if I am home, I am usually working on jobs. I really shouldn't make excuses and just get out of the house and do it.
This past year, I was honored to be asked to go on a mission once again from the Society of Illustrators Air Force Art program which gave me the opportunity to get out and document again - and I specifically wanted these paintings to have some qualities of my sketchbook work.
The SOI/AF program is something I love and adore doing on a lot of different levels. The first is making art but also, it is looking into a world that I have very little knowledge about. So when I am asked to contribute by being shipped off somewhere to create art about what I see, I get excited. It's great looking into a world that I can learn from and get to experience things that are rare for any 'civilian' to see.
I Do Windows | 11x14 | Acrylic and Ink
I was flown out to Tacoma Washington to Lewis-McChord Air Force base and was asked to observe the 'Air Force Rodeo'. It is something that hadn't happened in a few years because, as I understand it, the wars. It is a well-needed activity for people serving to see family and blow off some steam before they fly back to where they're stationed.
The 'rodeo' is a few days of competitions between flight teams, maintenance teams and every other part of the AF that you can think of. Teams from all of the bases across the world fly here.
There were so many activities to see that I began focusing on one group which was the maintenance team from Ramstein AF base in Germany. They were competing to be the best maintenance team. They were so helpful and wonderful explaining their roles and stories about some of their missions that I thought it would be cool to do a few paintings in honor of them and their work maintaining these 20 and in some cases 40 year old planes.
Checking the Tires | 11x14 | Acrylic and Ink
They were amazingly meticulous with caring for the plane(s). Every spot and speck of dirt...literally, grains of sand were searched for and removed not only from the plane but from the surrounding area around the plane. The painting below is the crew walking in a line about 100 feet around the entire area searching for anything that may float or fly up in a heavy wind and get on the plane including checking themselves from top to bottom...even looking for errant blades of grass on the tarmac.
These are the guys that make sure the flight crew has a fully functioning plane to fulfill their missions. They have to be fast, accurate. Important missions and obviously lives are at stake.
FOD (Foreign Object Debris) | 16x20 | Acrylic and Ink
Spending some time with the maintenance crew was wonderful as I got to crawl around the plane and base at will.
The bonus was that I was able to observe the flight crew one morning starting at about 5am plan their flight through a valley to a drop zone miles away - and actually go on the flight with them and see the drop from the cargo bay in the back of the plane.
5AM Flight Crew | 16x20 | Acrylic and Ink
This was my second mission and I think I've finally learned what I really need to do on these trips. The first mission was for a brief 2-3 days at a small learning camp in Colorado. Unfortunately, I had gotten terribly sick on the way there and during the mission. It was a horrible experience and I don't think I got out of it what I should have. I barely remember it and the art was due the same week so there was no time to develop a series. This time, I really got to see and understand more about the Air Force and see the possibilities of what I could do as an artist.
Even though I did six pieces, I wanted to do more work. All that is expected of me was a single painting but I had to get as many as I could done before the deadline. It is wonderful learning about all this and experience something that I would have never in my wildest dreams ever think I would be part of.
I am truly honored to be asked to participate in this. A special thank you to the Society of Illustrators and Chair and Co-Chair of the Government Services Committee John Witt and Victor Juhasz who both went on missions this year and did incredible work themselves.
Flight | 16x20 | Acrylic and Ink
I was told that maintenance crews are rarely documented in the art for the air force and that they are excited to have artwork focused on that aspect of the Air Force as part of their collection. These paintings were exhibited at the Society of Illustrators during the month of September and in the middle of next year, will be exhibited at the Air Force Museum in Ohio at which time, they will become part of the US Air Force permanent art collection.