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Ft. Bliss/Camp McGregor '08
It was two years ago this month that I had the opportunity to observe, as a member of the USAF Art Program through the Society of Illustrators, training sessions part of joint Army/Air Force Urban Ops exercises.I’ll be away this week in the Southwest, pads and pencils in hand, my Canon G-10 around my neck, and a good pair of Merrill hiking shoes trying to keep up with members of Special Ops in training.Already feeling the anxiety of expectations- my own- of how well I’ll be catching the energy and experience there.As I’ve written before, things move VERY fast, and the first couple days in particular are great at knocking down one’s ego regarding skills.I don’t expect this time to be much different.But the groove eventually gets found and then it’s gangbusters.
Here are the finished images created for the USAFAP two years ago that are now part of the permanent collection at the Pentagon. They were generally large in size, a combination of both sketches and photo reference used as backup. I found that I had a better chance of recreating the energy of the sketches in the finished pieces by working large and allowing the arm a lot of opportunity to move and capture the gestures. The large drawings were mounted on sticky foam boards and watercolor and gouache were applied to the pencil lines.
Looking forward to posting about my experiences when I return. Considering I haven't even started working on final art based on the sketches and photos from Pope AFB/Fort Bragg last Autumn, I'll have plenty on my plate in terms of finished work due by July this year.
Humvee rollover training. Here the trainees would be put through a simulated rollover situation and learn how to exit the vehicle should it experience a serious hit from an IED. Apparently, statistics showed that just one training run in one of these devices increased the chances of survival by 200%.
It’s not often when I can get a chance to make the editorial comment that relies pretty much on the strength of the drawing alone.No situational premise, no “idea”, no real punchline.It’s a welcome change of pace to let an expression in the portrayal of a particular subject tell the story.The opportunity presented itself in such a manner for the cover story illustration in the current issue of THE NATION.
The article, titled “Attack of the Cheneys”, spends a good deal of copy on the two members of the glorious Cheney family, Liz and Dick, who have been expending a lot of energy savaging the current administration’s policies on terrorism and national security, while calmly and coldly brushing aside any responsibility for the damages to our world standing, foreign policy, internal security and rule of law, created during the Cheney/Bush years. It’s also an examination of the shameless and unapologetic manner with which the neo-cons press their myth(s) and work to obfuscate the truth about their reckless and ill considered decisions over the past decade or more, not to mention the grim zeal with which they smear anyone or any organization that disagrees with their views. As I’m not running for office and concerned about alienating potential voters by speaking the truth, I feel free to say that it appears the neo—cons, in a perverse anticipation, wish for another terrorist attack if for no other reason than to utilize the tragedy to their political advantage.
So, what to do?How to illustrate a situational setup with Cheney, his daughter at his side, as the perpetrator/orchestrator of some evil action that hasn’t been done before, and probably better? I very quickly came to the conclusion that any scene established, no matter how evil, would merely add to the image of Cheney as a power to reckon with, and I didn’t want to do that.I just was in no mood to flatter him with an acknowledgement of the power he still wields, within the world of politics as well in the world of media with his own personal mouthpiece, FOX-TV, generously providing him a podium from which to fulminate.There was another point to consider as well.Cheney’s a very malevolent character who, following in the grand tradition of many malevolent characters, leaves very little evidence behind of his criminality.He directs the show, but also constructs around himself a very high wall of deniability.Others will fall on the sword, voluntarily or not, on his behalf, but he’ll never cop to anything. It’s not the decisions he makes in plain sight but what we don’t see that makes him such an insidious presence in modern American politics.It’s what goes on behind that calm demeanor that should give one the chills.The bottom line is that it’s all about power and holding onto it.
So I decided to go for a pretty much normal scene and rely on the expressions to speak about the characters and a general mood with the colors.It didn’t take much time finding the right shots to work from.These people seem singularly incapable of hiding a basic malignancy of spirit behind their seemingly calm banality.Even their smiles look like sneers or sizing someone up for a kill.My one bone (pardon the expression) I threw to the inner gag department was to portray that pampered, clueless, forever wrong pundit and lapdog, Bill Kristol, as just that.
First complete sketch once I decided on the direction.
Richard Kim, the art director, gave an enthusiastic OK on the first sketch, with a minor qualification that hinted at not going all out on Liz. This was the drawing all set and dry mounted to go to color finish when I slammed on the brakes and reconsidered. It seemed to have become too academic and studied. Needed to loosen up a bit with a new try.
More like it. Now to the color. I reconsidered the consideration on Liz and decided to err more on the side of not pulling punches.
Another set of illustrations for ROLLING STONE.This time the National Affairs feature was double teamed with writing by Tim Dickinson, who did the main portion and Matt Taibbi putting in a few choice words of suggestion about strategy for Obama.Will any of it be heard?Who can tell.In politics it seems the loudest and most persistent voices win out whether they deserve to or not.The GOP, for a minority party, ironically continues to control and direct the public debate (and I use the term ‘debate’ very loosely and facetiously) on all current legislation as if this were still 2003.The Democrats have proven to be every bit as ineffective, compromised, and corrupt as many of us feared, even in the middle of the hoopla of the 2008 election results.The pronouncements of the collapse of the right wing were premature and more indicative of wishful thinking than anything else.
In the current issue with Shaun White on the cover.Worth the read.
Some sketches/ideas that didn't make it for the spots.
A drawing that was all set to go to color when I admitted to myself that Obama's face just didn't look right and that regardless of the hour I was doin' it over.
Better, and a beanie added to the brat to keep it consistent with the opener.
The approved sketch. Obama to look less angry/disciplinarian and more frustrated adult.
Kid peeing in plant pot- good. Pooping in drawer- no good. But funny.