My Marine Corps picture is half finished. The drawing itself is not.
That part’s barely made it onto the paper, and there are still a couple or three months worth of actual work time ahead of me before I can claim the project to be complete. But the project is, to my best reckoning, about half done.
Last week I was asked to come and speak during Career Day at a local middle school. After showing off my work and waxing at length about the virtues of being an over-educated, self-employed artist, one of the students asked if I could show them an example of a work in progress.
“Absolutely,” I said, and picked up my copy of Bartlett & Sweetman's Leathernecks, bristling on three sides with with multi-colored sticky notes.
“This picture is about half finished”, I told the kids. “You see, my artwork starts with information. I have a lot of studying to do before my pen ever hits the paper. This is one of a half dozen books I’ve read so far to help get myself up to speed on the United States Marine Corps. I have three or four more to read before I’ll be ready to do any serious drawing.”
The kids seemed impressed, though some looked a little bit confused, and a couple of them appeared to be terrified. (These, I assume, were the ones who thought they wanted to be artists.)
To date, a pencil outline of the Iwo Jima Monument has finally been transferred to paper. By my usual standards (I like to make small pictures), at 24 x 32” this drawing is going to be a big one. This will in fact be my most ambitious undertaking by far, not only for its size and scope (the composite drawing will include somewhere around 500 individual images), but for the impact I hope it will have on the future of a few good men and women.
When complete, the Iwo drawing will be a pictorial history of the Marines. The symbolic images will be arranged (more or less) chronologically, from the Corps’ birthplace at Tun Tavern in 1775 to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Half of the proceeds from print sales of this drawing will be donated to the USMC Wounded Warriors Regiment.
Rarely do we have an opportunity to give back directly to those who have given so much to us; rarely has the need been so great.
On the plus side, while my reading so far has only taken me as far as the Korean conflict, I already have enough images in mind to fill the entire space. Maybe twice. An idea that emerged early on is to render the flag-raisers’ camo-covered helmets as globes – world maps showing every region where the Marines have served. Elsewhere in the picture will be a violin with a mameluke sword for a bow (1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon, the hero of Tripoli, was a fiddler), the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, and a Flying Tiger emblem with a black sheep for Pappy Boyington’s squadron.
As always, the fun part will be collating and sifting the data, assigning pictures to people and events, and then trying to arrange them all in proper order to fit both the design, and the spirit of the Corps.
ETA on this project is late September to early October, 2010 – in time for the USMC’s 235th Birthday on November 10th.