Sunday, October 10, 2010

USMC II: Uncommon Valor

Much has transpired since the initial installment on the Iwo Jima drawing. It now has a name, Uncommon Valor (the phrase used to describe the performance of the Marines who conquered Iwo – where “Uncommon valor was a common virtue”), and a purpose: to raise awareness and funds for the USMC Wounded Warriors Regiment.

The image used in the drawing was already a compilation, even before I started placing smaller pictures into the design. The flag raising on Mt. Suribachi was recorded by four photographers, and has been recreated dozens, if not thousands of times by as many artists over the past sixty years. Each time, the original still photographs of Lowery and Rosenthal have been reinterpreted, re-worked and re-engineered to fit whatever format was needed, from War Bond posters to postage stamps, ice cream molds to t-shirts to tattoos. Even Felix de Weldon, the sculptor of the Marine War Memorial in Washington, D.C., used his artistic license to arrange the five Marines and one Navy corpsman into a more classic pose, and built at least three smaller versions of his world-famous statue. The version I chose as a model for the drawing now stands at the gate to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

After more than a year of research, a dozen books on the subject and a dozen more interviews with active and retired Marines, two trips to the National Museum of the Marine Corps and a tour of the base at Quantico, the design has settled into its current form. The first century of the Marines is illustrated in the lower left section of the base, World War I and the so-called Banana Wars in the lower right, with WWII in a horizontal band across the middle. Above these, the left peak represents the Korean conflict, and the right peak the Viet Nam era, with late 20th-century expeditionary excursions in between. The modern Marine Corps (including conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror) are represented by the three standing figures. Left to Right, they represent Air, Sea, and Land. The figure to the right combines all three, as well as the musical tradition that remains strong in the Corps.

The drawing will be unveiled on November 10th, 2010, the 235th birthday of the USMC. Limited and open edition prints will be available for purchase on November 11th. (See details at

As usual, I’m already running a little behind schedule, which means I will be pulling a few late nights over the next week or two to complete the inking process on time. You are invited to follow the progress of the drawing, from initial sketches to final ink on my Facebook page:

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