It's been interesting to note the differing responses from Marines and Army Infantry, when they encounter my military drawings for the first time. Their reactions are consistent, and by now predictable:
Marines are fascinated by the intricacies of the Uncommon Valor picture. They immediately start picking out individual images that they can relate to: Tun Tavern. Dan Daly. The Root. This is a picture that was, quite literally, made for them.
They want to know how they can own one. When they learn that half of the purchase price goes to the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment, they want to buy a bigger, more expensive one. It’s an expression of their culture, of their pride in being Marines.
Army Infantry are just as proud, just as cohesive, perhaps even more exclusive in their group identity. They seem to approach the Follow Me drawing of their own Iron Mike with a measure of skepticism, wary that it was produced by an outsider, not one of their own – someone who could not possibly understand the level of sacrifice and earned camaraderie it takes to be 11-Bravo, and who might just be trying to take advantage of their traditions, for personal gain.
They would, of course, be correct – in all three assumptions.
Bravos tend not to buy my artwork, even when they learn that a large portion of each sale goes directly to the Army’s AW2 Warrior Transition Command. WTC functions somewhere behind the battle lines; 11-B’s face toward it.
Fortunately for me (and more important for the Wounded Warriors), sales of Follow Me are starting to pick up. Just over a year after its release, infantry soldiers still have little interest in supporting a non-military artist, but the picture is gaining ground in the marketplace nonetheless. People are buying them as gifts.
Wives, mothers, sweethearts, and sisters have embraced the Army drawing, and in so doing have created a necessary buffer between artist and infantryman. Many times I have witnessed Bravos being led reluctantly to my art display, my pictures forced into their hands by an enthusiastic loved one. At that point the soldiers are obligated to look once, but then they look again at the drawing, a little more closely this time, and their expressions begin to change. They see the historic head covers, the edged weapons, the firearms arranged in chronological order from musket to SAW.
Then it doesn't matter who made this drawing. They know it honors them.
I wonder, now that a third Air Force design has been completed and added to the series, whether Airmen will react with enthusiasm or reluctance to the latest drawing, Aiming High.
After Valentine’s Day, we should have a pretty good idea.