"A sketchbook is a secret thing, a collection of unfinished and often times abandoned ideas never intended for public consumption—at least not in their current state. It’s a private space for honing one’s craft and workshopping, separating good ideas from those best left unexplored." -Brian Heater at The Daily Cross Hatch.
This is a sketch I did a few weeks ago during a particularly slow day at work. My source material came from somewhere on the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt (CVB-42/CVA-42/CV-42) website which has a great trove of photos. These guys were on liberty in Hong Kong, and must've been posing on Victoria Peak overlooking the harbor, or bay. (Hard to tell from my drawing...). Having visited Hong Kong, I can't imagine it being cold enough there at any time of the year for peacoats and gloves. But, then again, I was only there in the summer.
Anyways. I recently read a review on Peter Kuper's Diario de Oaxaca by Brian Heater on The Daily Cross Hatch and he wrote a pretty good explanation of what a sketchbook is- which also explains my idea behind keeping this blog:
"A sketchbook is a secret thing, a collection of unfinished and often times abandoned ideas never intended for public consumption—at least not in their current state. It’s a private space for honing one’s craft and workshopping, separating good ideas from those best left unexplored"
Obviously, the major difference, is that I'm putting my sketchbook out in "public", because honestly, it makes me more productive knowing that someone, somewhere is cognizant of it. I start to think "What is everyone else seeing in this?" and it helps with my own introspective constructive criticism. So, that's the idea behind this sketch blog. Just FYI.
This is a Gunner's Mate standing next to his 6 inch gun aboard the USS Powhatan in 1919. Certainly a good model for my Matlow vs. The Bolsheviks project. I've noticed a precipitous decline in the quality of my sketches the earlier in the day that I do them. My afternoon sketches are definitely better than my pre-dawn work. Excuses, excuses. Just another muscle to build.
In this quickie sketch, a Navy doctor is administering aid to a Pashtun local deep in the much contested Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Something, I suspect forward deployed Navy doctors have been doing since time immemorial. Cross posted at "In Every Clime and Place".
Another quickie for today. I figured I'd make a drawing of chipping paint in the era before portable power sanders. Not that the work seems to suck any less. This is from a photo taken aboard the USS Bayfield in 1954. I was familiar with the practice of allowing locals on the Asiatic Station to help out with shipboard duties up to WWII ("The Sand Pebbles" being my main source of reference here), but was unaware the practice continued after the war. If anyone knows of any memoirs by sailors deployed to WESTPAC (especially with visits to Vietnam) in the 1950's, please let me know. They would make an interesting read.
Somewhere out on the Pacific Ocean an Aviation Boatswain's Mate is securing the flight deck for the day and thinking, "You know, I've had more fun on Christmas Eve...". Regardless, we here at Cold is the Sea thank her for her service to her country.
I've been feeling like reading some Conrad again. Back in high school I found Conrad difficult to get through, but I'm in the mood for something challenging. So, with Conrad on the brain, I decided to experiment with some inking techniques on a portrait. It didn't go so well...and was about as far from what I conceived as you can get, but getting back into this art thing is a process of evolution.
Update 12/30/09: Now that I've had a few years to accrue more knowledge of the context and time in which it was set, I'm enjoying "Lord Jim" quite a bit. (It's much funnier than I remember...)
The tall ship is the "Surprise", the sextant is a 19th century design, and the "turtle rampant" (signifying our Jack Tar is a Shellback) is a Galapagos. Oddly, the effort to find a good image of a 19th century anchor has me stymied.
This sketch is from a photo I found here. During a transit of the Red Sea, two French Foreign Legionnaires aboard the Louis Pasteur heading from 2 years of fighting in Indochina towards a combat tour in Algeria decided to jump ship. The story was written by a crew member who was a witness to both escape attempts made by these poor bastards. I guess they really didn't want to go...Interesting that the French needed to shuffle troops from Indochina to Algeria. But then again, they don't call it "the Legion of the damned" for nothing.
Since the advent of the internet I've always been astonished at the breadth of material people have made available, especially declassified documents of historical value.
Recently, I did an internet search for my Great-Uncle who perished while serving in the Merchant Marine on a fuel tanker during WWII. I was astounded at the amount of information available about the ship- the first site I found was Ahoy- Mac's Web Log, which contained information on the Jackson and then I found another site by a family member of a fallen sailor from my Great-Uncle's ship. I contacted both web authors and they were each extremely helpful and responsive to my queries.
It's all fascinating. Some of it a little stomach turning- like the Ultra intercepts from the U-Boat that sank my Uncle's ship and the bravo zulu that followed- not to mention the group picture of smiling, slicked back Teutonic knights posing on their boat.
I didn't know my uncle. He died 28 years before I was born. But still, it's just a very strange experience to see a photo of his ship sinking (above, 50 miles off of Londonderry) and read the giddy message traffic between the U-boat that sunk him and their command. Very strange to see all this information, especially considering how little our family knew about the incident beyond the basic details. His death caused some massive emotional reverberations and tragic consequences within his immediate family, as I'm sure it does with every family who loses a truly loved one in war.
Kind of an underwhelming offering today, but I barely had any energy to begin with- and I barely have any energy now. I did this during a short break today.
The USS West Virginia had an interesting "life" from Pearl Harbor onwards. You can see her burning in some of the most iconic shots of the attack, and she was resurrected from the grave to fight again and started getting her licks in during the battle of Leyte Gulf. You can read all of this on her Wikipedia page. As you can see I chose to draw her resplendent in her dazzle paint. (Check out this one too.)
There are also some little known horrifying facts about the "WeeVee". Did you know that after the WVA was raised, three dead sailors were found in a sealed, airtight room with ration packages, water and a marked calendar indicating that they'd survived up to the 23rd of December? Horrible. Horrible way to go. You can read about the salvage efforts on the WVA in Edward Raymer's excellent memoir, "Descent into Darkness".
The corny "make Russia safe for democracy" line is actually a riff on an address that Woodrow Wilson made to Congress before they voted on whether or not to declare war on Germany in 1917, three years after WWI had been on in earnest. Our Lewis gunner, Sgt. Dire (real name), is saying it facetiously...Granted, this is poor and unnatural sounding dialogue, but it seemed like a good idea at the time...It's also what happens when you draw first and write later. I'm working on that.
The "clean bodies, filthy minds" quote is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt...obviously it's a little before it's time here, but I figured I'd use it anyways... Page 3 (with logo!) is here.
I decided to quit while I was ahead on this one. It was quickly becoming a hot-mess. Well. All I can say is that I was never destined to be a naval architect. I was recently reading about tramp steamers in Christopher Lee's fascinating memoir "Eight Bells and Topmasts" and did some poking around on the web. I was struck by the hull design of the tramp steamer, especially the distinctive counter stern which makes it appear as if the ship is high in the water. Quite by accident I was looking for WWI naval vessels and stumbled across this photo. I thought, "That looks just like a tramp steamer!" and sure enough, it turns out that these troop ships were converted tramp freighters. Here's a great shot of the counter-stern.