16 December 2010
15 December 2010
07 December 2010
10 November 2010
EDIT 04/25/11: This is a digital-media version of a drawing I did that was initially going to be the basis for a watercolor. I was going to do it for a Vietnam Vet friend of mine (it's him) but never finished it, because I was afraid of fucking it up. Anyways, contact me if you'd like a signed giclee! firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I first posted this, it was the 235th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. So I'll leave you with the last line of the initial post: "Wherever you are today Marines, be safe!"
29 October 2010
You'll notice a couple of Guernsey sweaters in there. Being a traditional sailors garment dating back to the 18th century as a uniform item for the Royal Navy, they're made out of "oiled wool", presumably for it's water resistant property. I just ordered one- didn't get the traditional Navy blue version, but Desert Rat-ecru. (Can't have all of my clothing looking like Navy surplus). Hopefully it'll get across the pond soon, because it feels like the snow is getting ready to fly up here.
On the lower right-hand corner is an image inspired by this passage from John Dos Passos' "1919":
"Joe Williams put on the secondhand suit and dropped his uniform with a cobblestone wrapped up in it, off the edge of the dock into the muddy water of the basin...he walked slowly out to the beacon and watched the fleet in formation steaming down the River Plate. The day was overcast; the lean cruisers soon blurred into their trailing smokesmudges."
Having crapped out while reading "Manhattan Transfer", I'm only reading the "Joe Williams" chapters of 1919 (I'm skipping the "camera eye" parts and everything else) so I'm having a great time with it. I'm also rationing it out. I don't want to finish it quickly.
Joe is a great archetypal sailor- his life follows a pattern- he goes out to sea- eventually gets fed up with it- comes back to the beach and tries to get a straight job. But the pull of life at sea is always too irresistible and he always ships out again. The scene above describes his desertion from the Navy in the beginning of the book. Someday I'd like to make that an illustration...apologies to Reginald Marsh.
24 October 2010
"If you doubt for one moment that I understand your problems, if you doubt for one moment that I am a sincere black man..."...He could see the contempt in their eyes, the way they looked at him with disgust and scepticism.
09 October 2010
But again, I think we have to give the most credit to human endurance in the face of "wrath of god"-style weather that enabled the Allies to succeed in the Battle of the Atlantic.
30 September 2010
05 September 2010
Let's let the Tugster take it away:
For this first launch, let’s do Q and A format: Doesn’t the yellow rattlesnake flag so common in political rallies recently have a maritime history? What IS that maritime history?
Below is an example of the flag, flying over a great coffee, beer, and lunch place up in Cold Spring, New York (across the river from West Point) .
These yellow flags with rattlesnakes you may have started seeing everywhere. . . they are not new. I trace them back to the contrarian from Pennsylvania who played with lightning, yes … Benjamin Franklin. He also extolled the health benefits of skinnydipping and created bifocals, without which we older folk couldn’t exist. His wit generated such gems as “fish and visitors stink in three days” and “beer is evidence that God loves us.”
Franklin liked rattlers, even proposed they become our national symbol because they were honorable beasts who –if they felt tread upon—would communicate, would rattle a warning of an impending strike if said-treading continued. Before the “French and Indian” War (1754—1763), Franklin published a quite famous political cartoon featuring a rattler chopped into eight pieces with the caption “Join, or Die,” probably an earlier draft of his aphorism: “we must hang together or we shall hang separately.”
The next North American war saw colonists fighting the British Empire. The first commander-in-chief of the fledging “colonist’s navy” was Commodore Esek Hopkins. By then, the rattler flag (a version that had an uncoiled rattler superimposed onto a red-white striped field) had gained the support of Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. In 1775, Hopkins was instructed to use the flag to signal an engagement with British warships on the Delaware River. As such, it became the first Navy Jack. The rattler symbol also decorated the drums carried by the five companies of Marines in Hopkins’ fleet.
In 1980, the rattler flag took on new significance as a result of the directive from the Secretary of the Navy that the flag be flown by the naval vessel in longest active status.
The August 31 NY Times ran an article about Andy C. McDonel, who was told by the Avalon Village Community Association that he could not fly the rattler flag. This is a non-story, I think: community and neighborhood associations everywhere enforce charters or covenants about such things as how many cars can be parked in a driveway or what hues of which colors you may paint your house. They can tell you you’ve planted the wrong flowers or cannot grow corn in your garden!
What’s not discussed though a strong undercurrent, it seems, between McDonel and the Community Association is the new set of associations the flag has taken on, as the appropriated symbol of the “Tea Party” movement, which explains why we’re seeing it so much these days.
That’s how it is with symbols; with time, they acquire new associations. I have a yellow t-shirt with a rattler. I used to wear it partly as tribute to the First Navy Jack and partly as reflection of my years in libertarian New Hampshire. I think I might retire it for awhile. And given my admiration for Franklin, I might just find one with a turkey, the beast he wanted to see as our national bird. Either that, or—much more fun– I’ll pay my tribute to Franklin and go dipping skinny.
Cold is the Sea, here. By the way, I just couldn't let the opportunity pass to link you to Kate Beaton's excellent take on Ben Franklin's conception of the Gadsden flag's predecessor, the "Join or Die" political cartoon...
01 September 2010
Boy was I shocked and surprised today to hear NPR do a story about the role of the USS Kirk in the evacuation of Vietnam...I would love to do a little art for this, but time does not allow and my eyelids are heavy...Fascinating and poignant sea story there. I was also surprised to hear about the role Richard Armitage played in directing the rescue of RVN Navy personnel and their families. Listen to the NPR story- especially this segment- and learn what happened to the pilot of the foundering Chinook featured above after it smacked into South China Sea.
31 August 2010
15 August 2010
I've been tearing through Karl Marlantes' Vietnam novel "Matterhorn", which set my mind and pen wandering to draw this sketch. (This is taken from Larry Burrow's Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken atop "Mutter's Ridge" in 1966.) Having read a ton of Vietnam novels in my day, I can offer the informed opinion that "Matterhorn" is one of the best Vietnam novels, if not one of the best war novels ever written. There's no hackneyed patriotism or testosterone fueled chest thumping manly action. The bravery and heroism displayed in the book are demonstrated by men who simply survive horrific, grueling conditions that are sometimes (often) created by the whims of the 'politically' ambitious.
A poster on Terminal Lance (who I assume knows from whence he speaks) says that the novel could have taken place during our current war, implying that the more things change the more they stay the same. Indeed, Marlante's publishers urged him to change it and make it about Iraq or Afghanistan.
What makes it unique from most Vietnam fiction is that racial tension is one of the main drivers of the story. (Marlantes says that in early drafts he tried to avoid it but couldn't.) In James Webb's Fields of Fire (which I consider to be the best novel about Vietnam), racial issues create some of the conflict, but not to the extent they do in "Matterhorn". I chose to sketch the image above, because it exemplifies how Marines in line units transcended racial friction- even though Marlantes says that once they were out of the field, that same tension became impossible to ignore.
There are parts of the book which are grueling and exhausting to read and make you wonder how anyone could have survived. Very little war literature (with the exception of "The Thin Red Line") approaches the vivid detail and intensity in which the suffering sustained by Marlantes' Marines (and Sailors) is illustrated.
Anyways. Hell of a book. I'm glad it made it into print.
10 August 2010
Moments ago (moments people!), the incredible Monkey Fist (of Casco Bay Boaters, Maritime Monday and the brand-spanking new "Adventures of the BlackGang" fame) emailed me and asked "Where the hell's the maritime art?" (she didn't really ask that...).
So, I'll share with you a few of the remotely maritime snippets of a commission I've been working on for the last couple of months (months? yikes...better step on it).
Above you see the visages of USMC Gen. James Mattis, JCS Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and the legendary Gen. Victor "Brute" Krulak. What do all these guys have in common? Well, you'll just have to wait and find out. Hopefully, you won't be waiting forever... <:)
05 August 2010
Whenever I need some illustration inspiration (which is every day) I head over to Leif Peng's "Today's Inspiration" where he showcases illustrators from the the unparalleled era of the 1940's and 1950's.
Today, he showcased Carl G. Evers, a maritime artist who I'd never heard of, who painted in gouache! I paint in gouache a lot and let me tell you...even contemplating trying to approach Evers level of mastery over that medium is a daunting prospect.
Anyways, if you want to see some really fantastic maritime art, head on over to Leif's place for Charlie Allen's retrospective on Carl G. Evers.
03 August 2010
Hi folks. No art update today as I'm still trudging through a challenging commission.
What I would like to do is introduce you to a new blog by Will Van Dorp (author of the amazing Tugster blog) entitled "My Babylonian Captivity". Will has the unusual distinction of surviving the opening salvos of the 1990-91 Gulf War as a human shield held by the Iraqis in Kuwait. His new blog will present excerpts from a previously completed manuscript detailing his captivity.
Fascinating stuff. Head on over and take a look.
27 July 2010
A few years ago I read Captain Edward L. Beach's novel, Run Silent, Run Deep. Loved it. Not only a page turning classic WWII novel, but how many men have actually experienced war beneath the waves and lived to write about it? So, you can imagine my excitement when I ran across the sequel, Dust on the Sea in a flea market in Red Bank, New Jersey? ...Now, imagine my disappointment when the book took on the turn of a "Boy's Own" adventure and just became so unbelievable I couldn't really get into it.
Fast forward a couple of years and I find out that Captain Beach wrote a third sequel to the Run Silent/Dust-on-the-Sea series, a novel called Cold is the Sea...I am reluctant to read it because Dust kind of sucked...but the title is so catchy...it sticks in my brain and eventually I begin to use it as my nom du guerre (nom du art?) for this incarnation of my sketch blog.
PRESENT DAY: A few days ago I had finished my serious book (Koran, Kalishnikov and Laptop), my bedtime book (Shadow Divers) and my gym bag book (Lord Jim), and lo and behold I needed something to read.
Now, this confluence of book-finishing transpired on an especially humid, miserable hot day (not DC humid-miserable, but close) and the cover of Beach's Cold is the Sea, with a submarine breaching some sea ice seemed so...inviting... I figured that the time had come to read the novel that I had named myself after. I would just grit my teeth and grind through it...but soon I found out I was reading a gem.
So far (and I'm only about 60-some odd pages in) the novel appears to be a fictionalized account of Captain Beach's pissing contest with the famously irascible Hyman G. Rickover. For those who don't know anything about Rickover, he was the father of the nuclear navy (i.e., the singular driving force that got reactors on subs)- and apparently a very "prickly" personality. Prickly like a steel brush. (Read Sherry Sontag's Blind Man's Bluff for more about Rickover.)
From what I can tell, Beach and Rickover had a little clash of egos. Rickover was the Engineer. Beach was the WWII Hero Sub Ace. Rickover was born in a Polish shtetl that was the target of pogroms. Beach was an Academy ring-knocker and the son of a Naval hero. This book is kind of like reading about a star quarterback complaining about the valedictorian math nerd.
"Ok", you say, "that sounds incredibly boring." But not to me! I love this shit! It's actually kind of funny, though Beach obviously had an axe to grind- although to his credit he does grudgingly acknowledge and praise the contributions Rickover made to the Navy.
As I said, I don't know the whole real story- or Rickover's side- but so far it's good reading. I do know that the rest of the novel is based on Beach's experience commanding the first nuclear sub to circumnavigate the globe completely submerged (Operation Sandblast). The caricature above (l to r: Rickover, Beach) kind of sums up my impression of their relationship so far...
18 July 2010
Great NYT review today on a new William Golding biography. (I had no idea he was a school teacher! But, duh- who else could've written a book like "Lord of the Flies"?)
I also didn't know that he had served in the Royal Navy during WWII, and was present for D-Day and the lesser known Battle of Walcheren.
I thought this tidbit was interesting:
“…his war in the navy was profoundly destabilizing for him in various ways (both personally and artistically), and many of the key themes in his work can be traced to these formative and disturbing experiences.”
You can read the whole review here: "Man as an Island"
09 July 2010
I'm no great hand at writing profiles, so I'll keep it short...
Will Van Dorp is the champion and chronicler of New York City's "sixth boro" (a phrase I believe he coined)- the vast, twisting and teeming waterways that surround the aforementioned metropolis on his blog "Tugster".
This inspiration for keeping this living document? Primarily it was out of Will's lifelong interest with all things related to the water- and a strong desire to delve into the history of NYC's "working water"- its history and where it stands in a global context. Will also enjoys the sense of community he feels with those kindred spirits who share his passion.
The bulk carrier MV Alice Oldendorff (pictured here, riding high in the water) was the ship that Will chose to be portrayed with...He has a strong affinity for her, and was the subject of his very first blog post.
As for the making this piece it took a lot longer than I thought it would... I was very fortunate to secure a non-Maritime related commission a few weeks ago, and I fear it's going to take the rest of the summer (haha)... at a minimum...But, I'll probably put up the odd sketch or two here and there. I had a whole list of people to do for this project...but I've got to put it on the back burner. I'm determined to keep painting maritime-bloggers (Kim, you're next, I promise...) but I've got a ton of other stuff to clear first...
30 June 2010
I have often been stymied when trying to find photos of Merchant Marines at work. A devoted reader of this blog recommended a bunch of sites including the Seafarers International Union where I pulled the photo-reference for this quickie sketch (thank you CB). I drew this to clear some frustration I was feeling after several attempts at drawing a Spek anchor on a bulk carrier for a more involved piece. Wish I had done this on a larger piece of paper in order to show this guy towering above a gray misty ocean on the Washington Express.
24 June 2010
When I was a kid (it must've been middle school) one of our teachers brought us down to the library and spread out on all the tables were books that hadn't been checked out in years. We had to pick one and do a report on it, I chose "Kon Tiki" by Thor Heyerdahl. The book was a memoir about Heyerdahl proving his theory that South Americans could have traveled to Polynesia on a boat made out of reeds by actually making a boat out of reeds and sailing across the freakin' Pacific.
Now, this book didn't spark my interest in maritime culture/history (and, oddly we had a lot of that for a Midwestern school) but I do remember being fascinated and empathetically terrified for poor Thor as he crossed the Pacific in his boat of reeds...
...anyways, today Kim Carver of Jack Tar Magazine posted a video of some chipper bastard waking up Thor's grandson Olav for his watch on a boat called The Plastiki! Apparently, a new group of stalwart sailors has made a boat out of recylcable plastic and is going on something called the "The Plastiki Pacific Voyage" through the Great Garbage Patch of the Pacific to Oz and back to San Francisco. Think they're trying to make a point?
Wow. Good on ya, mates! Seems like a helluva project. I'm glad they don't have any swag for sale because I'd hate to break my Wife's injunction against the purchase of new t-shirts....
(The above cartoon is taken from an image of Thor on the cover of his book "Fatu-Hiva". I have no idea what he's wearing on his head. Behind him is the Kon-Tiki at dockside.)
23 June 2010
I'm working on a bunch of very time consuming stuff at the moment, so the blog here will experience a little slow-down.
In news not related to anything maritime- the military/int'l affairs blogosphere and news-o-sphere in general is abuzz with the best President v. General showdown since Truman fired MacArthur. In my humble opinion, I think McChrystal shot himself in the foot on purpose. Realistically, we don't have the ability to "nation build" or stabilize Afghanistan in any meaningful way. The war is not going to end well, and if you were in charge...would you rather shoulder the blame for eternity (at least in Beltway logic) or (keep in mind you're a hardcore Ranger) go out getting fired by a Democrat president? Which is more face saving and as the kids these days say, which would give you more swag? Especially with the troops. Seriously, would you want to be the last man in the room, holding the bag when the lights go out? (I think that last sentence is my record for multiple metaphors in one sentence.)
You and I both know that McChrystal didn't design military policy in Afghanistan from the beginning, and truth be told I really wonder if he was always a believer in the COIN thing, or was it just foisted upon him? He's got an SF tab right above the Ranger one on his uniform- but which means more to him? And what's his conception of what "SF" means anyways? To his credit, he did implement a COIN strategy in Afghanistan (which is very unpopular with a lot of the troops- protecting the population as your number one concern always decreases the safety of the warfighter) in a very complex, ambiguous and difficult geo-socio-political environment.
Regardless, he's getting called on the carpet today and he's probably going to get the sack. President Obama wants to wind down in Afghanistan- so does it really matter? If my ass-u-mption is right, I can hardly blame him. I wouldn't want McChrystal's job if you paid me a million bucks and paid off my student loans on top of it. Good luck General, you did as well as anyone could.
17 June 2010
16 June 2010
14 June 2010
Do you use the site gCaptain? It's an incredibly comprehensive resource for anyone interested in professional maritime issues, and their regular blog feature Maritime Monday is a great weekly compendium of maritime news, art and photography. They've really been on top of all the news relating to the Deepwater Horizon nightmare in the Gulf. Go check it out.
09 June 2010
04 June 2010
31 May 2010
I found myself with a curious and oppressive lack of downtime this weekend, so I didn't get to spend nearly a fraction of the time I would have liked to on a Memorial Day piece.
As usual, but especially today, I was bothered by the concept of how to represent war in an illustration without glorifying it. As I was reflecting on this Catherine Leroy's iconic photo "Corpsman in Anguish" came to mind. When I was a young boy, I found this photo in a Life magazine in the attic and it had an incredible impact on me. Though my memory is faint (and probably colored by my current perceptions) I seem to recall that the image evoked a melancholy feeling. Now when I look the photo of HM/3 Vernon Wike bending over the formless mass of a fallen Marine I imagine he's thinking "What the FUCK!?!" And "WHY HIM?". The story about what Wike did next seems to justify my assumption.
So, on this day of days, please take a moment to contemplate the cost of war and those who serve. Let the endeavor of war never be something we enter into lightly.
27 May 2010
Had a lot of time to kill at work today. Spent a lot of time all over the internets reading about the mounting tension between North Korea, South Korea and us. Pretty nerve wracking, but I'm sure that given our established pattern of dealing with DPRK violence (such as the US soldiers hacked to death in the "Tree Trimming Incident" of '76 and the downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 among many others) which generally results in a lot of saber rattling, but no decisive action, this incident will probably end up much the same.
Why? Because we, and the international community are willing to let Kim Il Jong be a loose cannon in order to prevent a limited nuclear war in the region and keep Seoul in one piece. I'm sure in the highest corridors of power, the caluculus is something like, "So what if the North Koreans kill a few ROKs and/or US military personnel here and there- as long as the nukes don't start flying and those big artillery tubes don't turn Seoul into dust." I guess...it's a good trade off...until the North Korean regime (whether it's Kim, or his son "Brilliant Comrade") does something really really nuts, like giving a nuke to a Takfirist organization, or launching one on the South.
The two drawings above show a ROK sailor manning a port-side M-60 during a patrol of the South Korean maritime border. The other drawing is of a US 7th Fleet Aviation Boatswain's mate during helicopter flight operations.
I hope the situation stays stabilized, or that we figure something else out that creates a beneficial long term solution. (Or some mediation occurs...)
26 May 2010
24 May 2010
If the plight of the ship moves you, please contribute (it's tax deductible). This is an amazingly well preserved 19th Century steel battleship and a very important piece of maritime history.
23 May 2010
I just learned from The Old Salt Blog that the USS Olympia may be sunk to become an artificial reef because the Independence Seaport Museum can't find anyone to financially support much needed maintenance.
That's sad. That sucks. It's one of my favorite ships and I hope I can get to it before they sink it. Just look at that photo- that's one damn beautiful ship. What a shame.
16 May 2010
Even though I'm in the middle of a couple of big projects right now, I needed to do a little sketch tonight to bleed off some of that creative steam and get a quick fix of external validation. ;)
Today, as I was out and about, I saw a license plate that read "USS AD18". So of course I couldn't resist looking it up when I got home. The AD-18 or, USS Sierra was a Destroyer Tender that served from 1943 to 1993. That's a hell of a long time, wouldn't you agree? Being a "freshwater sailor", I don't know that much about the shelf life of Navy ships, but that seems pretty impressive.
As I was looking up photos of the Sierra, I found one with this sailor and a banjo, with a waterfront in the background that reminded me of New Jersey or Brooklyn. So, in lieu of working on my long term projects, I decided to bang this one out. I drew the gentleman next to our banjo player- but he didn't work out so well...(photo was dated 1959 btw).
14 May 2010
I had a couple minutes in a room alone with a computer today at work, so I decided to do some sketching. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time (I didn't want to completely wolf down my sandwich just to draw) so I didn't get as much "information" into this one as I would've liked.
Obviously, I'm still thinking about my Great Uncle (his funeral was well attended, poignant and appropriately funny). Given that he was (happily) surprised to hear that the unit was still active (understandably he didn't pay much attention to military stuff after he was discharged), I wonder what he would have thought if he knew the Seabees went coed...
Regardless, this is a portrait of a Seabee putting in some wiring in, in a new facility at Camp Krutke, the evolving Seabee camp adjacent to Camp Leatherneck. The Seabees are adding a lot of value to the COIN effort with local construction projects, so it's only natural that they're building their own digs in Helmand. (I do think it's interesting that they built the base for the Marines first...but I guess you can't have development if you don't have security first...). If you're interested in the efficacy of COIN in Afghanistan, take a look at this article. Now, I'm a hardcore COINdinista myself, but the leaked memo in that piece gave me a moment of pause. Anyways. It's a conversation for another day.
(Also, there's a great piece on Afghanistan here by a soldier/contractor who spent 6 1/2 years there. Scroll down to the contents and click on "Building Bridges". It will enlighten you as to the difficulty that anyone- especially our Seabees- have doing development/construction work in Afghanistan.)
Stay safe Seabees. Keep up the good work.