"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.

28 March 2010

Cheonan: They Know


Is it me, or is the lack of news coverage surrounding the sinking of the Cheonan a little unsettling. I mean...a South Korean naval vessel is sunk by a very mysterious explosion in contested waters and the story is buried in all major news outlets.

Of course, there's a practical reason to all of this. If South Korea makes it an "issue" the potential for the escalation of violence (that could consume the whole peninsula) is very real.

Once, a long, long time ago in an international affairs school far, far away, I found myself writing a scenario for the invasion of South Korea by the North as part of a midterm exam. One of my classmates was a former ROK Special Forces soldier with whom I was friendly.

"Kim," I said, "What would you do if you saw a whole bunch of DPRK soldiers coming south towards the DMZ?" His face lit up into wide smile, and he didn't hesitate to answer, "I would run."

The sketches above are of North Korean sailors patrolling near the South Korean border. The source photo was taken yesterday. I imagine that the guy mugging for the camera and the one smoking his cigarette warily looking at the photographer both exhibit the same kind of attitude: They know what happened to the Cheonan...

Let's hope this doesn't go nuclear. I'm with Robert Farley at Information Dissemination, I'm betting it's just going to be classified as an accident.
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20 March 2010

Oly Destroyeman Underpainting Part II


I had a conversation today with a fellow artist who convinced me that given the nature of my job, I shouldn't count on having large blocks of time to do my work. So, I'm trying to work in increments. It's not satisfying, because when I start making art, I want to keep jamming until I'm burnt. (However, working in short bursts of time may stop me from overworking things.)

So, here we are. Session two of teaching myself how to work with oils. I could definitely use a mentor on this. I have very little clue as to what I'm doing. I'm using the oils like I'd use watercolor...(but then again, maybe I was using the watercolors more like opaque paints...). I have no idea how to use the glaze, liquin and safflower oil I bought to augment the paints. If I remember correctly, in college we only used the oil paints and turp.

And let me tell you...cleaning up after oil painting...that's 30 minutes right there...Oh well. I never promised myself a rose garden with this medium. I'm pretty happy with how it's shaping up- even though I've probably only put 45 minutes tops into this thing over 2 weeks. Time and money. That's all I need. Until either of those two things are fulfilled in abundance in my life, I'll just keep chipping away.
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14 March 2010

An Oly Destroyerman


I've started my first oil painting since college. As my first subject, I decided to paint a sailor from a group photo of Destroyermen from the USS Olympia landing party that went ashore during the beginning of the North Russia Expedition. 50 sailors (and a couple officers) went on an incredibly complex mission to Archangel which I believe was to safeguard the Czech Legion. The Czechs had been allies of the Czar and were suddenly unwelcome (and trapped) in Russia after the October Revolution. Their story is actually very fascinating, as they criss-crossed Russia on trains trying to fight their way out.

So. I'm oil painting again. It's every bit as challenging as I remember it, especially in my ill-lit and unventilated basement. (Let's hear it for odorless turpentine, shall we?) We'll see how far I get.

Oh yeah! By the way, I was told that gCaptain was going to feature my Liberty Cuffs piece tomorrow on Maritime Monday. gCaptain is a fascinating and informative site (as well as Casco Bay Boaters) which you should make part of your daily maritime reading. Check 'em out!
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10 March 2010

Piloto Pardo: The Man Who Saved Shackleton's Crew


I was recently reading "Tommorrow The World" (a novel in John Biggin's amazing series about a Flashman-like (but less cowardly) Naval officer (and sometimes aviator) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in which there is a sequence where the hero (as a stripling Naval cadet)and his shipmates are assisted in their navigation of the Drake Passage by a Chilean Naval pilot. So, of course, it got me thinking about how little I knew about Chilean maritime history and culture. With a little research, I found the amazing story of "Piloto Pardo", a Chilean Naval officer who successfully rescued Ernest Shackleton's crew, who were marooned on Elephant island at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. A fascinating story which you can read here.
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09 March 2010

From the Vaults: The Sub and the Skipper


Here's another oldie. A sketchy figment from some half-baked story idea floating around in my head while reading about submarines in the Cold War, or subs and merchant shipping in WWI. I must've been reading "Blind Man's Bluff" judging from the fairwater planes on the sail- but then there's a deck gun I can't explain...hmmm...Maybe I was reading "A Sailor of Austria". Who knows.
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02 March 2010

Coastie or Navy?


I drew this from a photo of a joint VBSS team composed of Coast Guard and Navy personnel. The Navy guys are from the cruiser USS Chosin and the Coast Guard sailors are from the Maritime Safety and Security Team. (I have no idea which service the sailor driving the boat is in.) They're in the Gulf of Aden hunting pirates...truly an occupation as old as seaborne commerce.
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01 March 2010

Anyone have $30 Million I can borrow?


...I'll pay it back after I take care of my student loans.

... ...

....But, on a serious note, one of the beloved heroes of my never-to-be-finished "Matlow v. The Bolsheviks", the USS Olympia, is going on sale. Apparently Philly's Independence Seaport Museum can no longer afford to maintain her. Article is here. I can't imagine that the ship that fired the first shots in the Battle of Manila Bay (not to mention that they landed the first American combat troops on Soviet soil) will be going to the ship-breakers yard...but you never know. If you're reading this and have the liquidity to save her, PONY UP ALREADY. I guess this means the Wife and I are going on a road-trip to Philly sooner than expected...
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