Sunday, September 19, 2010

Global Strike Command final... Finally!

 Here is the final illustration for the Global Strike Command, the command which replaces SAC at Barksdale, AFB in Shreveport, LA. My hope is that it will be housed at the command headquarters' lobby there on base. It was shipped along with another large painting just a few days ago and its placement is now in the hands of the Air Force brass. Closeups of the unfinished portraits are included in an early post entitled, Barksdale Painting/ On the up side of downhill...

This piece has gone through many conceptual sketches, adjustments, photo shoots and soul searching. I have only included three conceptual adjustments for this blog. In the original Photoshop design, an airman mentioned that the cloud which holds the airbase's logo, the fleur de lis, looked like a mushroom cloud. I nearly fainted! Another concern, was the glow emanating from the globe cast a ominous shadow onto the main character's face even further highlighting an aggressive, "don't tread on me" stance. Again, not exactly what I wanted to convey. In a beginning home photo shoot, I posed myself in various illuminated stances, looking up as I am bent over the "world" in a protective posture. With a football helmet on, that pose would have made it impossible to even see the pilot's eyes.

Take the symmetry out, create an edge with only one or no bombers, include all the patches of the support groups floating in the clouds or show only four to represent the main ones. How to pose the hands to say what I wanted to say but avoid the insurance company's "good hands" idea. How many women to display and ethnic groups to use to represent which support groups. Political overtones I never envisioned started to pop up everywhere. Someone else mentioned that the design had a heroic, movie poster look, which I hadn't anticipated either, but didn't object to. In the end, after about eighty plus hours of planning and painting, I feel quite happy with the results. What do you think?
 A final pencil sketch from the fourth concept, me as bad ass protector, and a photoshop follow up. 
Here is a picture of one of the crew members and an excerpt from an email reassuring me that my illustrative interpretation of what these brave men and women do for a living protecting us met with their approval. ( Curly was my code name for the flight and briefings! ) Here's her comment...


Funny Zach "Samson" Miller and Mehul "Verde" Brahmbhatt and I were talking today about how we haven't heard anything in forever from y'all. We know that the big hoorah is in Dayton sometime in October and we were thinking we might be able to swing a trip up there. Can you email me the dates, events, etc. so we can start working that? Its so cool to see the finished product, I mean I was so amazed by your original sketches, but now after seeing your final piece I'm speechless. You have a phenomenal talent! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


Friday, September 17, 2010

"Doin' the Bottom" and other topics...

A few months ago I painted a picture of little girl with a straw hat, referenced for the Junior League's October fund raiser, which auctions off paintings at the annual Harvest Cup Polo Fest. I asked my wife, Therese, if she wanted to attend again this year or not. If she wanted to go again this year, I had just three days to do a painting to qualify for free admission to the festival. Tee said she loved the festival last year and since we only live across the highway from the polo grounds, it would be a nice way to spend a weekend. So, I gave myself four hours to complete a painting not counting the search for something interesting to paint and the time it would take to frame it. Four hours complete!

Well, it took me five hours to paint the little girl and another hour to frame it. All tolled, I spent about six or so hours on the entire project. The artist in me abhors that approach to my art, but the businessman in me and the many years of deadline training demands it. It is a match that is made in hell, but it has served me well in my career. 

Strangely enough, the mother of the little girl that I used for the painting, saw the picture in an insert bio, along with other artists who donate a picture, in the local magazine that promotes the event. She wanted to know if I was willing to sell that painting instead of auctioning it off at the festival. After reassuring the mother that I was not sure I could get the painting back to sell, we settled on a price.  I asked the event coordinator, Shawna Hunt, if I could trade that painting for another because I had a buyer for the donated painting. She said, "Of course, what ever we can do to help local artists... that's great, you can just trade one for another and still qualify to get free admission to the polo event."

I thanked Shawna for being so flexible and told her I would pick up the "little girl with the straw hat" painting and bring another painting to the "Meet the Artists" event. Only problem was, I didn't have another painting I felt worthy of donating to the cause, so once again, I had three days to complete another painting. Actually, I had as much time as I needed up until the festival auction in October, but I wanted the chance to have art patrons see both paintings at one time. So, I made a pot of CDM coffee, rolled up my sleeves and dove in for two days.

This painting entitled, "Doin' the Bottom" was done in acrylics on a 16x20 canvas from a photo I took about three years ago while having beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. The businessman in me told me to tell everyone that the unframed painting was completed in 16 hours.

The artist in me just hopes you like it, ha!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Heart, Mind and Soul of an Arctic Warrior"

 Here's some closeups of the Tuskegee B-25 crew which I drew and painted from a picture I took in the lobby of the 477th Squadron building at Elmendorf. It was a strange combination of sepia and aged yellow paper which kind of inspired me to paint with this palette.

Center image here depicts best the title of the painting, that is, the heart, mind and soul of the Arctic Warrior. There wasn't much Inuit displays or monuments in Elmendorf, AFB or the city of Anchorage, but the Anchorage airport had a wonderful and educational gallery of images that inspired my use of totem pole images to quickly say Alaska. We did attempt to visit the local native museum just full of displays, but the day we had some time of our own, the museum was closed.

 Sketches for the final "approved" in my head after five or six tries. It would be a sign of real dedication to say that I sketched out a bunch of ideas on the plane, but these sketches are the ones I centered on for the final and they were done while waiting to give blood at a local blood bank.

 And here is the final piece completed over the Labor Day weekend and first started sometime in early May. It turned out to be almost exactly what I wanted it to be which is very rare for me. I was constantly trying to not pull out the airbrush to create a more ethereal, airy feel. I wanted the painting to be a bit more graphic and yet gritty. The spray painted "477th" logo to left was originally painted but because I wanted to stay true to how it might have looked in World War II, I actually cut a stencil and then used an old spray can of white.

For those that care,
This is the painting I have started that represents all that my visit to Elmendorf, AFB entails. In a way, it is the culmination of our trip, that is, to take the information and pics of the 477th Fighter Group and depict what the Air Reserve Unit at the base is all about. For further information and actual pics, you can go to: You can read an article about our trip to Alaska at:

The painting depicts the old WWII world of the 302nd and the 477th on the left and the new, high tech world of today's warrior. A laser beam runs from the heart of the airmen to the black bomber crew of the Tuskegee group. Included with the six crew members are the five aircraft the group used for training and battle. The large red empennage (the stabilizing surfaces at the tail of an aircraft. ) represents the squadron's painted red tail so the American bomber crews would recognize them as "little friends" in their P-51 fighters. In front of the red tail is an angel's wing with a white glow that surrounds the wing, the pilot and the totem pole wing of Elmendorf. I am hoping this will read as the soul of the warrior.

To the right of the pilot, is a greenish yellow laser beam running from the top of the helmet, housing the human and eskimo eagle head, through and around the totem pole wing, the F-22 empennage with the new squad numbers down and across to the mountainous background of Elmendorf's main runway. The beam stops and sort of surrounds the aircraft as it takes off, representing the mind, human and computerized, needed to perform the task of defending our nation's interest.

The Heart, Mind and Soul of an Arctic Warrior!