Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It will be ours (again). Oh yes, it will be ours...

I just read a great feature story about Gale Munro, head curator (and my boss) at Navy Art, and how Gale and the staff at Navy Art cherish the art under their care--and will take great steps to bring lost or "misappropriated" art back into the fold. 

Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet by Frank Zuccarelli, Oil on canvas, 1972, misappropriated circa 1998, recovered in early 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Featured Artist: LCDR McClelland Barclay, USNR

I've been doing a lot of visual research recently as part of my professional artistic development, being still somewhat of a neophyte Naval Combat Artist. In my research on Navy art and artists, I have found quite a few artists of note, especially when it comes to the combat artists of World War Two.

One of these great WWII artists is McClelland Barclay, an artist who had made a name for himself as an illustrator before the war, and who did some of the great Navy art of the period. He served faithfully, creating powerful art for the Navy and his country, and gave his life in that service (he was lost when LST-342 was torpedoed in the early morning hours of July 18, 1943 off New Georgia. Part of the wreck can still be seen today).

What I admire about Barclay's work is his use of dynamic compositions and dramatic color. There is a power in Barclay's simple yet realistic style. "Less is more," as the adage goes, and is proven true in Barclay's work. Though almost minimal in execution, his compositions maintain an almost frenetic energy.  All extraneous details are omitted, and all remaining visual elements work together, moving the viewer's eye though the piece, fulfilling the visual and emotional goal the artist sets out to do.

4" 50 Caliber Mark XII Gun Crew in Action Oil on Canvas 1942 
by McClelland Barclay (used as art for Navy recruiting poster, "Dish It Out with the Navy - Choose Now While You Can")
Back Him Up Pencil on Paper 1942 by McClelland Barclay
(original concept drawing for art used in recruiting poster, "Dish It Out with the Navy - Choose Now While You Can")

Drive Home the Punch - Join the Navy Conté Crayon on Paper 1942-43 by McClelland Barclay
Gun Crew Loading a 5" 38 Caliber Gun Oil on Canvas  1940-42 by McClelland Barclay
Sailor Loading Fixed Ammunition Oil on Canvas 1942 by McClelland Barclay
(used as art for Navy recruiting poster, "Man the Guns--Join the Navy")
Barclay's WWII Navy work is powerful, given the choice of subject matter and his method of depicting the strong young men fighting for our way of life (some have described a homo-erotic subtext to his Navy work, though I won't go into that here. Barclay's pre-war work, a lot of which was pin-up or "cheesecake" art, could be said to glorify the female sensual ideal. So one would probably have to categorize his work more as worshiping the "young and beautiful" than promoting eroticism).

I think it is not only the power and energy Barclay portrays in his images, but also the power and energy of his compositions which is worthy of emulation. He is a master.
Blue Jackets Loading A Depth Charge Rack Oil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay (used as art for recruiting poster, "Sub Spotted-- Let 'Em Have It!  Lend a Hand - Enlist in Your Navy Today ") 
General Quarters, Battle Stations Oil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Laundry Time!

Much of the life of a Sailor or Marine involves things that don't quite fit the brochure or TV ad the recruiter showed them before they signed up! 

And much of daily life aboard a ship is rather like much of daily life on shore: full of banal things like doing the dishes,  doing laundry, and a hundred other similar chores.

The French term for the feeling these activities inspire in a person is, "ennui." Sounds exotic. In English, we call it, "boredom."

When artists paint such regular, every-day things, we call them, "slices of life."

The following oil on panel I did was from an experience I had aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) a few years ago, while deploying with a Marine Corps Osprey Squadron, VMM-263.

In it, I tried to express the "ennui" involved in doing the laundry in a "laundromat" type room, well below deck, along with the heat and relatively cramped space.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Manet the Naval Artist

I came across this image again today while studying naval terms and marine art:


It's a painting by the famous Impressionist painter Edouard Manet (1832-1883) entitled
"The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama."
It depicts the single-ship action between the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama in The Battle of Cherbourg off the coast of France in 1864.

Though Manet himself didn't witness the battle, he almost certainly drew from first-hand accounts of other French citizens, hundreds of whom witnessed the battle as it unfolded just outside the Cherbourg harbor. 

I find it a powerful composition and a good example of marine art and historical illustration.

Old Ironsides! continued...

Progress from the painting I've been working on for the Navy Art Program, "Cleaning the Salute Gun," (9" x 10" acrylic on mounted canvas)

Yesterday's progress:

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Old Ironsides!

In October, I had the privilege of once again touring the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," and go aboard her as she was taken out for her last "turn around" cruise before entering dry dock sometime this year.
(Click here for my first experience seeing Constitution at Marine Week Boston in 2010).

I am now painting as a civilian artist for the Navy Art Program, and they sent me up to sketch, photograph, and paint the ship and crew--  to document for posterity the wonderful anachronism of the oldest commissioned ship still in the naval service.

Since I got back, I've been drawing and painting scenes from my time on board, and am beginning to see the fruits of my labor.

I've got several paintings in process, both oil and acrylic, as well as some drawings...

Yesterday I finished an acrylic study of a Constitution sailor, with full 1813 uniform complete with coat and cover, working with rope:
Other works, still in process, are several oils, including one featuring one of the female sailors aboard (I refer to this painting unofficially as "Rosie the Sailor"):

Also nearing completion is this oil painting, based on several photos I took of the crew in action, here shown hauling in the lines so we can cast off and get underway.

Yesterday, I began this little acrylic (9" x 10") study of a gunners mate cleaning the "salute gun" after Constitution did a 21gun salute while out in the harbor:

I will keep you posted, perhaps even later in the day, as this one progresses...
Anchors Aweigh!
UPDATED @ 1630, 4 Feb 2015
here's the progress on it from this afternoon:
...and from later in the evening:

Friday, August 08, 2014

A Meer Range War...

The insurgency of the prairie begins, with a Meerkat assault.

Get Some! A little light fun with animals "out on the range"

I've been doodling regularly, and I continue to sketch things like these. Animals, normally cute and fuzzy, suddenly are astronauts, or military or otherwise armed and shooting... (!)

Friday, August 01, 2014

"60" Gunner

Today's drawing--
A "60" gunner walking along on patrol.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Little Treasure, Lost and Found

Here's an old sketch I did while on my first deployment as a combat artist, back in 2006. It's of a young jundi (soldier), one Ali Muhammad Kathair, just before he goes out on patrol in his town of Anah, Iraq:

I'm glad we found it (my wife was organizing her new craft space and found it in some things-- we still have no clue how it got there!). I will submit it to the Combat Art Collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, where it belongs.

Sketches like this one are very valuable, I think, because though they may lack refinement or be a bit "off," they are one of a kind records of something the artist saw.

This sketch and the photos I took were used as inspiration and reference for a portrait sketch I did later of the same subject: