Monday, February 8, 2016

Sketching in Iraq and Afghanistan

In this TED talk, news illustrator Richard Johnson tells what it was like to sketch during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how sketching brought him closer to the military company he traveled with.




Art by Richard Johnson, courtesy WBUR
He shares how the combat and courtroom artist Howard Brodie (1915-2010) inspired him early on, and he discusses what art can capture that photos can't. (Link to YouTube)
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Interview with Richard Johnson on WBUR radio

8 comments:

Jim Douglas said...

Jim, regarding your 2/6/16 post entitled How to Paint a High-Contrast Study, why do you recommend using filbert brushes? Flat brushes seem to be the brush you use most often. Thanks.

Yorky said...

A very moving story from a brave artist.

James Gurney said...

Jim, You're right, I usually use flat synthetic brushes with water media. With oils I would probably use bristle filberts for a fast study like this, and flat synthetics for fine details. But of course you should use whatever brushes feel most natural to you.

A Colonel of Truth said...

Mr. Johnson, a brave soul, did good work and offered an equally good talk. A few observations... 1) He tends to use the terms "soldiers" and "Marines" interchangably. To be clear, soldiers are Army and Marines are Marines. Yes, it's important.; 2) At about the 12 minutes mark is a profile sketch of Lance Corporal (L/Cpl) Kyle Carpenter, USMC - this Marine survived horrendous wounds (that required dozens of surgeries and years of rehab) after covering a grenade to protect brother Marines. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and is a Corporal medically retired.; 3) There is rich history of combat art in the Marine Corps. Check out the work (art and writing) of Colonel John W. Thompson, USMC. He fought in WWI and was awarded the Navy Cross (America's 2nd highest decoration for combat heroism). He knew that which he drew and wrote about - 'Fix Bayonets!' a classic literary work, augmented by sketches, of his experiences.; 4) I was an infantryman and later acquired the secondary specialty 'combat artist.' Never worked in a combat zone though did complete a book of sketches - line and word - about recruit training (which I knew intimately from a three-year assignment at recruit depot Parris Island) titled 'MAKING MARINES.' In closing, Mr. Johnson is correct - an artist can capture that which a camera cannot - especially when it comes to the horror of combat. Colonel Andy Weddington, U.S. Marine (Ret)

A Colonel of Truth said...

Correcting auto spell check - Colonel John W. Thomason, USMC (not Thompson)

Meredith D. said...

I was deployed to Iraq in 2004… I tried hard to draw and paint during that time. I took a small watercolor book along with water soluble pencils. I don’t thnk I made more than a few half-hearted sketches. A mosque, a truck, a friend. I had adequate free time (as anyone on deployment will understand) to do it, but my mind was preoccupied and the muse wouldn’t come. To this day I regret not doing better to fill my sketchbook. But I found it hard to dedicate myself completely to my demanding job and still have enough emotional/mental bandwidth left for art. I did take plenty of pictures however and I tell myself that “one day” I’ll get back to them.

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Hi James, Thank you for sharing this video of Richard Johnson. I found it compelling. And, I loved the pencil sketches. I am a retired Army major and served in the first Gulf War. Again, thank you!

Ege Sismanoglu said...

this is great thanks for sharing