101st Airborne – 2nd Pass

Posted in History, Illustration, Military, Painting, Step By Step at 4:21 pm

A few rounds of oil glazes later and this is the result. Generally I’m just trying to darken the mood and atmosphere and focus attention on the soldier’s face in a pool of light. I have more work to do on the background, modeling some smoke and tinting some other areas with glazes but its coming along. I’m trying to stay fairly monochromatic with brief interludes of color in select places.

101st Airborne soldier


The Unknown Wrath to Come

Posted in Drawing, History, Illustration, Military at 6:26 am

Robert E. Lee once said, “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” But that “terrible” quality seemed totally incomprehensible in the encampments on the eve of the first major battle at Bull Run. On that night, the only evidence of an impending clash was the presence of thousands of soldiers in surreal repose. One Yankee wrote, “Tens of thousands lay awake looking up into the heavens. “The sky is perfectly clear, the moon is full and bright, and the air as still as if it were not within a few hours to be disturbed by the roar of cannon and the shouts of contending men”. A reporter, experiencing the quiet, the warm glow of a thousand campfires, the occasional interludes of music and the distant lowing of cattle, described it as “a picture of enchantment”. Four bloody years and over half a million casualties later, history records little of that war that could be considered enchanting.

Pencil drawing from my sketchbook.

Civil War Soldier


The Washington Portrait – Part 2

Posted in History, Illustration, Painting, Step By Step at 2:36 pm

I have finally come around to putting a little paint on this (in case you missed it here is part 1). This is part underpainting and part experimentation. I still don’t know where exactly I’m going with this (not a good plan) but it should be fun getting there. I added the scroll work and signature to the original drawing and think I like them. This is all acrylic washes but I will eventually get to putting oil glazes on and deepening everything. I plan, at that point, to make things like the signature and scroll embellishments very subdued. We’ll see what happens.

George Washington Portrait part 2


Illustration Friday: Poem

Posted in History, Illustration, Illustration Friday, Military, Painting at 4:24 pm

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern–unseen before–
A path to higher destinies.
Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.
– Longfellow

These are the last few sentences of a Longfellow poem entitled The Ladder of St. Augustine. They have always reminded me of the many soldiers in conflicts past who have answered the call of duty and paid the dearest price for our freedoms.

This is an acrylic underpainting I’ve begun for a portrait of a 101st Airborne infantryman in World War II. I plan to finish the painting in transparent oil glazes. I will post the results as the work progresses. The contributions of the 101st are legend and a perfect illustration of the spirit the poem speaks of.

101st Airborne Soldier of World War II


Happy Independence Day!

Posted in General, History, Illustration at 2:32 pm

Hope all those here in the States had a great 4th of July. For us it was a wonderful, relaxing day of food, family and fireworks.

JC Leyendecker war bonds posterThis is one of my favorite patriotic posters. This was done by illustrator JC Leyendecker during WWI for a Boy Scout war bond drive. Leyendecker is one of my all time favorite illustrators. His style incorporates such great design. Most people don’t know that he did around 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post and in his time was enormously popular, as much so as Norman Rockwell. I have a Leyendecker illustrated coffee ad hanging in my kitchen that is often mistaken for a Rockwell. Their styles are actually very different but sometimes have a similar appeal and feel to them. I love this image of Lady Liberty about to do battle. Who wouldn’t buy war bonds after looking at that?


Illustration Friday: Camouflage

Posted in Illustration, Illustration Friday, Painting at 1:55 pm

Arnold SwartzeneggerMy answer to this weeks IF subject. Arnold Swartzenegger. Apparently there’s a governor hiding in there somewhere. Pretty good camouflage. He had me fooled.

Did this painting years ago. Its a small oil painting. The original is around 5″x 7″ .


Luke, Use the Stamps!

Posted in Design, General, Illustration at 10:28 am

Star Wars StampsI actually found myself going to the Post Office for something I didn’t need. I bought a pane of these cool Star Wars stamps commemorating the 30th anniversary of the movie release. It’s a fun design and they even used famed movie and Star Wars illustrator Drew Struzan, a favorite of mine. Rumor has it that post offices in some cities are having trouble keeping these in stock. The Postal Service asked people to vote on their favorite stamp (Yoda won by the way) which will get its own singles sheet. Not bad marketing. Way to go postal dudes.


Patton Study, 2nd Pass

Posted in History, Illustration, Military, Painting, Step By Step at 2:48 pm

One of my favorite D-Day stories is the Patton command deception leading up to the landings. Patton’s success in Italy earned him a feared reputation with the Germans. They were sure he would lead the attacks at Normandy. They were wrong. Eisenhower instead put him in command of a dummy army in eastern Great Britain complete with inflatable tanks and dummy munitions. News of the false buildup was leaked and the German forces stayed spread out as a result fearing an attack at Calais. What a great misdirection strategy.

Taking a second pass at this technique experiment demonstrates the excellent tinting and glazing quality of acrylic, which is my favorite acrylic characteristic. No further value painting was done at all. This pass was achieved solely by transparent tint washes built up in layers.

General George Patton


L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace

Posted in History, Illustration, Illustration Friday, Military, Painting, Step By Step at 5:39 pm

Translation: Audacity, audacity, always audacity. This was General George Patton’s motto for the men under his command in the Third Army as they rapidly outmaneuvered and pushed back the German army in WWII France. Patton’s ironic reversal of the Blitzkrieg tactics so effective for the Germans in the early war years won him popular acclaim as one of the boldest and most brilliant tactical generals of all time.

Illustration Friday: Cars

So what does this have to do with cars? Patton survived two world wars, three battle wounds and many narrow escapes in battle. His final demise, ironically enough, was due to – you guessed it – a car crash.

General George Patton

This is acrylic and pencil and started out as a media technique study but I think it will serve as a good under painting for an oil or acrylic glaze technique. So I may try coloring it in the future. If so I will post the results.


Illustration Friday: Signs

Posted in Illustration, Illustration Friday, Painting at 7:51 am

Signs of the Times

This is an old assignment I did in the mid 90’s for a computer hardware company. The truest sign of the times in this piece is not really evident. This is an acrylic airbrush painting. While there are lots of traditional mediums I still enjoy, today I would rarely pull out an airbrush. I would do this assignment digitally. Interesting how our techniques, materials and processes change. Leave me a comment and tell me how yours have changed?



Illustration Friday: Remember

Posted in Drawing, Family, Illustration, Illustration Friday at 11:03 am

Do I remember when my daughter was 6? Barely! She’s 22 now and getting married in 2 weeks. Where has the time gone?

My daughter Angela age 6


A Wise Man Once Said…

Posted in History, Illustration, Painting at 7:27 pm

Got these Reagan quotes in my email the other day. Our late former President could certainly turn a phrase. But this was also a good excuse to pull out the watercolors and do a quick portrait.

“Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

“Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S was too strong.”

“No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

“If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

–Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan Watercolor


The Washington Portrait – Part 1

Posted in Drawing, History, Illustration, Painting, Step By Step at 10:28 am

I’ve always wanted to do a portrait of good old George and my last post started me thinking on it again. I didn’t want a copy of the highly recognizable dollar bill image or any of the famous portraiture from days gone by. Those never seemed quite natural enough to me. But aside from pure speculation, how should I change it?

It is pretty well known that many portraits depict him with dentures that made his mouth look odd. So I thought a portrait that shows a more natural mouth would be a must. Then I recently ran across a photo of a life mask made of him and it was striking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a painting that took in this likeness. Everything from a disproportionate nose to varying head shapes to the afore mentioned denture mouth can be seen in other works. Age differences I’m sure have made made their mark too so I decided on a slightly younger portrait as the life mask seemed to portray. As I studied different portraits certain features appear with regularity so these I tried to include. Most notably the roman nose, the high arching brows and the stern straight-set mouth. So I’ve begun my portrait. Despite everything this is a personal interpretation and a synthesis of several images. You may also see the likeness change just a little as I make adjustments in the painting process.

This under drawing will make the foundation for the painting. The approach will be a multimedia one; going next to an acrylic under painting and wash background and then to an oil glaze rendering on top. I’m taking a purist approach here and won’t be doing any digital painting on this piece. I want an authentic physical original when I’m done and not something I have to print. In reality I can’t wait to experience the smell of the oil paint again. If you are a studio artist you’ll understand.

Washington portrait under drawing


Illustration Friday: Green

Posted in History, Illustration, Illustration Friday, Military, Painting at 1:13 pm

Green Beret Army Staff Sgt. Robert Preiss

Green Beret

Specifically Green Beret Army Staff Sgt. Robert Preiss. He was reported missing in action in Vietnam in 1970 but his remains were never found or verified until 1998 when DNA forensic techniques finally made it possible. His mother never gave up hope that he was alive and she died in 1984 never knowing her son’s remains had been found. The victims of war are not always those in the war zone.

The drawing is done with a Photoshop pencil brush I cooked up and have been experimenting with. The background is watercolor. The coloring of the figure is digital.


Illustration Friday: I Spy…

Posted in Illustration, Illustration Friday, Military, Painting at 5:43 pm

…With My Lethal Eye!

This was inspired by a photo of an Army sniper with the 5th Infantry Division in Iraq.

I really had fun with this and it went pretty quick. Much of the painting is digital except for a pencil drawing and a watercolor texture for the background (actually I used acrylic which acts similarly). I scanned the pencil drawing first then rescanned the drawing after adding a little underpainting on the figure and the watercolor background. The rest is a combination of layers of digital paint in Photoshop.

US Army Sniper