On Leary and Deeds

Thank you for sharing this, John! There’s a lot that works for this image, especially in that it’s highly legible without relying on explicit detail: there's some beautiful planes at work in the faces of your subjects that are defined almost purely in color, and some very rhythmic, if not outright cinematic, diagonals at work (see attached) that frame the essentials. Your choice of complements not only suggest a convincing time of day, but are also mechanically dramatic. 

Someone asked me:
If it’s okay to ask a few questions to better inform any further comment, technical and otherwise, what’s your intent with an image like this? Do you believe that intent has been achieved, or is there a next step?

And my response:
Thank you for your comments, Jean.  I worked from a photograph for that painting.  A photograph taken by CWO-2 Michael D. Fay USMC (retired).  If there are structural dynamics that appeal in this painting it will be largely because they exist in the photograph; the color, the diagonals, the cinematic close up.  It may sound like I'm being evasive but it is simply the case that something in the photograph resonated with me.  I saw it and responded immediately.  Here is a note I wrote to the mother of one of the Marines in the painting, Mrs. Deeds, whose son died not long after the photo was taken. " I'm new to the Combat Art Group. When I saw the photograph Michael took of Leary and your son it struck me as an extraordinary portrait of these young men standing guard like combat angels over the very foundations of civilization. The brilliant morning sun and chill in the air only heightened the effect. I want you to see the painting I made in tribute to this. I send you my deep condolences and profound gratitude for the sacrifice your beautiful family has made."  

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that my input had something to do with my skills as a painter but more importantly it has to do with the certain emotional pitch inherent to this intimate scene. It was captured first by Mr. Fay. and I used the vocabulary of paint to add another layer of humanity to the image.  A painting is not a mechanical reproduction. That very conversion from photograph to paint is a statement in itself. You see the animated dance of light in textures and shaped surfaces. You see the abrasions of life itself registered in flesh tones from the wobble in my hand for example.  The uneven brushwork echoes the vulnerability of even the fiercest warrior. And these two Marines were not that. Strong they may have been, determined and vigilant yes, but they are young.  They’re colored by exposure to desert sun and darkened by the mood of a backlit sun.  Their faces cupped in helmets and balaclava. They are tired.  They are wary.  They have a job to protect the innocents living scattered lives in a war zone.  These Marines have unrealized dreams packed away in the tight script of letters back home written in pencil so neither tears nor rain can bleed their impact.  

I am surrounded daily by artists whose work captures the mundane aspects of life in the civilian world and I, myself, make similar contributions. We’re all trying to flex our muscles, show off our skills.  Show what there is of our lives that has aesthetic merit.  Some are amazing in their ability to render human form, or the petals of flowers, the light raking a landscape. However in this painting of Leary and Deeds I was able to cry humanity . . . humanity with a finger on the trigger of a deadly weapon.  The confidence of superior firepower tempered by a deep concern for parents and children, brothers and sisters, strangers.  I saw in this image the warmth of a gloved hand and the sun blinding a distant mosque tower.