Wednesday, November 02, 2005
In the Shades
One of the first things I noticed about the look of Marines this trip is the prevalence of sunglasses. Not that GIs haven't worn shades in the past, but during this phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom ballistic sunglasses are mandatory. The threat of explosions from any number of sources necessitates them. There are several challenges to rendering Marines when they're all suited up. The new digital cammies have a subtle pattern meant to confuse the eye. The Kevlar helmet is a complicated shape, and when paired with a camouflage covering looks different from every angle. And finally, the high-tech sunglasses have a distinctive shape all their own, yet give a certain anonymous look to each individual when they're worn. On top of all this each Marine has his or her own idiosyncratic way of wearing their "782 gear" (782 gear is Marinespeak for combat regalia). Being a dyed-in-the-wool realist, I'm not satisfied until each of these surfaces and shapes are captured with a graphic honesty.
Another visual aspect of Marines out in the field is the condition of their uniforms. These guys go for weeks working, sweating and sleeping in the same set of clothes. The result? Impregnated with dirt, and the salt residue from dried sweat, they take on a texture somewhere between sackcloth and cardboard, something analogous to grade school paper mache. My challenge? To try and capture the stiffness (and also suggest the discomfort) of a uniform that is meant to soften the outlines of the Marine wearing it.
Here's a series of drawings with these elements in mind. I've also included a drawing of an Iraqi interpreter, aka "terp". All these terps have a price on their head. They bravely work and share hardship with the Marines, and are allowed to wear our distinctive cammies. This sketch shows a terp with Lima Company 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment in the casual act of rolling up his sleeves. He's a big guy, and like most Iraqi males sports a couple days of beard growth.
The weather here this past week is markedly cooler. Clouds have appeared with the occassional rain shower where weeks ago there was a rubber stamp forecast of blue skies and high temps with an intermittent light dusty wind. The one thing that I REALLY miss this time of year is the changing leaves.