Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Recon Hill by Charles Grow This is pen and ink work at its very best.

Emergency Medical Center by Peter Michael Gish Colonel Gish's watercolors are as good as anything Sargent ever did.

Mockup for Leatherneck magazine Halloween issue during WWII by Tom Lovell

Corporal Duff Chapman by John McDermott That young/old look etched on the face of a Marine on Okinawa

"Straggler" by Donald Dickson WWII Marine on Guadalcanal

"Country Slim" Guillory by Ben Long

Captain James K. Hall by Henry Casselli Drawn from life after an intense night of combat in Vietnam

The past three weeks have found me working on the initial "to do" checklist for a museum show of my work slated for next summer. On December 4th I met with Brian Peterson, the head curator for the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The Michener Museum is world renown for its collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings, and the creations of internationally recognized woodworker George Nakashima. The Pennsylvania School of Impressionism is also known as the Bucks County, and the New Hope Schools. The exhibit will be July 7th thru October 21, 2007. I hope many of you living in the Mid-Atlantic region will get a chance to see the show. Doylestown, New Hope and nearby Lambertville, NJ make for a great romantic weekend trip.

The show will feature a cross section of pieces from my four deployments over the last five years. At the suggestion of Mr. Peterson we're also including a selection of works by other combat artists from the Marine Corps Combat Art Collection that have been an inspiration to me. The images I'm posting today are a few of the pieces that have deeply influenced my work.
Sergeant Kris Battles continues to post some wonderful images and commentary over at his blog Sketchpad Warrior. Please go over, give his work a gander and leave him a nice Christmas greeting.


Anonymous said...

Wow! What great artwork! Keep up the good work!

the artist's wife said...

Excellent -- Kris and I look forward to your show, then!

Flag Gazer said...

Exciting News!
These are wonderful pieces - quite moving.

Joyce from NJ said...

Cool. I've often thought of visiting that museum but never have. Looking forward to your show.

RaineyGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
It's All Good Now said...

These pictures are really moving as they portray emotions so clearly. May God protect those who strive to protect us. And good luck with your show.

Bag Blog said...

I can see why these other artists were an inspiration to you. You are an inspiration to others. I am sure your show will be great. Have a Merry Christmas.

mmgoff said...

Wow, you've just planted a seed. I live in Arizona now, but when I lived in NJ my then husband and I visited New Hope several times a month, and later I would go alone or with friends, always parking in Lambertville and walking across the bridge to New Hope. It's one of my favorite places in this beautiful country of ours. Your work is just so wonderful, and the work of the artists who have inspired you is just as wonderful. What a great vacation that would be...Bucks County next year. I just might do it if I can come up with the funds. I'm marking my calendar.

countrygirl said...

Standing on the shoulders of giants, so to speak.
Thanks for showing us that.
It's funny how "some lines on paper" can convey so much as to move us to tears of gratitude. Thanks for using your wonderful talent for such purpose.
Here's to a very merry Christmas to you and yours.

Carol said...

I was very much hoping to see a new painting of yours here, Mr. Fay, but what you've put up sure is fine.

Don't know where I'll be by next summer (FL. or here) but if I'm around, I'll try to take in your Doylestown show.

At least this Christmas I'm wishing you Season's Greetings from safer shores!

Be well.

Merry Christmas!

Jo Castillo said...

Merry Christmas to you!
Your art and sketches are very expressive. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for your service to our country and keeping us in touch with our military. Merry Christmas to all of them.

rsm said...

just a quick note to wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe return home as soon as you can.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Some very powerful art, I echo all the other comments.

As an aside, back in the late 60s I ate in many an army mess hall and recall that most were painted with murals, and from what I remember, any soldier with a bit of art talent would either be volunteered or would volunteer to paint these mess hall murals. Many were simply a bit of unskilled painting of swaying palm trees and colorful sunsets, but every once in a while I would discover a mess hall (usually inside a large quonset hut) that had been painted by a very talented artist. I wonder if any of those old mess halls are still around? Would be great to see photographs of this unknown military art ... perhaps not as exotic as WWII bomber nose art, but sometimes almost as fun.

Fathairybastard said...

Excellent work man. Timeless.

Anonymous said...

Memorials for future generations to think about the senseless violence, senseless (except to the antique) waste of human life and resources in the late 20th century, but it might as well be Greek soldiers after the sack of Troy. I don't deny that the works have a terrible beauty surrounding them. After all we still read the Iliad and Odessey. So, I suppose it is a compliment to link your works with Homer's in my mind. However it depresses me at the same time.

Perhaps some of those portraits were killed in combat soon after. Other equally noble images from Vietnam maybe a few of those are still suffering from Agent Orange, and the effects of battle. One more reason for calling it a terrible... beauty, You show us what you want to show, and not what is equally plausible. Yeah, same with Homer. Only I am thinking that enough of this senseless waste of human life and resources is enough. There is a better way.

As I mentioned in earlier posting I was an indirect contributor while working for Northrop Corp. and before that NPRDC in San Diego. I saw the nobility up close, and alot wasn't as pretty as the pictures you have drawn. Probably someone in the Iliad would say the same. Their voice wasn't preserved apparently ;-) The glorification of war has continued with some duely noted reductions. This is one more reason I called it a terrible beauty. The animal part of us responds to the adrenyl rush we imagine they get.

Mankind will always hunger for the hero, and the past has dictated that the greatest hero be one who has killed, either directly with his own hands in man-to-man combat or indirectly. Line up all of those heroes, from all countries, all cultures and what have you got? Not much, really. For all their sacrificing, the result is the same as all those monks in all those monestaries and all those priests and all those congregations singing some Latin or English version of , "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". Same result, death and destruction. Probably you'll disagree and say something about "freedom", but hey I said ALL cultures and ALL countries' heroes. Are the ones from "here" any different from the ones from "there" in God's eyes? I think not. Probably you will disagree.

This is the fundamental difference between you and me. It isn't that I'm not willing to die for a cause. The cause that you serve isn't the cause I serve. The god you serve on Sundays with your granddaughter, isn't the God I serve by being here. Your god perpetuates this senseless waste of life and resources with no end in sight. You have not spoken in the blogs I have read, tell me if I am wrong, of any home beyond more of the same. Is this the hope you wish to pass on to that figurative 4 year old granddaughter" even as you sing songs to the "Prince of Peace"?

I ask this sincerely because you haven't as far as I can tell written about a reasonable hope for peace that doesn't include world domination by "your side"? And to fortify that thought by twisting the message of the Christ to mean that America is meant to deserve some special favor (for invading Iraq?)

These are my Christmas wishes for you and your kin.

Edo River rising.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the careless use of the bold command in the first sentences.

Edo River rising.

the artist's wife said...

I'll ignore all of the other comments by Edo River with which I disagree and only respond to this one, as my husband is also a combat artist (Sgt. Battles, aka "Sketchpad Warrior"):

"The glorification of war has continued with some duely noted reductions."

To look at "Danger Close" and call it "glorification of war" is somewhat ignorant of the fact that it is recording history for our country. Whether or not you agree with the current war -- or past wars for that matter -- you cannot deny that WO Fay's painting accurately depicts a scene from Operation Iraqi Freedom. It shows one tactic used by our troops.

Would Edo River argue that a portrait of a samurai with his sword drawn is also "glorification of war"? Maybe, but again, he would be wrong in my opinion.

There's more than one way to look at a painting -- especially when one keeps an open mind. However, remember that WO Fay is a "combat artist" and his job is to record combat -- as he experiences it -- in the form of art.

Anonymous said...

To artists wife:
Fair enough. Your comments from the point of view of the artist, the historian, the school teacher, a dispassionate observer. All and any others I have forgotten to mention deserve their voices.

But your comments don't negate, or contradict what I have said. They compliment them.
Anyway, Mr Fay doesn't use his imagination to "glorify American soldiers killing the enemy a la WWII gov. bond posters of the 1940's. I don't know the reasons. but in any case I haven't seen that type of art.

His work is generally typical of the adage, "beauty exists in the eye of the beholder". I was commenting on the conflict between beauty as is represented in the art and life that exists around the art . A particular context of time, place, and human suffering. After all these portraits aren't video game, or Star Wars enthusiasts dressing up in costume for a convention. (I just saw the art movie documentary, Darwin's Nightmare, my reaction to Mr. Fay's work reminds me of it)

You could say this conflict just makes for better drama, larger audiences; the more heightened he can make this effect of conflict in a certain group of viewers, the more they will appreciate or be caught up in discussing his art. After all isn't this what any artist wants, to cause controversy?

Others look at it and break out their little American flags. I suppose the Vietnam Memorial does the same thing to people. Well, in this light my linking Mr. Fay with the battle artists, visual or written, of the past is right on.

However as I say, I am here in Japan for the purpose of trying to reduce the amount of raw material for this kind of artistic inspiration. I realize that the amount and opportunity for war pictuature won't end any time soon. ;-)

One more comment, I am reading on the Internet as much as I can about Darfur, Somalia, and Ethiopia in that order and the there is a war there. I suppose I think the representation of the/a soldier should include any and all soldiers from any battle, and to glorify the American soldier above the rest, lies closer to the core of my resistance to appreciating Mr. Fay' s works as sampled here. There is, an implied sense of US soldier nationalism, otherwise, IMO.

The material standards have been met, exceeded, but as Christians, there are higher standards than pleasing a crowd/your friends/ Those standards are set by the Christ.
He is the One who gave to Mr. Fay a gift of artistic expression, and even the opportunity to use His gift.

What would Jesus say about the use he puts His gift to work for. Is it for the glorification of one group, one nation, one culture, if so then how is that in service of God's glory?

No, I am not appointing myself God's spokesman. But asking the/any questions is the right of anyone. Of course we all know that the person who doesn't like the question, or the questioner, can neatly avoid answering, a la the latest President of the US.

Edo River rising

PS sorry I have to post as an anon. I do have a blogger account but under the old account.

countrygirl said...

Some folks try too hard to think beyond their pay grade.
MD Fay, there are those of us whose main interest in your work is just to SEE our loved one, doing what he has to, that we can't be a part of or shield him from; but you open a window onto it for us (bless you!). You knew that, but I had to say it again, and thank you from the bottom of this Mamma's heart. (And artist's wife, same goes for your good man! Thanks for the sacrifice.)
May the good Lord bless and keep you this year.

mdfay said...

I've always liked the phrase from the Bible (I have to paraphrase, being the heathen that I am)"The Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform". I also subscribe to Carl Jung's admonition relating to mental/spiritual health. He advises us to stay "in the tension of opposites", rather than go for quick easy over simplified idealized stereotypes and solutions.

I am both Christian and Warrior, and an artist/creator and a destroyer (I'm a damm good shot). Heck, you could even call me a warrior-poet of sorts. I think there's at least one of them in the Bible who went by the name of David. And lets not forget "to everything there is a season..." Get your head around that Er.

There is an essential mystery for me in what I do and how I got to where I am doing it. They, both laymen and art museum folks, tell me it shows in much of my work.

But, not being anywhere near as evolved as thee Er, I also get a big thrill out of the little dity that says that just two people in history have been willing to lay down their lives for us; Jesus Christ and the American GI.

So, Er, why don't you enlist, take a much needed vacation from that cerebral cocoon you're in and spend some time in pure unadulterated reality surrounded by the most authentic human beings you'll ever meet and then re-read whatever you've been reading. The word "sophmoric" (wise fool) exists for a reason, try not to be such a complete poster child for it.

Oh, and Merry Christmas and Happy Let's Go Kick Some Ass in Darfur New Year.....'cause if you think anyone other than us, the Brits and the Aussies is even remotely willing to put blood and treasure giving evil a consequence for its misdeeds you're delusional.

Kris said...

One can be a good Christian and be a good warrior... as strange as that may sound to today's postmodern or politically correct mind.

In the Scriptures there is a story, (Luke 3) in which people ask John the Baptist what they should do to “produce fruit” for the Kingdom of God (the new paradigm in which we now live)—when soldiers came up and asked him what they should do, he gave an unexpected answer.

One would expect to hear him tell them to give up killing and be pacifists. Instead he simply tells them, (v. 14) "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

Interesting— God, the most Holy, Just and Loving Person in the universe, didn’t command John to prohibit soldiering as a vocation in the new order of the Kingdom of God!

No matter how we feel about killing, or soldiering, we shouldn’t try to out-love God, and we shouldn’t try to be more holy than God! If He doesn’t proscribe an activity, neither should we--and whatever He commands or recommends, we should be doing…

Part of that is fulfilling your calling, and doing your vocation to the best of your ability—which glorifies God.

I could go on about being an Agent of the State and being therefore ordained of God to be a "sword-bearer for Caesar," etc… (Romans 13:1-7)—but I will save that for later and other coffee shop conversations!

Anyway, the calling for a marine and combat artist is to paint (and perhaps fight and kill) in an honorable and holy way, without greed, corruption or griping...

Anonymous said...

Too late to comment. Touche as the French say. But, with the other hand, what I hear reminds me of a poet's imagination I read while participating in Richard the Lion Hearted ultimate failure in the third Crusade, despite a boat load of sincere Christian warriors. I think it is really debatable whether any religion and warriors go together within a man for more than a few moments after the fact, let alone a squad of such men/women. Yet, I'll grant the truth that athiests give a birth cry from fox holes, generally speaking.

I'll be back again sometime this weekend, keep it right here.
Edo River rising

Anonymous said...

And lets not forget "to everything there is a season..." Get your head around that Er.

I want to pay attention to your communication to me section by section. I take your above quote and the one before, to be another phrase for the virtue, moderation.
I take the virtue of moderation to mean creating a healthy balance, in work, play, rest and exercise, and moderation requires self-discipline to create this balance, it doesn't come naturally, it requires practing and guidance. It requires knowing what you need and being content..

.However Moderation is not the only virtue. and Moderation cannot exist without leading to other virtues.

The point I wish to make in response to your first section is this warrior-Christian-poet-creator -destroyer is part of a balancing act, a performance of your life. Your use of these phrases to describe yourself gives me the impression of someone who is aware of other people watching them, like an actor on the stage. But even professional actors are not on the stage ALL the time. Usually their marriages go spiritually bankrupt when the intrusion of the stage happens within their family life usually based on a unfulfilled HUNGER for attention. So for the truly successful actor/actress there has to be made a balance based on connection between their outside image (creator-destroyer-warrior-poet), to their inside, spiritual maturation. This balance or connection will also satisfy this HUNGER for recognition/attention. So they won't force their family to be another audience for their performance.

War, is not a healthy natural condition, it is destructive. To adjust yourself to the condition of war is to resign yourself to a condition of disease and destruction. (I know, I know, I listened to Rush 2 nights ago and he said there will always be war because there will always be evil tyrants.... but Rush is not an authority superceding the Bible.)

If your father had a choice between having lung cancer and avoiding it, don't you think, given normal circumstances, he would avoid choosing lung cancer? If we had said, "If you smoke you will have an almost certainty of dying of lung cancer, unless you are very unique, and nothing we know now shows us you have that unique capacity." and if your father chooses to smoke, to have that immediate pleasure, and if later in life he indeed catches lung cancer, He would at least have had that chance to choose and he is resigned to his condition. But from my limited experience with visiting 2 or 3 lung cancer patients in my father's room they never mentioned they had this choice. They always said they never believed they would get sick from smoking. (Ok, I never interviewed them ;-) but from their remarks I think this is a safe generalization. They claimed ignorance of various kinds.)

So what does this have with being a Christian warrior?
Disease of the body is like war on society. Both are a sign of unhealthy conditions existing. Disease according to the definition in the dictionary is a last line of struggle the body is engaged in for survival. All other efforts have failed for different reasons.

War in society is the same thing. War is a kind of diplomatic pleasure for the politicians who don't have to fight. War in the physical world has a
a spiritual counterpoint for the individual, according to their role, and a spiritual counterpoint for the community/society. In general it is the violation of spiritual principles. War is a condition of spiritual darkness--compared to the absence of war. (Oh, please note I am separating "conflict" from "war" . There is a difference. ) No one who is healthy wants war. (just as no one wants disease.) A career soldier does not chiefly choose the military career BECAUSE he likes war. If so, then his tastes have been corrupted.(There are people who teach themselves to enjoy eating poision by first withstanding tiny amounts and gradually increasing the doses, for example) He has alot of reasons for being a career officer but liking war is not one of them. We have this romantic image of the loving Dad,who is kind to his family and friends, well adjusted, all the virtues, and then when he goes to his job on the battlefield he is a methodical killer. I know you hate the use of this term, but that is what it comes down to eventually. And this romantic image says one slips in and out of these roles with "minimal" costs. NOT TRUE. This is what we are led to believe, and those who fail, and abuse their wives and children, beleive they are the weak ones. ON THE CONTRARY, the abusers are trying to be more consistent, they are possibly more spiritually sensitive to the sickness, double standard, than the rest of us (including me by the way!!!!)

Edo River rising

Anonymous said...

I can't resist responding to countrygirl
Some folks try too hard to think beyond their pay grade.

Simple eloquence.
There are two levels I see in your comment. 1) There can be an imbalance between over-intellectualizing and just living day by day. The Arabs, have a proverb, "Knowledge is but a single point which the ignorant have multiplied." Yes, I am a product of studying from that kind of ignorance, such that I am now a teacher in the system here in Japan. Just because I intellectually know, does this mean I can change myself? Isn't this just the problem which members of AA face every day? Yes, I am familiar with AA, as a visitor, not as a member.

Secondly, your comment seems to say or assume that we, all of us, naturally know our pay grades. WHO tell us? Our parents? Our spouse? Our teachers? Our friends? All of the above?

What if they disagree? what if they are as largely ignorant about pay grades as we are about ourselves?

Can we naturally sort out the truth? Did you? If so, how did you do it?

Edo River

Anonymous said...

Ok, I see I have to do a better job of summarizing if I want to write such long winded posts.

The 4 lung cancer patients were largely ignorant or in denial about the consequences of their choices to smoke. And only later much much later AFTER they got sick did they rationalize the choice and say the pleasures outweight the pain they are suffering, the financial costs, the grief they put their children through, the inconvenience, etc.

Soldiers and those who support going to war are largely doing the same thing. Take the current situation of entering Iraq, that was like the experience of the first few cigarettes, the coughing, the comradeship, the coolness, the bitter taste, burning your fingers, the rush, the sense of satisfaction. I just can't help but seeing the same things when I look back at 2003's events.
But to disagree with me, and try to prove me wrong in this analogy is to miss my most important point.

War and disease are counterpoints of spiritual conditions. War is a physical sickness of society, disease is a physical sickness for individuals. Both are spiritual sicknesses. Doctors treat physical diseases, to cure them to prevent them. Who treats war to prevent them or cure them? DON'T TELL ME THE POLITICIANS DO.

In my opinion, Mr. Fay would say that exactly because he doesn't see a physical real world doctor who is trying to heal warfare in society is why he is resigned to keeping his role as Warrior, along with the poet, etc.

Well, Mr. Fay is just like me, we are both human and make mistakes. IN the case above, I would say Mr. Fay has made a mistake in his judgement of "reality". Why? Because reality is actually the physical + the spiritual. In the spiritual world THERE IS NO WAR!!

Edo River IS RISING.

Kris said...

Edo River,

Sometimes war is the surgery...

Anonymous said...

To Kris,
True. I have very little knowledge of biology, chem. physics. (1 year of college intro course for a science education major)
Disease is a last resort struggle. Disease for the body and war in the society are still stages of struggle. The struggle of polarizing forces to gain the upper hand. Surgery and war can be mistakenly advised and can have equally disasterously consequences due to human error. Surgery has risks even if performed successfully.

yes, I agree that there are situations when war is the resort. We take after the best consultation and discussion using the information we have available. In my immature view, I think the first Gulf war was mankind's best attempt to act within these hypothetical boundaries. Was the Iraq war an improvement upon that experience?

As humans we are 2 parts bound together. Physical and spiritual. The terrible beauty I refer to is Mr. Fay and all of us seeing something spiritual in this physical world. We look into the darkness of war and see one tiny glimmer of light, and we focus on that light. However I want to challenge someone who lookes into the darkness of war and justifies its use because they see alot of light (benefits, for whom?) and a small amount of darkness (loss). This last condition is as retarded as looking at war and saying there are no conditions when it should be used. It is the drama of purposeful action that attracts us. We want to have purpose and we admire those whose purpose is decided and are willig to make sacrifices. War, previously, has been a time of declared purposes, and definite objectives, and clear sacrifice for the whole society.

Edo River

countrygirl said...

I was going to reply to the question about how to determine our own "paygrade" with a verse (Romans 12:3) that sprung to mind: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought..." But when I actually looked it up, I liked the continuation: "...but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."
It changes the meaning a bit, so I looked it up in "The Message" version, and decided the whole thing is extremely apropros (and well worth the read): "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

4-6In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't." Romans 12

I can't add to that!

I am just trying (very feebly!) to do that with my own life, and that includes loving my own son and the others I know who put their lives on the line for my freedom, and honoring those that deserve honor. God knows whether I have all the info I need to make decisions (like voting for the right folks, all that) and whether I acted righteously (look how simple Jesus made that - as quoted by Kris - "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.").
It seems to me you wrestle so much with conscience, or other folks' accusations and angsts, that you have a hard time just living the nitty-gritty of daily life. I love how our patient Combat Artist reminds us that our Marines and soldiers are "the most authentic human beings you'll ever meet." They are. I speak as a grateful civilian, and a mom who watches her son deal with life at its most basic, loving his brothers and offering his life for theirs. And also risking his life for strangers who very possibly may be his enemy, because he doesn't yet know for sure that they are.
My pay grade is actually pretty low. I don't deserve any more, and don't feel I deserve what I have, seeing as how it's all been bought with blood.

Chris said...

Hi Michael,

I'm curious how I can become a Combat artist. I'm an artist at the moment and I'm looking into joining the Marines. I was looking at being a combat photographer when I recently discovered your work and the combat artist position. How would I go about getting this position and what steps would I take. I'm currently a hardworking artist already and pretty good so I don't need much training art wise. is my site. Any kind of Help would be Greatly Appreciated. I understand your busy so if you can't answere that's alright. Thanks!


Chas S. Clifton said...

I can always admire outstanding watercolor work. Thanks.

Grimmy said...


How about a few ticks down the landline to let us all know your OP is still up and good to go?

Or, if they've done away with field phones, maybe 3 quick squelches.

Brandy Reincke said...

I think that you are extremely talented and I love your blog design, it is very captivating. I cannot thank you and all of your comrades enough for the sacrifices all of you make each day for the United States and the places and people that you defend. I want to thank you for teaching me about another area of the military that brings to life our culture and cultivates our history.

sjlee said...

what a great work.
I believe peace will come soon

sjlee said...

what a great work.
I believe peace will come soon