Saturday, December 19, 2009

All Good Things Must End

Last evening, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, a retirement ceremony was conducted in my honor. The ceremony was hosted by my good friend Colonel Bob Oltman. Colonel Oltman was the commanding officer of 2nd Battalion of the the 1st Marine Regiment during Operation Steel Curtain. He's currently the CO of Quantico's Security Battalion. My fiance Janis did a super job of inviting everyone and overseeing a lovely reception.

What can I's been a great run since I first enlisted on June 11, 1975. I signed up that day alone in the haze of a hangover and under the shadow of dropping out of a third college. Last night I departed active duty in the presence of family and a wonderful circle of friends and comrades. I was completely sober and basking in the glow of a career full of many accomplishments. Thank you Marine Corps. Thank you God. Time to move on.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Happy Birthday Marines!

Deeds, McGlothlin, Lucente, Rogers and Ware. It is almost 4 years since you gave your last full measure of devotion in Old Ubaydi, Iraq during Operation Steel Curtain. Not a day goes by that I and all your brothers in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment do not remember, mourn and celebrate your lives and sacrifice.

This weekend I am the guest of honor at the Marine Corps Birthday Celebration being conducted in McAlester, Oklahoma by the Indian Nations Detachment of the Marine Corps League. In a few short weeks I will be leaving active duty in my beloved Corps. Tonight I am returning to where my career started, Marine Barracks, McAlester Naval Ammunition Depot. Although the Barracks was disbanded in 1977 and the base transfered to the Army, there is still a small group of dedicated former jarheads who come to together each year to celebrate the birth of our Corps, to raise a glass to fallen friends, to share well worn sea stories, and to keep a small light of memory lit in a remote corner of Oklahoma in honor of unglamorous duty performed with consumate professionalism during the Cold War. Semper Fidelis.

Please enjoy the Commandant of the Marine Corps' 2009 Birthday Message

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Now I've Gone and Done It!

Today I finally popped the question to my long suffering girlfriend, Janis. We became engaged at our favorite haunt, Hyperion Espresso. Janis, being the good senior NCO and combat veteran, had all the particulars of our nuptials worked out months ago......the only missing thing was the official proposal. So this week I got permission from her mother Dolores and her brother Carl. This was followed by a trip to the local newspaper, the Free Lance-Star and setting up an engagement announcement in the Sunday edition. I had to surprise her somehow, and I'm happy to report that the announcement in the paper did the trick.

We'll be tying the knot on October 10, 2010 at the newly completed chapel at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Here's the entry in the paper.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Finished......Sort Of

The Grenadier
An actual Marine grenadier in combat during Operation Steel Curtain, Ubaydi, Iraq-2005

Well, the Grenadier is finished.....sort of. The next step in the creative process is to take what I've just completed to a foundry to be cast in bronze. This piece will be cast using the lost wax technique. The next step in this process is for a foundry to make a series of molds. These molds will then be used to cast hollow wax versions of what you see in the top picture. The wax facsimiles will then be coated, both inside and out, with silica. Once fully prepped with the silica the wax will be melted out as the ceramic is baked, hence the term lost wax. The final mold is then filled with molten bronze and allowed to cool. Once cooled the work is then hit with everything from large hammers to small delicate drills to dislodge the ceramic. In the final steps the bronze will be buffed, sandblasted, treated to an acid bath to create the surface patina, and given a final coat of bowling alley wax.

In future posts I'll show you the lost wax process as it unfolds.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Almost There

I'm down to the last few additions to this sculpture. For all intents and purposes this piece, titled "The Grenadier", is finished. Originally it was going to be simply a Marine rifleman. But last week, thinking about my own battlefield experiences, I decided to put a pomegranate in the figures' right hand. During Operation Steel Curtain, while standing in a bombed out garden, I tried my first pomegranate. A heavily damaged pomegranate tree had a few ripe fruits clinging to its leaveless branches, and I decided to give one a try. It was delicious; despite the seeds you need to navigate around. But what does adding a pomegranate have to do with changing the piece?

What you're looking at here is the grenadier standing next to a heavily damaged pillar. The ground is scattered with chunks of concrete, spent shell casings, leaves and a branch with a solitary pomegranate still attached. The Marine has an M16A4 with a M203 grenade launcher attached. Why change the figure to a grenadier at the last minute? Simple. It turns out that the origin of the word grenade is the French word for pomegranate. The Spanish word for pomegranate, granado, is another word for grenade.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting There

Here's a progress update on my most recent sculpture. Alot of time has been devoted over the past couple weeks to my approaching retirement from the Marines. Between jumping through the variety of administrative and medical hoops related to leaving active duty I've devoted time to fabricating this pieces weapon, a M16A4 and the three-point sling attached to it.
Please go over to Sergeant Kris Battles' blog Sketchpad Warrior and check out his latest field work from Afghanistan and the studio pieces he's working on. Great stuff!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Work in Progress

Here's images of a sculpture I'm currently focused on. It stands about 23 inches high and shows a Marine rifleman with his helmet off. The piece will hopefully be more than that once completed with the addition of a rifle, an AT4 strung across his back and a shot up concrete pillar. This piece is loosely based on a series of photos I took of a LCpl Turchich leaning against a pillar catching his breath between assualts in Husaybah, Iraq during Operation Steel Curtain.
If you live in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Williamsburg region of Virginia please check out a show at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center featuring combat art (including myself and Sergeant Kris Battles) from the Civil War to the present called In the Line of Duty.

Monday, June 08, 2009

First Light

Across the Threshing Floor: F/2/1 in Old Ubaydi

At the break of dawn on November 16, 2005 the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment headed into the small Euphrates River town of Old Ubaydi. In the ethereal glow of first light they worked their way across threshing floors and orchards pushing dozens of insurgents ahead of them into a village of mud daub homes and muddy farm yards. In a few minutes they would be in the fight of their lives.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Work

Lance Corporal Dustin Barr (now a sergeant), fire team leader, 2nd Platoon F/2/1
Staff Sergeant Michael Ventrone (now a CWO2 Marine Gunner), platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon F/2/1
IED site in Hadditha
Over the wall in Ubaydi, Iraq during Operation Steel Curtain
Range 400, Mojave Viper, 29 Palms, California
On the berm in Ubaydi, Iraq. Captain Ross Parrish and his comm guys on the morning of November 14, 2005.
Lance Corporal Guzman tosses in a grenade in Ubaydi, Iraq.
Mass casualty evacuation in Old Ubaydi on November 16, 2005

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lance Corporal Van Goghs

A few days ago a fellow Marine warrant officer contacted me about a talented field Marine who's creating art for his battalion over in Iraq. Almost every unit has it's Lance Corporal Van Gogh, the kid who designs tatoos for his buddies, turns high school prom pictures into frameable sketches and creates the unit's Christmas card. I know this because long ago I was that guy. From time to time I hear about these talented Marines and this one, Lance Corporal Max Uriarte, has got what it takes to be a combat artist.
Here's a sample of his work.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Well, after 55 years without ever having a broken bone I managed on Saint Patrick's Day to do just that. I broke the middle toe of my right foot..........very badly. It was what doctors like to call an "open wound fracture with tendon damage". Two weeks after having the bone set and the wound stitched up an orthopedic doctor informed me that it wasn't healing at all. This young rather humorous Army doctor of Irish descent put it this way, "The two pieces of bone would need to call each other long distance to have any contact." So, to make a long story short, I had surgery to pin the toe back together.
I think the blame lies with one of my brothers. A couple weeks ago Doug, a banker, sent me one of those chain emails meant to grant those who pass it on good luck, and bad luck to those who don't. As you may have already guessed, I failed to send the email on.

This week I'm back in my home studio after two weeks convalescent leave. I still can't drive or walk very far. So, in order to be productive, I'm sitting at my kitchen table doing watercolors and a series of pencil portraits.

Here's a sampling.
And yes, you may want to consider sending on those emails promising good luck.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Finished Lost Wax Bronze

Final piece with coat of wax
Application of acid to darken the bronze
Heating up sandblasted sculpture in preparation for patina application
All put together and ready to be sandblasted
Getting ready to weld on the bandolier of ammunition
Welding the machine gun on to the main sculpture
Bringing back lost details
Chipping ceramic mold material from all the nooks and crannies
Breaking the mold

A sculpture that I've been working on for quite a long time was finally cast and finished this week. It depicts a Marine machine gunner shouldering a M240G at the moment he's stepping off for another assault. The primary job of this Marine is to establish a base of fire for his platoon by laying down a steady stream of suppressive 7.62 cal. rounds. Each fire team of 4 Marines has a light weight SAW (squad automatic weapon) that fires the lighter 5.56 cal. bullet. The 240 Gulf gunner provides a bigger punch and a longer range. It's also a far heavier weapon's system for the Marine to hump day in and day out. This piece stands 24" high and weighs about 50 lbs.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pentagon Channel Documentary

The Pentagon Channel documentary show RECON is featuring a 30 minute piece about combat art. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Heros Honored

Lance Corporal Joshua Mooi USMC 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines

On January 8, 2009 Lance Corporal Joshua Mooi recieved his Navy Cross. Beside Joshua stood two other Marines and a Navy Corpsman who were recognized for their heroic service with Silver Stars for actions taken on November 16, 2005. A fourth Silver Star was posthumously presented to the parents of Lt. Ryan McGlothlin. The ceremony was held at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. You can read about the presentations here.