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Preview: Sketchpad Warrior

Sketchpad Warrior

Art and posts by Kristopher Battles, Artist

Updated: 2018-01-15T11:27:44.252-05:00


Marines of the 24th MEU on the USS Bataan (LHD-5)


I mentioned in the previous post about my experience as an artist for the Navy Art Collection, and of coming across Marines on USS Bataan (LHD-5), who were training for an upcoming deployment with the 24th MEU.
Here is a painting I did based on that time on board and observing the Marines:
"Filing out to the Birds," acrylic on canvas. 30" x 20".  Marines on the flight deck of USS Bataan (LHD-5) head out to board MV22 Ospreys.

Marines on the MEU


I recently had another great opportunity to go out to the fleet and sketch Marines in their natural habitats. Though the trip was part of my job as an artist for the Navy Art Collection, I of course came across Marines on the LHD (USS Bataan, LHD-5), training for an upcoming deployment with the 24th MEU. These are modest and few, but I thought it'd be appropriate to post them here in this venue.  It's all about the sketchpad, after all-- drawing what you see on location.

In the next month or two, I will have completed several full-color oil paintings and sketches based on what I saw on board the Bataan.  Stay tuned!

Sketching in the Cool Spaces, continued...


 Here are more sketches from my time on board the USS Harry S. Truman:

In the Ready Room for VFA-143, The Pukin' Dogs.
 In Flight Deck Control in the island.
Another cool place on board was called the Smoke Pit (Reminds one of the phrase, "The Smoking Lamp is Lit")!

Sketches and the Cool Spaces on a Carrier


Last year, I was blessed to be able to sketch on board a US Navy vessel -- Specifically, the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). What a privilege it was, to see so many people and sites aboard the floating city, and to be able to sketch what I had the good fortune to see.
I sketched continually, and was escorted by good people around the ship, showing me all the cool spots, where interesting Navy stuff was happening.

Here are a few of the sketches I did:
F-18 in the hangar bay.
 On the bridge.
The Captain in his chair (Capt Ryan Scholl)
Primary Flight Control ("Pri-Fly") .

Damage Control: Always Vigilant


While on board the Harry S. Truman last year, I got to witness a common but very important training event, conducted by the crew-- a GQ Drill (General Quarters). 

"General Quarters" is regularly sounded to keep the crew sharp, and on their toes, ready for any contingency. Every crewman has a duty station when this happens, and they all rush to their battle stations, put on their gear, and do drills. It's a very interesting thing to watch, and it makes you admire the efficiency and teamwork the Navy engages in with every sailor and section on board a naval vessel.

 Getting geared up fast for fire control...


"Fire Drill in Aft D.C." 2015, oil on canvas, 20" x 24" 

Ten Days Out To Sea! Part One-- Out to the Ship


The last few weeks have held a lot in my life, and I have a lot to post!I just got back the 30th of September, from a ten-day trip aboard an aircraft carrier and two smaller vessels in its strike group.I was sent by the Naval History and Heritage Command, to deploy aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and document the life and activities of sailors as they trained for deployment.I drove down to Norfolk on the 19th, where I took a commercial flight down to Jacksonville, Florida. The next morning, the 20th, I got a taxi out to Naval Air Station Jacksonville to get on a military supply aircraft-- known as a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) and was flown out to the USS Harry S Truman, which was not too far out in the Atlantic, undergoing its pre-deployment training, known as COMPTUEX. The C-2 "COD" ready to take us out to the carrier.They gave me this "cranial" to wear. "VIP". Crazy, right? It hopefully means, Very Interesting Person...The chairs faced backwards (this is looking forward from the last row).The air crewman, looking forward, getting ready to sit down before saying, "HERE WE GO...!We'd been told to strap in of course, and when we heard one of the crewmen saying, "Here We Go, Here We Go, HERE WE GO...!" we were to sit back in the seat with our head facing straight to the rear, and await the "trap:" when we'd touch down on the deck and hit the arresting wire, coming very quickly to a stop (from around a hundred fifty miles an hour to zero in around two seconds!).Well, sure enough, that's exactly what happened and boy, what a rush! I've never felt such a huge force upon my body-- as if I was going to be torn apart. My head was tugged back into the headrest, my whole body was sucked into the seat, as if I were going to be sucked through it.  I can only describe it as feeling like the old sequence in the movie, Star Wars, where they make the jump into hyperspace and the stars rush by suddenly-- or I guess it's rather more like when they come out of hyperspace, and it all suddenly slows down (the only experience to which I could compare the sudden change in speed would be "The Volcano" roller coaster at King's Dominion)!  I found myself thinking, "WE'RE GONNA DIE!!! and then the second it was over: "Can we do it again?!"First view out the rear door of the COD, just after landing.We were told to follow the crewman out of the plane, and we did so. We were led to the edge of the flight deck, down some stairs and into a hatch in the carrier itself, where we were taken to the Air Travel Office and we were checked in. I was met there soon after arriving by LT Tabitha Klingensmith, one of the Public Affairs Officers on board the Truman. She was to be my sponsor while there-- and not only was also a combination of supervisor, guide, event planner, organizer, and agent throughout my stay-- and proved to be invaluable in the successful completion of my art mission. I must say, without her skills in logistics and networking, I would never have been able to fulfill my mission as much as did, which will be evident in future posts on the experience.I was shown my quarters, given a tour of certain parts of the ship, and within an hour of being on board, I was back on the deck, being led by the Safety Officer amongst the "controlled chaos" that is Flight Deck Operations on a super carrier, taking photographs of the crews at work, and the aircraft and pilots catapulting off the ship! It was a great start to what would prove to be a very fruitful visit.[...]

It will be ours (again). Oh yes, it will be ours...


I just read a great feature story about Gale Munro, head curator (and my boss) at Navy Art, and how Gale and the staff at Navy Art cherish the art under their care--and will take great steps to bring lost or "misappropriated" art back into the fold. 

Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet by Frank Zuccarelli, Oil on canvas, 1972, misappropriated circa 1998, recovered in early 2009

Featured Artist: LCDR McClelland Barclay, USNR


I've been doing a lot of visual research recently as part of my professional artistic development, being still somewhat of a neophyte Naval Combat Artist. In my research on Navy art and artists, I have found quite a few artists of note, especially when it comes to the combat artists of World War Two. One of these great WWII artists is McClelland Barclay, an artist who had made a name for himself as an illustrator before the war, and who did some of the great Navy art of the period. He served faithfully, creating powerful art for the Navy and his country, and gave his life in that service (he was lost when LST-342 was torpedoed in the early morning hours of July 18, 1943 off New Georgia. Part of the wreck can still be seen today). What I admire about Barclay's work is his use of dynamic compositions and dramatic color. There is a power in Barclay's simple yet realistic style. "Less is more," as the adage goes, and is proven true in Barclay's work. Though almost minimal in execution, his compositions maintain an almost frenetic energy.  All extraneous details are omitted, and all remaining visual elements work together, moving the viewer's eye though the piece, fulfilling the visual and emotional goal the artist sets out to do.4" 50 Caliber Mark XII Gun Crew in Action Oil on Canvas 1942 by McClelland Barclay (used as art for Navy recruiting poster, "Dish It Out with the Navy - Choose Now While You Can") Back Him Up Pencil on Paper 1942 by McClelland Barclay (original concept drawing for art used in recruiting poster, "Dish It Out with the Navy - Choose Now While You Can") Drive Home the Punch - Join the Navy Conté Crayon on Paper 1942-43 by McClelland Barclay Gun Crew Loading a 5" 38 Caliber Gun Oil on Canvas  1940-42 by McClelland BarclaySailor Loading Fixed Ammunition Oil on Canvas 1942 by McClelland Barclay(used as art for Navy recruiting poster, "Man the Guns--Join the Navy") Barclay's WWII Navy work is powerful, given the choice of subject matter and his method of depicting the strong young men fighting for our way of life (some have described a homo-erotic subtext to his Navy work, though I won't go into that here. Barclay's pre-war work, a lot of which was pin-up or "cheesecake" art, could be said to glorify the female sensual ideal. So one would probably have to categorize his work more as worshiping the "young and beautiful" than promoting eroticism).I think it is not only the power and energy Barclay portrays in his images, but also the power and energy of his compositions which is worthy of emulation. He is a master.Blue Jackets Loading A Depth Charge Rack Oil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay (used as art for recruiting poster, "Sub Spotted-- Let 'Em Have It!  Lend a Hand - Enlist in Your Navy Today ") General Quarters, Battle Stations Oil on Canvas 1940-42 by McClelland Barclay[...]

Laundry Time!


Much of the life of a Sailor or Marine involves things that don't quite fit the brochure or TV ad the recruiter showed them before they signed up! 

And much of daily life aboard a ship is rather like much of daily life on shore: full of banal things like doing the dishes,  doing laundry, and a hundred other similar chores.

The French term for the feeling these activities inspire in a person is, "ennui." Sounds exotic. In English, we call it, "boredom."

When artists paint such regular, every-day things, we call them, "slices of life."

The following oil on panel I did was from an experience I had aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) a few years ago, while deploying with a Marine Corps Osprey Squadron, VMM-263.

In it, I tried to express the "ennui" involved in doing the laundry in a "laundromat" type room, well below deck, along with the heat and relatively cramped space.

Manet the Naval Artist


I came across this image again today while studying naval terms and marine art:

It's a painting by the famous Impressionist painter Edouard Manet (1832-1883) entitled
"The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama."
It depicts the single-ship action between the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama in The Battle of Cherbourg off the coast of France in 1864.

Though Manet himself didn't witness the battle, he almost certainly drew from first-hand accounts of other French citizens, hundreds of whom witnessed the battle as it unfolded just outside the Cherbourg harbor. 

I find it a powerful composition and a good example of marine art and historical illustration.

Old Ironsides! continued...


Progress from the painting I've been working on for the Navy Art Program, "Cleaning the Salute Gun," (9" x 10" acrylic on mounted canvas)

Yesterday's progress:

Old Ironsides!


In October, I had the privilege of once again touring the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," and go aboard her as she was taken out for her last "turn around" cruise before entering dry dock sometime this year.(Click here for my first experience seeing Constitution at Marine Week Boston in 2010).I am now painting as a civilian artist for the Navy Art Program, and they sent me up to sketch, photograph, and paint the ship and crew--  to document for posterity the wonderful anachronism of the oldest commissioned ship still in the naval service.Since I got back, I've been drawing and painting scenes from my time on board, and am beginning to see the fruits of my labor.I've got several paintings in process, both oil and acrylic, as well as some drawings...Yesterday I finished an acrylic study of a Constitution sailor, with full 1813 uniform complete with coat and cover, working with rope: Other works, still in process, are several oils, including one featuring one of the female sailors aboard (I refer to this painting unofficially as "Rosie the Sailor"): Also nearing completion is this oil painting, based on several photos I took of the crew in action, here shown hauling in the lines so we can cast off and get underway. Yesterday, I began this little acrylic (9" x 10") study of a gunners mate cleaning the "salute gun" after Constitution did a 21gun salute while out in the harbor:I will keep you posted, perhaps even later in the day, as this one progresses...Anchors Aweigh!UPDATED @ 1630, 4 Feb 2015here's the progress on it from this afternoon:...and from later in the evening:  [...]

A Meer Range War...


The insurgency of the prairie begins, with a Meerkat assault.

Get Some! A little light fun with animals "out on the range"


I've been doodling regularly, and I continue to sketch things like these. Animals, normally cute and fuzzy, suddenly are astronauts, or military or otherwise armed and shooting... (!)(image)

"60" Gunner


Today's drawing--
A "60" gunner walking along on patrol.

Little Treasure, Lost and Found


Here's an old sketch I did while on my first deployment as a combat artist, back in 2006. It's of a young jundi (soldier), one Ali Muhammad Kathair, just before he goes out on patrol in his town of Anah, Iraq:

I'm glad we found it (my wife was organizing her new craft space and found it in some things-- we still have no clue how it got there!). I will submit it to the Combat Art Collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, where it belongs.

Sketches like this one are very valuable, I think, because though they may lack refinement or be a bit "off," they are one of a kind records of something the artist saw.

This sketch and the photos I took were used as inspiration and reference for a portrait sketch I did later of the same subject:

Home of the Commandants


I was going through my photo CDs just now, and found a disc with these photos on it.
They're of the "The Home of the Commandants" in Washington DC, and show the portrait I did of the residence, hanging on the wall in the main hallway.

I still get a kick out of thinking about that.
They really framed it up nicely, too.

Monumental Happenings Continue


Here are the updated renderings I mentioned in the previous post, for the upcoming Marine Aviation Monument.  I souped up the color a bit compared to the previous iterations, and added some detail to suggest what the final bas reliefs will portray:   I also did another architectural rendering of the proposed monument, to be used in a promotional piece: It's a veritable hodgepodge of visual elements including digital work, drawings, photographs and sculpted items (the finial Emblem on the top is actually the maquette I did for the project) I must also give credit to Natalie of the architectural firm Fentress, whose original rendering using my design sketches I used as the inspiration and derivation for this image. And here are the original brainstorming thumbnail sketches I did for the project, scribbled on the back of a sheet of used paper: [...]

Monumental Happenings


Lately I've been working fervently on a project about which I'm greatly excited, and for which I'm honored to have been hired:  The Marine Corps Aviation Association's Marine Aviation Monument.I'll be sculpting four bas reliefs for the monument, which will memorialize the main eras of Marine Corps Aviation: WWI, WWII/Korea, Vietnam, and GWOT. I've done some basic drawings to visualize the bas reliefs, which I'm now refining and adding color to, to be used in publications and promotional materials.Sample drawing giving basic concept for bas relief. I'll post the refined bas relief designs when I've finished coloring them in.On the top will be a finial element, a large Marine Emblem, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.Working on the maquette of the finial element of the monument: an Eagle, Globe and Anchor in the round.When finished, this monument will stand ten feet tall, placed on the grounds of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, near the Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel.[...]

A Great Send Away


A week ago today, my friends at the National Museum of the Marine Corps had a going away get-together for me at Pancho Villa, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants (I love Mexican food).

They presented me with two very thoughtful and wonderful gifts, which I must confess made me at a loss for words.

The first gift was a personalized Marine NCO sword (I've always wanted one but never bought one...).

The second gift was a custom-made palette plaque, fashioned by the folks in the Museum's Exhibits Department, with the motto, "GO TO WAR, DO ART!" burned in. Attached was a hand-crafted KABAR/palette knife-- a nice touch, as was the "crossed brushes" in the SSgt chevron.

Incredibly thoughtful gifts, from incredibly thoughtful and professional people, which I now display proudly in my home studio.

(And the sword will come in handy when I'm doing any cavalry or pirate illustrations in the future...I've already said "avast" a couple times..!)

Walking Papers



It's OH-fishel.  As of last night at midnight, I am no longer in active service with the Marine Corps.

I have my DD214 copies and my orders releasing me from active duty. It's no April Fools joke, and I'm still a bit sad to see it become reality. If I had my "druthers", I'd still be on active duty.

I had the best job in the Corps. No other billet like it. What a privilege it was to be able to do all the Corps let me do, and to represent the Corps to the folks at home (and art world as well).

I met a lot of great folks, went to many great locations (as well as garden spots like Iraq and Afghanistan), and drew and painted a lot of interesting scenes.

"Slice of Life" scenes were a lot of what I did, and now my little slice of life in the Corps and Combat Art Program is over. A new slice is being carved out.

I hope it's got some nice decorative icing on it.

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Thanks to all the people who made the calls and did the paperwork to get me on active duty, to keep me on active duty, and finally to send me on my way back into the 1st CivDiv.



 "What counts most is finding new ways to get the world down in paint on my own terms." --Georg BaselitzThis is my final Friday as an active duty combat artist.Just finishing up several paintings to turn in before the end of Monday.[...]



Your Analysis.
You're in Alice's.
"Please, Marine, come and give us a sample. Just a wee sample in a wee bottle."
Yesterday, I appeared on the company urinalyis roster, with just five days remaining on active duty. It's a great way to experience one last time, one of the great experiences of Marines for the last quarter of a century: the "Whiz Quiz."

I tell you, the excitement was just bottled up within me, and it felt like it was going to burst (Oh wait, that was just my bladder, from chugging the coffee in preparation, cramming for the test).

Also included in the test was a "pop quiz"-- a breathalyzer to see if any of us had been drinking any time in the very recent past. I passed that with flying colors (ya wanna get a ZERO on that test).



EAS. No, it's not a protein supplement.
No, it's not a company name.
It's my E. A. S.... my "End of Active Service."

The countdown has begun.
frameborder="0" height="66" src="" width="288">Monday, 31 March 2014 will be my last day of being an active duty Combat Artist.
Though I wanted to continue in this billet, the Marine Corps has decided that I've been here too long, and should be shown the appropriate pasture.

I will keep you posted on the activities of this, my last week as an artist for the Corps.

Semper Fi
Semper Gumby

Diploma in the Mail!


I graduated this last fall with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from the University of Hartford, and my diploma arrived (finally, after a bit of an admin snag) yesterday.

I now have my "terminal" degree in my field, and can pursue being some sort of academian!