Memorial Day

28 May, 2018. I encountered a group of American Legionnaires preparing for a Memorial Day recognition this morning. White haired and white bearded, and wearing starched white uniforms, the sight of these guys brought back memories – especially seeing the bugler. My last two years of high school I was the American Legion/VFW bugler. My job was to play taps at military funerals as well as any event where taps was required. It got me out of school on a regular basis, and I got to travel around the state with a raucous and grizzled group of men, burping and pissing and drinking beer – but always deadly serious about why they were in attendance.

It’s ridiculously hot today, especially for May. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I made a line drawing of one Legionnaire from the comfort of my air conditioned car, then added color a while later from the comfort of my air conditioned home. As much as I like to sketch in situ, on this day I was a big sissy. And there’s a real irony to this, considering my subject matter: white haired old men who toughed out unimaginable conditions and circumstances, guys who were shrugging off the heat to recognize their comrades who never made it home. Yeah, I’m a big sissy, and I’m pretty confident that anyone who never served, anyone who never experienced what these guys have – well, I’m pretty sure the rest of us are sissies too. Be sure to thank a veteran today. And tomorrow too, while you’re at it.

So I’ve been playing around with the combination of two medias in the tiny little grey-toned Stillman & Birn sketchbook. First, I’ve made a loose contour drawing using a Uni-Ball Deluxe pen.

Then, I’ve added color using gouache. It sounds similar to the somewhat standard technique of adding watercolor over line, but the results are different. For one thing, the opaque paint hides any lines one wishes to disappear, allowing a bit of brush carving and correction to shapes that aren’t as flattering as they might otherwise be.

I continue to explore the possibilities of very limited color palettes, this time combining Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Geranium, and white. I wasn’t sure if they’d work well, particularly because there’s little in the way of deep color for shadows. But I was surprised at the high key look that is achievable, not to mention the vivid warm color that comes from the yellow and magenta. The range of greens is limited, but harmonious.

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