Being part of the military is an intense experience. Despite the time I served being less than 4 years in total, and never in an active combat zone, the things I witnessed and the things I did have affected me in ways that have lasted more than twenty years. I have some sad and some funny anecdotes from the various exercises, training missions and trips over seas. These stories go along with a handful of items, the artifacts and photos of that time in my life. These things bring memories and emotions along with them each time they come out of storage.
Memories when attached to pictures and small objects have a startling clarity. Even with clarity and a deep imagination, I fail to grasp the depth and connection of what the soldiers who served as part of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops from WWII have when they look at their art.
I am behind the times catching up with the documentary showing the amazing work these artists, these engineers, these soldiers did under the undiluted pressure of the Nazi war machine. Knowing the load of stuff any soldier is asked to carry these true artists were also certain to have pen or pencil and paper with them too. Sketching the war, but also crafting an amazing deception.
If you are an artist and you think from time to time, “I just can’t work under these conditions” or “well, this would be a better picture if I had the right tools” you should definitely take a peek at these inspirational artists. Imagine this quote, “…we were sleeping in hedgerows and foxholes, but nothing kept us away from going someplace to do a watercolor…” They certainly worked under conditions most artists wouldn’t. Being a soldier and being an artist are not mutually exclusive pursuits.
Take the opportunity to catch the film The Ghost Army, I highly recommend it.