"Go to War. Do Art."
March 18, 2011 1:12 PM   Subscribe

USMC Warrant Officer (ret.) Michael D. Fay served as a combat artist from 2000 through January 2010 under the History Division of the Marine Corps University. He once described his orders from them as "Go to War. Do Art." Fay was deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been keeping a blog of his sketches since 2005.

Fay's work has been documented here on ABC News' website, and in columns at the National Post ("Kandahar Journal") and most recently at the New York Times. During his tours, he also penned several columns for the Times.

His current, three-part series in the Times recounts his visit to McGuire Veterans Administration Hospital in Richmond, Va., where he spent two days with wounded Marines in rehabilitation. The first two parts have now been posted:

Part 1: A New Reality
Part 2: Scars

From 2010: Drawing Fire, is a five-part series recalling Operation Steel Curtain in Iraq in 2005.
Part 1: Into Ubaydi
Part 2: Last Day
Part 3: 'Stay With Us'
Part 4: Reckoning
Part 5: Remains of the Day

Both series are part of an ongoing NYT section, Home Fires, which "features the writing of men and women who have returned from wartime service in the United States military."

Profile in "Defend America" // Another, originally published by Drawing Magazine. Also: Wikipedia

In 2007, Fay's work was highlighted in an exhibition at the James A. Michener art museum in Doylestown, PA. His work is also part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
posted by zarq (21 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot a link. An article that discusses the history of combat artists in the US military: Navy Times: The artists of war: Painters leave legacy in ink, oil.
posted by zarq at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2011

Well done. This is moving stuff by a talented artist.
posted by bearwife at 1:28 PM on March 18, 2011

Now do one of a commando with one leg behind his head, holding a baby in one hand and firing an M16 in another, all in front of an explosion.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Folks, please cool it or take it elsewhere.
posted by cortex at 2:04 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

the usmc has made BATTLE ARTISTS? that's awesome.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

"a Marine had scratched into the stucco a set of tick marks adding up to 57 — the number of enemy dead. Somewhere else in the world there were 57 other families who would probably never know what had happened to their sons."

Nothing great about war.
posted by mkb at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2011

The two enemy battle artists faced each other across the churned mud of the battlefield. A hand twitched. An eyebrow raised. The only sound was the wind, hurrying the smell of death across the world. They were the only ones left, after the slaughter of the day, and they knew it was finally up to them to finish it.

"Well," said one artist. "You gonna draw?"
posted by rusty at 2:12 PM on March 18, 2011 [10 favorites]

This is very cool. Well done.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:20 PM on March 18, 2011

I think it's a great present to people who serve, but also to the history books and future generations.

I'd like to see a poet employed in this manner.

Always thought it was a shame we never sent artists into space to document things that way. Maybe one day we will.
posted by inturnaround at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know Michael a bit from corresponding with him, he's not only a talented artist, he's a really great guy. Last I heard he was also in the process of setting up the International Society of War Artists which would honour war artists of the past and bring together those currently working.
posted by fire&wings at 2:39 PM on March 18, 2011

National Post graphics editor and illustrator Richard Johnson has also earned a great reputation as a war artist, thanks to his work for the Post.

He also joined Mike Fay on the visit to the Veterans Hospital. Here is his account, and his sketches.
posted by Kabanos at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, here's a previous FPP about Richard Johnson.
posted by Kabanos at 3:07 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

My great grandfather William Thurston Topham was this in the Great War. He wanted to do it again in WWII but he was too old by then and they didn't let him go.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:12 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Besides battle artist being super awesome, Warrant Officers are pretty much universally envied by both enlisted and regular commissioned officers.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 3:59 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

mkb: Nothing great about war.

True. But art like this is going to be a better depiction of and testament to the reality of it than recruiting-poster art and Hollywood Top Gun wankery. Both for the current and for the future.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:32 PM on March 18, 2011

I keep coming back to this post, enjoying it, loving the artwork, thank you zarq, and yet I'm unable to comment intelligently because it triggers me on such an emotional level. Here's a shot at it though.

The art, as beautiful as it is, reminds me of watching so much "war" stuff, old movies etc. on tv as a kid and finding myself almost twenty years later, still a kid, in Iraq being fired upon by snipers and men disguised as bedouin. It was bad shit, but honestly, also incredibly freeing and glorious. I guess that is to say that as combat is a natural part of being human, is such an adventure, that it really doesn't need advertising.

I hope this isn't a thread shit, that's just how I feel.

(FWIW was in a "friendly-fire fight" with Canadians at one point...they totally effed up my deuce & 1/2.)
posted by snsranch at 5:39 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Quarterly Prophet: care to explain? What's so great about being a warrant officer?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:50 PM on March 18, 2011

leotrotsky, Warrant Officers, LDOs, Mustangs etc. are all folks who began their military careers at the lowest enlisted rank and worked their way up to become Warrant and or Commisioned Officers. Many units or commands don't have Warrant Officers, but in the units that do, the W.O.s or LDOs usually, unofficially, have the last word on most issues. Generally speaking, W.O.s are a big deal.
posted by snsranch at 7:55 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

snsranch is right. Almost universally, WO's are guys who have spent several years as enlisted, and now get to exclusively do subject matter related work (something that happens less and less as you move up the chain). In the Coast Guard, every (nearly) enlisted dude is jealous of Warrants because they seem to have deal with less of the bullshit that comes with military life and get all the perks of being an officer. Most officers I've talked to (granted, not too too many) are jealous of Warrants because they don't have to deal with some of the typical officer bullshit (sucking up to the next highest officer). This is basically my long winded way of saying I'm putting in a warrant package in the next year or so, and if I get it, I'm going to have to get rotator cuff surgery from all the high fives I'll be giving/getting.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 10:10 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hey, good luck QP!
posted by snsranch at 3:16 PM on March 19, 2011

La guerre c'est L'Enfer (detail), Georges Leroux, 1917-18.

May the day come when guns and brushes run out of fresh subjects.
posted by cenoxo at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2011

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