5′ x 3′ each
Acrylic on Canvas
I have positioned the paintings in this order to help your eyes flow through them, gliding from soldier to soldier. I tried setting them up a different way when they were all finished, and it just looked awkward and wrong! You can follow the colour yellow through the paintings with the splash of it in the flowers on the left, all the way through to the tiny amount on the dog’s handkerchief around her neck. The horizon line is in the same place for all the paintings, so you may see the continuity throughout. I want each painting to be able to stand alone, but to be much stronger when they are all four together, just as it should be for soldiers who fight side by side.
The Jewish people were given their land by God four thousand years ago. It is their inheritance, which they took after being rescued from Egypt with Moses as their leader and mediator between God and man. They have always had to fight to keep Israel. It is such a pin point on the face of the earth, yet it has been called the epicenter of the world. So many lives have been lost, promises broken, treaties signed, and wars started over this seemingly insignificant piece of land. The countries surrounding Israel are fixed on invading and overtaking the Jewish people. The army is called the Israeli Defense Force for a reason. They are working hard at defending their promised land. My paintings show the humanity behind these forces. There are times for peace, and there are times when abstaining from fighting means giving up your inheritance. Behind the soldiers I have painted four places in the land of Israel – Mount Carmel, Mitzpe Ramon, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and the Mediterranean Sea from Caesarea. Israel is what they’re fighting for. Israel is their home. Israel is the land their Father in heaven promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are not alone in this fight.
In the summer of 2016, I was fortunate enough to volunteer in the Israeli Defense Force with the Sar El Program. My experience there was definitely a positive one, and something I would like to repeat. I was able to meet many soldiers, as well as volunteers from all over the world – Germany, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, the US, France and more. I went there not knowing anyone, and came back with many new friends! On the weekends I was able to travel around the country. I would get on a bus and go wherever! The freedom was incredible, and slightly terrifying. I stayed in couch surfing houses, and hostels. I took many reference photos, and spent a lot of time sketching wherever I found shade. During the weeks I was part of three different groups at three different army bases. The first base I went to was in Tel Aviv, and our Madricha’s name was Anastasia. She is the young blonde soldier in my painting. She is from Russia, and is a lone soldier (meaning she doesn’t have her parents living in Israel). She made all of us feel very welcome, and taught us a lot about the IDF army. She was funny, and always in a good mood! On my last week in the base, I asked her if she would see if any soldiers would be interested in having their picture taken, so that I could make some paintings out of them. She was excited about this idea, and gathered three other young people who would be more than happy to be of service. When I started photographing them, they came right up to me and smiled. I asked them to look a bit more serious, “after all”, I thought, “they’re soldiers and I want to make paintings that people will take seriously!” The second guy who came out (the clean shaven one with short hair) was slouching his shoulders a bit and had this cute, slightly embarrassed grin. I asked him if he would look at me more head on and try to look a bit more serious as well. It wasn’t until I got home and pulled up the pictures on my computer that I realized, I got this all wrong! The pictures I loved were the soldier’s original and natural positions and expressions. Sure, they may look a bit more awkward, like they’re posing for a camera, but they had way more personality before I tried posing them the way I thought I wanted them to look. I learned a valuable lesson with this, my first photo shoot. I need to let the character show through the person. I don’t want to paint models, I want to paint people; their souls, characters, and even their humor. Once I picked the ‘correct’ pictures to paint from, the drawings of these people went so smoothly. I was excited to capture the expressions and vitality of these young soldiers. I hope that when people look at these four paintings, they will see what I eventually saw.
I love painting detail! The fact that I was painting on bigger canvases than I had ever used before was a challenge for me, but also a reason for being excited. When I drew out the portraits, I originally drew them too small. They seemed HUGE on the paper that I drew them on, but when I went to transfer them onto the canvas, they were just floating in all the canvas around them. I had to go back and scan my drawings, then print them in a larger size. I then transferred them onto the canvases and all was well. I blocked everything in with paint and then added more, and more, and more detail. At about the point where everything looked right, but not finished, I started getting restless with them. I was watching a video of a man who drew extremely realistic skin, and another video of an artist who painted with huge brushes, threw paint, sprayed water and windex on his work, and basically made a huge mess. In the end, when both of these artists had finished, the results were two amazing and impressive portraits. Both had incredible emotion displayed in their work, and both portrayed the character of a real person. I had to make a decision. I asked myself, “Do I want my art to be loose and fun and colourful, or do I want to take the time to really punch in that detail, painting all the patterns in the skin and textures in the hair, uniforms, and backgrounds?” Well, I decided not to go full throttle on the detail, because I simply liked the faces the way they were already, with the smooth skin and blended lights and darks. But I knew my paintings were still missing something…excitement. I realized that I was always wiping away the paint that dripped where it didn’t belong, even though I liked the patterns it was making. So, I decided to finally just give the paint its way and let it flow. I started this experiment on the young woman with the long hair at the Wailing Wall. Her uniform was where it started. Then I proceeded to do the same to the first young man’s uniform. When I really liked the result, I started applying it to the faces of the soldiers, and the background of the woman on Mount Carmel. I realize that this can hardly fall into the category of ‘crazy art’, or even impressionism, but it is a step for me to think out of my comfort zone, and try something unusual. I noticed that the runs of paint look like sweat, grime, and tears, and it was my Mom who noticed that if you read the paintings from left to right, the soldiers have more and more of this emotional baggage appearing on their faces. The woman on Mount Carmel has a bright young face, devoid of any paint drips. As you move your eyes onto the young man in Mitzpe Ramon, you can see, if you look closely, some of those runs and drips appearing. The last woman and man have more noticeable paint running down their faces, necks, and clothes, showing that they have seen and experienced more in their service. The Man on the far right is the oldest of them all. If you look past the smile on his bright face, you can see pain and hardship peeking through.