In 2008, The City of Hartsville, SC, the Black Creek arts council and the American Legion Post in Darlington commissioned the country’s largest veteran’s monument honoring all five major conflicts of the 20th century.
My father, also a painter/sculptor, and I worked for over a year on the project. The first step in the process of creating a work is research for conceptual drawings and design plans.
The next step was mapping out the look we wanted. We decided that relief sculpture would be the best vehicle for conveying the story and feeling desired for this particular monument. Instead of a soldier or two, fully in the round, who represent all servicemen and women, a panel of relief sculpture could include soldiers and from the army, air force, navy, coast guard, and marines from different time periods, as well as men, women, and people of all races. In addition to historical accuracy, one of our main objectives was to ensure that all those who served our country would feel represented in some way.
Drawings were then refined.
After the drawings were completed they were sent for approval from the clients. We also had many veterans look over the work to ensure accuracy. The vets were a great help and were able to give us lots of constructive criticism, examining every bullet and button. They also had many stories that we pulled details from to add color and emotion to the work.
One vet, who had served in Vietnam, noted that the original drawing incorrectly showed a soldier in Vietnam with his helmet buckled. He explained that while in the bush, soldiers would unbuckle their helmets. This was so that in the event that the soldier takes fire to the dome, the bullets would remove his helmet instead of the entire head.
After the drawings were approved and all changes were made, we had models photographed for the specific poses in our composition. We even did a little modeling ourselves.
We also gathered as many pieces of real gear as possible.
Finally, we began to sculpt. The drawings were blown up and traced onto framed wooden structures. To cut down on weight, the thickest portions of the panels were stuffed with newspaper. We then push in clay over the entire 7′ x 3′ sculpture. As we continued to add and subtract the clay, the piece began to take shape.