Combat artists (WITH SUBS)
While training in Norway during NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 2018, soldiers in the Alliance may have glimpsed an unusual sight: Richard Johnson, standing beside their formations with a sketch pad and pencil. An illustrative journalist by trade, Johnson has sketched conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe. He has sketched troops in combat, at rest and on the move, capturing the moment: he notes, “I usually start with the eyes. You really just enter the whole person from there.” In Norway, Johnson mentored US Marine Corps Captain CJ Baumann, who says he’s benefited from Johnson’s tutelage. Together, they sketched US Marines as they moved tanks and troops through the Norwegian countryside. Footage includes Combat Artist Richard Johnson and Captain CJ Baumann sketching Norwegian and US troops during NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 2018.
“The key is, in a warzone regardless of conditions, to produce art.” Richard Johnson and Captain CJ Baumann document the military with soulful sketches.
—SOUNDBITE—(ENGLISH) Richard Johnson, combat artist “The art itself is a timeline of a period spent getting to know the person you’re drawing. The key is, in a warzone regardless of conditions, to produce art.” Sketch-rendered footage of Richard Johnson drawing slowly transforms into real footage. TEXT ON SCREEN: COMBAT ARTISTS ON SCREEN GRAPHIC: Richard Johnson Combat artist —SOUNDBITE—(ENGLISH) Richard Johnson, combat artist “As a tool for historical documentation, it is timeless. There’s something about the intimacy of the art that makes people care about stories they didn’t know they needed to care about. I’ve operated as a field artist for the last fifteen years in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Congo, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic. I usually start with the eyes. You really just enter the whole person from there.” “I’ve had a rocket fired at me. I’ve come under artillery in my time, I’ve been stuck in a minefield. I’ve been shot at, and I’ve had vehicles around me blow up with IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. So I guess I am a combat artist even though I have never, through all of that, really felt at risk because of the amount of protection that’s given to you. I will go anywhere that there’s a good story to tell and that I think art can help.” Shots of Johnson’s sketches of soldiers. Photographs of Johnson drawing in the field. Footage of Richard drawing TEXT ON SCREEN: DURING NATO EXERCISE TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018, Johnson MENTORED US MARINES WHO WANT TO PICK UP THIS UNIQUE TRADE. Shots of Baumann and Johnson sketching US Marines and their vehicles during Trident Juncture 2018 ON SCREEN GRAPHIC: Captain CJ Baumann US Marine Corps combat artist —SOUNDBITE—(ENGLISH) Captain CJ Baumann, US Marine Corps combat artist “Richard Johnson whom I’ve been fortunate enough to pair up with, he knows how to see a scenario, get the background information, and tell a story through his artwork. And that’s something that I would love to be able to do.” “When we embed with units and he’s able to look over my shoulder at my drawings, there’s a lot of growth that comes out of that. Combat art is different from photography, it is more intimate. And not that photographs can’t communicate emotion, they can. The difference is that we were there and we experienced it because a picture you can snap it in half a second and walk away and you can not really know what’s going on and still get a good photo. But we had to get to know who we were drawing. Whether it be a gruesome medical scene or just some high intense mission, you have to capture simply what you see.” Photographs of troops in action during Exercise Trident Juncture 2018. --SOUNDBITE—(ENGLISH) Richard Johnson, combat artist “So we were very fortunate in Iraq. We were very well looked after by Marines. I think about five days in we lost our first couple of guys. The bodies had to be retrieved from the river they had been attempting to cross and I have a sketch of Sergeant Barringer sitting by the river’s edge. That sketch, I think for me now looking back at it fifteen years further on, you can still feel the pain in the sketch. As a sketch it’s absolutely poignant.” Framed sketch of Sergeant Barringer. Various shots from NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 Close up details of Baumann and Johnson’s military sketches. —SOUNDBITE—(ENGLISH) Captain CJ Baumann, US Marine Corps combat artist “We want people to be able to look at a drawing and feel like‘Wow,I wasn’t there but I’m really close.’ And so that’s part of the beauty of it all.We’re leaving a piece of ourselves here in that trust, extending that to those that we are interacting with.” —SOUNDBITE—(ENGLISH) Richard Johnson, combat artist “People are viewing it through a human lens and that makes a difference.”
- Oppdal, Norway
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