The Process of Drawing & Painting a Military Artwork
 
Ian Coate Logo I am frequently asked about the process behind creating and painting a military artwork.  Since I believe one should always be generous with their knowledge (the rewards always outweigh the pitfalls) here is a quick look behind the curtain on techniques I generally use.
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Creating the 100 Years of Engineering Painting

Army Artworks

Back in the early 2000's, I was approached by Capt Paul Reimers to create a painting that would celebrate 100 Years of the Engineer Corps. After a few initial sketches, the above concept was accepted.

Australian WW1 Soldier photo by Ian Coate Australian Soldiers photo by Ian Coate Australian Vietnam Soldier photo by Ian Coate

Paul tracked down some period uniforms and selected some soldiers from 13 Field Engineers (LCpl McGrattan, Cpl Phillpot, Spr Villa Magna, Spr Millen, Cpl Gibbs, Cpl Boland) that would be happy to volunteer for a photo shoot. I took over one hundred photos - the guys were very patient as we raced against the setting sun to get the neccesary pictures.

From the many photos, I sketched out a workable layout. Once satisfied, I lightly outlined the image onto a stretched archival canvas, then overlayed the sketch with brown paint (Burnt Umber). Once dry, I painted the background colours.

Military Artist

For the figures, I glazed over the figures with oil paints thinned down with 'Medium No. 1'. This allowed the background brown to show through. I then worked in the details.

Ian Coate Australian Military Art

To oversee the historical accuracy of this painting and aid in finding the appropriate images for the background, I was entrusted into the care of a retired RSM of the Corps, Mic Ryan (pictured above with Padre Eaton). I could not have finished this painting without Mic's guidance. We went through literally thousands of Engineer pics to find the appropriate image that would sum up a special moment in the Corps history.

Engineer Artwork by Ian Coate

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Creating the Australian SAS Jubilee Artwork

Army Draft

As a military artist, I was very excited and honoured (also a little nervous) to be asked to produce an artwork to celebrate the SAS Regiment’s 50th birthday.  Luckily, the Association assigned me two capable blokes (Adrian Blacker & Gary Kingston) who had firm ideas of how the SAS should be represented. We tossed around a few ideas and soon decided to go with a visual timeline concept (as seen above).

Adrian Blacker

Following this, Adrian (seen in the photo above) rounded up some soldiers to act as models (a better choice I could not have found using professional models) and the Historical Foundation graciously equipped them with period uniforms and weaponry for a photo shoot.  Hugh Donaldson drove the camera and gave me a selection of images of such high standard it was difficult to choose which ones to finally use.  From that selection I sketched numerous different layouts until we agreed on the one shown above.

The next stage was painting the layout onto canvas. With a pencil, I measured and lightly outlined the main image and then I overlayed it with brown paint (Burnt Umber) on all the images except the CT figure in which I painted black. Once that stage was dry, I swapped to larger brushes and painted the background colours.

Using ‘Medium No.1’ to thin the oil paints I glazed over the brown outlines of the figures. The colours are very significant in this painting.  The blue background represents the sea, the Australian flag and the SASR banner. Gary Kingston came up with a ripper idea to colour Australia to represent the sandy beret. 

SASR

The background images are simply painted in blue (French Ultramarine) and highlighted with white. However, on a job like this, choosing those background images was never going to be easy.  No matter which ones you choose, someone would always feel slighted.  Thankfully, members of the committee made some of the harder decisions.  Adrian Blacker was indispensable at this point.  He generously gave his advice and time in finding that one image that sums up an entire sentiment. 

SAS Art

 

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