WWII memorial....Blood, Guts and Nerves of Steel

During the second world war, much blood of brave young Americans was spilled in the Hawaian waters of Pearl Harbor,  the beaches of Normandy, France, and the island of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific.  On the Veteran's Memorial wall in Palatka, Florida, this fourth panel to the left of  the Korean War scenes painted in 2016, is finished.   From top to bottom they are....the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor, the Normandy Beach D-Day ( actual scene depicting D+1 Day) , and the iconic flag raising at Iwo Jima. These were the three scenes the late Clint Snyder envisioned for the WWII panel of this memorial. I  remember way back in 2012 or was it '13...Clint had invited Ed and I to have a bite with him at Dunkin Donuts, to discuss the possibility of us painting a veteran's memorial . We already felt quite overwhelmed with the huge Annie Oakley mural we were painting and the thought of painting another one like what he was describing....consisting of 21 scenes, each triple scene being 16' high by 12' wide on a 91 ft wall seemed like a job for Superman! or woman!  History was never my best subject, and didn't think we could do justice to a project of this magnitude! Clint however, explained to us how this was all going to happen. He had put together a rough sketch for each entry, numerous reference photos and a placement map with measurements, arrows, circles and labels, and after spreading all this out on the restaurant table, explaining each war scene in detail, we got into his car, and drove over to the courthouse parking lot to view the wall he had in mind. He then asked us to think about it and put together a proposal for the mural committee to approve. He would then begin to raise funds from various local and other veteran's groups and advertise for funding from the private sector as well. I wondered whose job would be harder .. ours or his! 



Vet's Memorial Mural 2018 WWII and Iraq

Once again, we are in the charming town of Palatka, Florida, to paint 2 more panels for the Veteran's Memorial Mural on the western wall of the Courthouse. World War II and the Iraq War comprise 6 paintings in all, 3 for each war. As we begin the upper scene for WWII. The horrendous suprise attack in the early morning hours on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese Imperial Navy comes to life as we prepare the backdrop sea and sky for this awful visual record of treachery perpetrated on our peaceful naval base. Although devastating, the attack did not cripple the United States forces as the Japanese had hoped. The oil storage facilities, shipyards, submarine docks and repair stations remained intact, while all of the Navy's
Pacific Fleet of the aircraft carriers were elsewhere.
our worksite still there ...still waiting!
Frank Walker's very necessary scaffold modifications-wooden handrail and crisis-cross cable assembly!

Iwo Jima flag raising
      We are hopefully going to finish this half of our project in 2 weeks and although there is rain in the forecast for several days next week, we feel we have a good head start in what we have been able to accomplish so far. As I paint the huge ships anchored unaware in Oahu's beautiful harbor, it's difficult to imagine what was experienced there on that morning of December 7, 1941. What sudden terror, fear and confusion, in a war that had not even been declared yet! I try to do justice to the terrible scene with firey explosions and plumes of black choking smoke filling the air. Sadly, 20 Naval vessels and 200 airlplanes were destroyed, and the American loss of life included 1,500 soldiers and personnel, with another
1,000 personnel wounded. In light of the sacrifices made to protect our country, I feel grateful and safe where I am with paintbrush in hand looking back on that fateful day.
             Actually, this was for us, our absolute best painting day so far, and we would like to thank a very special volunteer from the amazing Conlee Snyder Mural Committee! A wonderfully dedicated Frank Walker concerned himself with making sure our questionable new scaffolding was safe and secure, and took it upon himself to correct some of the problems we were having with it!  He spent quite a lot of time anchoring it together with cables, adding supporting outriggers and even built a nice guard rail for the top level! We are so thankful for this mural committee, who are comprised of caring individuals,
volunteering their time, energy and skills to bring the history the city and our nation to the town of Palatka. The mission of the Conlee-Snyder Mural Committee is to 'accurately depict the historical, cultural and natural riches of Palatka and Putnam County through larger than life murals. In sharing these pictorial renderings with citizens and visitors appreciation of the heritage of our community will be developed and enhanced.' The Committee was named in honor of the organization founders Elizabeth and Clinton Snyder and the City Commissioner and philanthropist Leon Conlee. We are also personally grateful for the Committee Chairman John Alexander and his wife and all they do to make it all happen!


Chris' name added to the mural wall

Thank you Lord, for this beautiful son... Children are a gift you said...
I was so blessed to have him as mine
Everything he did, was done with enthusiasm and care
As was this mural scene
Chris, your name has been added to the Chosin scene on the Korean war memorial.
Thanks for the time you gave us..R.I.P. Love always, Mom


Miniature thoroughbred portraits: Arrogate/Songbird

Commission portraiture:
Acrylic on 2.5" x 3.5" masonite

Acrylic on 2.5" x 3.5" masonite


Finally a nice cool day for painting!

These kids were more than happy to pose for us!
Readers become leaders ! Better Grab a Book !

And they asked lots of great questions too!


William D. Moseley Mural / April, 2016

Our mural adventures have taken us to an east facing wall over at the William Moseley Elementary School in Palatka..Our 3 other murals faced west with the sun coming up over those walls at around 12 noon, and our window to paint was early mornings, my favorite time! Best thing to do now is to arrive at lunch time just as that hot sun is about to move on! Getting started then  motivates to us to really budget our time and energy!
 A little Moseley history:
The first elected Governor of Florida was William Moseley (1845-1849). After serving his term in office, he settled  in Palatka and operated a citrus grove there.  For this mural project, he will be depicted in that setting along with his grave site which is located in the West View Cemetery . The book in his hands will encourage young readers with the appropriate title 'Readers Become Leaders'.   So far we  have been visited by enthusiastic second and third grade classes who all asked great questions about the mural, and about Florida's history!


Three down and four to go!

    Well, it's been a great honor to paint the first three of seven wars for this memorial! And we would just like to thank the Conlee Snyder Mural Committee, the City of Palatka for this commission and to the War Veterans, their families and the many civilians for supporting this endeavor with their donations and encouragement during the painting process! We take home with us many wonderful memories of time spent at this wall and we look forward to continuing and eventually completing the painting of WWI, WWII, The Persian Gulf War and The Iraq War.
My wonderful husband applies the final ultraviolet protective coating to Korea.
A lonely stretch of ice before them, and impassable mountains beyond!

Our Brooklyn assistant lent a capable hand!
And finally in memory of all those who gave their youth and their lives!


Finis! well almost...

I appreciate my son Chris' lettering style ~ Just beautiful! Come Saturday l think I will ask him to redo mine for the scene below.

We are so thankful for this project but happy to be nearing the finish line! What remains is the KIA names that we have at present to be added to the scrolls.  
So many people came by today... Some of them veterans ...some from out of town.. to take pictures..ask questions...tell their stories... but mostly to just say thank you!


Saturday's Chosin Reservoir Scene/and Monday's Rain

Our painting adventure continues with my son exercising his creative potential! He has talent! The lower panel of our Korean War panel now has an icy mountain backdrop!  
   I worked on the painting above Chris's masterpiece as Ed touched up some other areas in the Vietnam scenes. In a few hours we called it quits as the sun came around to our side of the building, but not until Chris completed his frozen Korean mountain range!

Nice work Chris!
Come Monday morning I plan to sketch in the march across the ice, refine our B29 bomber and possibly add a scroll and lettering for each scene. We'll see. 

Monday: Ed laid down a nice clean snow covered lake just under the mountains, where we'll portray a long convoy of soldiers and jeeps crossing the pass, depicting the withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir. Temps reached 30-40 below 0 at times, and I read that medics had to keep the ampules of morphine in their mouths to prevent the fluid inside from freezing. Blood froze in tubes, guns jammed and truck engines had to be kept running at all times. All this while dodging enemy machine gun fire. In an interview with U.S. Marine Lee Bergee, a survivor of this battle,  he states '...I do believe that Chosin was a classic example of a small but well-disciplined force prevailing over a tenacious enemy, severe weather and overwhelming odds. Other battles have had high battle casualties and fierce fighting, but it was the severe weather and the fact that we were fighting off six Chinese divisions that made the Chosin Reservoir campaign so different from the rest.'
   And here is the progress on my group painting...
I wonder how many out of this group came home.

Trying to do justice to the brave men who served, young faces, many in their 20's off to fight a war not understood.

 The 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) was organized on October 9, 1950, assuming the lineage of A Company of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. (an initial strength of 135 enlisted men)

.. Tuesday was a complete washout and we drove home soaking wet with nothing more done than a couple scrolls sketched in on the pillars! No pictures of this or the rainstorm that swept paint, rags, water, brushes etc, onto the ground below!     


Painting Against the Wind

Monday's gale force winds nearly swept us and our supplies off the platform but we held onto the wall and finished Putnam County's Seal for the upper left side of the Memorial! Phew!

Flag 'unpainted' and replaced with the county seal!
Our tarp tied to the scaffold protects Ed from the sun and wind as he adds some highlights to our Afghanistan cliffs


While touching up the FSB Ripcord scene

Our adventure in Palatka continues.....
 An Interlachen, FL survivor from RIPCORD (middle scene) with that name on his license plate came by with his wife to say hello and share his story. I asked him for names of missing or killed from Palatka.. He said we can find the names on the RIPCORD Association website - ( just under 300 dead!!) 'What about POWs?'  I asked.  Yes, possibly..because they went back to that spot years later and actually found a pair of boots!  This is not just a painting project for us / but a solemn history lesson, given by those who fought there! These memorials are for them..
 A full moon in a predawn sky hangs over Afghanistan cliffs...Flowers and 'boots on the ground' patrolling along crumbling Qalats on the third painting down...very technologically advanced gear for these soldiers... and..upgraded quite some from compared to the Vietnam era....  and now the enemy possess the same....
Unfinished Afghanistan War Scenes. Showing 'Dark Horse'(top), Battle of Keating (middle), and our soldiers patrolling 'Qalats'(Bottom).



    Our progress continues in Palatka as Ed and I make headway painting the last war for this Veteran's Memorial..not our last, but the last war to be depicted. After completing Vietnam and this one of Afghanistan, painting the Korean War would follow. These were chosen because many of the veterans of these wars are still alive today, and would be able to watch the actual painting in progress! Lots of history on the internet for anyone interested in what has been going on over there. Google 'Dark Horse/Afghanistan War in 2011 to read about K Company's rescue mission there (Many died and dozens of Marine's returned home with missing limbs), and The Battle of Kamdesh where a force of 300 Taliban assaulted the American Combat Outpost Keating in 2009. and this war hasn't ended...and we continue to salute the brave men and women who served. and thank the many who stop by to watch and occasionally share a memory or two.
Small scale rendering showing all three sections of how the wall will look on the larger 16'x 12' area.
Scaffolding and shadows partially obscuring our work. The endless Afghanistan War!

Detail for top painting of Afghanistan mural: a Marines rescue operation referred to as 'Dark Horse' This part of Afghanistan was considered to be one of the most dangerous regions to be fighting in.

 further detail of Marine rescue
Weather permitting Ed and I are planning to go tomorrow and paint all week, hopefully to get a good bit of this one done!


A Year Ago Yesterday

       Happy New Year!! We all wonder where 2015 went! 

     It was a year ago yesterday, and the engine light came on just as we made our left into Cracker Swamp Road toward Palatka. We did change the oil in NY..  Should really check it.. maybe later.   Driving past farm after farm we guessed at what they might be growing there in those perfectly straight rows...corn? cabbage? potatoes? We passed the same 2 horses grazing in the woods, the dilapidated trucks parked under a metal half collapsed roof, the shirtless man seated on his deck..Same as before... Drizzle on the windshield and overcast skies contradicted early weather reports as we crossed over the river and turned down St. John's Ave. After our 5 week absence, our mural looked fine, but maybe little faded from the sun?  but the scaffolding was still there, and plenty of parking available.

And so, 4 hours later, here is the start of 'Operation Giant Slingshot', a US Navy effort in 1968 to halt enemy river traffic moving across the border from Cambodia. In this scene, water cannons mounted on patrol boats were used to flush out enemy infiltration on the Vam Co Dong river. Next time I'll paint the Palm trees along the river banks, and detail, but you get the idea.   So much to learn about this war! Every so often a Vietnam Vet will come by to comment and share a personal story or two from their own firsthand experience, memories, heartaches. We're gaining new respect for those unsung soldiers of that much disputed conflict.   


Veteran's Memorial Day Parade in Palatka

     When in Palatka on Veteran's Day, keep a scaffold handy for a birds-eye view of the parade coming down St. John's Ave!
Some interesting people said hello..  a lady member of the Marine Corp, a few Vietnam Vets, each with stories, a young  visitor from Germany wanting her picture with us.
As we were packing up to leave, a camera wielding contingent from the American Legion pulled up on their 3 person motorcycle and invited us for lunch at the American Legion Hall! We did, and it was very nice!

On the American Legion building, a very beautiful mural painted by college student Sylvia Cerri- Bartels
Patriotic Motorcade
And...we even made it to...

 the front page!


Vietnam Vets Memorial , Day 7

Today is day 7. It was overcast and comfortable with a little rain here and there, but we put 5 more hours into the Operation Pershing scene, completing much of the vegetation in the foreground, smokey skyline and details of the radio telephone operator's gear.
Ed lettered our 2nd scene which will depict the 101st Airborne at Fire Support Base Ripcord. This last major battle against the North Vietnamese Army lasted 23 days. Click on the FSB link above to read one radio operator's personal  recollections of that battle. He was only 18 yrs old at the time.
As we were packing up to go home, a woman who looked to be in her 30's pulled up in her car, close to our scaffold. She looked as if she had been crying.. said she was at the bank across the street and noticed our mural. She said she had to come over because her father was in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam in 1970 and she wanted to thank us for doing this memorial. She wasn't the first to come by with a thank you. Saturday we had a visit from a man and his wife, who just wanted to shake our hands and thank us. He was a Vet himself, and I wondered if the limp he had was possibly a souvenir of that war. There was another Vet who came by the same day, wanting to share a few stories and thank us for painting this mural. 


Veteran's War Memorial Mural - 1st week of painting

     Our first week painting the war memorial in Palatka began up on the left side of the 100 ft long, 16 ft high wall of the Guardian Ad Litem Building, St. Johns Ave. The scaffolding just barely reaches that height but with a little stretching we managed to get to the roof level with our brushes! Florida flag in! Same challenge for our lettering across the top. It will read 'Honor those who have served. (The American Flag) , and then 'Remember those who have fallen" with the POW Flag to the far right corner.
Didn't seem like much of an accomplishment for Day 1 and we fell short of our goal to have all the lettering and  American flag painted in! Next day we finished another couple words ,sketched in our American flag rendition along with red stripes and a few stars...Oh those stars...so many of them! Each representing a state, as they were added to the Union so long ago...can't take it for granted...Our nation when it was young..yrs of war, peace, war, peace.. colonists, cowboys & indians, presidents, discoveries, technology, industry, more wars, immigration, more elections, greed and generosity, from sea to shining sea...  So, at home that night, I cut out a star stencil for the size I thought might work. Next day I discovered it was just a little too big, and not wanting to have crowded overlapping white stars on our flag, we worked on some lettering for our first panel instead.  The panel was to be entitled 'Vietnam War   1959 - 1975' but our scaffolding was positioned off to the right where the word 'War' would begin, and so I painted that word first, along with the dates. but Ed was a little concerned to leave it that way, like an unfinished thought, a 3 letter word and nothing more than the dates. .. what would it look like without the word 'Vietnam' ..a violent suggestion? no I hope not! Make Love not 'War'? certainly not that!  So for just one night it was an unexplained, generic 'WAR'!   Next day we moved the scaffolding to the left and made sense of the title, and I also came prepared with a smaller star stencil for our flag! It worked just fine, and we proceeded with the 1st Vietnam scene...'Operation Pershing'  1967... South Vietnam 'For nearly a year the division scoured the Bong Son Plain, An Lo valley and the hills of costal II Corps, seeking out enemy units and their sanctuaries. Pershing became a tedious, unglamorous mission that produced 18 major engagements and numerous minor skirmishes in the 11 month campaign.'

Operation Pershing
First of 3 paintings for the first panel...Operation Pershing

a telegraph operator during Operation Pershing