Every year a division of the local VFW Auxiliary chooses to honor local families by presenting the families of those serving in the military with blue starts. The mothers of soldiers who have died get a gold star. The ceremony is meaningful; filled with bagpipe music, tearful ballads and an honor guard.
I do oil paintings of the deceased soldiers and I present them at the end of the ceremony. These are tough paintings to do. You have to divorce yourself from the circumstances while you look at the reference photos of smiling young men who are hugging their girlfriends or hiking up a mountain with their favorite dog. The trouble is you know these young men will never hike or hug again and it's hard to accept that. As hard as it is for you to accept it's a thousand times harder on their family and friends.
So I try to create a painting that honors the soldier and will provide some sort of comfort to the family. Oil portraits last hundreds of years so the painting is likely to become an heirloom. The soldier whose life too early will become a legend in the history of his family. He's a hero, and while we don't worship our heroes we do recognize their valor and the courage it takes to put yourself out there in harm's way.
This year we are honoring two soldiers. I started the under-paintings this week and I hope to finish the paintings next week.
Joseph Lilly and Steven Stevens