Wednesday, March 31, 2010

General Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest was either the second or third portrait I drew in this series. At first, I was very tense about drawing General Forrest because of everything I'd heard about him. One of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, the first grand wizard of the Klan, a slave owner, and a massacre of black Union soldiers were common things I'd heard about him. I tried to put this aside and focus on his military service instead. As I began to draw the general, I would read up on him as I went along. What I found amazing was that there is countless information regarding him as a klansman, a slaveholder, and his massacre at Fort Pillow. What our history books make very slight remarks about is General Forrest's decision to leave the Klan because of their violent behavior, and that he began to work for racial equality amongst black and white Americans. Just google, Nathan Bedford Forrest Civil Rights', and you'll see some wonderful information regarding his work towards equality.

That being said, General Forrest had no military education, and yet, he was one of the most feared commanders by the Union, and an amazing calvary commander. General Sherman once said that Forrest must be "hunted down and killed if it costs 10,000 lives and bankrupts the treasury." The map in this drawing is of his leadership at Brice's Crossroads. Here, he completely embarrassed the Union Army that had him outnumbered 3-1 (Forrest had 3,500 men compared to the Union's 8,500). The drawing at the bottom is of the memorial at Brice's Crossroads National Battlefield.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

James Longstreet

General James Longstreet - General Longstreet, by many accounts, gets a bad reputation because of some of the actions and comments he made. He disagreed with General Lee on Pickett's Charge, and wrote some critical comments about him as well. To many, criticizing General Lee is like someone criticizing Martin Luther King Jr. Because General Lee has such respect, to disagree with anything from him, makes one look like a traitor. I however, disagree with that sentiment. I believe that it's patriotic to disagree with our leaders, just as much as it is to agree with them. General Longstreet was an outstanding corps commander, and according to historian Jeffry Wert, "arguably the best corps commander during the conflict on either side". During the Battle of Fredericksburg, while the Union Army lost well over 10,000 men, General Longstreet lost some 500. The map shows his position at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the bottom is from a photograph of reenactors at Marye's Heights, where General Longstreet's men held their position.

Monday, March 22, 2010

PGT Beauregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard is the next general in this series. Beauregard was either the second or third drawing of the generals I completed, but the last one I worked on. I completed his face, worked on everyone else's drawing, and then did the map of Charleston Harbor last. I think that Beauregard gets a bad rap from some of the historians - the ones I've talked to anyway - as he comes off as what we call today, 'a fame whore'. He seemed to be very drawn to the limelight more than the cause that they were fighting for. After the war, he became wealthy from the Louisiana lottery, and spoke in favor of civil rights and voting for the recently freed slaves after the war was over. I decided to draw him because I think he was a brilliant artillery commander. What's striking about the opening of the Civil War, was that Beauregard was pitted against his instructor at West Point, Major Robert Anderson. The first shots from the Civil War were from Fort Moultrie at Fort Sumter, which is what is drawn at the bottom of the page. Beauregard, though not quite the commander that Lee was, I really admire his skill as an artillery commander. Besides, he did command the first win of the Civil War of either side. The map is of Charleston Harbor, where the first battle took place. Even though General Johnston was the commander of the Battle of Bull Run, Beauregard is the one that basically ran the operation, Johnston just happens to get the credit because he was the general.

The drawing is 11x14 in graphite, but the background with the Confederate Flag, was done with Vine Charcoal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

JEB Stuart

Here's the completed portrait of JEB Stuart. Stuart was a graduate of West Point, and as a cavalry commander, he was known for his mastery of reconnaissance. He was a legendary figure, and one of the greatest calvary commanders in U.S. history. Though he maintained a cavalier image (red-lined gray cape, yellow sash, hat cocked to the side with a peacock feather, red flower in his lapel), business was serious with him. Robert E. Lee dearly trusted Stuart, and he was devastated when Stuart was killed. In this drawing, at the top, is a statement by Stuart. Though it looks crooked onscreen, trust me, it's straight. I measured and lined it up with a ruler to be certain. The statement is a remarkable one, as this is indeed, the manner in which he was killed. He was killed at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864, leading a calvary charge. His hat is just below that, and the battle map that I decided to draw was one that, at first sounds like a joke. It's known as Stuart's ride around McClellan. Remember that the Union Army outnumbered the Confederates in just about every single battle. Stuart literally did something that sounds like it came out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, he rode around General McClellan. I thought it was fitting for the drawing, and at the bottom, I found some photos of a Stuart reenactment and drew from different photographs to get the drawing you see here. I hope you like it, and I'll be posting another one here shortly.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

George Edward Pickett

This is the next drawing of General George Edward Pickett. Pickett in some ways, has been immortalized because of the actions at Gettysburg. It was a very, very sad day for the south, and for America when, in one day, thousands of men lost their lives. Pickett's charge was a bloodbath. This is the only drawing I have done of the eight generals that depicts a loss. Like all of the others, this drawing is 11x14 in graphite. The map is of Pickett's position and route he took through the field, and the drawing at the bottom - which didn't come out as clear as I would've liked in the photograph - is of what is referred to as 'the high water mark of the Confederacy'. The tree and rocks are known as 'the angle', and it's the only position that the Confederates broke through Union lines despite such a high rate of casualties. At the top, I felt it was befitting for the drawing, to include the statement that General Pickett quoted to General Lee when when asked to turn to his division. General Pickett responded, "General Lee, I have no division." General Pickett witnessed so many of his men falling, and he personally blamed General Lee for this terrible loss of life. From what I've read, he never spoke to Robert E. Lee again.

Anyway, give me your thoughts and opinions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Joseph E. Johnston

Here is the first of the eight Civil War Generals in the series - Joseph E. Johnston. Just for a little background on General Johnston, in the First Battle of Bull Run also known as the First Manassas, he brought forces from the Shenandoah Valley combining his men with Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard. Johnston did suffer from a lack of aggression in the war, but he was an effective commander overall. He also assisted in the design and production of the Confederate Battle Flag, as it was his idea to make the flag square.

The portrait is 11x14 in graphite. I did take some liberties with his beard - material wise - by mixing white charcoal into his beard. The quote at the top was one that caught my attention. Often, men of great stature are given words of praise by their equal counterparts. To me however, it says a lot when those a great man is commanded by, states words of praise about him. The portrait itself took around 15 hours to complete. The map is of Johnston's movement, and I spent countless hours making sure that the map was accurate. I bought the West Point Atlas of War book that has all of the major campaigns in it along with the breakdown of each campaign. The maps are very detailed and the route had to be correct. I didn't want to violate any copyright laws, so I made sure that I researched dozens of maps of this battle, not just from the book. The bridge at the bottom is literally called, Stone Bridge. The bridge was originally destroyed and I struggled with either drawing from a photograph of the destroyed bridge, or the one you see in the drawing, the rebuilt one. All in all, I probably spent anywhere from 30 - 40 hours on this drawing not including research. I'd love to get everyone's feedback on this, so I look forward to hearing from you all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Series - Civil War Generals

I wanted to talk a moment about the newest series I am working on here. It's a collection of 8 generals from the Confederate Army. They will be sold in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA this spring. I want to give a quick synopsis of what's going to set these portraits apart from my other ones. Each portrait will include the general, beside him will be a map of one or several battles he is known for, a quote he said, and a smaller drawing that will go along with the picture, relating to him.

For many years, going back to high school, I was taught that the Civil War was about slavery. It was a battle from the north to force the south to give up their slaves. It was when I moved to Virginia where a lot of the things I'd been taught were proven to be wrong. The question was posed to me one day, "if Lincoln freed all of the slaves, why then does the Emancipation Proclamation only free the slaves in the south? and, why were northern states such as New Jersey, allowed to keep theirs?" Questions like this made me wonder if what I'd been taught in school was wrong all along. Much of it was. It was when I began to read about some of these generals that I was completely blown away at their patriotism, valor, and amazing battle strategies. The reason that some of these generals are so revered is because of their desire to fight for what they believed was right, even if it meant killing a family member in the process. If something is right, shouldn't we be willing to do the same?

Imagine fighting against an army two, three, and sometimes four times the size of yours. This army has better equipment than yours, more well-trained men, more food, and to be frank, everything they have is better than yours. What are your chances of success? How long could you hold this army off? What if at the end of the war, you've lost less men, captured more of their officers, won more battles, and embarrassed their best commanders? Even if you lose, you come out ahead in some respects. These men that I'm drawing each have a story to tell. Regardless of what you've been taught, I encourage you to read the quick bios I put under their portraits, and not only that, research it for yourself. Find out if what I've written is true. And if it's not, let me know. I'll change it. You can email me at

The list of generals I'll be posting, and maybe not in this order are: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, JEB Stuart, PGT Beauregard, George Pickett, Joseph E. Johnston, and James Longstreet. Even if after you've read the stories behind these men, you still disagree, I hope you can still appreciate the art, time, and research I've put into this. I've put a lot of research into these drawings, and I look forward to your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Muhammed Ali

A portrait collage I completed of Muhammed Ali. In this charcoal drawing, I drew it on an 11x14 sheet of charcoal paper. The background was darkened with a light coat of charcoal stick, and then I went over that layer with acrylic paint. I faded the charcoal into the acrylic to really try and heighten the sense of what's going on. I didn't want each drawing connecting, so I decided to fade them in. Ali's first fight was with Sonny Liston, and for their rematch, he knocked Liston to the canvas and stood over him, shouting for him to get up. The photographer, Neil Leifer, who snapped this photograph probably had no idea how famous the photograph would be. I decided to recreate this photograph at the bottom of the drawing, and complete the top with his last notable fight with George Foreman. Prints are available on a high gloss paper for $20.00, so just email me at if you'd like to purchase one..