I’m honored to share my perspective of the 2017 Veteran’s Day ceremony for Petty Officer Third Class Marvin G. Shields. Both my husband and I are military veterans; each of us deployed at separate times for separate conflicts, leaving the other behind. We each returned safely…but not all did. I planned to attend this ceremony before I realized it was World Sketch Day. Once I connected the dots, I set out to both attend and record the event.
Here is an overview of my process, which I hope will encourage you to sketch a special event for yourself in the future! You don’t need magic or elaborate equipment… just simple gear, an observant eye, and a willing hand. Although in November, hand warmers have their own magic…
Before leaving home, I cut two 9” by 11” pieces of Arches 130 lb. rough watercolor paper and used blue painter’s tape to fix them to plastic-covered boards (covers from a broken 3-ringed binder). Across each sheet, I placed a separate piece of tape to divide each sheet into two “frames.” My equipment: paper, pencil, kneaded eraser, two Sharpie markers, small watercolor palette and water, two brushes, and hand warmers.
I arrived before the ceremony and found a background spot to stand and sketch. The ceremony was only 30 minutes long… no time to waste! For the first “frame,” I used pencil to sketch the major shapes: tent, flags, sidewalk, and a few figures. Then switched to fine-tipped Sharpie to finish the line work. In the top left frame, I started sketching the head of a man standing nearby – but abandoned that when the color guard staged themselves right in front of me. Couldn’t resist that! I did a more careful pencil sketch of the color guard on the other sheet, then outlined them in pen.
To my left were several servicemen and women in formation. I went back to the (temporarily) abandoned head sketch and added the rest of them.
One frame left, not much time…. what to do? I drew my view of the back of the headstone, the smaller flags, and other features around the grave. The ceremony was almost over by that point and I thought I was done. Then the bugler appeared. I stood at attention for the first stanza of Taps, before realizing I had one more thing to do. I uncapped my Sharpie one more time and added the bugler to the bottom right. And with that, the ceremony was over.
As the crowd cleared and the crew packed up tent and chairs, I retrieved my car from off-site and returned to the cemetery to add watercolor. To finish them later would mean I’d miss the opportunity to capture the colors and the mood of the moment. And I’d get too fussy about making it perfect! After erasing extra pencil lines with the kneaded eraser, I brushed in color and added some thicker lines using the broad-tipped Sharpie. Made notes about location and date, signed each sheet, and my mission was complete.
Thank you for reading this ~ and happy sketching to you!