Tuesday 19 February 2013

George Armstrong Custer

One of the most controversial figures in the History of the American West is George Armstrong Custer. Often referred to as `General' Custer, his brevet rank during the Civil War, he was actually a Lieutenant Colonel when commanding the 7th Cavalry at the famous battle of the Little Bighorn on  25 June 1876. Custer's total force amounted to 667 soldiers, scouts and civilians. Underestimating the Indians -  it is now believed there were about 1500 warriors, mainly Sioux, some Cheyenne and a few Arapahoes, although some estimates give much higher figures - he made the fatal error of splitting his force into three non supporting groups, his of 200 plus being completely wiped out. Total losses were approximately  253 soldiers and civilians killed plus 53 wounded. These are minuscule figures compared to what has happened in other conflicts but created a sensation at the time and has led to a huge literature, many films and continuing controversy to this day.  The 7th cavalry gained their revenge over the Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek on the 29 December 1890 killing 128 Lakota Sioux, including women and children, with 33 more Wounded. It was not the one-sided battle often portrayed as 25 soldiers were killed and 35 wounded, the 7th Cavalry's biggest loss other than at the Little Big Horn.

 George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer. A2 Waterford Rough 140lb (300gsm).

I first made a pencil drawing using a Pentel 205 mechanical 05 2B pencil. I then painted the features using various combinations of Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Cerulean Blue. I avoided hard edges other than on the right facing side of the face.  The hat is a mixture of Indigo (Daniel Smith) in various dilutions with some Cerulean and the hair a mixture of Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre and a little blue. His coat is Cerulean and Cobalt Blue with the bow and buttons a mix of Raw Umber and Gold Ochre (W & N). Possibly I've missed out some Quinacridone Gold (DS).

 Custer was played by Errol Flynn in the historically very inaccurate movie `They Died with Their Boots On'  - a typical Hollywood distortion - and I keep thinking my painting looks rather like Flynn!

Usual brushes currently the Isabey Kolinsky sables including retractables sizes 4 to 8 and the Da Vinci Artissimo 44 No 2 mop - roughly equivalent to between a 12 and 14 round.


Ray Maclachlan Art said...

Good attempt Peter, though it is more Flynn than Custer. The shoulders are not quite right, If you watch CR he runs a line across the body, from one side to the other to get the shoulders at the right angle.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Ray. I appreciate that you are one of the few that do so regularly. I wish some others would because I appreciate the feedback, whether on my own work or the other topics I cover.

On this particular piece I didn't do much in the way of measuring just to see how it would turn out. I'm not coy about the fact I normally take quite a few measurements from the photos I use.

Linda Roth said...

I don't think so. I think you got a great likeness of Custer. Nice portrait Victor.

Peter Ward said...

Hi there Linda. Nice to see you back commenting for which thanks. I'm not Victor though - Peter Gavin.

Unknown said...

This is one of those where seeing the photograph alongside doesn't help the viewing of the painting. The focus becomes one of 'spot the difference' and there are significant differences, the most obvious one being the ratio of face length to width. But this is not always useful as it can depreciate from a sensible appreciation of the artistic endeavour. This is a really enjoyable portrait Peter, well painted with interest generated by your use of colour, edge work and brush technique.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Mick. I did say I didn't do any measuring for this one which (mainly) accounts for the discrepancies.

I was quite pleased with the final result even though it isn't a great likeness. I have been pondering this question of showing the guide photo as it can (and does) lead to the `spot the difference' approach.

As I don't aim for a truly realistic likeness this can be a problem for those viewing and commenting.

Oscar Solis said...

Hi Peter,

I think that Mick has a great point. The picture should be evaluated as it's own piece. One of the things I like about Charles Reid's work (in those clips I've seen of him in action) is that by the time he's done with a painting you couldn't care less about the original source. It has ceased to matter, at least to me.

Having said that, I think you got it right for the most part.

By the way, I always felt that Richard Mulligan played him magnificently in the film Little Big Man, even if it's a pretty broad portrayal of the man.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Oscar. Yes I've already been thinking along the lines of Mick's observation.

As for Custer 50% seem to be for him and 50% against. He had his faults but also his good points - a flawed character like so many high profile people.

artist said...

Hi Peter,
I believe that you did capture a good likeness. The one thing that I see is the nose on Custer is sharper (in the photo) and in your painting his nose is rounder, at the tip - but I think that his facial hair is very believable.

I'm in the 50% (I thought that it was higher) that don't like Custer one bit.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Delilah. As I've mentioned earlier my painting resembles Errol Flynn's movie version. That wasn't deliberate and I should have made his face sharper. Overall I think it not bad - but could do better!

Yes, Custer's reputation still causes considerable controversy. Historians are still roaming the Little Big Horn battlefield trying to uncover more facts. I'm ambivalent about Custer not for him nor against him to any great extent.

Yvonne Harry said...

Good likeness Peter. I am of the opinion that paintings where the likeness may seem important should not have photo asnd painting together, but where you want to show how you got from one to the other and the finished result isn't intended to be a copy of the source, then its helpul to see photo and painting.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Yvonne. I think I'll stop showing the guide photo and painting together as I don't intend it to be photorealistic. Obviously it needs to resemble the subject which I think this one does.