Army Artist Captures Life on Canvas
(January 1, 2011)
Army Master Sgt. Martin Cervantez works on a painting of a Haitian hotel that
had collapsed during the Haiti earthquake earlier this year. U.S. Army photo by
FORT BELVOIR, Va., Dec. 29, 2010 – More than two decades ago
the young artist possessed a portfolio of work that could
have opened the doors to any college or art school, yet
becoming an Army illustrator appealed to him the most.
Today, after nearly 25 years of service, Army Master Sgt.
Martin Cervantez believes his decision to join the military
remains the best of his career.
Cervantez, who works here at the Army Museum Support Center
as its artist in residence, is a native of Clarkston, Mich.
He has been with the organization for a little more than two
years and has spent the bulk of his career taking pictures
and working as a field artist while a part of numerous
psychological and other special operations.
A self-taught artist, Cervantez found during his
childhood that he had a passion to draw and
paint. As he got older, he said it was his
grandmother who encouraged him to explore his
talents and consider a future in art. As it
turned out, it was advice that stuck.
“I heard the Army was looking for an illustrator
and just went for it. I told recruiters if I
couldn't do anything artistic then I wasn't
really interested,” Cervantez said. “To be a
part of an organization like this is the icing
on the cake for me. Here, I can lend my skills
to our nation's history. That's an amazing
opportunity to have.”
Besides serving in mostly leadership positions
for the past 12 years, Cervantez has documented
such things as strategy briefings, military
exercises and routine air and ground patrols.
His work comes from personal experiences and
believes it takes a real talent to create
something out of nothing.
He spent four months in Afghanistan at the end
of 2008 and was in Haiti earlier this year after
a massive earthquake crippled the island nation.
With so many images of life in his head,
Cervantez finds he can't wait to get back to the
studio and put them on canvas. His time in
Afghanistan produced some oil paintings he's
most proud of and he is hopeful to visit the
country again before his military career ends.
“Normally, I'll draw field sketches and take
photos while on an assignment. Then, I'll come
back and sift through all the material to see
what I want to make a larger presentation out
of,” Cervantez said. “My goal during this
process is to capture what soldiers experience
and how it affects them and the community. It's
a thrill for me to have a soldier see a piece of
art and say that's who I was and that's what I
Cervantez admits he has become more responsible
in what he portrays in his work and said there
are mental images he will not even go near as an
artist. In Afghanistan, he'd witnessed a suicide
bomber blowing his body apart. As horrible as
that was to experience firsthand, he said it
pales in comparison to the time he saw a Haitian
civilian bend down to light a cigarette off the
charred and smoldering remains of another
A fan of impressionism and abstract art,
Cervantez has applied all kinds of methods to
his artwork. This includes using oils and
acrylics, to accentuate a particular moment he
has captured either by hand or through a photo.
He also said it's his preference to keep his
work ambiguous so everyone can relate to it. He
has never inserted himself into anything he's
done and has no plans to start now.
When not at his Belvoir studio, Cervantez may be
found in front of a classroom mentoring fellow
soldiers at Fort Meade, Md. Besides being a
senior artist in his field, he is part of a
Critical Task Site Selection Board and enjoys
sharing his zest of art with young students.
He has been invited to speak at art galleries
and currently has two of his oil paintings on
display as part of the “Art of the American
Soldier” show at the National Constitution
Center in Philadelphia.
“I've told students how fun and personally
rewarding this has been for me. I also stress
the importance of not interfering with the
safety of the soldiers out in the field,”
Cervantez said. “I'm not worried about the
dangers that come with the job. I believe that's
inherent with living. I'm an American soldier
and it's my fate to continue doing this.”
And, to his three children, who have all shown
flashes of artistic talent, their father has
some keen advice.
“I tell Kellie, Jaymz and Frank to sketch
whatever they can whenever they can,” Cervantez
said. “Every artist needs to discover themselves
and I encourage them to draw from their own
experiences. It's worked for me and I thank God
By Paul Bello|
Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office
American Forces Press Service
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