Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Great War in Greyscale - German Sniper, 'Lover of the Dead' Inspired by the novel 'Three Day Road'


In Joseph Boyden's fine book 'Three Day Road', two young Cree indians from the forests of Northern Ontario volunteer alongside other Canadians to fight in France during the Great War. Once in Belgium the two men, having impressed their officers with their marksmanship and fieldcraft, are taken from the line and trained as snipers. Very deadly snipers.




Boyden's fictional Cree marksmen were inspired by a real First Nation's sniper, Francis Pegahmagabow, who was known in the Canadian trenches simply as 'Peggy'.



'Peggy', an Ojibwa from Ontario, became one of the highest ranking snipers in military history, being credited with 378 kills including over 300 captures. He was seriously wounded twice and was three times awarded the Military Medal for gallantry under fire. Pegahmagabow survived the war and later became chief of the Wasauksing First Nation. He remained an agitator and First Nations activist until his death in 1952. 

One section of 'Three Day Road' describes a harrowing sniper duel which occurs in No Man's Land between the Cree marksmen and a notoriously successful German sniper. I don't want to give too much away from the book, but one chilling aspect of the German sniper's method is that he sets his firing position amidst the corpses between the lines - literally positioning cadavers around and over his body to provide camouflage and protection.
Can you imagine? Elijah asks, beginning to laugh. The intensity of such a man? He could lie there for hours among the dead and rotting. He lay there in that stink of death like death itself (...), a lover of the dead.
This vivid image from the book made an impression with me and so I decided to create a small vignette depicting the German sniper, laying in wait, set-up in his macabre firing position. 



The base is made up of a mixture of figures from Brigade, Great War and 1st Corps. I cut one of the casualty figures in half, repositioned and puttied it to allow it to properly drape over the sniper's body. I added a little surgical gauze around the sniper's rifle to mimic the camo scrim some marksmen used to reduce reflection. I bent some brass rod to resemble the barbed wire hangers that were common to the frontlines and then added some wire to give the impression that the sniper had cut the wire to lower the body over him.



I painted the sniper and groundwork in greyscale but chose to depict the dead in colour - a German Landser, a French Poilu and a Belgian Carabinier. 






Three Day Road
Joseph Boyden
Penquin Group
ISBN: 0143056956

21 comments:

  1. Quiet an impressive piece! The fact that he is in greyscale vs. the dead in colour only helps him camouflage. Does the amount of colour make this piece stand out amongst the others?

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  2. What a wonderfully creative yet poignant vignette. Great modelling and beautiful painting are really elevating this project into something very special.

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  3. Great piece of work and a great story too.

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  4. Excellent, so good in fact I can barely see the sniper! I presume he's concealed beneath the dead bodies?

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  5. That is very dark! but very interesting story and beautifully painted figure.

    John

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  6. Excellent work Curt. A very grim story - will look out for that book.

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  7. As always very very well done. I really enjoy this grayscale project. The story behind it is compelling as well

    Ian

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  8. This project continues to amaze Curt.

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  9. Excellent piece and interesting write up.

    Jason

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  10. Great stuff, and all the better for the story behind it. However dark...

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  11. A beautiful vignette Curt, very creative.

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  12. I'm with Ray and a great sounding book, I think I'll have a look at Amazon......

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  13. A wonderful vignette. The mix of colours is very interesting.

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  14. Nice background Curt and very nice little piece and book sounds good too!

    Christopher

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  15. Hey, thanks so much everyone for your kind words. I highly recommend the book as it provides a very interesting perspective to the war.

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  16. Nice piece Curt, very well done. Very thoughtful. Thanks also for recommending Three Day Road - like Matterhorn it is an amazing book, hard to read but very moving. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks Mike! I would not have come across it without your recommendation on Sidney's blog. Good call!

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  17. Excellent work, Kurt. You've piqued my interest about that book.

    (Also gives me an idea for a Catachan sniper figure I have had for awhile...)

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    1. Thanks Dave! Yes, please give the book a go - its very good. Almost reads as poetry at times.

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