Artist finds inspiration for artwork

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Melissa Phillips
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Robert Marshall sees the world through an artistic lens that allows him to see humor in every situation and then recreate it on paper in cartoons and caricatures.

During his off-duty time and an occasional lunch break, he draws a cartoon series called "Seven Deserts" for the base newsletter at a forward-deployed location. It is designed to poke fun at life within the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing that supports operations Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch.

Marshall has covered a variety of topics in his cartoon series such as the importance of bathrooms in a deployment setting, how critical the word "replacement" is in a deployed airmen's vocabulary, the joys of power failures and more.

"I use people around me as my subject matter," said Marshall, a 21-year veteran who is stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "I deliberately use the military as a vehicle to stay in practice, whether designing patches, T-shirts, coins or cartoons (for a military audience). It is what hones my skills."

When he is not using his artistic talents, Marshall is a fuels specialist in the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron.

His artistic projects have been as small as the Air Education and Training Command's fuels coin, as large as a 20-foot mural of his base's mascot on a warehouse wall and all dimensions of artwork in between.

Not one to waste a moment of free time, he has been known to even draw his lunch companions, said Tech. Sgt. Rick Perez, fuels specialist from the 380th ELRS. Perez has witnessed Marshall's efforts at two other bases and is now deployed with him here.

"He's out to lift people's spirits, whether it's through his conversation or drawings," Perez said. "He sees the humorous side of someone, whether they realize it or not,"

Perez laughs while remembering some of Marshall's more hilarious observations. One of his favorites is a caricature of a 5-foot-2-inch airmen, who he depicted as just two hands on top of the steering wheel because the airmen could barely peek over the dash to drive a fuel truck.

The funny guy also has a serious side to him, which surfaces when he is working with a patriotic theme. While stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, he painted a life-size mural of an airman handing a girl an American flag. Written on it are five words he holds dearly, "The ultimate gift is freedom."

His artwork has at times taken over his life. In his early teens, he leaned on arts' therapeutic qualities so much that his father had to take drastic measures to get him to slow down a little.

"I used to stay up to four in the morning drawing, but finally my dad got smart to it and unscrewed the light bulb from my room so I would go to sleep," Marshall said.

The San Francisco native plans on retiring in about three years and says his military career, even though it has not been in an artistic field, will help him succeed in art as a civilian.

In fact, it already has. For the last twenty years, a steady military clientele eagerly bought his caricatures and portraits for going-away gifts.