For those who are regular users of the Vietnam | Glory Obscured forums and have been for a while, you may have noticed about 2 months ago I traveled up north to RAAF Townsville with the Australian Air Force Cadets to take part in assisting the operating of an air show. Whilst there, I did a number of things, such as roaming around the strand, watching the Pigs fly overhead, watching fireworks, having fun and games with fellow 1 Wing members, helping assisting operating and what not. During my spare time whilst taking part in the Open Base Day and having no duties to fulfill, I wandered around the base, eating, drinking, talking, photographing and such. Then I stumbled upon something that caught my eye. A War Artist had set up shot in one of the hangars and was selling images.
I was amazed as I slowly dawdled by, eying up his beautiful artwork. I eventually felt obliged to buy some of it (at a discount too), and had a 10 minute conversation with him. His name was Conway Bown, and he is a member of the Australian Army and is currently the official Australian war artist and helicopter pilot. He had been inspired by Redgum's song, I Was Only 19, years before to eventually grow up and join the army. In 1996 he did just that. He became a successful helicopter pilot and had done 2 tours of duty in Iraq and 1 in East Timor.
He told me that during his spare time whilst out on tour, he would often become bored and doodle funny cartoons of his fellow crew members and friends in his unit. Over time he became more skilled and was soon drawing many portraits, artworks and sketches of people, and selling them to people in his unit. He thought however that his fun would've ended when one day an officer stumbled upon his collection of art pieces that he had been illegally selling. Instead, it opened up an entire new opportunity and career path. His skill was reported to his superiors who offered him a position as the detachment's artist and PR operator. He accepted this offer and his life was never the same.
He is now, after his skill excelled against all the others, being paid thousands extra (remembering he still is a helicopter pilot) a year to draw pictures of the military that he can also sell to earn him more money. It is an inspiring and unknown career option in the Australian military.
After my return from RAAF Townsville however, sadly, I had forgotten about poor old Conway, who is seldom recognized for his success by people, and many weeks passed by as his artwork I had purchased was stowed away and hidden from the world.
Earlier today, as I sit here, something ticked in my head and made me find the canvas pictures and postcards I had bought that day. I don't know whether it was for my recent contribution to an art website, whether it was an impulse thing out of boredom as I sit and download Combat Arms, or maybe it was just destiny. I found the set he had sold me, and carefully observed his pictures, and really began to understand the true beauty or war and the Australian military, and thousands of words were being told in the mere few pictures I had bought. After a bit of searching, I found Conway Bown's official website (Ipas.com.au) and also discovered his Facebook profile. I was quite saddened to see that he hadn't even had over 200 friends and fans out of the thousands of pieces he had sold during his career. I have since sent him a request and hoping that he remembers that beautiful 10 minute conversation which got me hooked on the true magic that is art.