The glacier. The dogs. The trees. The river. The camaraderie. So much of what went into this piece was an instinctual reaction to the trip I took to Alaska this summer thanks to Alaska’s Healing Hearts and Battle Dawgs Racing. There was some time spent in my sketchbook, and on my computer just doodling trying to capture the right feel. To bring something of my experience into the work and not have it feel disjointed and without focus. The base shape for this was hashed out digitally, but it wasn’t until the ink started going down on the page, it finally felt as though it was coming together.
There are so many things in here that seem to just happen, and felt correct the second I saw them. Deciding to build the image around drawings I did while I was up at the glacier camp with the dogs, the two you see here are from the Battle Dawgs team, Hugo in front and Duster at his back. The team was a major focus for me. Seeing them all together on the line stuck with me, and I knew that having a solitary dog on the shirt would never feel correct for what Battle Dawgs is about. It’s about having each others back. Being there regardless of how hard things get. And getting through it.
If there’s one thing you don’t ever get used to in Alaska it’s just how majestic the natural world around you feels. When the shapes around the dogs started going in it was just a reaction to this. A primitive and visceral representation. The shapes around the dogs began to form a mountain range and tree line with the gaps between giving rise to a river. Things that in all honesty I didn’t see or even comprehend having done until they were already there. It’s something all to important to the mission that Battle Dawgs and Alaska’s Healing Hearts is on. To share the beauty of Alaska with veterans and to show them that ‘the world is bigger than the four walls of your room.’
I knew I wanted to weather the final image, to give it the grit and rugged look that would help it feel more stenciled and military. And when the texture was laid over I knew it spoke to more than just military, but also to the dog sled team as well. Running a team is tough, gritty, exhausting work. Just getting the dogs from their kennel to the line, trudging through the snow, was an endeavor.
‘Helping our warriors one step at a time’ was a line pitched by Rick some time ago. And something that I believe fits the Battle Dawgs mission perfectly. They race, they inspire, they help, they heal and they keep giving back to those who have sacrificed so much of themselves and well being: our service men and women. To add the Battle Dawgs paw print at the end is to give their word, their signature, that they’ll continue to do so. One race, one outing, one warrior at a time.