Captain Sophie Whitaker is a serving war artist whose main job is to provide Joint Fires Targeting support to Task Force Helmand on OP HERRICK 18. As a member of 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery – attached to 1 Royal Horse Artillery, Sophie works in the Brigade Headquarters, Lashkar Gah, where she finds time between an often hectic schedule to put pencil to paper.
Where do I start?
Ironically I am struggling to inspire myself to write a 2,000 word essay for another project and yet why I thought it would be a great idea to start writing a blog is absolutely beyond me!
Nevertheless, I am passionate about art and after learning that a ‘serving war artist’ is something of a rare breed I am determined to use this blog to encourage others out here (they know who they are), and back at home, to come out of the shadows and share their talents.
So what about me – how did I end up here?
I shall spare you the full story for another day but in a nutshell I joined the Army in January 2008 when I started at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and commissioned at the end of that year. Prior to that I had studied Arabic at the University of Durham for four years and enjoyed living in Alexandria, Egypt as part of my second year (perhaps more of that in blogs to come).
Having been brought up in a multi-cultural environment, I have a natural curiosity for people and their environment and love being able to observe, learn, understand and interact with other cultures. In some ways the heat and the dust of Afghanistan – with the distinct smell of cheap recycled toilet paper and potable water was somewhat comforting and reminiscent of my childhood!
A young Sophie Whitaker – This is where it all started! Photo by Mr David Whitaker (my Dad)
Sights from a sangar
This is not my first tour of Afghanistan, I deployed to Camp Bastion on OP HERRICK 13 but between the Ops Room and the flight line there was little more inspiration than sunsets and helicopters and I lived in a ‘Bastion bubble’. What is rather exciting about being based in Lashkar Gah this time round is that I am surrounded by a life and culture beyond the wire that I barely get a glimpse of.
In a changing context of Stabilisation Operations, current focus is very much on the people and through my blog I would like to share with you the War through my eyes – as an artist or a soldier , or a mix of the two – whichever you would prefer!
I shall work on a collection of sketches, drawings and watercolours based on the theme of ‘Sights from a sangar’. Details of my ideas will follow next week as I am attempting to produce one piece of artwork a week.
Alas, I have managed to only write 408 words here, so back to my essay (If only a picture really was worth 1000 words!)