Giving Back To Those Who Have Given So Much
February 26, 2008
For one gentleman in Frisco, Texas, one way that he can pay homage to at least some of the men and women who have fallen in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, is to use his talents to ensure that their legacy lives on, through his work. For Phil Taylor, a Frisco portrait artist, what once started as a family tragedy, has turned into a way for him to honor the men and women of Texas, who have fallen on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Taylor vows to paint, free of charge, portraits of all fallen Texas Soldiers involved in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Mr. Taylor, it’s all about the eyes. Not just any eyes, but eyes that have seen the horrors, courage, joy, comaraderie and patriotism that goes along with war. The eyes of those who have fallen on the battlefield.
Marine Lance Cpl Louis Qualls, Killed 11-16-2004 Anbar Province, Iraq
“The eyes are the staple,” Mr. Taylor said. “The only color I use - I actually paint in black and white - is the eyes. The blues are there; the brwns are there. I do that because I want to give those hurting, a place of reference when they want to connect with their husband or son.”
Mr. Taylor’s mission started in a much different way, when the young man who had taken his daughter to the prom, was killed in a traffic accident. He wanted to do something special, to honor this young man, so he painted a portrait of him and gave it to his family. According to Taylor, that experience was a profound one.
“When I got there, the hug his father gave me was beyond words,” he said. “That moment, I knew I wanted to do more with my art and my heart. I thought about other accident victims, then attended the service for one of my friends, Capt. Blake Russell. He’s the one who started it all.”
To date, Phil Taylor has completed 15 portraits and has requests for 30 more. He’s received calls from across the country, from grieving families who want portraits of their fallen soldiers, requests from families of those lost in Vietnam and the families of accident and murder victims. The work he’s done on commission in the past, has commanded as much as $5,000.
Army Spc. Sean Langevin, Killed 11-09-2007 Aranus, Afghanistan
Phil Taylor is a self-taught artist and paints an average of 30-40 hours per week, on top of the hours that he puts in at his regular job. With each portrait, Phil includes a personal letter to the fallen soldier’s family. When he’s painting a portrait, he thoughts are only on the Soldier peering back at him from the canvas in front of him.
“I think with intensity - very focused,” he said. “I don’t know I’ve ever tought about anything other than who or what I’m painting at the time.”
While being able to share his gift with the family members of the fallen is rewarding, it also exacts a very heavy emotional toll on Mr. Taylor as well. The journey is an emotional one. Many families include baby pictures of their fallen soldier. He concentrates on only one soldier’s portrait at a time and spends about a week on each one. If he incorporates a baby or childhood image into the portrait, the time to complete the work can double.
“It’s an emotional journey. You’re painting them as innocent children with everything ahead of them and also at their last moments of heroism, bravery. I’m engulfed with accuracy and emotions. There’s a tear shed on every portrait,” said Taylor. “I’m not willing to compromise on the quality. These are extremely rewarding and comforting to those who have suffered the loss. They just want their soldier honored for their service to this country and above all to never be forgotten.”
Since word about the quality of work that Phil Taylor does has gotten around, the responses from families across the country have been overwhelming. While he’d like to honor every request and paint a portrait of each of the fallen warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, realistically, he knows that it’s a virtually impossible task for him to accomplish.
“I looked at the 4,000 soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq and felt hopeless. I’m only one man. With the 400 Texans, I could see the end of the race. I couldn’t do that ith 4,000.”
Mr. Taylor credits th support of his wife Lisa and their three daughters with helping him to continue with his mission. He is currently reviewing work by other artists that he hopes to bring on board to help assist with painting the portrait request of fallen soldiers from other states, as well as those of accident and homicide victims.
“As for the 400 fallen Texas Soldiers, they’re mine,” he said. “I won’t trust anyone else with them.”
Mr. Taylor has created what is called The Texas Fallen Soldier’s Project, where you can find more information about supporting the prject, to honor the fallen warriors of Texas. In looking through his website, I was touched by the message he has written there, to the families of the fallen.
To the families and loved ones of our Fallen Heroes,
It is my desire that each portrait translate the deep appreciation I have for your beloved soldierâ€™s service and sacrifice to our nation. Your loss can never be replaced, but I hope this gift can be a place of peace and reflection for you in your time of need. Please know that I approach each portrait with great respect and a broken heart. Thoughts of honor, bravery and valor remain constant in my mind as I paint and look upon your loved oneâ€™s face. I want to personally thank you for the opportunity to give something back to those who have given so much. Because it is impossible to meet you all, I promise to never forget your belovedâ€™s name or face. Their impression, appearance and presence will remain forever sketched in my soul.
I encourage our readers to visit Mr. Taylor’s page and other examples of his work. Mr. Taylor truly knows of and feels the loss of each of the men and women who are willing to give so much for our country. You may also view a video story about his work, by visiting Dallas/Fort Worth Fox News