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Paintings portray 'real war'

PUBLISHED: 13:35 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:51 06 July 2010

DOUG Farthing is a war artist with a difference - he is also a serving soldier.

His paintings draw on more than two decades of experience on the frontline in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, first with the Parachute Regiment and now with the Territorial Army.

DOUG Farthing is a war artist with a difference - he is also a serving soldier.

His paintings draw on more than two decades of experience on the frontline in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, first with the Parachute Regiment and now with the Territorial Army.

Sergeant Major Farthing, 42, from Lowestoft, said this enabled him to "tell the truth from a soldier's perspective".

"Serving with the Army all these years has had a profound effect on my art,” he said.

"Before I even put brush to canvas I feel the weight of the bergen (rucksack) and equipment the soldier carries, I feel the heat and dust of an explosion and the warmth of a brew being made in the field.

"My art is unique, it's real, has years of soldiering recorded in the painting.”

He admits not having the patience to create detailed photograph-like paintings but insists that the soldier artist is "the true war artist”.

"Some commercial artists trying to capture the event can sometimes distort the reality of war,” he said.

"A soldier carrying his equipment correctly in a painting is more important than making it look good.”

Sgt Maj Farthing was born and bred in Suffolk, which he describes as a "pretty boring place to be brought up”.

"In 1983 there was no work whatsoever - I had a choice of working for Bernard Matthews plucking turkeys or joining the Army,” he said.

Having signed up for a life in the military at the age of 16, he enlisted into 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) at Easter 1985, when he was 17.

His formative experiences as a soldier came in seven tours of Northern Ireland in the late 1980s and 1990s.

But he has yet to record what he saw in his art there because there are still "too many bad memories' from that time, including the deaths of several of his friends.

In early 2002 Sgt Maj Farthing was among the first British troops to enter the Afghan capital Kabul.

He recalled the scene that greeted him when he woke the next day: "We had the chants of morning prayers, the smell of bread being cooked, the snow-capped mountains.

"It was good to be there as a soldier, but as an artist it was amazing.'

One of his paintings from that tour - The Fourth Man, which depicts three soldiers patrolling the streets of Kabul from a fourth soldier's perspective - was selected for an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London.

Sgt Maj Farthing left the regular Army in 2007 after 23 years of service to set himself up as an artist, but he rejoined as a reservist with 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, based in Bury St Edmunds.

He served in Iraq last year as a TA soldier and will deploy later this year as part of Operation Herrick, the British mission in Afghanistan.

Wherever he goes in the world, he carries a sketchbook in his kitbag so he can record the places and people he comes across.

More information about Sgt Maj Farthing's work can be found on his website, www.douglasfarthingart.co.uk

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