Honoring the Past, Painting the Future

SU 2 (14″ x 21″) by Don Weaver, mixed media 

In honor of Veterans Day, we would like to express our deep gratitude for the service of all veterans. We would also like to share the stories of two UGallery artists, Rick Hamilton and Robert Holewinski, whose pasts in the military shaped their futures as artists.

For Robert, art was a pastime that he pursued while stationed in Korea. Whereas Rick would not find art until many years after his time in the Navy, but would reflect that his time stationed in Italy and France was guiding him to art all along.  

Though their paths were different in time, place, and detail, they share a similarity in the way that their time in service led them to art.

Rick Hamilton in uniform 

Rick served in the U.S. Navy from 1986 to 1992, spending two of those years in France and Italy. And though he was not painting during that time, he immersed himself fully into the new cultures around him.

“I have no doubt the things I’ve seen and stories I have heard have made it possible to tell my own story through my work,” says Rick.

While he was abroad, he appreciated and yearned to understand the culture of his surroundings.   


The Emigrant (48″ x 28″) by Rick Hamilton, acrylic painting

“When I traveled, I tried to escape the fact I was in the Navy and would try to blend into wherever I was to really get a sense of the place I was.”

He began painting about 7 years later. His work today still bears the influences of his cultural, experiences, and the people he encountered while he was in the Navy.


Robert Holewinski in Korea

Robert Holewinski joined the military 46 years ago. He served for three years, one of which he was stationed in South Korea. Before exiting the army honorably in 1970. He has spent a good portion of his later life reflecting on his time in the military and has realized how much it has grown and shaped the man he is today.

The late 1960s was a time of turbulence on both a cultural and political level. There was “a war in Vietnam, possible war in Korea, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the three days of Woodstock, the first landing on the moon, a growing public dislike for the military, and large protest marches in Washington DC.”

All of these events and changes strongly influenced Robert.

Robert grew up in a small town in New Jersey. And, like many who grew up in small towns he had “popular heroic Hollywood images of the military” quickly dashed and replaced by “the realities of army life, and the reality of Vietnam.”

Despite the strong shock and stark realities of his environment, Robert is grateful for his years of service. It was a period of rapid growth and maturity that opened his worldview. Part of this growth was recognizing his artistic gift.


Via Dei Renai, Florence (17” x 23“) by Robert Holewinski 

“It was while in the army that I had the time, space, and desire to develop artistically, and to realize that being an artist creating paintings was something that was alive within me.”  

For Robert, his art started as a way to pass time. While in Korea, Robert came upon a set of acrylic paints, brushes, and paper canvas. Because Korea was an active zone of conflict, he was not able to venture out to paint landscapes. So, his first subjects came from what he kept around him – photographs from the issues of National Geographic he saved, animation stills from a book he had about Disney animation.

Once he returned to the United States, while assigned to duty in Washington D.C., he purchased new materials and began exploring the mid-Atlantic vistas of the U.S.


On the Coast (17″ x 23″) by Robert Holewinski, oil painting 

“The smells of linseed oil and turpentine soon filled my apartment and car, as I ventured into both Maryland and Virginia to find landscapes,” he says.

As he developed and nurtured his creativities, his earliest paintings were impressionistic – connected to the styles of Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh.


Robert’s Current Studio

He has also written a book about his experience called “One Year There,” which is a book of free-verse narrative poetry.

“I see my paintings and my books as equal parts of the same inner creative drive, as two sides of the same coin. And my being a veteran, serving in the military, was a big part of who I am today,” says Robert.

Thank you to Rick and Robert for sharing their memories and stories. And, thank you to all of our veterans who have sacrificed and dedicated themselves to the service of others.