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Airman donates his artwork to help stroke victim

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor
Airman Perry's art will be on display at the Lotus Room for the next two weeks.

More than 40 artists from the Tampa Bay area donated works for a fund-raiser Saturday at the Lotus Room in Tampa for the well-known photographer, Bud Lee. Among the artists handing over their work for a worthy cause was Senior Airman Andrew Perry, a firefighter with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron.

"Artists need to support each other," said Airman Perry. "It's so hard to become established, and to think it can be taken away so quickly is hard to imagine."

Airman Perry wandered into the Lotus Room on Kennedy Boulevard while having a flat fixed at a nearby service station. There he began a conversation with the art director that came around to the fund-raiser. When she asked if he would be interested in helping, Airman Perry jumped at the opportunity to donate several pieces of his own work for Mr. Lee, who suffered a stroke while on assignment in August.

Mr. Lee's first professional work was for the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes in 1955 and 1966. He made an international name for himself as a photographer in the '60s and '70s with work in Life and Esquire. David Audet, who coordinated the fund-raiser, said it was a great success and raised more than $20,000 for Mr. Lee's recovery and therapy. Airman Perry was humble and proud to be a part of such a charitable event.

Airman Perry has been interested in art most of his life and began getting more serious about it during high school, where he dabbled in different mediums. He started out with pencil sketches for comic books and pastel works, but always wanted to paint. The high cost of art supplies kept the young airman away from his precious paint, brushes and canvas.

After returning home from a recent deployment to Iraq, he decided it was time to purchase everything he needed to take the plunge into painting. His favorite subjects to create are cartoon-style characters and animals interacting.

"I don't think people see a young man in the military as very creative or imaginative, but you would be surprised," said Airman Perry.

His pieces range from desk-top dimensions to massive wall-sized spreads, but his talents aren't just limited to putting paint to canvas. He still enjoys doing pencil sketches but photography and the digital age have captured his creative imagination.

"I'm trying to get into computer art," explained Airman Perry with a grin. "There are many things you can do with programs like Adobe Photoshop; it's just so complicated for someone who's just getting into it."

For a fledgling artist like Airman Perry, recognition for your artwork can be hard to come by. Sometimes the best place to start is your friends. He's been able to sell several of his pieces to other airmen in the dorms.

"I was shocked that they wanted to buy them. I just do it (paint) because I like it, not really to sell it," he said. Like most artists, however, he won't turn someone away who has cash in hand for one of his creations. And now, thanks to his donations to the Bud Lee fund-raiser, Airman Perry's work has the eye of the art director at the Lotus Room. His work will be on display there for at least the next two weeks.

Works in the exhibit will include one-of-a-kind paintings, photographs and some specially reproduced copies of his pastel works. While not against making a few bucks and gaining recognition for his art, the true artisan in Airman Perry comes out when talking about the upcoming exhibit.

"I wouldn't like to see someone purchase one of my paintings because it matches the curtains," he said with conviction. "I would want them to purchase my art because of what it says."




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