As the son of a wounded Vietnam veteran, Stephen Scott Young is keenly attuned to the dignity of military service and regularly explores patriotic themes in his work. The Veterans, executed en plein air in 1993, is a stirring example of this artistic passion and personal priority. And while the watercolor celebrates the larger motif of American fidelity, its central focus is the two honored patriots who lived the ideal.
In the early 1990s, an exhibition of Young’s art traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, and the artist was subsequently commissioned by the Greenville County Museum of Art to produce a series of works titled Portrait of Greenville. The Veterans is one of the first studies Young did in preparation for a large watercolor of the same title. The scene depicts two veterans sitting outside a white clapboard VFW hall in a local neighborhood on Memorial Day. The artist worked while the men reminisced about their World War II experiences. The moving characterization of the two figures and play of light on the drapery of the flag and the architecture highlight Young’s artistic mastery and unparalleled technical proficiency. Executed in a liberated style with a wet-on-wet technique that Young often employs for on-site preparatory studies, the work exudes a sense of spontaneity and immediacy that is not evident in his more controlled large pieces, which are painstakingly created by the building up of layers of pigment.
Thomas Jefferson believed that “the cement of this union is the heart-blood of every American.” As does Young. As do we.