About The Artist
Robert Tracy was born in Lafayette, Indiana in 1948. He married his high school sweetheart, Linda, in 1969. They have two daughters: Gretchen, 1969 and Heather, 1972. Three grandchildren. Mr. Tracy served two tours in Vietnam with the Marines: Echo Co., 1st Reconnaissance Bn., ’67-’68, and H & S Co.,
1st Military Police Bn., ’69-’70.
I started drawing at age 5. I had a No. 2 pencil and a pad of ordinary writing paper. I’d draw the Japanese Elms in our front yard, my dad’s car out front and the corn field across the street. Grass, sidewalk and street etc. The piano keys inside...
My parents saw fit to keep their shy son out of Kindergarten, so I never did learn to socialize. Started 1st grade at St. Lawrence Catholic School at age 5 (just missed the cut-off date, but they let me in so I was always the youngest in class).
At around age 8, I drew, in crayon, some rather large N.C. Wyeth-like things for a piano recital in which my sister and I played I remember a duet of Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2. In 5th grade I won a city-wide contest (the only Art contest I’ve ever won) to draw something on the subject of the value of drinking milk. My drawing was of the milk truck that would bring our bottles to the door-step. $5.00 prize in those days was a huge sum for a kid. My picture stood in the window of The Baltimore Men’s Shop (a clothing store) for a month along with 2nd and 3rd prize winners. 6th grade I was caught creating entire cities with 3-point perspective (including tiny windows and doors in the buildings) during math class. My punishment: I had to stand at the blackboard and teach the class 2-point perspective. The nun was impressed. The only subjects I got A’s in grade-school were in Art and Penmanship.
First semester of high school at Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Lake Wawasee, In. At 13 I found that all I could think of was the girl across the street and knew I didn’t have a calling to be a priest. Back home to Central Catholic High School. There was no Art class there, believe it or not. So I transferred to the public school to end my senior year.
At our CC 40th class reunion in 2006, among other things I learned was that in 2nd grade we were assigned during Christmas to draw a candle. Maria Lucas (Moore) told me that everyone brought in a “‘stick-object’ and you brought in a Rembrandt with a flame, dripping wax and a golden holder.” I remember it.
Enlisted in the Marine Corps May, 1967. During the testing period was an optional test for Combat Illustrator. I, among 8 others took it. We opened the manila envelope which read “I recommend the following for Combat Illustration”. Signed by the Capt. who gave the test. My name was the only one listed. I spent the next three months knowing I could get through boot camp because I was going to be an artist! Last day of boot camp we got our MOS (Military Occupation Specialty). Mine was Field Radio Operator. I didn’t draw a thing for the four years I was in the Corps.
First tour in Vietnam (1967 – 68, 1st Reconnaissance Bn., 1st Marine Div.) my mother was the beneficiary of the $10,000., in the case of my death. She expected it. Threw away all my art works, my box of love letters and poems. Sold my ’53 baby-blue Chevy and sold my Gibson electric guitar and my 12-string. I was not welcome home, so spent my 30 days leave at Linda’s parents’ house.
With 2nd Recon Bn. at Camp Lejeune, NC I was on a tour of the Caribbean for six months from Mar. 1969 – Sept. War games in Vieques Puerto Rico and Panama. In Caracas, Venezuela I found a book at a big mall. I liked the cover of a man with wings. I read this book under the big gun on the deck of the ship back to the States. It was “The Romantic Manifesto”. On Sept. 27 Linda called to say we had a daughter. (I knew it was coming, but had put off a decision.) Saw my CO (same CO as back in Vietnam) for an emergency leave to marry Linda. Also to sign a waver to return to Vietnam. He tried every means of persuasion to talk me out of it, saying “Tracy, you can’t survive another year over there in Recon.” But I prevailed. Back to Vietnam in Nov., 1969 I got my orders to 1st M.P. Bn., 1st Marine Div. Got shot at once that entire year! Rockets, yes–1st M.P.’s were right on the DaNang airstrip. There, I read “Anthem”. Brought Linda to Hawaii for R & R. We scoured the book stores for the other Rand novels which I took back and finished. Linda read them in 1972, and has re-read them almost as many times as I.
Out of the Corps in 1971 I started at Purdue. I learned nothing in the Art dept. In 1979, Linda had a good-paying job and agreed to let me study my Art seriously. I’d taken off school for two years from 1975 – 77, working as a draftsman for the county surveyor. In 1976 I’d bought a dis-articulated human skeleton from the local medical supply company and books on Artistic Anatomy, filling sketch books and papers with drawings of the bones and skull, learning the Latin terms (not entirely unfamiliar after 4 semesters Latin in high-school) etc. Had a plaster cast “flayed figure” for study of the origin and insertion of the muscles. And great models in my wife and daughters, and myself. I harp on the study of anatomy to all the artists I meet online. See my two pages The Study of Art. They won’t get the structure for a portrait or figure by drawing from life. I think I anger some. Same with perspective and at least the simple mathematical Golden Mean for composition.
I’d do just what Ayn Rand wrote about in her article on Capuletti: paraphrasing:
“Look at the works of the artists you admire. Ask yourself how they
achieved their ends. Apply the knowledge to your own subjects.”
I had only books of my favorite artists. Still, one can see the colors they must have used etc. I’ve been to The Metropolitan in the early 1980's and the Indianapolis Museum of Art many times and once at the Philadelphia Museum. There are things I want to see in Chicago one day.