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July 6, 2012

Airman leaves mark on base by overcoming fears

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by Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

He had been asked to paint it several times, but he didn’t think it could be done.

A known artist, Tech. Sgt. Andrew Rickert, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron Modular Repair assistant section chief, was asked by Master Sgt. Austin English, 56th CMS Test Facility section chief, to paint a complex mural in the test cell section break room, but it was unlike anything he had painted before. This picture would be three feet high and four feet wide and would depict a test being done on an engine in a hush house before its installation on an aircraft.

“I was overwhelmed by how much detail was in the photo they wanted me to recreate,” Rickert said. “I’m used to more organic subjects. The picture had nothing but concrete and metal in it and I’d never painted on such a large scale. I told him I think I’m going to pass.”

Rickert stared at the picture for days, telling himself to not get involved, but in the end he agreed.

“I told myself over and over I would politely say no thanks, but the next time I was asked I simply replied ‘OK,’” Rickert said. “Immediately I said to myself, ‘What the heck was that; what did we practice?’ But now I was committed to the project.”

After the textured wall was sanded down Rickert knew there was no turning back.

All paintings have an ugly stage, according to Rickert, but his break room audience didn’t know that as they stared at the foundation with their heads cocked sideways.

“As I experimented with this new style of painting, I learned through trial and error and used little tricks such as using tape to paint the hard lines on the floor, ceilings, walls and rails,” Rickert said. “I went through so many rolls of tape I must have depleted the hardware store of their stock.”

Rickert’s artistic past was a learning process similar to his experience with the mural. Pencil drawings were his strength and after a bad experience with an oil painting in 2004, it was years before he tried again. He said his first painting was great, but his second was horrible, and again, he put down his paint brush.

“I was at an art store when an old man asked me if I painted,” Rickert said. “I told him how awful my second painting was, and he asked me if I had gone back and figured out what I had done wrong. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I wanted to be a painter so bad I skipped the drawing and planning stage and just slung paint on the canvas expecting it to look great. That man changed my life forever, and I think maybe God sent him to nudge me in the direction I needed to go.”

The 15-year veteran is a self-taught artist who, in addition to painting portraits, also helps personalize going-away gifts for coworkers as he did for Chief Master Sgt. Rory Wicks.

“Rickert puts his personal touch on going-away gifts and everyone who sees his work is amazed by his abilities,” said Maj. James Blackman, 56th CMS commander.

Those abilities can now be seen through his creation in the break room.

The mural took a total of 60 hours to complete from start to finish, and through it all, Rickert gained new confidence in his ability to paint.

“When I finally finished the painting, my intimidation turned to confidence, and I had gained an appreciation for Sergeant English for encouraging me to do this project,” he said. “So for that I thank him, but hopefully he doesn’t have any more great ideas.”




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