FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - When Spc. Michelle Delgadillo was younger, she went through a phase where she drew horses everywhere, she said. Now, the signal support systems specialist with Combined Task 4-2 (4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division) draws infantrymen and Strykers.
"It gives me something to do when the day's really slow ... [or] when I need something to keep my mind busy from what's going on around us," said the Miami native.
She and another soldier painted the brigade's deployed crest on two of the T-walls of her base, Forward Operating Base Masum Ghar in the Panjwa'i district of Afghanistan, and she frequently collaborates with her coworker and fellow artist, Spc. Sarah Stimpson.
Stimpson's mother was a painter, so she grew up with art, she said.
"There was really not a time I can't remember not having art supplies around," Stimpson said.
While she said she enjoys writing and reading cookbooks, art consumes the majority of her personal time here.
"I like making things pretty wherever I go," said Stimpson, who grew up in Strafford, N.H.
"I used to farm, so it's kind of along the same lines as seeing a barren field and then putting pretty plants and vegetables and things and making it better." Stimpson explained.
The most requested artwork she and Delgadillo receive are commemorative deployment plaques made from recycled resources.
The two artists get a general theme or idea from whomever is requesting the work. Then they create a concept and choose any photographs, quotes or colors that corresponds with the theme, Stimpson said.
Once the idea is set, they use acrylic paints and other art supplies, both brought from home and sent to them, and create art on old, wooden boards or particle boards, or in some cases, rocks.
Each project is tailored to the recipient and requires approximately five to eight hours, said Stimpson.
Stimpson said she did not mind using her own personal time to work on the art.
"I'd be painting regardless," said Stimpson. "I like the fact that I'm able to give them something to bring home that they'll really enjoy."
Stimpson said creating artwork for others brings her joy; however, trying to choose which project is her favorite is impossible.
"They're all my favorite," Stimpson insists. "It's kind of like having little children, little babies, each time."
When creating art for herself, Stimpson said the inspiration comes from her own background.
"I like drawing from my life experience or wherever I am at a particular time and creating pieces around that," Stimpson said.
Her main motivating factor for her art out here is so she has physical things to show her kids when she returns, she said.
"I have pieces at home from when I was little all the way up 'til now," said Stimpson. "It's nice for me to be able to show my kids and I think they get a better understanding of where I've been and what I've done."
Delgadillo and Stimpson's unit is slated to redeploy to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., later this summer.