Artist Profile- Works by “Papa George” F. Laramie (1933- )

Images of complex beauty by the designer of one of the most powerful weapons of traditional warfare in our time- Papa George expresses brilliant detail and positivity through his visual concepts

George F. Laramie in Damascus, Oregon, June 2022
Untitled (Hand-Colored Photograph with Friend), ca. 2017: Photographed image with overlayed hyper color design in pen and colored pencil

‘Papa George’ Laramie is a personality of great depth and contrast, as is revealed in his art, and his rich, personal, and professional career history. Between these, one finds a great deal of contrast between a joyous pursuit of artistic creation, a family life, a career as a soldier in the Korean Conflict, and and the challenging labors to create the great tank-busting 30mm Gatling-style gun for the Air Force attack aircraft, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (1977). His later work as a public defender seemed to be a natural outgrowth of these previous experiences, at least, thematically.

Detail of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II in the test firing phase, ca. 1977

George Laramie was an engineer for GE in the mid 1970’s, where he was a member of the design team for the GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-style auto canon- a design used to great effect as an anti-armor weapon in nearly every American conflict after 1977. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer power of such a gun, which can fire enough armory-piercing bullets to destroy a column of vehicles in probably a fraction of a second, or so. One of the early heavy-firepower concepts that depended on computers for highly-targeted guidance, the A-10 system created so much weight from the endless belt of 30 cal. shells, the aircraft could not eject spent ones during the firing phase like a normal weapons system. The weight differential would be debilitating to the aircraft operations. Further, the weight of the expended shells would be sufficient to crush ground troops, a fact he explained was discovered tragically in the course of standard combat testing. He related that the labor of designing the piece was fascinating, and an enormously complex mathematical challenge. Yet, he explains, it was not one that posed an ethical challenge as was observed for many weapons designers for different applications, for example chemical weapons. Such traditional firepower at the time helped eliminate much of the need for ground troops to fight and destroy enemy tanks and artillery in the event of a major conflict with the Soviet Union- a point of great concern at a high moment in the Cold War as the Soviet empire maintained an enormous standing army across Europe.

Perhaps this sense of working to save the lives of American service personnel is one reason for the high degree of vibrant positivity in his work. Certainly one finds idealistic, vibrant images and iconography in his catalog. Yet numerous features reveal an underlying tension, and an enormous degree of control. The application of color and textural details conveys a concern for evenness and overarching flow that seems foreign in this current epoch of hyper-vibrancy of detailed content. Not only do these works convey a comforting sense of place-in-stability, but they create a sense of smoothness that seems born of the Post-war, newspaper era, as in, derived from the style of print media from the 1950s and 60s.

Untitled, ca.1986. Pen, and colored pencil on drawing paper
Untitled, ca.1991, Pen and ink on drawing paper

Quite fittingly for a high-level scientific thinker, his artistic output also consists of arabesques and geometric concept art.

Untitled, ca.1994, Pen and ink on drawing paper
Untitled, ca.1983, Pen, and colored pencil on drawing paper

His approach to color is also utilized in several of these geometric designs to a strong effect. One finds complimentary juxtapositions with minimal conflict of color placement in these works. He flows smoothly and places soft colors frequently in places where contrast may detract from the flow of the overall work. Such features are evident in the example below, where the soft green highlights near the ends of the branches seem to support the more intense yellow, rather than establishing a new color contrast against it.

These coloristic features likely also reflect his experience living amongst the Mexican culture, demonstrating an influence of the numerous styles of traditional geometric patterns and colors of sun reflections, and stained glass.

Untitled, ca.1997, Pen, and colored pencil on drawing paper

G. Laramie also created a multitude of sketches, ranging from highly detailed to simplistic in an outlined style with minimal shading. Many of these are comic characters, or other designs that convey something of the lighthearted instincts of an experienced family man, and father of two adopted sons.

Untitled, ca.1989, Pen, and charcoal on drawing paper
Untitled, ca.1990, colored pencil on drawing paper
Untitled, (year N/A) pen on drawing paper
“LOL SRK”, 2010, pen and colored pencil on drawing paper

While these works are colorful, touch on innocent and inviting topics, and display a sense of patient intention and control, one cannot escape a sense of subtle anxiety in the background of their psychology. A strong sense of nostalgia in the sketches seems to evoke works from the post war period with both accuracy and reverence. They’re a bit haunted in this respect in a deliberate and stoic, yet poignant manner. Smooth, quiet transitions between tones emphasize their place within a reserved threshold of color saturation, a strictly controlled aspect among many in these works.

Untitled, (year N/A) colored pencil on drawing paper

G. Laramie is a strong personality and a real survivor. At the time of our meetings with him, he had recently recovered from COVID-19, and had also experienced immense personal loss as a result. His strength, kindness in sharing his thoughts and work, and his gracious hosting abilities were truly striking. We are all honored to know such a mighty person. With love, we thank you for allowing us to share some of your artistic gifts. -Newman Media Gallery Project, July 15, 2022

George F. Laramie, and curator, C.M.Newman, Damascus, Oregon, July 7, 2022

All works on this page are the sole property of George F. Laramie, and have been shared here with exclusive permission of the artist. No unauthorized reproduction is permitted without the express permission of the artist. Fees applicable for all reproduction, copyright George F. Laramie, 2022

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