Looking over the photos of her stepgrandson's time serving in Iraq, Sonora artist Sherie Drake was struck by how young all the soldiers were.
She was also touched by their camaraderie.
"It was amazing they could be in such a dangerous situation and still find time to play and tease each other," she said.
In conjunction with Memorial Day, her oil paintings of the soldiers are now on display at the Mistlin Gallery in Modesto. Titled "Men of Honor," the show will be up through June.
Drake's stepgrandson Kyle Gribi was a Navy corpsman and medic with Marines Military Team Eight from Camp Pendleton and served in Iraq in 2006-07. He has since left the military and is now in college in Massachusetts.
Drake's 25 paintings generally show the men in relaxed scenes. There are no portraits of battles or anything gory.
In one scene, a soldier rests on his back on grass. In another, two soldiers walk together side by side. All the subjects are male because Gribi's unit didn't include any women.
Born in Portland and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Drake has been drawing and painting since she was a child. After moving to the Bay Area with her husband and family, she took art classes at DeAnza College. Eventually, she taught portrait and figure classes through Mountain View-Los Altos Adult Education and the Palo Alto Art Center.
She was invited to show her work at the Central California Art Association's Mistlin Gallery by association member Nancy Bassitt, who admired her work when she saw it in Sonora.
Drake said she'd love to have the paintings tour several galleries around the region.
She has received positive responses both from people who support the war and oppose it. She said she's not particularly political and just wanted to pay tribute to the soldiers for their bravery and sacrifices.
"I think we owe them a lot of respect," she said. "The more you can honor them, the better."
WHAT: Sherie Drake oil paintings: "Men of Honor"
WHEN: Through June. Hours are 11:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays
WHERE: Mistlin Gallery, 1015 J St., Modesto