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Combat Art Articles

Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Darby Perrin

  • Published

Perrin Painting

Heritage and Combat Artist

Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Darby Perrin served as an artist for the Heritage and Combat Art Division for Air Force Reserve Command’s Office of History and Heritage, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.  In this position, he visually documented Reserve Citizen Airmen and their culture in Total Force, joint and coalition operations around the world through artwork and publications preserving the rich history of Air Force Reserve to inform and inspire current and future generations. 

Senior Master Sgt. Perrin was born in Denver, Colorado in 1967, and developed an interest in art due to his more introverted childhood combined with competition among his peers in art.  He felt he couldn’t compete as an athlete, musician or scholar; however, he could draw, and spent countless hours alone with stacks of paper and pencils.  After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1986 and became a crew chief.  Following a three-year tour with the 6th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Eielson AFB in central Alaska, he received orders for Andrews AFB outside of Washington D.C.  In 1991, shortly after the end of the Gulf War, he applied for, and received acceptance for retraining as an Airborne Communications Technician, and in 1992, Senior Master Sgt. Perrin arrived at the 964th AWACS Squadron at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.  In 1996 after ten years on active duty, Darby separated from the Air Force to pursue his talents as an Aviation Artist and opened an art studio in 1997.  A year later, Senior Master Sgt. Perrin decided to also enlist with the Air Force Reserve and served as a KC-135 boom operator with the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker AFB and for the next 20 years, he trained, flew, deployed and saw the world, all while maintaining his art studio and continued development in his artist skills. Although he didn’t paint directly from observation during his time as a boom operator, he took thousands of photos and made mental observations that he used on a daily basis in almost all of his work.

In 2017, the Air Force Reserve Office of History and Heritage asked him to create artwork to document Reserve Citizen Airmen missions starting with the last ace of World War I, Lieutenant, Charles d’Olive.  The painting was later unveiled with his daughter at the 100th Anniversary of WWI, with the WWI Dawn Patrol Rendezvous at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  After completing two additional paintings documenting two stories of the unique mission of the Air Force Reserve including aerial firefighting and aerial spray, the Air Force Reserve Office of History and Heritage asked him to join their team as an artist in the Heritage and Combat Art Division in 2018.    

In addition to aviation art, Senior Master Sgt. Perrin also paints portraits, landscapes, science fiction and fantasy subjects.

“Our role to preserve notable Air Force Reserve Command events and action as art, is not only important, but necessary,” said Senior Master Sgt. Perrin.   “Stories of our fellow Airmen that may otherwise be lost to myth or a single paragraph in an all but forgotten article are brought back into the light where they can be admired or learned from.”

Senior Master Sgt. Perrin has received national awards and recognition for his aviation artwork. His work has exhibited with the American Society of Aviation Art, and the U.S. Air Force Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins Ga. His artwork is also included in the collections of Chromalloy, the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum, Pooler, Ga; San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego; Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt, Fl; and the U.S. Air Force in addition to private collections.