A lucky dragon….

The Great War’s German Albatros DV was no great shakes as a successor to that manufacturer’s previous DIII. It was little better and shared its progenitor’s unhappy quality of wing-flutter in a dive – sometimes with disastrous results if the dive was continued. Not a great confidence-inspiring characteristic in a fighter.
This picture is just started but will probably be complete next year!

v Hippel

v Hippel

It shows a lucky man. Hans Joachim von Hippel. He was involved in a combat in February 1918 and during a dive the port lower wing simply failed and decided to land separately about twelve miles away from his home base. This left our Hans in a bit of a pickle. Driving a one and a half-plane and it wasn’t even his – it was the mount of his C/O, a Mr. Flashar. Flashar had had a huge red dragon painted on the fuselage sides, perhaps in the knowledge of the dragon being a symbol of good luck in the Chinese culture? It must have been given a good pat on the back when von Hippel crawled out of the Albatros after nursing it down from 13,000 feet and merely overturning at the end of a respectable landing. But I wonder if Hans still got a boot up the bum for writing-off the C/O’s personal aeroplane?
I’m trying to imagine how crossed-up the control surfaces must have been to get away with this. And that lucky dragon will take a bit of fastidious work too.
So a 2014 completion then? I hope so….

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Peter Craven

He’s been here before, but last night I finished the Peter Craven picture. Just a bit more detailed than previously but hopefully in as loose a style as I can manage whilst still being recognisable as the speedy wee giant that he was.
I was at Meadowbank Stadium recently and enquired where I could see the plaque to commemorate Craven. It had been privately funded by enthusiasts and was unveiled by his wife Brenda amongst others. Nobody knew where it had disappeared to and nobody gave a bugger about the significance of it.

Peter Craven

Peter Craven

Meadowbank is “managed” by Edinburgh City Council. The same folks that gave us that internationally acclaimed tram system.
Hang your heads, you collective of useless bastards.

The Fighter that Never Was…..

Penston's Ponderous Protector

Penston’s Ponderous Protector

The BE12. Before the Great War, the Royal Aircraft Factory developed the two-seater BE2, an aeroplane to be deployed by the Army as a aerial reconnaissance machine. As such, the great priority was for it to be stable. With no great need for speed. Unfortunately the rules of warfare in the air changed when the fighter aeroplane appeared with a forward-firing machine gun. And it was a German one. The poor BE2 found itself virtually helpless and a great deal too many men were lost as the production of BE2s continued for far too long after it was found to be sadly lacking in manoeuvrability, speed and practical defence.
One answer by the Factory was to install a more powerful engine, reduce the tail surface area and delete the front seat. Fit a Lewis machine-gun on the top wing or a Vickers on the side of the fuselage. Thus making a “fighter” – they hoped.
Result? The BE12 – still rubbish! So the BE12 became a light bomber or a night-fighter.
The night-fighter above was based at Penston, East Lothian and was a defence against Zeppelins destroying Edinburgh. (That’s the capitol’s Arthur’s Seat in the background.) Zeppelins however, had stopped their visits by the time this defence had been deployed. Damn!

BE 12

BE 12

The Oil at the top was painted a couple of years ago. This is a small Watercolour of the same type of machine, but only finished a couple of days ago.

Luft Verkehrs Gesellschaft!

This aeroplane below is one manufactured by Luft Verkehrs Gesellschaft mbH.
Cleverly or thankfully, the makers were known as LVG – and this one is a CIV.
This was actually the first German heavier-than-air machine to drop bombs on London.
In November 1916.
The crew were lucky to get back home over the Channel as it developed engine trouble. No great surprise for them probably as this was one of the few machines to use the Mercedes DIV engine. Mercedes produced some of the best and most reliable six-cylinder aero engines of the Great War, however this was a straight eight and on the limit of reliability due to its mighty crankshaft length and the subsequent stresses on it. Mercedes went back to their sixes after this effort. There was also some doubt about the structural integrity of LVG’s airframe itself. Not TOO confidence inspiring I would think. That’s the huge exhaust-system alongside the crew too. It must have been deafening.

LVG C4

LVG C4


My thanks to John Constable too – whose clouds I shamelessly tried to emulate in this oil.

Gusts of Libeccio!

Winter's Fixed-wheel

Winter’s Fixed-wheel

I’ve been fairly lazy this last few weeks so to make amends I headed out west on the mudguarded Winter Fixed today. I might be a moaning bugger about the creeping rise of “Americanisms” in our language but there’s a couple of terms I really like.
Badass is one and it’s been happily adopted by cyclists, denoting those who would eschew wind and rain and all adversity to get those training miles in. Folk like legendary Belgian pro Johan Museeuw who fell in the Paris-Roubaix race – a race he’d previously won – and so badly injured his leg that it was touch and go whether it was amputated. The next year he retuned and won it again. The same man whose climb of the Kapelmuur was done in the big ring. A true Hardass – even if some of his performances were later admitted to as being chemically-enhanced.
We cyclists have plenty of examples like this to keep in our heads when we face the mere wind and rain in an attempt to be just a little Hardass.
So out into the elements today went I, and on leaving the built-up areas of town soon found the wind was quite extreme. Not just the expected steady West headwind either but a Libeccio – that’s a South-Western and in gusts so strong that I was riding along hanging off the side of the bike – which was a bit disconcerting when the gust suddenly dropped.
(Incidentally this is a pencil-drawn Caproni Libeccio in rather better conditions than today – interesting eh?)

Libeccio

Libeccio

I had planned a good long ride today but after some extremely hard slogging with rather too many deviations from a straight path I turned for home and zig-zagged my faster way back, musing on that other web-spread word and thinking there’s just a fine line between Badass and Fucktard.

Lapis Lazuli

Or bleue outremer-veritable ( with an acute on that first “e” of veritable).
I wonder how to produce an acute here?
But I digress, because that’s what I do. When an excellent English maker of artists’ oil paints recently produced a limited quantity of Genuine Lapis Lazuli I dug deep and bought a tube of it. This is a rare natural pigment and used to be sourced from Afghanistan which accounts for the “Outremer” or “Overseas” name. Lapis Lazuli was the finest/rarest/most expensive blue available until in the early 19th century a man-made version became available, known as Ultramarine.
The overseas connection again invoked.
Having this tube of exotic blue-gold I thought it best if I tried to produce a painting that would exploit the characteristics of the stuff.
These qualities are: almost transparent, quite dull and without great covering-power.
That is in modern parlance – crap!
So using this wondrous stuff and mixing with the other time-served natural pigments of terre-vert, raw umber and lead white I painted the very thin washy picture below.

Friedrichshafen GIII

Friedrichshafen GIII

Now, I’ve been moaning about another picture lately, that I thought quite “painterly” which didn’t get accepted for a Guild show, but
– God bless ’em, this one made it though. It’s still with me here though
and I must confess I’m quite glad.

The old Ham-Bone

When I go out for a cycle I take an expendable phone in case of some catastrophic event. Something beyond a puncture or a chain-breakage – things which we manly-men are expected to rectify on the road. Well, at the side of it anyway. Hopefully without rain or midgey-attentions.
A phone that I won’t be heartbroken about if I end up skiteing down the road with it in a rapidly shredding pocket. Not an i-Phone 5s then…
My ancient Nokia 6300 was replaced recently with one of the same ilk but younger by some margin. The 515, supposedly the last of its kind and with a 5mp camera superceding the old 2mp one.
Because images from phones are ubiquitous now I thought I’d do two comparison images. The Nokia and a good Nikon SLR camera.
This is my best fixed-wheel bike, taken in low-contrast conditions today. Not a nice day but good for a test of subtle-tone rendition by the two contenders. It turns out there is no comparison

Nokia 515

Nokia 515

Nikon D3s 28-70

Nikon D3s 28-70

It seems obvious that the SLR would be better, but I’m amazed that the difference is so great.
I wonder what a top-line phone’s image quality would be like? Time for that 5s then?

….NEXT!

Frank Zappa it was who once sang “……..it’s a drag when you’re rejected”
and Frank could be right about so many things.
He also made the observation that “PEOPLE are assholes”. A bit of a generalisation there, I fear – but succinct.
A while ago now, whilst vainly searching for a better way to paint than the photographic – repro type of image that is the norm within accepted aviation art, I managed to cast off my inhibitions long enough to do this.

Morning Maintenance

Morning Maintenance

A Hurricane being prepared for its daytime duties to come. I went fairly doolally with palette knife, big brushes and all – and mixing darks from complementary colours etc. Trying to be accurate
but “creatively” inaccurate too.
The Trolley-Ack in the foreground is just about recognisable as such.
I was quite chuffed with it – and pleased to have broken through that mould of
oh-so-photo-illustrative painting.

Rejected as a show entry.

The Caudron Conundrum

G4 watercolour

G4 watercolour

So- back to aeroplanes, which is what it’s supposed to be about here (mostly). Here’s a watercolour of a Caudron G4 – a strange French multi-purpose machine of the Great War. This was the first ever sale I had with the Guild of Aviation Artists’ Annual Show. What a feeling to think somebody liked a picture enough to actually buy it!
So that was me off the mark and exhibiting every year after that.
Two years ago I exhibited this one below. It’s the same aeroplane but this time painted in oils and after a few more years of trying to improve. Hopefully it’s a better image, but sometimes I wonder if the simplicity of the first one isn’t stronger?

G4 Oil

G4 Oil