The Balkan Baroudeur

No French speaker, I – but I remember the SNCASE Baroudeur as a French jet fighter from days of my pre-youth. The term has re-surfaced with my present enjoyment of cycling and watching its machinations on the sports channels.  A “Baroudeur” is a battler or fighter and it’s applied by the commentators to a rider who will take the fight individually to the peleton or who is a constant thorn in the flesh by breaking away from that organised group. I was struggling for a name for this painting as I always search for alliterative names for mine (A smartarse personal foible). This was how the picture started………

Halberstadt and Caudron 001

It’s now a bit more respectable as an image although with a lot to go yet…………

Halb 003

If, unlike most “aero-artists” you don’t start with a computer-scanned and corrected image drawing and drop-in a background via Photoshop or the like, or if you don’t use a direct tracing or a three-dimensional “drawing” programme, then you can always venture into the world of drawing – as folk used to do in pre-DigiHistoric times. To paint an image this way is quite humbling as the subjects always need tweaked and adjusted from the original laying-down. But hopefully  the painter gets better at it with practice and in this case the main subject is pretty close to its true shape whilst the wee Caudrons are reasonably close to factual  and  rather “painterly” in their almost casual form. We live in hope!

The Halberstadt DII as shown here was the first successful German biplane fighter – and its quarry are two French Caudron G4s – cumbersome if well-loved observation aeroplanes. The Balkan aspect is shown as mountainous country as opposed to the gently-rolling Western Front. The Balkans were flown by those front-line machines whose times had come in the over-competitive skies of France and Belgium.

A Good Start!

It’s always encouraging, a good start – for example see this old snap. Recognise the stylish chap in red just behind the starter’s Saltire? No?

Start - Greeves

Many years have passed since that day at a Kirkcaldy Scramble – and yet I find I’m still behind the Saltire. Ha!

But the “good start” today refers to a new aeroplane-painting on the stocks. I’ve been ranting for a long while now about the origination of most modern aero-painting with its increasingly computer generated drawing and mechanically produced overlays and Photo-shopped images that simply need painted up to the outlines to produce. Folks that do this are perhaps painters but are they artists? They are not. Neither have I any time for photographic representational paintings that could easily be bettered by simply being a photograph. Aviation Artists? Where is the flair and imagination of the true Artist?  I’ve had a scunner for a while about my own stuff too and find these days that the only way I can hold my head up over a painting is when it has been drawn directly onto paper or canvas and adjusted and modified until it looks right. An original photo can well be copied – but by eye and not mechanically – not tracing, not even sizing-up using squared graph-like paper. Well – that’s my take on it anyway. Almost like real drawing ,eh?

It being the New Year, I was keen to get started on something positive. I should be out putting in the miles on my bicycle and reducing the results of the Season’s  excesses, but the weather is just too crap for me at present. So I thought I’d try to start on a painting. I think my favourite WW1 aeroplane is the Halberstadt DIII and I found a good photo of one without any photo-distortion to it. (Photo-distortion seems to be another favourite factor amongst my beloved non-selective Aero -“artists”). No drawing at all with this pic below. It was painted straight onto the board and adjusted as I go. And there’s a lot to go.

But I think it’s going to be OK, this one. And that’ll be a Caudron G4 down below………

Halberstadt and Caudron 001

Actually, it’ll be two Caudrons below to balance things out. This is painted on a smooth panel – I’ve always painted on fine linen canvasses until now and I’ll admit it was because I though panels were a cheap option to stretched canvas. But I really like the smoothness of this panel. Time will tell about the ability to paint fine detail thereon.  So this is stage two below. That Halberstadt is such a nice shape. Definitely my favourite WW1 aeroplane!

Halb stage two

Loosen Up!

Some wee drawings of late in an attempt to get less totally representational. The one thing that scunners me about my chosen sphere of Aero-Art is its almost total adherence to photographic representation. I include myself in this, more’s the pity, and would love to discover the way to break out of it.


Pens and BrushPens at the moment. I suspect strong drink would help too. Recently I was led towards smooth gesso-primed boards and they certainly allow tiny detail to be incorporated in a small painting. But is that what I really want?



What to do, eh?


It seems like an age since I last tried a wee bloggie. And it is at least six months ago, so anything of earth-shattering significance been happening?
Well- lots of photos taken of events at “my” school, an awareness of the increasing allure of old motorcycles, a chance meeting with a boyhood hero, a return to saxophone lessons, a self-imposed reduction of one fingertip and even after much soul-searching, an awareness of how much my painting actually means to me.
This last was underlined a few days back as I turned to “December” on the Cross and Cockade calendar for 2014.


My RE7 painting from the Guild’s 2013 show. Happily sold but still with me – in print.
Next year’s calendar has another painting of mine too,
although sadly its reproduction is not in the same league as this.

So to Bicycle Maintenance. A lesson well-learned a month ago. After a complete replacement of transmission components on the Winter Fixed-wheel.
Keep inquisitive fingers clear of spinning chainwheel and chain or much pain-filled troubles will ensue. THAT buggered-up the saxophone lessons…..Ooooya! B……!

Went to the Scottish Motorcycle show with pal Peter a couple of months ago, when one Guest of the Day was a man whose exploits I grew up reading of in Motor Cycle News. The multiple Word Champion in 500cc and 350cc classes, the incomparable Giacomo Agostini.
As we knew the show’s M.C., we were imvited “backstage” for a coffee and sandwich. There, looking a bit bored and anxious to get back to his hotel – the Campionissimo himself. To cut it short, Pete and I ended up taking him for a conducted tour of Festival Edinburgh before delivering him back to that hotel.

I had to stop and pick up Ruth who had absolutely no awareness of the legend in the passengers’ seat!
I read recently that another World Champion – Phil Read – had described Ago as “Insular”.
Well, maybe to you, mate.
We found him warm, grateful, erudite and happy to talk of his exploits without any way resorting to arrogance.
Not sure if the same could be said of Read!

Unassailable Uhlans

I like Tauben
Amongst the first ever aeroplanes adopted by the German Military, the Taubes were manufactured by many of Germany’s early aero-makers although the type originated in Austria. Here’s a Jeannin Taube of 1914
Portfolio Taube Two jpeg

and here, a Rumpler of 1913. The name of Rumpler became synonymous with the Taube type.

Rumpler Taube

The first aircraft to ever drop a bomb on Britain was a Gotha-produced Taube, in 1914.
Here’s a Gotha of 1913 in original German Military markings

Five - Gotha WeeJPEG

Tauben. All oil paintings. Bonnie things, taubes…….

They Made Me Do It….!

…but I was very happy to conform!
When a revered Edinburgh College asked me to produce a painting relevant to their own Great War remembrances, we decided on the Bristol F2b.
The Bristol Fighter incidentally was always known to its crews as the “Biff” and not by the subsequent and baleful, press-led soubriquet of “Bristfit”.
Amongst the college’s former pupils were the three brothers Barnwell. Of those, one went to the Army but the other two, Harold and Frank were aeronautically inclined. Harold became a test-pilot for Vickers and would die in a crash in 1918.
Frank however became a designer at Bristol and would be partly responsible for the Scout shown below. This was a real pilots’ aeroplane and well-beloved by all.



After the Scout, Frank designed the M1 monoplane, an extremely efficient fighter but destined to be un-acceptable to the biased anti-monoplane thinking of the top brass.
Frank’s next design – the Bristol Fighter – was probably the finest all-rounder produced by any of the warring nations and destined to fly on almost all fronts, surviving in the RAF until 1930.

Looking to be a wee bit different I’ve pictured this one over the deserts of Palestine. A No.1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps “Biff” about to engage a Rumpler CIV in 1918.



Tales of Tailless – Two

Dunne D5

Dunne D5

Is it a Stealth prototype? Not in 1910. It’s the Dunne D5 – the brainchild of Lt. John William Dunne whose first attempts at inherently-stable sweptback flying-wings got off the ground (!) in 1907 at Blair Atholl – and in much secrecy.
After many experiments and a few more Dunnes, officialdom decided the future was in ballooning and airships.
Aye but Oh!

No secrecy involved when this one was in flight though-thanks to the sizeable rammy being created by the Vulcan’s four great Olympus BOI.3s.



What fun we can have in painting! The Vulcan of this era was finished in anti-nuclear-flash white, so I just thought it’d be nice in purple.
But it IS white, no?

Tailless in GAVA



Recently I posted this painting on Facebook and folks were interested in something from Forbes that was not Great War. Well – there are more.
For my second ever submission to the Guild of Aviation Artists’ exhibition there were two aircraft – and not a tail between them.
I just love the paintings of Turner and I’d been at his Water Colours exhibition in Edinburgh. There were a few that he’d painted on blue paper which I thought looked especially attractive. So naturally plagiarism raised its ugly head and this Me 163 is accordingly a watercolour on a blue paper….
Not a GREAT pilots’ aeroplane the 163, as you sat between two fuel tanks of corrosive stuff that exploded when mixed. Or melted skin clean off if that unfortunate skin was exposed to it. Plus, it landed on a big skid with a predictable wallop and if the fuels hadn’t been totally drained in the flight they would just explode. Aye – volunteers line up here………..
The other tailless was the more approachable Westland Pterodactyl IV. No short-range, late-war fighting rocket like the 163, this was the second flying experiment of Westland to the designs of the innovative Mr. Geoffrey Hill. It flew in 1931 and in the age of open-cockpit bi-planes here was a glazed-cabin, swept-back flying wing and the wings SWUNG to more suitable angles of sweep for the speed involved. A really amazing machine.

Pterodactyl IV

Pterodactyl IV

The Pterodactyl was my first and only Acrylic painting in an attempt to branch out from watercolours. Acrylic! Bah! Not for me. Far too quick-drying. So onto the oils then…
..and perhaps yet more things without tails.

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….

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.