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Fine Arts

Oh look… another Spitfire!

It only took ten years to complete! This Spitfire painting was begun to add a purely painted image to an upcoming show of aviation art created in mixed media. Having enough pieces for that show and other projects to work on, the Spitfire piece was put aside for later completion.

I didn’t touch it again until 2017…

Then, all I added was a wash of cerulean blue atop the drawing and white gesso primer. After that, life got in the way and it went back into storage until January of 2021. With a new house, new studio and a little more time on my hands, I decided to revisit the painting and what follows was not what was originally planned.

SPITFIRE NIGHT FIGHTER OF 111 SQUADRON, ROYAL AIR FORCE. EARLY IN 1942. Acrylic on masonite, 16×12.” Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2021. Click on image for a larger view.

The pose of the aircraft is all that remains of the original. Everything else, from the landscape- a fantasy construction, to the paint scheme and markings, was re-imagined for the final piece. The reason for redoing the paint scheme in the short-lived night fighter configuration was because of work I completed in my Colour Theory Foundation course at George Brown College. There, I used the shape of the Spitfire for colour painting pieces and realised that such an aircraft in one hue shows off its clean lines so much better than one in camouflage. (Refer to the article on the project in this website for more information.) Doing research on the idea, I found many Spitfires in single colour paint jobs- some from during the war and others afterwards, when the now venerable aircraft found employment in various other services and duties. One picture showed an all black Spitfire, the paint discoloured around the engine exhausts and chipped away where the screws were anchored. It looked remarkable and upon further examination, I found images of Israeli Spitfires and the one shown above in the painting. JU-H has already been immortalised as both plastic and die cast models. I could have chosen another aircraft from 111 Squadron, but only photos of this one existed for me to check the placement of the markings. Note- no upper wing roundels. Some models have it with and some show it without. Working from actual photographs, I noticed JU-H had the wing roundels painted over, along with the aircraft serial code on the fuselage. Only the squadron codes and tail markings remained after the ground crews slapped on the black paint. Apparently, even the exhausts were given a treatment to reduce the glow they emitted during night operations.

In the end, the experiment of putting up Spitfires was a bust. The whole exercise was predicated on the assumption that there would be a second winter Blitz, which never came. The Spitfire’s handling on the ground in the dark was tricky at best. Pilots spent night after night flying about with little to shoot at. In the spring of 1942, 111 Squadron was re-assigned south to the Mediterranean and the paint scheme was replaced.

The original JU-H, photographed from the other side. I had to determine where the ‘H’ would go on the side I painted and spent time looking at the models online and images of other aircraft from the same perspective before making my best guess. This image is reproduced from Google, using search terms for Spitfire Night Fighter. If there’s any copyright issue, please let me know.

As no image of the aircraft in flight was found for reference, I went to Poser and my model of the Spitfire to set up the lighting I wanted to match the aircraft to the fantasy landscape I used in the background. What appears in the final painting is again, a best guess. Noting the sheen on parts of the aircraft in the photo above, I felt I should bump it up on the painting.

A classic photograph in colour by Charles Brown taken during the war of a Spitfire Mk.V, very similar to my aircraft. NO… this is NOT the photo I used for the original composition. I built my setup in the computer using Poser. If I completed the painting in the manner I imagined it originally, it would have looked a lot like this photo. I’m glad I went the other route. Note the sheen on the wings, the mixture of camouflage patterns and the weathering. This photo was found on Google, and though I know it is quite old, if there’s a copyright issue, please let me know so I can get the appropriate permissions.

It’s hard to believe so many years have passed since the Spitfire first took to the skies. Very much a product of its time, this aircraft still turns heads at airshows and sets hearts aflutter. Seldom has a killing machine been designed so beautifully…

Some Process Images…

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