The final project in the Colour Theory course involved a lot of mixing in the final piece. I won’t go into the details, but we had to create a motif and interpret it six different ways using specific colour schemes and combinations. As with the first project, I mapped out what was going where first and then completed one section at a time, usually according to what pigments were out and ready at the time.
Here are some of the individual blocks in the piece…
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.
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.
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.
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…
In a new adventure, I signed up for a course in Colour Theory Foundation at George Brown College and got the chance to deepen my understanding of how colour works in art. I taught colour theory during my many years in the classroom, but the knowledge needed to get points across to my audience of adolescents was superficial compared to what I was able to examine here. It was a struggle at first, climbing to the top of the hill of existing knowledge to see from its summit the new world laid bare before me.
Working with military subjects, my palette has often been restricted to earth tones. Even when completing figurative art, intense hues were not exactly what I would be reaching for when placing them in the mixing trays. The opportunity to work with hues out of the tube in gouache has turned out to be a fun process, reuniting me with a medium I enjoy painting with.
From this point, I created a motif and used it for the subsequent pieces. I wanted to resist going to the old standby of aviation, as suggested by the instructor, but after much stewing and sketching, I saw saw on Instagram a picture of a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire entitled ‘A Perfect Example of Primary Colours’ and realised that was it.
The next step was to create twelve studies of the aircraft in mixes of complimentary colours. What follows are the studies and a new composite piece I created from them.
The next piece was to use the motif in a colour wheel featuring a shopping list of colour effects, including complimentary pairs, triads, tetrads, analagous colours and… the Bezold Effect! This one was so complex that I completed a primer to identify what colours went where in the piece. I then pulled out the paints and applied them using the primer one hue at a time. The images below show some of the process behind this piece.
The final piece, scanned and in a better resolution follows below…
Outside of the other galleries are works I post here because they sit apart from the archival works or other illustrative pieces seen in that directory. Where possible, I will include information about the media and size of each piece. I hope you enjoy them.
I hadn’t done much with nature scenes in the past, but helping so many students with their drawings of animals gave me a sense of wanting to try it. So here it is, an original design cobbled together from different images showing these birds on perches of different kinds. The wood and doorway is, like the bird, a new creation. I started it in the winter of 2013, left it when I was working on other projects, revisited it before Christmas of 2014 and left it again until recently when I just sat down and finished it.
ENGLISH ROBIN. 8.5×10″, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015
WESTERN FRONT FANTASIES
In 2013, before I gave a lecture and presentation on war art in Canada from the past to the present, I examined the idea of creating new images of conflict based on researching primary source material like photos and accounts and then working from there to draw or paint imagined scenes of action or devastation. The Western Front as a landscape subject itself inspired many artists at the time and was a formative influence on members of the Group of Seven who served overseas during the First World War. If you look at some of the landscapes produced in the 1920s by some of them, the stripped trees of the Ontario north could just as easily be Belgium or ‘some field in France’.
We know the Group of Seven created oil sketches on site during their painting trips into Algonquin and other places, using them to develop finished paintings later in their studios. I wondered what I could do to create imaginary scenes from the photos in books about the war. The works below are the result. They were created with no rough drafts straight onto the final support as spontaneously as posssible, as if done ‘on the spot’ in the field. The first piece used charcoal, conte and Wolff pencils, carefully building the composition from background to foreground. The second one was done on some new black paper from Australia, recently arrived in Curry’s art supply store. I was the first customer to purchase the paper and try it out. The surface is very grainy, like a kind of sandpaper, which made it great for blending the colours and creating light effects like the rolling smoke in the distance and the shaft of light coming through the shattered window of the ruined church.
When they were first displayed at the lecture in 2013, they created a stir next to the more recognizable aviation works I had done, which are shown if you scroll down the screen. We discussed the fact that video games, graphic novels and films already undertake this kind of historic re-creation in their media. Using traditional media to create images like those realised by official war artists years ago was not something any of us present at the show had recalled seeing before.
The other thing that struck viewers of the work as intriguing was how oddly peaceful the first image was. “The war is definitely over. Look at the hope in that sky,” commented one person. I would be interested in hearing how viewers would react to it now, since the release of the Oscar winning film 1917.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.1. 14×11″ Wolff pencils, charcoal and conte on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.2. 11×14″ conte on black paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
The next piece was a little Christmas project, imagined the same way as the war pieces above. It was a piece to practice pushing backgrounds into the background, softening them up to not fight with the foreground elements.
I needed a demo piece for teaching pen and ink to some of my senior students. As professional development, I used the last few days after shutting down the classroom studio for the summer to create this work, using ink and wash- the first I had done since the works in Cartooning 2 at George Brown and the first ever in colour. I gave the place a crooked roof and cobbled it together from bits and pieces of various places I’d photographed during my last trip to England. So, if you, like others I’ve shown this to, want to visit the place, you will need to travel through the landscape of my imagination to reach it. (It sounds so Rod Serling, don’t you think?) Here is a sequence of photos showing the piece as it was completed. I hope you find them useful.
A COTTAGE IN THE COUNTRY. 10×8″ ink and wash on watercolour board. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2017.
STUDY IN OWLS
Here was a little study I did of a stuffed owl at a conservation center in Northumberland Region. It was found dead and brought to the center, where it was set up and prepared for display. I enjoyed working on it in coloured pastel pencils, so I thought I’d throw it in.
OWL STUDY.9×12″ pastel pencil and charcoal mixed media on art paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman 2018.
I joined Big Art Buzz, an artist’s collective for people across Ontario, in 2015. Besides having my work posted on the core website and its social media affiliates, I also enjoy the opportunity to display pieces in person at various events and to conduct demos. Here are some pictures from events that took place in recent years. The first images include pictures of the art work. The last two have me at my table with Keith Moreau, creator and organizer of Big Art Buzz, speaking with visitors. (I can say there’s somewhat less of me now than when those pictures were taken.) You can visit the site at www.bigartbuzz.com. Visit also the Big Art Buzz channel on YouTube. There is also the work of Keith Moreau on YouTube, which if you click on his name in this article you can see.
PART TWO: FIGURATIVE PIECES, STUDIES, LIFE DRAWINGS AND EXPERIMENTS
I have always said to my students if you can learn how to draw the human figure and water, you can do just about anything in flat art. Water is one challenge because it has so much movement, simple and complex shapes that constantly change, colour and transparency and so much more. The human figure is the other challenge because its structure has proportions that change over time, a shape that varies from person to person, lines, shapes, forms, textures and values, and so much more. The subject of the human face or figure is as old as art itself. Anyone wishing to create comics, animation, games and such must gain some understanding of how the figure is put together if there is to be any success in the workplace later.
To quote Andrew Loomis:
“The nude human figure must serve as the basis for all figure study. It is impossible to draw the clothed or draped figure without a knowledge of the structure and form of the figure underneath. The artist who cannot put the figure together properly does not have one chance in a thousand of success…. If you are offended by the body…give up all thought of a career in art.“
I agree with this and have yet to see anyone who can’t or won’t master the human form make a success of their work with the figure beyond being simple copyists of photos using grids or other ‘tricks’. The human figure, clothed or otherwise, is something that requires constant practice in mastering. Drawing from life is best, but I have found students have managed to achieve success from working with near life sized projections of computer generated models. The latter is not the ideal, but when circumstances dictate it, it’s better than downloading photos and copying them, allowing grids and such to dictate the creative process rather than freehand drawing, which can be more expressive and natural. With practice, the freehand approach becomes more polished and if precision is what is desired, it becomes achievable with greater ease.
It’s the same with painting. Look up close at one of John Singer Sargent’s portraits. A single, well placed dab of paint accomplishes so much. A single trained, expressive line in a drawing can do the same, acting like a signature for the artist and cutting to the core of the pose, which is why quick gesture drawings are so important as warm-ups.
We’ll explore this topic more in other posts. For now, from the archives, are some life drawing samples. The previous website featured clothed ones and portraits, and that is what you will see here. Click on the images in the galleries for hopefully larger versions. Many of these old pieces go back a few years. The day job and lack of life drawing classes in my area have made providing more updated images harder to acquire.
Here are some images drawn from photos for practice as much as anything else. Click on them, etc….
This next batch represents a sampling of paintings and mixed media pieces completed years ago. The first two pieces were modified significantly from photos, using new backgrounds, changed clothing and such. For the bubble blowing image, I can’t recall how I set that one up, but I suspect I probably used a computer generated model in Poser to pose the piece and work from there. In the case of the girls chasing the model airplanes across a field, I used wooden mannequins to pose the models. That piece earned me a place at the National Aviation Museum in their annual show of art from across the country and I still like the concept, but boy, would I ever do that one differently if I re-imagined it. NO MANNEQUINS would be the first rule. Those models you see these days from Japan are much more flexible than the wooden ones available years ago.
Another gallery from the archives, showcasing works completed over a number of years in different media. Where possible, I will try to include information on titles, dates of completion, size, media and so on. Enjoy!
All images here are copyrighted C.A. Seaman and may not be reproduced without permission.
I first became interested in aviation and naval art in high school, and still have some of the pieces I did then in my old portfolio. What is shown here is a collection of pieces done since 1990. Many are in private collections now and are not shown in public any more.
Let’s start with the Bristol Monoplane…
This piece was supposed to appear in an art show in 2012, but being the only black and white work, stood out as such an oddity that I left it home when it was time to hang the exhibition. Featuring the graceful and little known Bristol Monoplane of the Great War, it is a tribute to an aircraft that was ahead of its time and unfairly maligned by the powers in charge of the RFC during the war. Serving largely in the Middle East, it performed well and examples of it survived years after the fighting stopped in 1918.
BRISTOL MONOPLANE. Graphite on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012
“REMEMBERING THE WAR IN THE AIR”- an exhibition in 2012
2012 was the year when aviation art returned in force to the studio. An invitation in early July to participate in a book talk at the Brampton Public Library on CANADA AT WAR, by Paul Keery, was based on the assumption that I would simply put old pieces lying around the house on display. However, the organizer of the book talk became concerned when I told her many of those pieces went into private collections and in some cases, were unaccountable in their whereabouts because the owners had moved, passed on the work or died. I proposed instead of hunting them down to create new works more reflective of my current style, rather than that of the 1990s when most of the original pieces were created. What follows is a catalogue of new works done in four months on a variety of British and Canadian subjects. For BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK, where the original is now in England and the process of its completion is documented below, I included a print of the image produced from photos I took of it before it left for its new home.
What also follows after that is an assortment of other pieces completed in a variety of media over the years leading up to the 2011-12 show. Where possible, I will include further information about those pieces, their composition and completion dates.
DEATH AT DUSK. Coloured pencil and watercolour media16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
COUNTERMEASURES- Electronic Warfare B-17 in Action. Coloured pencil and watercolour media, 16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CANADIAN OVER COLOMBO. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CHARGING MUSTANGS- 442 SQUADRON LIBERATES THE CHANNEL ISLANDS. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
TIP AND RUN- BOUNCING A BUZZ BOMB. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CLOSING THE GAP- TYPHOONS OVER FALAISE IN 1944. Coloured pencil and watercolour on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
REAPING WHIRLWINDS- HUNTING E-BOATS IN THE CHANNEL. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK- process to completion
In late 2010, I was invited to create an image of a Lancaster bomber for my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. The way in which the aircraft was created was left up to me. Not having completed a large scale aircraft piece in six years, I elected to use coloured pencil for my medium on 140lb. watercolour paper stock. Research took place early in March, after I had already decided on a composition. Admittedly, this was an odd way to compose the piece, but once I sorted out the aircraft, using Touchwood’s Lancaster computer generated model in Poser and my own photo reference material for the background, I hunted through books and the internet until I read of an account of a Lancaster in trouble while on a raid over Brunswick sometime in 1944. Satisfied the account matched the composition, I transferred the squadron codes to the aircraft- already drawn out on the board- to create the first stage of the work shown below, as completed on a Friday. Next, I washed in a kind of underpainting using watered down acrylics to establish a tone range for the background. Yes, it was messy and the paper wrinkled badly at this stage. I was not bothered, however. The coloured pencils- Prismacolour, to be precise- were to be used next, and the sheer pressure of the waxy ‘lead’ on the paper would be enough to flatten the image and shatter more than a few pencils in the process. Detailed images follow the process as the picture progressed.
The final piece, completed the following Thursday after some 22 hours in total, looked like this…
BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. 20x14in.Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2011.(In private collection)
Some detail studies…
…and other aircraft, too!
LATE MODEL SPITFIRE. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 1999.(In private collection)
DeHAVILLAND DH 106 COMET AIRLINER. Coloured pencil and graphite on paper. 30x22in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2004.
HANDLEY-PAGE HALIFAX OF NO.87 SQUADRON, R.A.F. Aircraft flown by Len Broadhurst, who I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago, and who received the original of this work. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. Dimensions unknown. Copyright C.A. Seaman, originally 1998. (Posted 1999).
NOTE: Mr. Broadhurst passed away a few years ago. If anyone knows what happened to this piece, please contact me through this website.