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…
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.