Who doesn’t like aviation art—oils, water colors, pencil and charcoal, the best of which look more like stylized photographs than paintings and sketches?
The ability of artists such as Keith Ferris, Mark Siegel, Charles Thompson, John Clark and many others to capture the detail of aircraft and space objects—as well as the spirit and exhilaration that goes along with flight—is nothing short of amazing. But the sheer beauty of aviation art is just one of its allures. It also is a chronicle, albeit a beautiful chronicle, of the history of aviation and aerospace, which cannot be matched through any other medium.
Aviation Week is a proud sponsor of an international aerospace and art exhibition conducted each year under the auspices of the American Society of Aviation Artists, and this year I was privileged to serve as the judge of about 80 works of art on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. (The winners will be in Aviation Week & Space Technology’s annual photo/art issue in December.)
An interesting encounter occurred at the Pensacola event that aviation buffs and aviation art aficionados might appreciate.
Crissie Murphy, one of the artists in attendance, approached Paul Eckley, a fellow artist, and announced excitedly, “I have your photo on my desktop.” Paul, who was there with his daughter, Robin, asked, what photo was she talking about. “The one in National Geographic,” she responded.
She was referring to a photo taken by a National Geographic photojournalist (Howell Walker) who had visited Paul’s squadron in Australia in September 1942. He had photographed Paul as he was sitting under a tree and doing a painting of a ground crew changing an engine on a B-17E. Paul, now in his 90s, was a B-17 pilot in World War II.
The photo of Paul had accompanied Walker’s article of the 19th Bomb Group that appeared in the January 1943 issue of National Geographic. It also appeared in the table book “Bomber Missions, Aviation Art of World War II,” by G.E. Patrick Murray.
Earlier, Crissie had been talking with some other women, and Robin was showing some of her dad’s aviation art on his web site on her I-Phone. One of the paintings included an inset copy of the National Geographic photo. Crissie immediately recognized it as the photo on her desktop and simply could not contain her excitement, especially when Robin told her that the gentleman in the photo was her father, who was sitting across the room.
When Crissie calmed down, Paul asked her why she kept the photo on her desktop. She told him that it so moved her, because the man in the photo was doing what inspired her to become an aviation artist.