This was the simple, rather dry, title of Colin Wilson’s talk on 10
February; but it was much more than this. The audience was delighted
with a demonstration, creating from scratch a painting featuring a
Harrier, accompanied by the speaker’s tips on his very successful
method, and personal reminiscences of his life with ‘Hawkers’. Having
started in the aviation industry as an engineer Apprentice with Vickers
he moved to Flight Development at Dunsfold in 1966 joining your Editor
as one of Fred Sutton’s engineers.
Already a competent self-taught amateur artist, here the Harrier
became his subject. He observed the aircraft out of the office widow,
at close quarters on the airfield and in the Experimental Hangar. With
the blessing of the unforgettable Len Hearsey and Alan Wigginton he
made many sketches during the lunch hour. For your Editor Colin agreed
to do a demonstration for a Guildford painting group, the first time he
had attempted such a thing. The ’demo.’, a very atmospheric painting
of a Sunderland, was a great success and Colin went on to give more
talks and demonstrations.
His work progressed so well that in 1976 he became a full Member of the
Guild of Aviation Artists having been introduced by the great Roy
In 1977 Colin was posted to St Louis as the
Company’s Senior Management Representative at McDonnell Aircraft,
returning to Kingston in 1980 as the AV-8B Project Engineer. His career
in BAe took-off in 1983 when he was appointed Production Executive
Director for Kingston and Dunsfold, and three years later he was
promoted out of Kingston to become Headquarters Projects Director.
After that he held directorships with the Dynamics Division, with BAe
Systems & Equipment and with Naval Systems & Services. His
final posting was as the President of BAe, Japan. His career presented
him with new painting opportunities and he brought along many examples
of his work.
On Colin’s easel was his stretched canvas already
prepared with a sky and earth ground on the white base. This must be
dry before the drawing commences so it had to be done in advance. The
first step is a composition plan, in this case an ’L’ shaped format
with the horizon one third of the way up. Placing the nose of the
aircraft through the centre point of the canvas and blurring trailing
edges gives an impression of speed. The subject is drawn lightly by
brush in a neutral colour using a turps (oil of turpentine) and paint
mixture. Shadows are blocked in and the cloud formations outlined, an
important component in Colin’s work.
The sky and landscape are then worked up round the
aircraft, mixing colours on the canvas and working from thin to thick
paint making sure it doesn’t dry out which would make working the paint
difficult. The aircraft is then tackled in greens, blues and greys
adding the coloured details - roundels, ejection seat triangle, fin
flash and so on. At this stage artists’ painting medium (poppy seed
oil) is mixed with the paint to speed drying. Finally the
highlights are added to give modelling and indicate the curved surfaces.
Models of the subject can be a great help in getting
the aircraft to look right. This and the ‘sit’ of the aircraft are most
important, as ,of course, is the overall composition of the picture.
Throughout the demonstration Colin spoke of his
experiences in painting and at work, and this account can only aspire
to giving the flavour of what was a fascinating and entertaining
afternoon with a professional artist. The vote of thanks was given by