On March 9th Graham Cooke spoke to Members on this subject. During his talk he summarised his careers in the RAF and in the Guild of Aviation Artists.

After school in the Isle of Wight Graham joined the Royal Air Force in 1962 as an Apprentice Airframe Fitter at RAF Halton. He was commissioned in 1979 as an Engineering Officer, subsequently specialising in weapons engineering. He was OC Armament Engineering Squadron at RAF Marham at the onset of the 1991 Gulf War and deployed to Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, as a member of the advanced party and remained there until the end of the conflict.

By this time, always interested in art, he had taken up painting in oils and on his return from the Gulf painted a number of pictures, one of which won the 1991 Armed Forces Art Society prize. In December 1998 Graham was detached to Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, during Operation Desert Fox. A picture he painted there was donated to the Royal Air Force Club in London together with another painting of Tornado aircraft flying over RAF Cottesmore.

Twelve of Graham’s paintings have been made into limited edition prints. The sales of prints have raised over 14,000 for RAF charities and eighteen of his original paintings hang in RAF Messes and crew rooms.

Aviation Art And Life In The RAF

Toptop top

Graham joined the Guild of Aviation Artists in 1991 and served as Guild Vice-Chairman before retiring from the RAF after thirty nine years in 2001. He continued his active involvement with the Guild, organised the annual Submission Day for ten years and was promoted to Full Member of which there are only sixty five. Graham is the current Chairman of the Guild. He said he owes his success as a professional painter to the help and mentoring of the late Frank Wootton who was the Founder President of the Guild. Frank was a shy man who worked in a collar and tie and was always willing to help aspiring painters. Graham still has Frank’s book, ‘How to Draw Aircraft’.

It is not possible to do justice to Grahams talk in a summary. It was extemporized in a most entertaining way in his personal style with anecdotes which have to be heard to be fully appreciated. His story of the Flight Sergeant demonstrating to a group of Halton apprentices how to launch a Thunderflash with a Very pistol that didnt fire and forgetting, as he tried to throw the pistol-cum-Thunderflash away, that it was attached to him by a lanyard, was worthy of Gerard Hoffnung and had the audience aching with laughter. Those who were present will also remember the West Freugh Hotel parrot and the billet orderly stories.

On painting techniques Graham explained some of the rules of composition that are no longer taught in art schools; the rule of thirds which give the four points of interest, and groupings of threes and fives. Sometimes he uses model aircraft suspended in front of a background and illuminated from the appropriate direction to achieve a realistic impression and to get the complex shadows and highlights correct. He also passed on a tip he had picked up from U Tube for achieving waves on water realistically frozen.

The professional artist has, he said, to use time-saving methods as, unlike the amateur painter, he does not have the luxury of endless time. Throughout Graham illustrated his talk with paintings, all oils on canvas, that he had brought along. He said that he is usually working on half a dozen paintings at a time so that as one dries he can move on to work on another.

The vote of thanks for this very special talk was given by David Hassard.