Work in Progress

If you're interested in finding out more about how I create my pictures, I'm planning to turn the spotlight onto a selection of them over the months ahead and use this page, along with some associated Facebook posts, to give you an insight into the creative elements and supporting processes that go into producing my drawings. I hope to incorporate everything from the initial research and planning that goes into an idea for a new picture, the development and refinement of a suitable composition and the tools, materials and methods that are used for the different drawing stages.

Lockheed F-5E Lightning - Work in Progress Part 2

Lockheed F-5E Lightning - USAAF - 8th AF - 7th PRG - Work in Progress Here's the first phase of the drawing with the cloudscape almost complete. The aircraft is going to be a relatively small element of the overall scene to emphasise the cloud filled skyscape and perhaps heighten the sense of vulnerability. In order to show off the distinctive twin boom profile of the P-38, the view of the aircraft will be from above and slightly behind and I've placed it nearer the top left of the picture to maintain the sense of altitude and to give the impression there's still a distance to travel to get home to friendly territory.

Using drafting film as the surface for my pictures on has created some interesting possibilities, one of which is the ability to draw on both sides of the sheet. After some early experimentation, I now draw all of my backgrounds on the reverse of the film. Because drafting film is translucent, you can see the reverse drawing clearly through the sheet, while its slight opaqueness has the benefit of giving the background an element of aerial perspective. This tends to make the foreground elements, which I'll draw on the front of the sheet, really stand out against the background.

In order to portray the soft edges and smooth transitions between the different cloud values I employ several different methods and tools to apply the graphite. For the areas of light and mid values, I either apply a light covering with the side of a 3H pencil and carefully blend it with tissue paper, or else I use powdered graphite and apply it with a soft brush. Darker areas are created with softer pencil grades, again with some tissue blending, or I sometimes apply powder using PanPastel application tools, either with their standard foam heads, or with tissue paper wrapped around them. Once gaphite has been applied across the whole skyscape, highlights and sharper transitions are created using a putty rubber, or a fine point propelling eraser and more pencil work as required.

The final step of the process is to remove all graphite that has overlapped onto any areas where there will be foreground elements - in this case, the aircraft - so the drafting film is then ready to be flipped over and these parts drawn in on the front side. Visit again to see the next instalment, or else follow me on for regular updates.

Lockheed F-5E Lightning - Work in Progress Part 1

Since my last post I've been looking through my library of books, including an excellent title by Patricia Fussell Keen covering the unit history for the 7th Photo Reconnaissance Group (PRG) called Eyes of the Eighth. I also often make use of some excellent online resources for all things related to the USAAF, in particular the following pair of really helpful websites: American Air Museum in Britain (run by the Imperial War Museum) and Little Friends - 8th Air Force Fighter Groups (run by Peter Randall).

As I'd like the aircraft to have a bare metal finish in the drawing, this means the scene will need to be set some time after the start of 1945 as it wasn't until this latter stage of the war that the Lightnings from the 7th PRG lost their PRU Blue painted finish. The Photo Reconnaissance pilots (unlike those in the Fighter Groups) tended to switch between different aircraft from sortie to sortie depending on availability which makes matching them up for a picture more difficult than normal. In addition, the level of detail from the mission records for this unit drops off after the autumn of 1944 and by the following year it was much more usual for the PR Lightnings to fly in twos or threes and with P-51 Mustang escorts assigned to them rather than the lone sorties that had been the norm earlier in the war. That said, if at all possible, I always try to portray a specific pilot and their aircraft as I want the veterans and their stories to be at the heart of the artwork.

In the end, after trying to tie together pilots, aircraft and missions, I've decided that Lt. Ellis B. 'Bruce' Edwards and F-5E Lightning 44-24225 will form the basis of this new drawing. Lt. Edwards flew his first sortie with the 22nd Photo Squadron on 25th November 1944 and remained with the unit until the end of the war in Europe. Here are a couple of images from the American Air Museum website of Lt. Edwards and the F-5E: Lt. Ellis B. Edwards Lockheed F-5E 44-24225

On January 14th 1945 Lt. Edwards and Lt. Richard E. Brown flew a mission together to photograph targets along the Rhine and in the Cologne area. The photo runs went to plan, but on the way back Lt. Edwards aircraft suffered some engine problems and had to divert to a different airfield in England. I'm hoping that with a little artistic license to fill in the blanks, this sortie could form the basis of the scene as I've imagined it. So with the picture subject matter now determined, its now time to place the aircraft - seen from a suitable distance and position - onto a cloudy backdrop taken from my reference library of sky photographs. Pop back here again to see the next instalment, or else follow me on for regular updates.

Lockheed F-5E Lightning - Introduction to a new Work in Progress

Lockheed F-5E Lightning - USAAF - 8th AF - 7th PRG - Work in Progress Introduction I've been wanting to create another picture depicting the iconic Lockheed P-38 Lightning for a while. The idea for this new composition centres on the Lockheed F-5E which was a dedicated reconnaissance variant that had its nose armament replaced with cameras. In addition, some of the usual armour plating was also deleted to reduce weight and increase speed. The particular aircraft will be one from the 22nd Photo Squadron of the 7th Photo Reconnaissance Group depicted somewhere deep over German territory heading back to its home base at RAF Mount Farm, near Oxford, England. The sortie has been successful, but the pilot has just had to feather an overheating engine and is now watching the gauges of his remaining Allison like a hawk while making best use of the clouds as cover in the hope he can make it back to friendly territory untroubled by interest from the enemy.

I intend to make the aircraft a relatively small element of the overall scene to heighten the sense of vulnerability and emphasise the cloud filled skyscape. The clouds will have plenty of contrasting highlights and shadows and by setting the scene at a later stage of the war, the Lightning will have lost its PRU Blue paint leaving a bare aluminium finish. This will allow me to use the reflected light from the upper surfaces to make the aircraft really stand out from the background.

The next stage of the composition process will be to determine the specific details of the aircraft and pilot I'm going to portray in the scene. Watch out for the next update which I will upload here, or else follow me on .