Aviators and their Apparel

I thought that it might be nice to put a post together of some of my various sketches and paintings of vintage pilots outfits. It’s always a treat when visiting an air museum to come across a cabinet containing a mannequin dressed in the pilot’s outfit pertinent to the aircraft on display. After all, without the pilots the aircraft wouldn’t fly (although these days that’s not strictly true).

First up we have an illustration of the WW2 Pilot’s garb as featured in the Science Museum in London. This particular illustration started as a pencil drawing which was then enlarged and lightly transferred on to a piece of mount board. It was then redrawn with ballpoint pen and then aerosol fixative was well and truly sprayed all over it. The idea here is to lift the ballpoint pen ink with the alcohol based fixative. In this case I helped it along a bit with some kitchen roll dabbing the ink and alcohol solution where required. When the fixative had dried more ballpoint pen ink was applied and the process repeated. This left a nice blue-ish purple tonal drawing ready to be scanned and coloured in Photoshop.
The digital painting stage was fairly straight forward, although I was particularly careful to apply the colour in a transparent way so as not to obscure all the lovely inkyness underneath. The end result still looks very analogue, with a kind of pen and wash feel to it.

Next is a digital painting of the partial-pressure suit and head gear as worn by the pilots of the U2 spy planes of the 50s and early 60s. The suit is on display in the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford, near Cambridge.
The painting itself started as a page of sketchbook drawings, which were scanned and then used as a reference for the digital painting. There aren’t any real “tricks” here it was just a case of keep painting until it looked right! Even though it was produced digitally it still manages to maintain an organic, “painterly” quality.

The next series of images are double page sketchbook spreads. All of the suits/mannequins can be found at the RAF Museum in Hendon, yet another fantastic air museum. All of the drawings are executed in ballpoint pen with additional Posca marker. This process is a variation on the biro and alcohol technique as used on the Science Museum example above. Instead of using fixative to provide a free flowing solvent to lift the ink, a relatively dry Posca marker is used to blend the biro ink in with the Posca paint. As Posca markers contain acrylic paint dissolved in alcohol they normally need to be shaken thoroughly before use in order to mix the paint, if you don’t shake them very well there is a higher concentration of alcohol at the tip. In this case we can use it to our advantage and as soon as it comes in to contact with the biro ink it starts to blend, resulting in a lovely blue-purple tone. When it dries you can then draw back into the page with the biro adding any details or linework lost during the blending stages. The pages of this sketchbook are ivory so an ivory coloured Posca was used for a nice subtle effect. It’s a very useful technique and is the perfect combination of drawing and painting. Try it out, it’s a very good way of getting solid looking drawings and, more importantly, it’s great fun.