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New Supermarine Swift WK275 artwork

Swift WK275 pictures Gary Eason

The Flight Artworks depictions of WK275: book cover (left) and in flight over the English countryside.

Colchester, 21 September 2017

If you are going to Duxford Airshow this weekend, look out for aviation author Guy Ellis who tells me that he will be signing copies of his new book about Supermarine Swift WK275 in the Aviation Bookshop marquee.

It is being formally published by Grub Street Publishing next week but is being launched at the show. I am excited to see it because I did the cover art.

Guy first approached me back at the start of January to see if it was something I could take on. Following my usual practice I drafted some initial ideas and he chose the sort of picture he wanted.

We then refined the precise angles in the composition - working by this time also with the publisher and their designer - showing the unique aircraft "almost as if it were 'climbing'  the cloud", as he put it, in my background photograph. 

SWIFT BY NAME . . . 

It is only fair to say the Swift was not the most successful aircraft the RAF ever got involved with - but from my point of view it is certainly not unattractive, perhaps quite a perky looking number whose lines live up to its name. As did its performance: an F.4 like this was, briefly, the holder of the world airspeed record, having attained 737.7 mph (1,187 km/h) over Libya, 64 years ago this week, in the hands of Vickers Supermarine's chief test pilot, Mike Lithgow. 

I say that WK275 was unique because as I understand it no other Swift airframe ever had its precise configuration, and it is the only fighter variant still in existence.

It was used as a test frame for various developments, including what they call a slab-type tailplane - in other words with wholly moving horizontal stabilisers instead of fixed ones with moving elevators on the trailing edges. Later, no longer flying, it was used for noise research.

By this time, the 1960s, it was already a very faded, tired and sorry looking specimen. It then became a "gate guardian" at an outdoor clothing and camping store in Herefordshire. Up on bricks in all weather, it was rotting away. 

It was rescued in 2012 by a private buyer, Tim Wood - who set out to buy his son an ejector seat and ended up with an entire aircraft - and he got the remarkable guys at Jet Art Aviation to do the seemingly impossible job of restoring it to (non-flying) splendour.  

I asked Tim whether getting it flying again had ever been on the cards. He had inquired, he said. It would have cost another £3m. 

DETAILS, DETAILS . . .

Not knowing anything about the Swift before I started on this project I had to get up to speed on the general outlines to begin with, then the peculiarities of WK275. 

For example, there is a stub on the top of the nose where you might expect to find a pitot-static tube, but the instrument itself had been moved to the starboard wing.

I was also keen to get the subtleties of such things as air vents and the various warning labels as correct as I could. Jet Art kindly answered some of my questions about specifics and sent some close-up snaps for reference. 

To create the picture I worked initially from a small model I commissioned of an F.4 converted from an FR.5, the more successful low-level reconnaissance version. But there was a great deal of pixel painting to do. 

My work on this as on everything else was interrupted by a delightful few weeks travelling around New Zealand and making landscape photographs

But eventually the finished picture was completed, tweaked and signed off in April, five months ago, and my job was done. Meanwhile, of course, the publishers had a book to make! 

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To buy prints of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I also do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, on Twitter @flightartworks, and on Instagram @flight.artworks.


Licensing Flight Artworks aviation pictures

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Left to right: Recently licensed Flight Artworks scenes from the Phoney War and the Battle of Britain © Gary Eason

Colchester, 21 September 2015

You will know already that you can buy aviation prints through the Flight Artworks website at www.flightartworks.com but I also welcome enquiries from publishers who are interested in using my work.

My photorealistic aviation pictures are regularly licensed either from me directly or, increasingly, through my gallery on the Alamy agency. You can see some recent purchases - for a book - at the top of this column. 

And it is not only publishers. I am also happy to talk to people interested in making ranges of aviation-related consumer goods. 

For the most part these are rights managed licences of the Flight Artworks, so prices vary widely depending on the particular use - but also licensing my 'straight' aviation photographs from airshows and elsewhere

On the subject of printing though, a reminder that all my pictures are made to order. They come to you fresh from the printers, and have not been sat in a storage box after being run off in batches. This applies equally to the photographic prints of aviation pictures and to the fine art prints, in a range of sizes. 

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.


First Flight Artworks book published

 

 

 

Flight Artworks Volume 1 by Gary Eason
High Wycombe, 12 May 2015

I am delighted to present my first book drawn from my growing collection of Flight Artworks​: 32 pages, available now in printed and e-book versions.

It contains captions, commentary and points of note – but the focus is on the images and they occupy most of the space. You can see some sample pages above and below. 

To preview or purchase the books please visit the Blurb bookshop.

I built it using their self-publishing software BookWright in 'standard landscape' size (25x20cm / 10x8in), in three formats from £19.99.

The production was straightforward if time-consuming. I lost count of how many times I thought it was done, then spotted something that was not quite right - which I suspect could become an endless process if you are not careful.

In fact it turned out that their existing software cannot properly reproduce it as an ebook without divine intervention by the Blurb support staff, so that is an ongoing project. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 00.27.55Am I pleased with the book though? Yes very. It was launched this morning, and when I went to look in my account for something a few hours later, I had already sold two. 

I'm afraid I can't do anything about the price: the fixed costs imposed by Blurb, including shipping, mean I barely get the price of a pint from each copy and I would have to sell a very large number indeed to cover the time invested in its creation. 

My son works in the book selling business and he will tell you (if only when he sees his pay slip) that for the vast majority of us, publishing and selling books is rarely ever going to be a get rich quick scheme.

The pictures I have used are not new, apart from a few I have adapted to fit the book design. In fact many people have prints of them hanging on their walls. And as regular followers of this blog will know, a number of others have appeared in print already in magazines and elsewhere. 

Also, as an aside, I am increasingly licensing them through my Alamy account – although I do not usually know where they will end up, because sales are reported to us contributors simply in terms of "Editorial magazine" or the like, and maybe not in a country or language I am likely to see. 

So what's the point of producing the book? Is it all vanity? 

Oh, come on – can anything beat sitting down with a cup of coffee on your most comfortable sofa, savouring turning the pages in a book of your favourite things? 

So when I say "first" Flight Artworks book published, will there be more? Oh yes.  

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes. Publishers' enquiries are also welcome: many images are available already to license through the Alamy agency.

To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.


D-Day pictures set for print publication

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Part of the D-Day series: 'Free French' RAF Bostons on a low-level strike prior to the invasion © by Gary Eason / Flight Artworks

High Wycombe, 6 Jan 2014

A Happy New Year. I wonder what 2014 will bring? Well, for one thing, the 70th anniversary on 6 June of D-Day. I have been concentrating in recent months on pictures featuring the RAF's involvement before, during and after the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.

My initial idea last summer was to build up a body of work ahead of the anniversary. This was given added impetus when I was contacted by aviation historian and author Clive Rowley, who had used two of my pictures in a previous anniversary special magazine ('bookazine') that he had authored about the Dambusters, which had to be reprinted to meet demand. 

He said he had been asked by the publisher, Mortons, to compile a similar 'special' about the RAF's involvement in D-Day. Would I like to be involved? 

I worked at several pictures and showed them to him in October. He was very enthusiastic. I carried on, and when it came to my 'big picture' featuring D-Day itself, he made suggestions for squadrons and indeed a whole scenario that would tick plenty of RAF boxes: Operation Mallard

This was the successful effort on the evening of 6 June to deliver the second wave of British 6th Airborne Division troops by glider to the Caen area, the first having dropped by parachute overnight. It offered me: the gliders and their 'tugs' - I settled on Horsas and Short Stirlings - and the escorts, which included Spitfires and Mustangs.

I wanted to work in some Hawker Typhoons too. None were directly involved in Mallard, from what I can tell, but some were on an armed reconnaissance at the same time.

Video: Making D-Day

Researching the details of the squadrons that participated then building up the various elements and melding them into a coherent composition took me several weeks. The research alone involved many hours of browsing online, reading books, downloading squadron operation records and correspondence to establish the details.

If you are going to depict aircraft in a particular action you have to know which aircraft they were. It is not enough to read, for example, that 15 squadrons of RAF fighters escorted the various heavy aircraft that towed the gliders over to the Caen area on the evening of D-Day. I needed to establish which squadrons they were, then to figure out which of their aircraft were operational that day and what code letters (and ideally also serial numbers) they carried - which is not easy, as anyone who has tried it will attest. 

'The realism ... is uncanny'

Finally it was done, and I am delighted to say that Mortons have licensed four of my pictures for their 'special' which is due to be published early this year. Until it appears I will not know for sure what if anything they have made of them, but it was great to be one of those asked to contribute. 

Clive Rowley struck me as a helpful, unassuming and thoughtful person to work with. If his name is familiar, that is probably because Squadron Leader Rowley MBE RAF (Retd) was formerly Officer Commanding the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

He very generously said of my work: "From my point of view as a pilot for the last 43 years and a RAF fighter pilot for 30 years, the realism he captures is uncanny, starting with the backgrounds, the skies and the light, and then in the detail of the aircraft that are the subjects.

"It is as if the quality of a modern digital camera was there at the actual wartime event, in a ‘photo-ship’, all those decades ago."

If you have read previous blog entries of mine you will know that this is just what I set out to do when I began Flight Artworks two years ago, so it was very gratifying to see this observation from someone with so much firsthand aviation experience. 

Clive added: "The superb detail and accuracy in his images are the result of Gary's extensive research and his desire to get history right, to accurately represent the actual event". 

Coming up

That is very kind - but time for a reality check. As a journalist I am always conscious of becoming an 'expert' for a day or a week. I rely on people with infinitely more knowledge of particular subjects to keep me straight. So, if you see something in my pictures that is not quite right, please do let me know. 

I am still working on other D-Day images. I've become something of a fan of Hawker Typhoons. I have already published a picture of Tiffies from No. 247 Squadron going into an attack dive. I plan at least two more featuring the devastating impact of these beasts on German troops - even if it was psychological rather than material. And I am learning more than I would have expected about German armour. Other subjects wearing invasion stripes will follow. 

I am pulling together the series on my website.

But for now: my thanks to Clive and to Mortons, and here's wishing us all a successful year. 

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes. Publishers' enquiries are also welcome: many images are available already to license through the Alamy agency.

To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.