Aviation prints

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.


Battle of Britain Spitfire for magazine

Pied-Piper-Spitfire-Gary-Eason-sm600

Picture © Gary Eason. Licensing is via Alamy; for prints see www.flightartworks.com

High Wycombe, 10 May 2015 

Apart from all that spring stuff the month of May brought with it issue 16 of History Revealed magazine - whose cover features one of my Flight Artworks aircraft.

The Spitfire was commissioned by them to fit a rather precise slot in that front page, as you can see if you click on the link - after attempts to source a ready-made one had taken them to my Alamy account. There, they found things they liked but they were not quite at the right angle.

Creditably they were also anxious to be sure the details were authentic for the period. So I worked with them to get just what they wanted - which was as near to a "standard" Battle of Britain Spitfire as they could. 

I chose Spitfire R6891, DW-Q of No 610 Squadron, based at Biggin Hill, as flown by Sgt (later Wing Commander) Ronald Fairfax Hamlyn DFM. This was in part because there were some reasonable (for the time!) old pictures around of his aircraft, so I knew it was just the ticket. 

Hamlyn - "The Pied Piper of Harrogate" - became the RAF’s first 'Ace in a Day' of World War II, shooting down five enemy aircraft during three sorties on 24 August 1940. 

I also subsequently adapted this for my own purposes in the picture you see at the top of this page.

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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.


Turning point: Battle of Britain Day, 15 September 1940

Battle-of-Britain-Day-Gary-Eason-sm

The Luftwaffe's afternoon attack on a day that changed the course of the war. Picture © Gary Eason. Licensing is via Alamy; for prints see www.flightartworks.com

High Wycombe, 16 Feb 2015

My latest picture portrays some 128 separate aircraft on what we now know was a decisive day: 15 September 1940.

The picture, which I have been working on for much of the past couple of weeks, was commissioned as a double-page spread for the Official Royal Air Force Memorial Flight Club Yearbook 2015 - currently in preparation - as part of a series of articles on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

I was given pretty much a free rein on what to depict by the editor, and settled on the 15th almost inevitably. On that day the Luftwaffe mounted two major attacks on London - as Prime Minister Winston Churchill happened to be watching in RAF Fighter Command's 11 Group Operations Room at RAF Uxbridge. 

In the morning, a relatively small force of Dornier Do 17 bombers, with numerically greater fighter support, tested the defences. This was followed a few hours later by a much bigger operation, involving some 114 bombers, in three main columns, escorted by several hundred fighters. That is what became my focus.

Cloud cover

I have tried to give a realistic snapshot of a moment relatively early on when the afternoon's attackers are approaching London. They are beginning to run into the fighter defences brilliantly orchestrated by 11 Group's commander, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park.

This involved a good deal of reading to try to get a 3D picture into my head of what was going on. The clouds had built up during the day to between 7/10ths and 9/10ths cumulus, from about 3,000ft base to 12,000ft tops in places. Wind was from the northwest.

The clouds were a factor in the Luftwaffe crews' subsequently failing to find their targets, hitting alternates where there was a gap in the cloud cover, scattering bombs indiscriminately - or giving up and running for home.

I then chose specific actions with enough documentation to be able to portray the actual aircraft involved, cross-referring sources to get as much accuracy as I could.

So the result is a composite, putting us in the thick of the action at roughly 1430 that Sunday afternoon as two dozen Heinkel He 111s of Kampfgeschwader 53 'Legion Condor', forming the central column of bombers, cross Kent heading for London.

Details

Fighter Command begins to break up the formation: Nine Spitfires from No 66 Squadron attack head-on from below. Hurricanes from No 1 (RCAF) Squadron swoop from above. They are being challenged by Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters from JG 3.

Where there are identifiable aircraft I have based them on squadron records and published accounts of the actions. So for example, 66 were led in their upward-sweeping attack on the Heinkels' most vulnerable aspect by Sqn. Ldr. Rupert "Lucky" Leigh in Spitfire R6800 LZ-N (lower right) - closing to point blank range before firing then rolling away for another attempt. 

The foreground Heinkel He 111 is an H-2 of 3/KG 53, coded A1+EL.  As an aside, this had two MG15 machine guns in the nose blister instead of the usual (for the type) single gun. The Luftwaffe progressively beefed up the armament on these aircraft in response to their Battle of Britain losses.

It did not help Ltn Hermann Boeckh and his crew much: after dropping their bombs they were attacked by eight Spitfires. With both engines on fire and the airframe riddled with bullet holes, Boeckh made a forced landing on a farm in Orsett, Essex.

The flight engineer, Friedrich Grotzki, was killed and three of the other four on board were wounded - the pilot reportedly by his own revolver, which discharged after being struck by a machine gun bullet. Nevertheless the crew stuck to military discipline, torching what remained of their aircraft and refusing to give any information when interrogated.

Below them in the picture, another 3/KG53 H-2, A1+GL, is going into a dive after being hit by Spitfire bullets. It will be shot to pieces by up to a dozen Spitfires. Two of its crew died and two were wounded when it crashed on farmland at Sandhurst Cross.

Wounded

The RAF's priority on the day was to knock down the bombers. To get at them they had to run the gauntlet of a fighter escort from the pilots of at least six gruppen, who put up a formidable defence but were rapidly at the limits of their cross-Channel fuel range.

In the forefront in my picture are some of the experienced pilots of Jagdschwader 3 'Udet': the most successful gruppe in the Battle of France and now veterans of the Battle of Britain. Among the yellow-nosed Messerschmitt Bf109s coming in above is an E-4 piloted by Hptm. Hans von Hahn, recently appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 3. Already an ace, he will account for another Spitfire this afternoon.

Above him in another E-4 from Stab I./JG 3, Ltn. Detlev Rohwer's shells are taking chunks out of Hawker Hurricane L1973 of No 1 (RCAF) Squadron and the left shoulder of its pilot, Fg. Off. Arthur Yuile, who later cursed his forgetfulness in not having maintained eyes in the sides and back of his head as he dived to attack the Heinkels. He managed to get the damaged aircraft back safely to RAF Northolt.

Off to the left in the distance, starting to attract 'ack ack' bursts from the anti-aircraft guns below, are the 19 Dorniers of II./KG3 followed by more Heinkels from I. and II./KG 26. They are about to be hit by the first of a string of fighter squadrons, Spitfires in line astern catching the sunlight as they dive from high above.

This pattern was to be repeated throughout the afternoon as wave after wave of RAF aircraft harried the attackers all the way in and all the way out, with increasingly devastating effect on the materiel and morale of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's Luftwaffe.

This was a time-consuming but fascinating picture to research and to make. I hope I have done justice to the events and to the bravery of those involved. In the process I have been learning a lot about Luftwaffe units and aircraft. As usual, please let me know if you spot any howling errors.

I heartily recommend membership of the BBMF Club. The Yearbook is due out at the beginning of April.

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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.


Remembering Berchtesgaden Lancaster "F for Freddy"

Lancaster-LM756-PG-F-shot-down-Gary-Eason-sm

High Wycombe, 30 Jan 2015

There is an interesting story around all the pictures I get asked to make, but it is usually about the original circumstances that are being portrayed. 

In the case of this latest commission however there is also a story behind why the picture itself came to be made, and where it is going.

It depicts the shooting down of Lancaster LM756, PG-F of No 619 Squadron RAF, during a daylight operation against Hitler's Eagle's Nest retreat at Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps on 25 April 1945  - almost at the end of the war in Europe, 70 years ago.

The operation involved 359 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitos from RAF Bomber Command's 1, 5 and 8 Groups. LM756 was one of six Lancasters from 619 Squadron, based at RAF Strubby in Lincolnshire, which went in ahead of the main force to check the wind speed and direction, and disrupt the German radar defences by dropping metal foil 'Window'.

According to survivors' accounts they had a clear run at about 22,000ft over their designated bombing target - the SS barracks - but then were coned in anti-aircraft fire and shot down in flames.

Three men bailed out and were prisoners of war briefly until liberated by the Americans: flight engineer Fred Cole, bomb aimer Art Sharman and wireless operator Jack Speers. Four of the crew died with the aircraft: Wilf DeMarco (Pilot), Norman Johnston (Navigator), Gordon Walker (Rear Gunner) - all Canadians - and Edward Norman (Mid-upper Gunner).

Austrian memorial

I heard about the story when I was contacted by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service Watch Manager Kevin (Kev) Ruane MBE. He had seen my work and wanted to know if I could make a picture about F for Freddy.

In 2013 Kevin's role in the Fire Service International Youth Leaders Commission had taken him to a small town called Adnet in Austria, a few miles from Berchtesgaden, where he met the mayor, Wolfgang Auer.

Kevin speaks German fluently, having lived in Germany for nine years after serving there in the Army. Burgermeister Auer told him about the Lancaster that had crashed near his town and said he was keen to have a suitable memorial built, inviting members of the crew's families and of the 619 Squadron Association to its unveiling.

At the time neither of them knew that one of the crew - the bomb aimer, Arthur (Art) Sharman - was still alive. He died shortly after, aged 93. 

Kevin followed up the conversation by using the 619 Squadron Facebook page to pursue the mayor's  idea and now, two years later, on the 70th anniversary of the operation, it is all about to become a reality. He approached me because he wanted to be able to present a framed print to Herr Auer. 

Details

From what I can tell the Lancaster must have been a fireball as it went down onto the mountainside outside Adnet. I chose to portray it part way through the drama, before the starboard wing also burst into flames, so that the squadron codes were still visible.

At this point Art Sharman is descending by parachute in the distance. Flight engineer Fred Cole hangs limply from his: he passed out after being pushed from the 'plane  clutching his bundled parachute, which had inadvertently been opened inside the cockpit. 

The man who helped him to get out, wireless operator Jack Speers, is still inside the burning Lanc but is also about to make a successful exit. He was the third and last survivor - the other crew having been killed outright or fatally wounded by the flak shrapnel. 

Kevin runs a website about F for Freddy which has considerable detail about the operation, including accounts by the crew who survived. I also had a useful chat about certain technical details with the secretary of the 619 Association, Joe Dutton, who was also a bomb aimer on the squadron at the time. Indefatigable at the age of 91, he was in the process of organising their next reunion, set for this April. 

619 Squadron was in existence only from April 1943 to July 1945. It apparently does not even have a squadron crest in the RAF Club and is sometimes referred to as the "forgotten squadron". 

Well, not entirely, and I am pleased to have had a small part in honouring the memory of some of the men who did not return. Gone - but not forgotten. 

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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.


A close-up look at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Lancaster PA474 mid-upper turret Gary Eason _DSC3309

Lancaster PA474's mid-upper turret. Soft toys dot the airframe

High Wycombe, 2 Dec 2014

I was standing next to a World War Two Spitfire while one of the few modern pilots lucky enough to have flown it recounted how the engine had emptied of oil while he was doing an airshow display.

We were in the spacious and spotlessly clean hangar given over to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

Outside, their engines a crackling roar, Eurofighter Typhoon jets periodically hurtled off runway 25 and up through the lingering morning fog. Inside, the hangar was a haven of methodical maintenance.

Seeing the memorial flight's vintage aircraft up close I can only marvel again at the courage of those who originally flew them in combat.

Hurricane LF363 Gary Eason _DSC3230

With the outer fuselage skin removed it is all too apparent why the fuel tanks of a Hawker Hurricane fighter presented such a lethal fire hazard to the pilot's legs, stuck forward inside the skeletal tubular framework.

The aluminium alloy skin of the C-47 Dakota looks paper thin to be flown, unarmed, at low altitude over hostile territory with two dozen paratroops and their kit on board. The flight's ZA947 is currently fitted out with the basic metal bucket seats they used.

The rear gun turret of an Avro Lancaster looks impossibly cramped and claustrophobic even for someone in normal clothing, let alone a bulky flying suit and the boots and gloves made essential by freezing temperatures at altitude. I cannot imagine being stuck in there for hours on end in the dark with hostile forces making a point of trying to kill you. 

Dakota Kwicherbichen Gary Eason _DSC3214

My host for this VIP guided tour was Squadron Leader Clive Rowley MBE RAF (Ret'd), former officer commanding the BBMF. Clive was a Hunter, Lightning, Hawk and Tornado F3 pilot who joined the flight in 1996.

As we looked at the Mk PR XIX Spitfire PM631, its Griffon engine out on a stand and various other components neatly stacked on the floor, Clive pointed to a hose protruding from the forward bulkhead.

He recalled how he had been flying in a display at Southend Airshow in May 2004 when people in the other aircraft alongside and on the ground began telling him over the radio that the Spitfire was trailing oil.

He checked the instruments: all seemed well, oil pressure OK. Thinking "a little oil goes a long way" he was not unduly concerned but decided it wise to make an unscheduled landing on the airfield as a precaution.

Spitfire-PR-oil-leak-Gary-Eason-sm

Good call. As he was about to cross the runway threshold on his final approach, the oil pressure gauge went from normal to zero.

It turned out that a rubber hose connecting two bits of pipework had parted and the engine had lost almost all its lubrication. It would not have run for much longer when he touched down safely.

This was only one of several occasions in his career as a pilot that he was in a potentially disastrous situation, Clive tells me over lunch at the Lea Gate Inn. On a wall at home he has a souvenir piece of English Electric Lightning fuselage with the hole in it made by an exploding engine.

Just Jane Gary Eason _DSC3405

As well as being skilful and brave you also have to be lucky. So "lucky enough to have flown it" is rather double edged.

If you didn't know already, the BBMF hangar is open to the public for guided tours: more information via this link.

You might even get Clive Rowley as your guide - if you're lucky. 

And why not make a day of it, as I did, and pop up the road to see Just Jane - Lancaster NX611 - and friends at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum, where restoration work continues apace. 

 


Spitfires escorting Lancasters? In daylight?

Spits and Lancs FB

Picture © Gary Eason. Licensing is via Alamy; for prints see www.flightartworks.com

High Wycombe, 6 Nov 2014

Ever jump to conclusions?

What do you make of the picture above: Spitfires escorting Lancasters? (available via this link).

A typical first response from people who see it is "Cool picture - but of course it never happened". 

We all know that it was the American bombers that flew the daylight operations on the Western Front in WWII - supported increasingly by long range fighters when they became available. The RAF's Bomber Command sent its 'heavies' over at night, and they were unaccompanied.

But let's spool back a bit and see how I came to make this picture. Essentially, three things came together.

The first (below left) was a photograph which I made at the Flying Legends airshow at IWM Duxford in 2013. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's much loved Lancaster bomber and Hawker Hurricane LF363 in formation. Experimenting with a composition one day I multiplied them and thought the result was rather appealing. Maybe - but completely implausible, so it remained undeveloped in my Sketches folder:

Bomber-escorts-development-blog-Gary-Eason

 

(Click to enlarge)

Then I was asked to contribute a number of pictures to a special publication marking the RAF's involvement in D-Day, for the anniversary last June. As part of my research I was reading about how - in light of the Allies' air superiority - Bomber Command dipped its toe back into the daylight operations pool.

Thirdly, in Leo McInstrey's superb book Lancaster I read more about this and how "as the number of daylight raids increased, the Lancasters received fighter cover from the RAF for the first time in the war. 'The Spitfires were a very welcome sight and would accompany you to the target,' said Bob Knights of 617 Squadron. 'They would hang around and see you were all right. ...'."

Well fancy that. My sketch was not so fanciful after all - except that this was not a role the old Hurricane was going to be doing by this time. It had to be Spitfires.

So I realised I was onto something, and it was not something I had seen portrayed elsewhere.

Following the publication of the D-Day bookazine, I heard from the editor that a former Spitfire pilot [update, 2017: the late Tony Cooper, RIP] had said my picture was "just like the real thing", as he had actually done it. 

So, the moral of this for me was, keep an open mind - and do the research.

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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.


A DFC and a shoal of Hurricanes

Kain-over-France-2-March-FB

'Crossing the Siegried Line' © by Gary Eason / Flight Artworks

High Wycombe, 31 Jan 2014

These pictures began life at an airshow.

I did not set out with the idea of making a 'Phoney War' picture, let alone two - in fact I knew little about that early period of World War Two.

What triggered the research that led to the pictures' being made was having the beautifully restored Hawker Hurricane P3351 in my camera viewfinder at the Imperial War Museum's  'Flying Legends' airshow at Duxford in July 2013.  

This venerable crate has had a remarkably colourful life but is now resplendent in the black/white/bare metal undersides it began with in 1940. One could write a book about the aircraft itself - somebody probably has - but it was the camouflage scheme (if camouflage is quite the word) that piqued my interest.

I knew already - witness the logo I use on social media - that the RAF had some peculiar ideas about how to paint the undersides of its fighter aircraft at the onset of hostilities with Nazi Germany. Captivated by the black and white scheme in my pictures of the Hurricane, I started reading up on its history and that of the two RAF Hurricane squadrons attached to the Advanced Air Striking Force near the Franco-German border, No 1 and No 73.

This led to my learning about the short but remarkable fighting career of Flying Officer Edgar James 'Cobber' Kain of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).  Kain's squadron, No 73, was based at Rouvres-en-Woëvre, a village about 35 miles from the frontier.

'Finest fighting spirit'

This phase of the war was characterised by aerial skirmishes - which is not to minimise the deadly nature of what the pilots were engaged in. On 2 March 1940, Kain and another pilot (Donald Sewell) gave chase to seven Heinkel bombers but after a few minutes they were pounced on from behind by a pair of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.

What resulted was an action for which Kain was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). The official citation read:

"In March, 1940, while on patrol with another aircraft, Flying Officer Kain sighted seven enemy bombers about 5000 feet above him, and while giving chase well into Germany, he was attacked from behind by an enemy fighter. Showing the finest fighting spirit, this officer out-manoeuvred the enemy and although his own aircraft was badly damaged he succeeded in bringing the hostile aircraft down. Thick smoke and oil fumes had filled his cockpit and although unable to see his compass, he skillfully piloted his aircraft inside Allied lines in spite of being choked and blinded by the smoke."

I wanted to know more about what had happened. At this point let me plug a book: Cobber Kain, by Richard Stowers, a terrific read and a beautifully produced publication with plenty of photographs from the time. I e-mailed Richard in New Zealand with some detailed queries and he was as helpful as he could be in reply.

For example, I knew I needed to tweak the Hurricanes' appearance to restore them to Mk I configuration and earlier roundels. But I was wondering whether I should be rendering them with the early two-bladed props or the three-bladed ones that were being introduced. H

Richard said: "My research tells me Kain was flying L1808, which was a three-blader as Sewell stated he couldn't keep up with Kain because he was flying a two-blader (L1958)."

Cockpit filled with fumes

So back to the story: Kain did not immediately realise that Sewell, with his less powerful  airscrew, was no longer keeping station behind him. Glancing back he saw an aircraft where he expected the second Hurricane to be and assumed that was him. He got a rude surprise, as Richard Stowers's book recounts:

"'The next thing I knew was 'wang' and I saw the tip of my wing disappearing into the blue.'"

It had been hit by cannon fire. Kain then realised that Sewell had already been shot down (he managed to land safely - in my picture you can just see him far below, trailing white vapour).

Kain was now in a twisting dogfight with the two 109s. Eventually he was able to fire "a longish burst from behind" into one of them, sending it down in black smoke. But the other got on his tail and blew a big hole in his Hurricane's engine - sending oil all over the windscreen and fumes into the cockpit.

He tried to chase the 109 as it flew past him but had lost engine power. He expected his foe  "to come back and teach me to play the harp" - but for whatever reason, perhaps lack of ammunition, he did not.

Collapse

So there was Kain, far behind enemy lines with a dead engine and a cockpit filling with smoke. He opened the canopy to jump out - but realised his parachute harness had come off his shoulder.

So he got back in and, incredibly, glided some 30 miles to Metz aerodrome where he made a force landing. He clambered out of the badly damaged Hurri - and promptly collapsed, to be rescued by some French soldiers.

Quite a tale, and that is was I decided to make a picture about. Happily I had in my collection of cloudscapes a suitable background photo taken in roughly the same area and altitude.

I also had a lower level photo of the French countryside for the other picture in this sequence. This began as a sketch about events on 26 March when there was a bigger aerial combat - during which Kain, with shrapnel in his leg,  did bale out of his burning aircraft:

Combat in France sketch idea

You can see how this overlaps with the finished item at the top of the page. But in playing around with compositions I had already decided that I really liked the effect of a 'vic' cluster of the black and white Hurricanes - reminding me for all the world of a shoal of tropical fish we used to have in a tank when I was a child:  

Phoney-War-Hurricanes

'Rising to the challenge' © by Gary Eason / Flight Artworks

So rather than carve out a dogfight I thought I would show the beginnings of the action, and that is how the second picture came to be made.

Soon Eddie Kain had notched up five aerial victories becoming the RAF's first "ace" of the war, feted in the British newspapers and interviewed on the BBC.

In May the Battle of France began. Kain rapidly achieved further combat successes and his total had risen to 17 when, exhausted, he was ordered back to England in early June.

Kain said his farewells to his squadron but as he was leaving decided to do some low-level aerobatics over the airfield. He slammed into the ground doing a third flick roll, was flung out of his exploding Hurricane and killed outright.

He was a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday.

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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

 RAF-Bostons-low-level-France-FB

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.


Head in the clouds

 Ah, the magic of flight

One of the most important keywords in my catalogue of working pictures is "cloudscape". Searching on that term produces hundreds of images. 

Most - though not all (as we shall see) - are taken from on board aircraft. Yes fellow passengers, I am that sad soul who craves a window seat, preferably in front of the blurring hot exhaust from the engines, and spends much of the journey clicking the shutter button, pathetically trying to shade the lens against the reflections from the double windows. 

You might think I was mildly deranged; you probably would not think that I was working. But for me each flight is a photo opportunity and really there is no such thing as a bad view - in fact ironically, good weather can be the least rewarding.

I am talking about the backdrops for my aviation artworks. The air is the element in which I operate. The more altitudes and angles I have available, the better. Anywhere that passes for southern England, France or Germany is at a premium.

On the rare occasions that an airliner tilts to the side to any appreciable degree, revealing the landscape tableau below, I am in a frenzy. That said, it can mean a long stint in Photoshop getting rid of polytunnels, bright yellow rape fields, motorways and white vans in farmyards - I think I have complained about this before. 

It's all about the light

When I first began making the pictures I was severely constrained by the available canvases and had to confine myself to subjects that fitted what I had in store. Increasingly though it is the other way round.

If I need (say) largely clear air at 20,000ft over the Franco-German border, chances are I have it. I have a growing range of cloudforms and weather moods and it is not too much of a twist to layer these where necessary - combining and blending to build up the sky.

As always the light is the key. If it is supposed to be midday then long shadows are out; flatly lit white clouds at day's end just look wrong. While some tweaking is possible, it is a very uphill struggle to repaint an entire sky so it has to be more-or-less right to begin with. 

Situations now arise where I come back with a haul of skies and cannot wait to get stuck in. A recent trip to Edinburgh (for the Fringe) was a classic example - see video above. Such riches, there and back! I can become almost paralysed for fear I might waste a splendid slab of upper air on an inferior composition. 

Happily, it often works the other way round and an available cloudscape prompts a picture. And it does not have to have been taken up above. My latest creation uses a sky that I shot when squally rain was about to stop play at a 'bagels and baseball' knockabout in the park with some American friends. 

I have used it in a day-for-night way. I'll leave you with ... Bomber's Moon: 

Lancasters-at-night-FB

From elsewhere: Discussion of rules regarding photos on commercial flights