Work in Progress.

Welcome to a new work in progress depicting the painful (!) evolution of my 75th Anniversary Battle of Britain painting.  As usual with non-commissioned work, I started with just a very general idea of what I wanted to achieve and then let the paint guide me through the process, going down several dead ends in the process!  The canvas is Extra Fine French linen, 40″ x 20″.


Spitfireprog1Stage 1:  My rough idea was to have a Spitfire zooming out of the picture making a head-on attack against a formation of German aircraft.

Spitfireprog2Stage 2: Here I worked a bit more on the sky and blocked in the Spitfire to give me an idea of how dark the background needed to be.

spitprog3Stage 3: Having worked further on the sky, it really wasn’t working as well as I hoped.  I took a deep breath and for the next three days painted and repainted the clouds to try to find an atmosphere that would work well.  In the process of this, the blocked-in aircraft slowly disappeared!

spitprog4Stage 4: I finally arrived at a rough sky that I was happy with and set about restoring the Spitfire to its blocked-in state.

spitprog7Stage 5: Moving on about a week, I had spent a long time working on the clouds and landscape, to a point where it was time to add some of the other aircraft.  I added the big Heinkel first but after adding the other three aircraft, it seemed as if this big Heinkel wouldn’t last long, being too close to the visual line of flight of the main Spitfire.  I liked the cloud shadow underneath the main Spitfire but had a feeling that it would have to eventually go!

spitprog9Stage 6:  So as predicted, the big Heinkel came out, and was replaced by a smaller one lower down, which worked better.  Also at this stage I felt we needed more visual movement in the picture so I started to ‘streak’ the clouds along the main Spitfire’s line of flight.  That cloud shadow is already on its way out…

spitprog10Stage 7:  Now things were moving on rapidly so I started to detail the aircraft.  They always look better when markings and codes are added as it gives the effect of focusing the picture and taking the eye away from the background.  I really liked the shadowed clouds on the mid right of the painting but again had a feeling that they might have to go in the end as the picture was slightly unbalanced. Another problem was that the background was very flat tonally, with the cloud and shadows being the same tone from top to bottom.

spitprog11Stage 8:  So after another one of those deep breaths, I heavily reworked the clouds to try to introduce some tonal depth, more colour, more visual depth and a better balance with the big clouds on the right now ‘propping up’ that side of the picture.  This was a risky thing to do as the painting went significantly backwards in terms of nearing completion, but I just felt that something had to be done.


…And the final result:  In the last 48 hours everything came to life.  After a quick survey on Facebook, I decided to have the Spitfire’s guns firing, which seemed to give the picture a bit more purpose.  I added many more smaller aircraft and detailed the larger ones.  I reworked the clouds centre right and tweaked the sky above with the vapour trails.  I also added ground detail and emphasised the Spitfire’s propeller disc a bit more.  Dozens of other minor changes were made, the last one being the burning Heinkel on the left, painted one hour before I took the completed painting on the flight to England for scanning and printing!

I hope you enjoyed seeing this work in progress.  It’s probably not a great lesson in how to paint aircraft as a bit more planning in the early stages would have saved a lot of wasted days of reworking!




The original and prints are now for sale, for more information please click here  ORIGINAL CANVAS     PRINTS