RAF Benevolent Fund Spitfire Painting
Each year I try to create a few paintings which can be auctioned to raise funds for charities. This year I decided to create a piece to support the great work conducted by the RAF Benevolent Fund as my father served in the RAF. This year marks 100 years of the RAF and I wanted to support their RAF 100 Appeal.
I’ve always been fascinated by the WWII aircraft, the Spitfire, and decided this would be the perfect project to paint one of these stunning planes. I approached one of the leading restorers of vintage aircraft, the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC), to see if they could help with the project by donating any Spitfire parts to paint on. They were really keen to get involved as the RAF Benevolent Fund charity is one they hold dear to their hearts. They invited me up to their impressive hangars based at The Duxford Air Museum near Cambridge. This in itself was a very special treat to have a guided tour around so many incredible iconic planes. There were lots of Spitfires at various stages of restoration. They also had the only flying example of a Bristol Blenheim and a Hispano Buchon which were both fresh from starring in the recent Dunkirk movie.
George Romain, Brand Manager at ARC, then kindly presented me with a complete wing skin section from a Mk IX Spitfire they had restored (SL633). Parts like this are super rare. You just can’t find a complete panel like this and they are extremely valuable so it was very generous of ARC to donate it…. not to mention showing a lot of faith in me! George very kindly let me sit in the only flying example of a Mk I Spitfire… the Spitfire that famously sunk in the sand on the beaches of Dunkirk and was recovered in 1980 for restoration. Incredible privilege to sit in this aircraft and it really brought home how cramped and cacooned the young pilots were in the war – very brave of those young lads to jump into the cockpit and fly off into the unknown not knowing if they would return.
Once back at my Studio I spent some time thinking/planning the painting to make the most of the surface area on the wing panel. I considered a composition of two planes but then settled on one larger one. I wanted to respect the history of the piece but also maximise the impact of the painting. First I cleaned up the panel with fine emery papers and keyed it to enable a few coats of primer paint. I ensured a lot of the patina on the wing was still visible. I then used spray paints to create the land, sky and cloud formations. The plane was painted using acrylic paint.
I contacted the RAF Benevolent Fund to let them know about the project and they were very excited at the possibility of auctioning it at a large fundraising event this year. They provided me with their logo as did ARC and I got some vinyl stickers produced. The painting has been framed by mounting it with a bit of space from the back panel to really show off the wing section. I utilised the existing rivet holes for this!
UPDATE – the piece was auctioned at the RAF Centenary Dinner at the British Museum and raised an excellent £5,000 for the RAF100 Appeal. Here are some photos from the evening:
Designing a bespoke Spitfire Table!
I recently had the good fortune to find about some Spitfire propeller blades that were being sold.
Being a massive fan of the Spitfire this was a no-brainer to get involved and buy one. Deciding must have taken all of 30 seconds and was very much the easy bit. The more tricky part was that they were located at an airfield near Stockholm! Luckily the person who found them was my best friend in Sweden, Peter, who also planned to buy one and kindly offered to drive up and collect them both.
And so begun the story of the repatriation of a propeller blade that had been most likely manufactured just up the road from me near Brooklands around 70 years ago. This blade had been part of one of the fifty Griffon engined PR Mk XIX Spitfires that were sold to Sweden in 1948. Sweden needed spotter planes to keep an eye on the Russians whilst their jet program was underway.
Once Peter had bought the 2 blades quickly before the seller could change his mind, we set about getting mine back to good old Blighty. Peter’s exceptional DIY skills came in handy as he made up a wooden crate/coffin and then the courier company did the rest (a spitfire blade is pretty heavy by the way!)
Once it had safely arrived home the tricky decision had to be made… what on earth do you do with a Spitfire propeller blade?! It is undoubtedly a cool thing but where do you put it. I did some research and most people mount propeller blades on stands as a form of sculpture. This was perhaps too obvious a solution.
We’d been planning to buy a table for our lounge for some time and so a creative plan came together for a display case/Spitfire table! My business partner in my Agency day job is also a shareholder of a Flight Case construction business, Case Design Ltd.
So I sketched a brief for them to look at and they created a fantastic bespoke glass topped table/case to display the propeller blade. It fits snugly inside in bespoke cut-out foam but you can open the glass top and remove it if you wish. They also incorporated a shelf underneath in aluminium for magazines and books.
I’m over the moon with the end result and have recently purchased a Spitfire cockpit switch with the plan of putting some lighting inside the case at some point in the future.
Whilst on the subject of Spitfire furniture check out the video of this amazing Spitfire table! Exceptional craftsmanship by Huw Edwards-Jones