A rather large original painting featuring gold, black and blue with hints of fire red.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired by the Battle of Britain from World War Two. It’s a subject I have great historical interest in so sooner or later it was bound to become the subject for a painting. And what a painting it has become.
Reaching for the Skies
Reach for the Skies is a large painting; let’s make no mistake about that. It’s also a poignant and powerful one too because of the subject matter that inspired it – the Battle of Britain, when the RAF took on the German Luftwaffe and defeated them.
I won’t go into the historical perspective right now as that would be a whole series of topics on its own – instead let me share with you the way I have interpreted the symbolism of that event and how I have brought that out as a series of abstractions.
The first thoughts for the painting were in choosing a suitable palette of colour. If we’re thinking about this most famous aerial campaign then things like vapour trails, machine guns and explosions have to be considered. So to are the skies – thick with smoke and clouds and the sound of dog fights; Messerschmitt ME109’s against Hurricanes and Spitfires.
To that end I feature just a single blue – this colour being responsible for a lot of tonal changes and is present throughout the painting. It makes a great smokey colour too when mixed with white and black. I’ve deliberately left out green as it didn’t really feel as if it would work, despite there being a link to the colour of the planes and to England itself (over which the battle was fought over).
Additionally there is a lot of orange and a smattering of intense red (it’s actually called Firework Red). You can choose to think of this as explosions or a sunrise or whatever you want really. Inevitably then there’s also black. This is a very final colour that can symbolize many things. In this instance it’s simply to reference back to the night bombings during the Blitz (Germany was unable to sustain daylight raids).
Creating the layout and developing the visuals
This is perhaps the most critical part of all my work. It’s the point at which a painting is won or lost – the composition. What it looks like has to be aesthetically pleasing and fit the brief in my head. I need to have a plan otherwise I cannot get close to achieving what I set out to do. Sounds obvious but I never leave things as important as this to chance.
So I have built up areas of colour and texture and linked everything together with those huge twists and turns of white and black. I see these as vapour trails (they were created with that in mind) but you may see them as something else; remember this is an abstract so it only suggests the subject matter).
What I think was important was to create movement and make the whole thing as dramatic as I could. I chose to focus on that rather than some of the other emotional reactions I have to this event; I’m sure you know what I mean by that. I really can hear the planes screaming through the sky when I look at it.
Placing and hanging the painting
Personally speaking I would prefer to hang this in portrait rather than landscape but it works either way to be honest. I’ve shown some examples in the photos to illustrate my point. It’s quite a tall painting and feels more dramatic hung upright.
A double-height stairwell or entrance hall is going to be totally transformed with this big contemporary painting. I think open plan is going to be what’s needed to get the best from it. Thankfully it doesn’t need too much light although a pair of spotlights will help light up the gold at night; I would always recommend that for any of my paintings.
Bandits at 8 o’clock move in behind us, ten ME-109’s out of the sun.
Ascending and turning our Spitfires to face them,
Heading straight for them I press down my guns.