Aviation Illustrators: The Unsung Heros of Commercial Art

Aviation Art

Harper Goff

Last week, I posted an article about Harper Goff, the designer of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus in Walt Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. A couple of days later, I was going through a stack of aviation prints to see if I could find an idea for a post, and I and stumbled across these amazing WWII era pantings by Goff. It made me think about the changing role of the commercial artist in society.

Back in the postwar era, the major aircraft builders employed illustrators to conceptualize how complex engineering would transform blueprints and raw materials into real-life massive flying machines. These talented illustrators would create fine art prints for the aerospace companies to give away as gifts to their clients and suppliers. Southern California swap meets are well stocked with these prints, and I’ve picked up a nice sized pile of them myself over the years.

Today, Photoshop and computer modeling has replaced these great technical artists, and a lot of the magic of flight has been replaced by dull literalism. On first glance, these images might seem super-realistic, but a closer look reveals the amazing technique and creative virtuosity involved in making watercolors evoke speed and power. Here’s a facet of illustration history that I would like to know more about. If you have any information on these artists, please post to the comments at the end of this article.

Two more by Harper Goff…

Aviation Art
Aviation Art

CHARLES H. HUBBELL

Charles Hubbell had a lifelong love of aviation and art. As a child, his hobby was model airplane building, and by the time he was in High School, he had built himself a full scale glider. He attended the Cleveland School of Art in the early 1920s, and sold his paintings to pay for flying lessons. He became a licensed pilot and successful commercial artist. In the late 1930s, Hubbell was approached to combine his interests to illustrate a calendar depicting the winners of an annual air race. For the next three decades, Hubbell painted airplane calendars with terrific authenticity and attention to detail. In the course of his career he painted over 1000 images, which together comprise a fairly complete history of aviation.

Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art

JACK LEYNNWOOD

If the art of Jack Leynnwood looks familiar, you are probably a baby boomer who had an interest in model kits growing up. Leynnwood’s distinctive paintings on the Revell model kit box covers featured antique biplanes, WWII fighters, helicopters, modern jets and even space rockets. Leynnwood’s images jumped off the shelf with their dramatic colors and lighting and dynamic momentum and motion blur. The wings of his airplanes would overlap the corners of the box, making it look like they were ready to fly away. He taught at Art Center College of Design, and passed away in 1999.

Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art
Aviation Art

MORE AVIATION ARTISTS

Aviation Art

George Akimoto

Aviation Art

C.F. Coppock

Aviation Art

Crundall?

Aviation Art
Aviation Art

MR?

Aviation Art

Alexander Leydenfrost

Let me know in the comments if you have any information on these great artists, or if you’d like to see more aviation illustration.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

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