“In Training”

Demonstration Painting of a  PC9

RAAF PC9 artwork - "In training"

by Noel Barnes


While this is not strictly a modelling article, I thought that some of you, being avid aviation enthusiasts, might find my painting process interesting. The original painting is done in artist oils on a stretched canvas approximately 95x71cm. This is a large painting and once hung, really demands your attention when you enter the room.

I have always loved the PC9. It’s sleek lines and the purrr of that Turbo prop is always something to behold for me. Everything it does in the air seems so effortless and graceful (obviously due to the expertise of the pilots that fly it). I have taken many a photo of this aircraft on the ground and in the air at various air shows.  I had always wanted to do a painting of it, but never seemed to have that definitive shot. It wasn’t until I got off a couple of close up shots at the Cunderdin Airshow (WA) in 2005 that I finally had something to work with. I cropped the image in close and decided to try and capture some of the distinctive shapes at the business end of the airframe. I also wanted to reproduce the highly reflective paintwork, which is always a challenge when painting. 

Below is a step by step process of how the painting evolved.

Image 1. Getting the Drawing Down

The first task is to get the drawing down on the canvas. Here I use a lead pencil to put in all the outlines. Not only do I want the outline of the aircraft, but also the placement of all the major reflection lines as well. The more detailed the drawing at this stage, the easier the painting will be to execute. At this stage it is important to refer to as many different reference photos as possible. This helps to get a better understanding of the shapes and placement of the different features of the aircraft. Much like modelling.

Image 2.  Background

With aviation paintings, I like to paint in the backgrounds first. This provides a setting for what is to come. I try and make the backgrounds simple and slightly out of focus, so as not to detract from the aircraft, which is usually in sharp focus.

Image 3. Blocking In

Now the painting starts to come to life. I begin to block in as much of the main colour as I can. As you can see I focus on getting down the main airframe as best I can,   leaving smaller details, and other colour areas till later.

Image 4. Colours Other Than Red

It is now time to add the other details. Once the main body work is dry (oils take a day or two to dry) the white body line, exhausts, and prop blades are blocked in. Like the main body work, if you can get as much of the blending work done while the paints are wet, the better the final product will be. I also like to spend time at this stage making adjustments to lights and darks in the body reflections. Now it is really coming to life. Another day or two for drying and it will be ready to finish.

Image 5. Ready for Take Off

This part of the painting process is like the final stages of a modelling project. You are almost there, but you still have to add props, undercarriage, ariel wires etc. You watch with joy as those hours of hard, enjoyable work, come together.

The final stage of painting usually includes things like adding the panel lines and associated shadows or highlights. In this case adding rivets and shadow line to the spinner. I also spend time tweaking the highlights and shadows on the lips around the holes in the spinner where the blades extend from (Not sure what they are called?) This makes them look more 3 dimensional. I also darkened some of the deeper coloured reflections in the spinner.

At last I have my very own PC9. Probably a tad cheaper than the real thing and you can keep it in your own home. The original painting is available for purchase to interested parties, or if something smaller is your thing, prints are also available.

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