Sunday, June 23, 2013
Pan American Clippers by Ron Cole
It started with a relatively standard commission. An enthusiast in Florida liked my work and approached me to paint his favorite aircraft: the Pan American Airlines Boeing 314 Clipper. Loving 'moody' and low-light compositions I suggested a dawn scene in the tropics under conditions that would allow me to paint a particularly 'alive' aircraft at rest - with cabin and exterior lights in plenty, all reflected in the water. My client loved the idea.
About two weeks later the 'Yankee Clipper' (above) was completed and ready to ship. I went ahead with the release of 50 limited edition prints, and conducted my usual online promotion of the piece. I sold just under 20 signed and numbered copies in four days. Wow.
I'm infamously bad at judging my own work, so having found a recipe that people obviously appreciated I went ahead and did something I have never done before as an artist: I created a series.
I chose the Martin M-130 'China Clipper' for my next subject. In 1936 this aircraft, destined for Pan Am's Pacific routes, was flown to New York for its maiden flight. I saw an opportunity to paint something unique that showcased more than just an aircraft, but the pinnacle of industry and technology in a given era. My composition placed one of the world's most advanced commercial aircraft before the skyline of one of the world's most modern cities.
But there was one more Clipper aircraft flown by Pan Am that I could not fail to paint:
The Sikorsky S-42 was the 'original' Pan Am flying boat, and predated both the Martin and the Boeing. I followed the general lighting conditions of the previous two compositions, but I wanted the S-42 to be a bit brighter and more saturated - less gloomy. I'd had my previous two Clippers printed on metallic paper at 24 x 36 inches, upon special request by some collectors, and the S-42 was really designed to take full advantage of the amazing 'iridescent' effect provided by that special paper that makes brighter colors literally glow under direct light.
All three of these pieces represented some new territory for me as an artist, but I did not abandon my usual attention to detail:
My Clippers are still available for sale via this link.
Teresa Webber, a former Pan Am employee of many years, contacted me shortly after the release of my Boeing 314 to see if I'd be willing to let her use my painting for the cover of a Pam Am cookbook she was writing to be released for the Pan Am Aloha Celebration and reunion in Hawaii in 2014. I was happy to oblige, in support of this once great airline. Her book, A Touch of First Class, will include numerous recipes by famous individuals associated with Pan Am, including Frank Abagnale who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can.
I hope to attend their reunion in 2014 in Pearl Harbor next June!
Above: My Boeing 314 looks fantastic on metallic paper at 24 x 36 inches! It's the same 8 color Giclee process that I always use, but the paper creates a tangible depth and iridescent glow to the artwork.
Onto the next project! Any suggestions???
- Ron Cole