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Work in Progress.  Gotha's Moon by Ivan Berryman.

Just as the name Zeppelin had become the common term for almost every German airship that ventured over Britain, so the name Gotha became generically used for the enemy bombers that droned across the English Channel during 1917-1918, inflicting considerable damage to coastal ports and the capital. As the massed raids of Bombengeschwader 3 increased, a public inquiry in England brought about the formation of the Royal Air Force as an independent service to counter this new threat and fighters from Europe were brought home to defend against these marauding giants. As a result, heavy losses on the German side meant that daylight raids had to be abandoned and all operations were henceforth conducted by night. Here, a pair of Gotha G.Vs begin to turn for home as searchlights play fruitlessly over distant fires, the grim result of another successful night’s work.

A New Painting In Progress

  The challenge with any night painting is to find ways of bringing light into an otherwise dark picture. The obvious answer is to introduce moonlight, but care must be taken not to lighten the scene too much, nor to make it too dark.

1. Working Drawing

This is my working drawing. I have painted Gotha bombers before, so I wanted to produce something quite different this time. Working from some photographs of a model, I have opted to get in close to the leading aircraft in order to show as much detail as possible. The Gothas had massive wingspans and to show the entire aircraft would mean making it quite distant in my painting – which would end up with a lot of blank canvas surrounding the main subject, so, to show the full span of the bomber, I have included a second aircraft, banking away to head for home, having released its bombload. Close inspection will show that I have roughed-in a proposed horizon line and have indicated where some burning fires will be on the ground below.

2. Background

Here is the painting now underway. The key to the whole thing is the position of the moonlight behind some thin cloud that will throw a soft blue light and some pure white highlights onto the upper wing and nose of the nearest aircraft, forming a focal point. This will also pick out the second aircraft, partly silhouetted against the light, as shown in 4 below. You might note that I have moved the horizon down to create more height in the painting and this has also allowed me to show the moonlight reflecting on the estuary in the distance. Very few details are drawn in at this point – no struts or undercarriage. All this will be added later.

3. City Detail

This is a detail of the damage that these German giants have caused, now quite some way in the distance, where searchlights are still criss-crossing the sky in an effort to pick out the raiders. I might put another, very distant, Gotha in later, caught in one of the beams.

4. Aircraft Detail

5. Far Aircraft

With the background now more or less established, work can begin on the aircraft themselves. In 5, the wings, engine nacelles, interplane struts and some rigging have been completed. A slight sheen toward the back of the upper wing suggests moonlight being reflected up from the lower wing, which also helps to separate the two. The tailplane is roughed in and just the slightest suggestion of spinning propellers (which were on the rear of the engines, hence the cut-out on the wings) are added.

6. Far Aircraft Completed

The fuselage is next with its yellow tail band and lozenge fabric pattern. I have added as much detail as possible but, on the original painting, this aircraft has a wingspan of just 17cm, so there is a limit to what can be achieved at this scale. All the colours are slightly muted and no deep blacks are used, which gives distance to this aircraft. In moonlight, all colours become almost imperceptible so a little artistic licence is required to give the painting a ‘lift’. If I didn’t add any colours at all, the painting would be almost entirely blue – and very flat. The undercarriage is now added, together with the empty bomb racks under the inner lower wings and nose. Finally, some subtle lighting around the nose and some little sparkles serve to highlight just where the moonlight is reflecting off the taut linen and metal parts.

7. Main Aircraft

Work on the central aircraft can now get under way and I decided to begin with the fuselage and tail. The entire fuselage is first blocked in with a base colour and I then begin to apply the distinctive Night Lozenge pattern over this base. At this stage I don’t pay much attention to light and shade, concentrating instead on the pattern itself, as shown in this picture. Only when the pattern is completed do I begin to add shade between the engine nacelle and the fuselage side and a slight sheen around the curve of the nose. I also add the pilot’s head and the ventral gunner before making a start on the wing leading edges. It is here that the lozenge pattern again appears, taking care to make it lightest on the upper surface of the starboard upper wing, where the moonlight is striking it. 

8. Tail / Rudder

This image shows the tail with its green rudder and yellow fuselage band – again, the colours are all muted to replicate moonlight. The tail struts and skid are added now, too.

9. Full Canvas

By this stage, the overall effect of the painting is beginning to be apparent, as all the white canvas has now been covered by painting the undersides of all the wings and the blue engine nacelles. I have taken care to suggest reflected light under the wings and to show some of the ribbing. The cross has been added at far left on the lower wing and the nose gunner has been blocked in, just in plain black, for now. It is at this stage that I can judge whether I’ve gone too light or too dark with the overall ambience of the painting. As it turns out, I’m quite happy with the way it looks so far. Of course, none of the details have yet been added, nor the undercarriage, nor any highlights.

10. Details

At this stage, a lot of detailing is starting to be added as I go back over everything that has been painted so far. The protective ‘fences’ are carefully painted in on either side of the rear gunner (these were to prevent injury from the spinning propellers at either side of him!) and the first of the struts are put in place above the engines and the cabane struts between the fuselage and the upper wing. All the engine details can now be undertaken, together with some chipped paint and weathering where appropriate. The nose gunner also gets some attention (he’s turned to shout something to the pilot) and further sheens and lighting is applied to the nose and engines. It’s looking more like a complete painting now, but there’s still much to do.

11. Nose Detail

The final stages of any painting usually involve a great deal of detailing over the whole canvas, drawing all the elements together and adding those final flourishes. In this picture, some of these details can be seen. All the interplane struts are in place, together with the bracing wires and their turnbuckles. The undercarriage has been painted in and the empty bomb racks added. The windows and flying controls complete the fuselage and the Parabellum gun is finally added in front of the gunner and the Pilot’s windscreen behind. A final flick round with some pure titanium white to provide some highlights and some softening of the worn tyres are the finishing touches – apart from the all-important signature, of course!

12. The Finished Painting.

Here is a shot of me with the entire canvas, complete with signature and ready to go.

The completed painting.

 

The Completed Painting..


Gothas Moon by Ivan Berryman.


Gothas Moon by Ivan Berryman.

Just as the name Zeppelin had become the common term for almost every German airship that ventured over Britain, so the name Gotha became generically used for the enemy bombers that droned across the English Channel during 1917-1918, inflicting considerable damage to coastal ports and the capital. As the massed raids of Bombengeschwader 3 increased, a public inquiry in England brought about the formation of the Royal Air Force as an independent service to counter this new threat and fighters from Europe were brought home to defend against these marauding giants. As a result, heavy losses on the German side meant that daylight raids had to be abandoned and all operations were henceforth conducted by night. Here, a pair of Gotha G.Vs begin to turn for home as searchlights play fruitlessly over distant fires, the grim result of another successful nights work.
Item Code : DHM1704Gothas Moon by Ivan Berryman. - Editions Available
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Size 36 inches x 24 inches (91cm x 61cm)Artist : Ivan Berryman
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