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Work in Progress.  Pfalz D.III Painting by Ivan Berryman.

Oberleutnant Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk

Opening his victory tally by shooting down a Sopwith Camel in July 1917, von Boenigk proved himself to be a fine airman and a keen marksman by claiming a further five enemy aircraft by the end of that year. He continued to score steadily until the war's end, being credited with an eventual 26 'kills'. He went on to serve in the Luftwaffe during World War II, attaining the rank of Major-General, but was taken prisoner by the Russians in 1945 and died in captivity the following year. He is shown here in Pfalz D.III 1936/17 whilst serving with Jasta 4, whose aircraft were immediately recognisable by the black spiral ribbon applied to their fuselages. Von Boenigk is believed to have scored seven of his victories in this machine.

 

As I write these words, in October 2008, this painting is my very latest Ė and the 66th in my World War 1 Aces collection. After so many paintings, itís always refreshing to try something a bit different now and then, so I decided to go for an ultra close-up this time and chose the Pfalz D.III because it has never featured as the main aircraft in any of my pictures before now.

I looked at some other paintings of this lovely little aircraft and decided to opt for a pilot that, as far as I can see, hasnít been painted before. Von Boenigk opened his score in July 1917, shooting down a Sopwith Camel and, by the end of that year, had added another five Ďkillsí. He scored seven of his twenty six victories in the Pfalz D.III, so it seemed a good subject to pick. I sourced some reliable photographs and found a good one of von Boenigk in this aircraft (1396/17). It showed a lot of detail and gave some indication of the state of the aircraft and was especially useful in showing the black ribbon motif of Jasta 4.

As I began to draw some rough sketches, it  became clear to me that, if I was going to get in so close to this aircraft, its distinctive yellow tail would not be in view, but the issue was resolved when I discovered that his aircraft had a yellow identification panel on the upper surface of the lower wing, three ribs wide.

Picture 1

Using some contemporary photographs as a guide, I drew the aircraft onto the canvas, but such was the angle and perspective of the photographs, no undercarriage was visible. I instead had to make another small drawing and work out exactly where the undercarriage would appear in my painting. Itís not a difficult process and, as I always say, if it looks right, it probably is right. Some of you might have a different opinion! As it turned out, only the furthest wheel was included in my final composition, but I had to draw the whole thing to work out where it would be anyway.

Pictures 2 and 3

Using a bit of masking to preserve my drawing, I blocked in the sky tones first, then began working up a cloudscape. I knew that there wouldnít be a lot of sky visible when the main aircraft was painted in, but I tend to paint most of it anyway to keep the perspective in check.

Picture 4

This shows the sky more or less complete and the masking removed. I have given quite a lot of thought as to where the light will be coming from because this, in turn, dictates where and how the shadows will fall across various surfaces. The two distant aircraft are banked at slightly different angles and the main subject not banked at all, so the light and shadows will strike all three aircraft differently. Great fun

Pictures 5 and 6

Here I am working on the smallest, most distant aircraft, first blocking in the basic colour, then adding the ribbon and then some light running along the upper decking of the fuselage. I have painted in a shadow on the lower wing.

Picture 7

Using the same order and technique, I now get busy on the aircraft in the middle distance. Most Pfalz D.IIIs left the factory in this silver / grey colour and it was up to the various units and pilots to add whatever colours and markings they desired. But it is important to remember that the colour was more grey than silver (Silbergrau) with a small amount of aluminium powder added to the mix for a more robust finish, so it wasnít going to be a matter of these aircraft gleaming brightly in the clear sun.

Picture 8

All aircraft were all a bit war-weary and mud-splattered, so I have added quite a lot of weathering and staining to this machine, especially around the radiator and gravity tank on the upper wing. I have given the aircraft a slight sheen and again run a highlight along the upper fuselage. This one is banked a bit more tightly, so the shadows are a bit longer.

Picture 9

This is how the painting looks so far. I havenít done anything unusual yet, so itís been plain sailing up until now. Time to go for the Big OneÖ

Picture 10

The logical place to start for me is the upper wing and I decided early on that it would be almost burned out white on top and very dark underneath, leaving just enough tone to show some details and reflections.

Picture 11

This is also a good moment to get the undercarriage painted in. After all my efforts earlier, it seems a bit of a shame that this is all weíll see of it!

Pictures 12. 

I next block in the fuselage with some solid colour and hint at some light and shade to give the fuselage some shape and form. This will get a lot of modification and fine-tuning as the painting progresses, but you have to start somewhere. The shadow of the upper wing is added now, too, and I have again gone for some extreme contrast to bring a bit of drama to the painting. Although I have painted the outer, silbergrau section of the wing, I have left the yellow panel for now as I need to see just how the light falls before I can work out just how yellow this needs to be.

Picture 13

After a lot of rounding and softening and blending on the fuselage itself, itís soon time to start adding some of the markings, making sure that they key in nicely with the curves of the aircraft. Very often, painting a spiral ribbon on a fuselage completely confuses the eye, leaving the fuselage looking flat again, despite your best efforts. I think itís called compound curves, where the curved shape of, say, a roundel, is cancelled out by the roundness of the fuselage that itís painted on. Again, this is correctable by getting the lighting right so that light, reflections and shadow keep the form of the subject true to the eye.

Picture 14

The top of the Mercedes engine is now added (most of it was beautifully contained within the lovely slender nose of the D.III) and then the gun muzzle is painted in. The D.IIIís guns were buried into the fuselage to aid streamlining and only the muzzles were visible externally, just either side of the engine. This wasnít popular with its pilots, however, who could do little or nothing if the guns jammed. The later D.IIIa had the guns moved forward and mounted externally so that the unfortunate pilot could at least give them a clout if they jammed!

Picture 15

The yellow identification panel on the wing has now been blocked in and Iím starting to do a bit of weathering on the fuselage. Also getting some attention at this stage is the fairing between the fuselage and lower wing.

Pictures 16. 

This is another general progress shot. The end is in sight!

Picture 17

All sorts of detailing takes place now. The yellow wing panel is given ribs, details and a lot of staining and scuffing and a slight reflection of the yellow is dusted into the fuselage, just to pull it all together. Some of the stenciling and panels are put in and, all the time, more weathering and wear is added.

Picture 18

I have to admit that I was putting this bit off for as long as I could!   This is the stenciling on the cockpit side. In any other painting, I could have got away with a little line of squiggles but on this one, I knew I had to paint every last letter and number, just as it appeared on the real thing. The pilot, too, has finally made an appearance. The exact colour of his flying suit is unknown, but it appears to be quite a light colour in most photographs, whilst his helmet and goggles strap appear to be either black or very dark brown. Iíve added a lot of scuff marks around the cockpit opening, too, as it always got a good kicking on the way in. The cabane struts are now painted in and given a few knocks and chips as these were made of metal tubing and always look a bit rough in most photographs.

Picture 19

After a host of tiny details and highlights, rigging wires, turnbuckles, control lines and yet more weathering, this is the finished item.

Pictures 20. 

Apologies for looking so pleased with myself, but itís always nice when a painting is finished Ė and something of a relief when you try something new and it works!

The Completed Painting..


Oberleutnant Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk by Ivan Berryman.


Oberleutnant Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk by Ivan Berryman.

Opening his victory tally by shooting down a Sopwith Camel in July 1917, von Boenigk proved himself to be a fine airman and a keen marksman by claiming a further five enemy aircraft by the end of that year. He continued to score steadily until the wars end, being credited with an eventual 26 kills. He went on to serve in the Luftwaffe during World War II, attaining the rank of Major-General, but was taken prisoner by the Russians in 1945 and died in captivity the following year. He is shown here in Pfalz D.III 1936/17 whilst serving with Jasta 4, whose aircraft were immediately recognisable by the black spiral ribbon applied to their fuselages. Von Boenigk is believed to have scored seven of his victories in this machine.
Item Code : DHM1748Oberleutnant Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk by Ivan Berryman. - Editions Available
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