View Full Version : WIP:- RAF Whirlwind helicopter.

Chas McHugh
05-15-2012, 02:54 PM
I am delighted to see the Aviation Artists getting their own forum and just in time to pick up my latest WIP; that of an RAF Whirlwind helicopter in Borneo. I am a self confessed rivet counter and proud of it, but what I really have up my sleeve is a 36 year career in aviation that includes 6000 flying hours most of which are at low level in helicopters. Therefore I understand aeroplanes and how they fly along with an appreciation that Mother Nature does not respect those who mandate rules for a painting. - Guidance I can live with, likewise a rule of thumb, but mandatory: Not a chance.

Here we have a 36" x 24" stretched canvas with the helicopter drawn on it in 0.5mm drawing pen. Items that will later be lost under paint have been highlighted to aid recovering them later.


...and here we have the painting after a single days painting. My work typically take four months to complete and extensive use of glazing sometimes means that colour is a bit bizarre initially although part of a bigger picture so to speak. I want to portray the heat and humidity of the Borneo jungle obviously using imagery alone.

05-16-2012, 03:12 AM
Looking forward to seeing this develop Chas.

05-16-2012, 10:26 AM
Chas, I'm not a glazer and I look forward to following your process. :thumbsup:

05-19-2012, 07:44 AM
i'm liking the layout already !!

Chas McHugh
05-19-2012, 12:41 PM
19 May update:

There are some bits of this that I like but others bother me even though I know that the process of using transparent colours or glazing is dependent upon what is painted underneath. I was glad to be able to get my teeth into the airframe today and the tailboom alone represents 5 hours non-stop work.

05-19-2012, 04:51 PM
Always interesting to watch how others go about their works. Your left to right build up of the detail reminds of a wildlife artist -
? Coombes who painted in this manner . Watching a video of him working was like watching a colour printer zipping back and fore across the canvas. A brilliant artist.
The tail is looking very good Chas.

Chas McHugh
05-19-2012, 07:21 PM
Thanks Neil; for me it is simply that I am right handed and going right to left would be going `against the flow`, allied to this is that to go for all of it at once is to inevitabley contaminate the painting as wet paint gets the better of you. I also section the work and have already decided that tomorrow will be the upper fuselage and cockpit areas above the door. Anything beyond that is a bonus and indicative of a good days painting. Time will tell. Ooops, just noticed the time, make that today!

Chas McHugh
05-20-2012, 12:43 PM
A family visit stopped for a few hours and disrupted the thought process making getting 'back in the saddle' difficult. I pressed on but today was perhaps a day to sit and watch television. That done; the Whirlwind is a diamond airframe for an artist with lots of 'shape' that defies normal lighting considerations much in the way that female life form is perfect homework for art students to appreciate shape and light. This is the aviation version of a VW Beetle (bug).

05-20-2012, 12:50 PM
Chas, you have the such patience. Amazing.

Chas McHugh
05-27-2012, 12:46 PM
I have made quite good progress this weekend and started to address the issue of the airframe appearing flat with highlights. A helicopter is a realist artists dream in that there are lots of details to apply and streamlining and flush riveting is not in the equation. The weathering of the humid jungle and bright sunlight on airframes stored externally will come in time.
The unpainted bit in the door is where I want a crewman; but I do not have any references to go from at the moment. If I need to, I will use myself. Note how the heavy ink line for the rotor blades has been partially recovered by scraping off the paint with a sharp knife; a task that obviously needs a lot of care.

05-27-2012, 04:32 PM
Chugging along nicely Chas .

Chas McHugh
05-28-2012, 02:04 AM
Thanks Neil; the tail rotor is giving me a headache. I can use the roundel as a guideline for the elipse, but the roundel was not on a vertical surface. On any other painting I would have found a good stencil for the shape but not on this one. It may end up as trial and error, hopefully without too much error.

05-28-2012, 04:46 AM
I'd guess that the roundel should, in this case , give you a close enough steer to allow you to eyeball any slight variance out Chas.

Chas McHugh
05-28-2012, 04:11 PM
I think you are right and that is where I will start by creating an elipse stencil in Coral Draw by overlapping the roundel to get the shape. It is a task that awaits me quite soon I think.

Chas McHugh
06-02-2012, 03:23 PM
Chas McHugh is brain dead after painting the jungle!!
Too much jungle green is likely at the moment so I am going to bring the aircraft nearer to the hangar and insert an static Whirlwind undergoing maintenance. A Monet style approach to the jungle canopy is fatique with a big capital 'F'!

06-02-2012, 03:31 PM
You are certainly doing great work.

Chas McHugh
06-05-2012, 01:43 AM
Back to the drawing board; and the paint by numbers finale begins:
There are several things a fellow artist can pick up from this image.
1) The area to be covered (literally) by a frame has been outlines to prevent detail being lost out-of-canvas at the end.
2) The differing levels of detail in the jungle as layer by layer the trees are built up.
3) The crewman in the door appears blurred. That is because he is effectively only 'penciled in' but to continue with more detail would have been to create a muddy mess. Patience was required and in the near future he will appear detailed, yet...
4) The soldier (Gurkha) inside the cabin sat on the floor will only ever be a loose gesture, for to hyper-detail him would be a massive mistake.

06-06-2012, 07:46 AM
nice work so far chas !!

06-09-2012, 06:03 AM
Lovely post..:wave::wave:

Chas McHugh
06-10-2012, 01:54 PM
...and then there were two :)
The compartment style method of breaking down a canvas to this degree is new to me but ensures that I do not rush any of the jugsaw elements that will make up the final canvas. Also the virgin canvas will need recession as its focal point which is a good time to revisit the colours included in the cocktail of colours used at this time.

The secondary helicopter is to have a tropical nose on it that included a protruding filter. This and the rotor workings are yet to be done.

06-10-2012, 05:43 PM
this rocks !! i'm freaking out already !! raised the bar on many levels chas !!

06-10-2012, 05:47 PM
Chas that is certainly meticulous work.... Wow.

Chas McHugh
06-10-2012, 06:15 PM
raised the bar on many levels chas !!

I feel that as well, although over the last few works and I wish I knew why. I am an advocate of education in art and helping lessor experienced artists and if I had a one-liner to summarise how my work has changed in the last few months it would be worth a million dollars to me, but I cant. The nearest I can guess is that after a lifetime of trial and error; my apprenticeship is complete and it is now time to get down to some serious work. Perhaps the reward comes from going off-piste with both media and subject matter ensuring continual improvement; either way, there is much more to come and I will strive to push the boundaries in standards even more. What I may do in the coming months is repeat one of my early works and use "then and now" as an inspiration to everybody and a lesson that perceverance and practise eventually pay dividends. Another possible reason for improvement is that I have a one-man exhibition in Dec 2014 and need many high quality works to make a positive impact for a second career as a full time artist.

06-10-2012, 06:37 PM
Well Chas, your work is amazing and I wish you all the best.

I'm more of a plein air artist and sell most of my work at art fairs. Can't make a living at it but I have a comfortable retirement to fall back on, so if I don't do well at a fair the only blow is to my ego. :wink2:

Chas McHugh
06-11-2012, 02:31 AM
...and I will be much the same which is why I can confidently give it a go. I will have completed 37 years military service and be in receipt of a good pension that can pay the bills. Wealthy artists are a rare breed and I doubt I will start a trend there! It will be very nice to paint daily and balance household chores, 'work', and life at a pace that does not live in the fast lane. In fact I am considering buying a Cabin Cruiser boat; packing it with the family dog, my easel and paints and bimbling around the UK river/canal system painting al-fresco as I go.

06-11-2012, 06:35 AM
Those choppers are looking fantastic! Keep it going!

06-11-2012, 08:59 AM
Chas, I'm retired US Air Force pilot (22 years). My last two aircraft were the B58 (which I dearly loved) and the FB111 and with it's terrain following radar and autopilot was an amazing weapon. I would have stayed in longer but in our service it's up or out and I didn't make it to the top of the officer pyramid and had to leave after 22 years. :(

Chas McHugh
06-12-2012, 12:18 PM
A B58 turning at the threshold to line up with reflections all over and a heat haze would make an awesome painting. You do not need speed to portray power! I might even do it myself.

06-12-2012, 01:00 PM
A B58 turning at the threshold to line up with reflections all over and a heat haze would make an awesome painting. You do not need speed to portray power! I might even do it myself.

Great idea. I would love to see it.

06-16-2012, 02:39 AM
Brilliant painting chas.. Great to see it build up in sections..
My only, very VERY slight, criticism is the reddish area on the hill. It sort of draws my eye which I'm sure you don't want.. Is that to be tweaked a bit?

Bumbling on canals... Bliss! Did that once for a week or so in the late 70's while on the big OE from NZ.. One day I'll maybe do it again!

Chas McHugh
06-18-2012, 01:50 AM
The area you talk about, and there is a second one behind the helicopters front wheels, is cultivated land. If I am able to get an effect of a recent shower, then I will be able to apply a glaze that will cut back the contrast a little. Thanks for raising the point, I will keep an eye on it as I progress,

Chas McHugh
06-20-2012, 01:26 PM
A small strip that has a massive workload. That is the row of 45 gallon fuel drums that was present at all air-head jungle landing pads in Borneo. Muddying of paint was a real issue and when the risk of it getting out of hand was clear to see; I stopped work. I will pick this up again at the weekend.
Crimson Alizarine is such an overpowering colour to work with and once dry, will glaze the barrels with a light blue glaze. This should enable colours that I could not get first time around.

06-23-2012, 02:19 AM
going good chas !! yip you don't need a lot of that crimson rascal , it is a strange pigment in most paints inc humbrol for model kits it is a heavy staining pigment yet strangely poor at covering , an ideal one for glazes though !!

Chas McHugh
06-23-2012, 01:49 PM
...and so the glazing begins; cutting back the mountain with a blue-grey glaze and overlaying with a little low cloud to enhance atmosphere and three dimension. It is now quite a bizarre canvas in being able to see on one piece so many of the phases of my work. I am tutoring an art group in the coming days and will use this as a teaching point.

Chas McHugh
07-01-2012, 01:19 PM
I really do find painting the jungle sole destroying, and getting a match from unglazed paint to glazed paint is never going to work. It will all come good in the end.

Chas McHugh
07-06-2012, 11:28 AM
So near yet so far (from having a canvas totally covered in paint)
Depending on scaling (or recession) I may be able to get another helicopter landing pad in what is left of virgin canvas. I am keen not to ruin the composition at this late stage so am treading very carefully. Once done; it will be round two and start all over adding detail and emphasising highlights and shadows.

07-06-2012, 01:04 PM
It is an amazing piece.

Chas McHugh
07-06-2012, 03:03 PM
About 10 years ago I tried a similar composition on a smaller canvas and this was the result. I have learned much in that decade proving that painting can be taught and learned.

07-07-2012, 05:49 AM
I think you've got a nicely balanced image there Chas in your Whirlwind painting.
The Belvedere looks good as well.

07-07-2012, 04:15 PM
It was nice work on the first piece. I am not sure another helipad would really add anything in this case (but I have been wrong before!). It keeps getting better and better!

Chas McHugh
07-11-2012, 04:20 PM
100% of the canvas now has paint on it. The other helipad got in but unoccupied and only there because references suggest that it would be.
If the photo appears a little blue; it is because it was probably actually too dark to take the photograph. I reckon on this being about 80% completed overall now as I begin to revisit adding detail and highlights and revisiting the lower slope barrels which I am not happy with. Still need some people and they will come quite soon.

07-11-2012, 04:47 PM
Fantastic job as well as amazing patience and perserverance.

07-11-2012, 05:47 PM
At 80% done this is already a keeper. Looking forward to the remaining 20.

07-15-2012, 12:52 PM
looking good !!

Chas McHugh
07-16-2012, 11:27 AM
Now that the canvas is totally covered, the 'progress' may not be clearly evident. Here is a photograph of work in progress that demonstrates the area of interest and the sort of references that I have to hand:

...and hopefully you can deduce that I am starting at the beginning by aplying a second layer onto the primary helicopter. It was very enjoyable work until such a time as my mind said "stop" which sadly was all too premature in the day, but there is little point in pressing on and making mistakes when the inner me has had enough.

From tail to about the pilot has been 'revisited' and there is quite a bit of small but significant detail for me to get to grips with tomorrow on the nose area. The most obvious difference is probably the main gear.

Chas McHugh
07-17-2012, 11:26 AM
Second phase on the primary complete. There remains some loose ends for me to revisit in a third phase but these are minor in nature.
I now have to be careful to 'upgrade' the remainder of the canvas whilst permiting the primary aircraft to maintain ascendency in the overall composition. i.e. Not too much detail/micro management.

Chas McHugh
07-22-2012, 12:59 PM
The 'blue light' got to this again but still can be seen additional detailing without robbing the primary helicopter of its 'presence' on the canvas. ..and people at last adding the human element to the composition.


07-22-2012, 03:39 PM
The blue effect is quite noticeable but allowing for that it has turned out really well . I perhaps can imagine how it looks by referring to the image one above .
Yet another "best yet Chas" in my book .

Chas McHugh
07-22-2012, 04:23 PM
I am on a lose-lose when it comes to the light effect as all my photographs are taken outdoors. You could see the yellow in the air so I took this photo in shadow facing south and got the blue instead. It does show to dramatic effect how the environment around a painting can and does affect the impression the painting makes. I am not sure how to gurantee a light neutral photgraph although previous experience would suggest that early in the morning is a good time to take photographs rather then evening. I am reluctant to photo shop the photograph beyond focus, light and contrast adjustment, and onlynthen to try and replicate accurately.

I concur with you assessment of my best yet effort but hope that this is also a benchmark that I can maintain. For sure it will not be through lack of trying. I went to purchase new canvas' yesterday for the next one and could not buy quality canvas' in Shropshire! Plenty of inexpensive dubious quality canvas available but I gave that a miss. This seems to be a reoccuring theme throughout the artworld at this time. Mail Order will be my friend.

Had I been able to start another this weekend, it would have been a Vulcan. The time it takes to get a canvas may enable influence from elsewhere.

07-22-2012, 07:46 PM
I agree with Neil Chas, best yet. Looking forward to seeing how you work the mighty Vulcan.

Chas McHugh
07-23-2012, 01:24 AM
Exactly the same painting at 06:10 GMT this morning.
Standing vertical with concrete beneath it (reflected light?) and facing north out of direct sunshine but with light not strong enough to be termed 'shadow'. I guess that photographing our work is probably a good subject for a new thread.

07-23-2012, 04:14 AM
Great painting Chas, did lots of support around that area, but we were well off shore on Ark Royal or Victorious.
I did a similar painting of an 848 Sqd Wessex on one of those Log landing pads . I ended up giving it to one of the Janitors at Glenrothes College, who was ex 42 Commando, not aa patch on this one I might add.
regards Jim

07-23-2012, 05:30 AM
Better Chas - I know you don't like any Photoshop tweaks to your artwork photos but I think you perhaps need a small increase in the contrast on this one . The big open door, black area behind the ground chopper looks a bit soft compared to the two renditions above.

07-23-2012, 07:09 PM
I guess that photographing our work is probably a good subject for a new thread.

i have in the past worked as a freelance photographer and have many years experience

the utter best way would be in a studio using difused softlighting i never realy take time to photograph my own correctly

so i guess setting something up studiowise and using day to day cheap items would be good and i'd be willing to do a thread

but the key is or will be soft diffused lighting as most lighting artificial and daylight is too harsh

07-23-2012, 07:13 PM
Better Chas - I know you don't like any Photoshop tweaks to your artwork photos but I think you perhaps need a small increase in the contrast on this one . The big open door, black area behind the ground chopper looks a bit soft compared to the two renditions above.

i now shoot mostly in RAW on my dslr nowadays the best description is to think of JPEG as boots D&P RAW is your darkroom

a couple of shots of a local mill demolition shot and edited in raw and slight crops



Chas McHugh
07-24-2012, 11:56 AM
Paul, Rather then take the thread on a tangent, it may be worth you ransferring those photographs into a new thread under the caveat of Art & Photography.

I have had this feedback from someone who has been there and done it:

The picture is fine but "too tidy", the landing pads area was a mess..... the paths as I recall were not just paths on the ground they were rough board walks as mud was everywhere off the walks. The boards had a few nails sticking up which were perfect for tripping over too.... The view you have from ground level is almost the same lateral view as the colour picture I took from the air and which is displayed on the "Confrontation - know your enemy...." thread a couple of years back. There is another there also taken at ground level from the same aspect.

There was a small stream which cut across the pads area and the bridge over it had rough handrails, rather like the rails you have by the chopper at the Hangar.

You need to put the tanned guys in shorts and whatever shoes they were wearing (with socks rolled down) and the odd dog waiting for the chopper to land as they would be in the vicinity ready to service the beast once it shut down. A zwicky pump with a guy holding the nozzle.... A couple of zobbits leaning over the HQ railing, to the right of the "RAF Nanga Gaat" signboard....

A couple of hornbills (nearly always in pairs) flying over wouldn't go astray either.

Tie up a couple of longboats in the Sungei Gaat, put up the framed lizard display on the left hangar wall, then the ever present young Iban lad named "Bunsu" looking on eagerly


So the aircraft now has a trolley-ack starting generator and the surface is in the process of being untidied. The feedback such as this is priceless and very much appreciated.

07-24-2012, 12:05 PM
It would be better to keep this fourm for drawings and paintings rather than photographs.

07-24-2012, 01:45 PM
okey dokey won't try to help others again !!

Chas McHugh
08-04-2012, 11:57 AM
A few major ammendments since the last post. I wanted the clouds to have 'movement' if possible to changed them whilst enlarging the tail rotor slightly. Feedback from operators suggested that wooden planking was used to make walking across flooded areas easier so in go some planks.

Chas McHugh
08-18-2012, 12:42 PM
Started 15 May 12 - Completed 18 Aug 12.
Subject: Two RAF Westland Whirlwind helicopters at Nanga Gaat - Borneo in the middle sixties.
Size: 36" x 24"
Medium: Oil paint on stretched canvas.
I am now officially a 'White canvas man!'

08-19-2012, 04:47 AM
Nice painting Chas, really representative of the time, location and equipment

08-19-2012, 10:05 AM
Nice piece of work! Ain't it the way that the feeback you need at the start never shows up until the piece is pretty much done. Hope this finds a suitable home!

Chas McHugh
01-26-2015, 06:46 PM
The Whirlwind made a good limited edition giclee print.

wesley a lowe
01-27-2015, 06:20 PM
It's enjoyable for me to watch your painting come together. Looking good!