View Full Version : Meiktila - Burma 1945

Chas McHugh
03-18-2013, 06:44 PM
A new 36" x 24" canvas that will depict Meiktila airstrip in Burma in 1945. I am painting a subject previously completed by the late Frank Wootton, a war artist who completed several oil sketches in 1945 all of which were quite loose in detail. I shall be the opposite and paint a detailed canvas over a long period of time. Photographs of the airstrip are unavailable and therefore I have studied Franks paintings to compose a variation on the theme. At this stage, I have drawn a Dakota aircraft and positioned it left of centre with nowhere to 'fly into' which will effectively kill any impression of movement. I have the option to have the engines being started amid clouds of smoke or open the doors and depict an unloading scene. There will be a second Dakota to come in addition to the control tower, distant hills, and evidence of a Hindi temple. The aircraft will be olive drab and significantly weathered. I would prefer green and brown camouflage but cannot find any evidence of that scheme in the Burmese theatre. It really does appear to be Britains forgotten war, a cliche all to often used in campaigns fought by the British.

I propose to mimic Frank Wootton style of skyscape and aircraft colouring to a degree, but whereas he would have taken <3 hours, I have set myself 3 months to complete the work. I will again use liquin during the skyscape in the hope of expediting progress.

03-19-2013, 07:57 AM
A particularly vicous episode of WWII - will be an interesting one to watch .

Chas McHugh
03-20-2013, 07:07 PM
First obstacle:

Stick with the plan:
or bring the jeep closer and therefore larger whilst providing some foreground detail?


03-21-2013, 12:13 PM
Plan B for me!

03-21-2013, 12:28 PM
I agree - plan b is stronger. It gives a much nicer flow from the bottom left corner. It will also allow the incorporation of people (if it is your intention) in a much more purposeful way.

Chas McHugh
03-21-2013, 04:38 PM
I appreciate your thoughts guys. I myself slept on the decision and agree with you to bring the jeep this side of the aircraft. It pushes the aircraft into the canvas rather than it appearing stuck on as can happen on occasion. With a static aircraft I need dynamic elements to bring the painting alive elsewhere and I have a few ideas to play with.

03-21-2013, 06:00 PM
Looking good, Chas. I also agree on plan B, jeep in foreground.

Chas McHugh
03-22-2013, 04:51 PM
The jeep has been redrawn. I will now open the cargo doors and start painting the sky. There are severalmoptions for the right side, and I want to see how it develops before committing.

Chas McHugh
03-23-2013, 08:19 AM
Now ready for the painting to begin as I want some colour to reassess the composition before venturing further.

Redrawing the jeep may have been messy, but it is the right decision, and it is a rare day that digital planning lets me down, but it did so this time.

Mark A Bufton
03-23-2013, 09:03 AM
Really looking forward to this one. Hate having a lack of inspiration. It's letting me down today.

This is going to be amazing :)

Chas McHugh
03-24-2013, 12:07 PM
The paint hits the canvas :clap:

I was never going to get the sky that I wanted painting directly onto virgin canvas. I have painted an undercoat, but instead of a constant undercoat such as an umber, I have varied the colour in harmony with where I propose to go with it. This is very, very thin paint, there is no texture to it at all; and diluted with Liquin, I hope to have it dry in a few days.

The Jeep was bugging me after the error made in the composition. The best way to get rid of the evidence was to start painting the master jeep.


03-24-2013, 12:59 PM
I already like the look of the Jeep.

03-24-2013, 01:12 PM
That jeep is looking great so far! I like the colours in the sky as well. I used to work on DC-3's and have always found them one of the most iconic aircrafts. Look forward to seeing this one come together!

03-24-2013, 06:19 PM
I like the way the tones are going in this one - another classic McHugh masterpiece underway!

Chas McHugh
03-24-2013, 06:44 PM
Appreciate the comments; thank-you.

Stop Press: I have been looking for a story to tell, and now I have one.
I will insert an Austin K2 ambulance reversed towards the cargo doors and will let the viewer decide if is a medivac or injured on board an arrival. This scenario ties in nicely with a solitary Jeep that could have been transport for any number of personnel attending such a scene.

Options for aircraft in the air include Hurricane or another Dakota, and that decision will come later for sure. The inspiration for the ambulance came after macro studying several paintings of this airfield by Frank Wootton. Whilst looking at the types of vehicles, I saw what I believe to be an Austin K2. It did not have ambulance markings but the seed was sown and I am happy with it.

Chas McHugh
03-29-2013, 05:48 AM
I am starting a long weekend (Bank Holiday in the UK) with this:

and I am happy with the scaling and the story the painting will now tell upon completion.

Chas McHugh
03-29-2013, 01:22 PM
.....& 7 hours of painting later:

No plans for tomorrow, and family commitments mean time time needs to be optimised. I suspect that the aircraft tail will come first and then work forwards to the door. It is people that will make this painting.

Mark A Bufton
03-30-2013, 06:20 AM
Love the ambulance! I always wanted to be a medic - ended up a radio operator, TA....never mind.

03-30-2013, 12:14 PM
Really strong rendering on those vehicles so far Chas and I love that there is a story developing. Is the right side of the image remaining relatively open or are you creating a point of interest in there? The painting is feeling a hair left side heavy but it is obviously to early to make any valid comment.

Keep up the awesome work!

Chas McHugh
03-30-2013, 02:16 PM
You are correct wrt balance Neil, but there is some logic behind the madness. I am sensitive to the rule of thirds and at the moment have my horizon/ interest line about a third from the bottom (Something that I wished in hindsight that I had done with my recent Harrier painting) and the tail and undercarriage oleos are each at approx the lateral thirds. The vacant area will either focus on an elephant in the foreground or a formation of fighters in the overhead (Possible another Dakota, gear down as if in a circuit). I am taking the 'steady as she goes' route for fear of overcrowding the composition. I will make judgement when I have to; having reviewed the progress at that stage.

Chas McHugh
03-31-2013, 02:05 PM
There is a family - artwork balance to be made this weekend as I have a small army of grandchildren over to stay; but progress has been steady in view of starting the weekend with only a jeep and sky.

I hope to get the engine and undercarriage nailed before the (long) weekend is through.

Chas McHugh
04-01-2013, 01:11 PM
It is still daylight now that the UK clocks have gone forward an hour :lol: (more evening painting time). But sadly being an artist is work and play. The play is the painting; the work is the business side of art, and my accountant is on my case for anual returns :( . This is the one bit of being an artist I despise with a passion. So after optimistically thinking i would make massive progress this Easter weekend, I have to settle for this:


....and the red that has ventured onto the lower right corner came from my sleeve :( On the technical side; I have had to lower the intermediate horizon line in order to separate it from the lower fuselage. If elements appear to be too dark or too light; have no fear for both are addressed with glazing before the painting is finished.

04-01-2013, 01:27 PM
Your progress on this WIP has been so helpful to watch.

Thanx 4 sharing with us


Chas McHugh
04-03-2013, 12:15 PM
Commiting to the tower armed with so few references was risky; but had to be done. It changes the dynamics of the painting a lot and more change will come when the adjacent tree is started.


04-03-2013, 12:48 PM
Taking shape beautifully Chas! I like the colour you have used for the ground. It is really interesting to see how you go about creating your painting. We all work in such different styles!

Chas McHugh
04-03-2013, 01:58 PM
The ground colour comes after some review of the area nowadays on Google Earth. The area has lots of isolated trees rather then formalised woodland and an almost pink earth when scorched by sunlight. I would like evidence of the rainy season and so it may change via glazing later one.

04-03-2013, 02:21 PM
Google Earth, what a great idea! Without seeing anymore than what you have already painted, the colour of the ground instantly puts me in the region. Chas, do you have a website or a gallery website that shows your work?

Chas McHugh
04-03-2013, 02:57 PM
www.aeroartist.com or Facebook 'Aviation Art of Charles McHugh'. On the FB page, I keep the WIP photographs in a single folder so that interested parties can flick from one pic to the next at a click of the right arrow. I tend to keep comments wrt techniques and problems to this page and therefore share good and bad with fellow artists.

04-03-2013, 04:28 PM
You have a unique and fascinating way of filling the canvas Chas. It works very well as you can devote time /attention to making each area as near perfect as possible . It is always interesting and exciting to see how it all comes together . Going well !

04-03-2013, 06:37 PM
You keep upping the interest level all the time, Chas.

04-04-2013, 07:05 AM
Good pick up on the horizon and the bottom of the plane - I hadn't noticed it earlier. It does sort of elevate the plane a little, but still keep it well placed.

Chas McHugh
04-05-2013, 01:50 PM
The sky was 'safe' making the composition dull, especially as there is nothing dynamic about it. Therefore an injection of atmosphere is required which for me means rain, and rain needs clouds.

I will soon get puddles and reflections to play with :angel:

04-05-2013, 10:39 PM
Real nice improvement in my opinion. Combined with the evidence of puddles will read right and look great.

Chas McHugh
04-06-2013, 07:21 PM
It does not always go well, and the undercarriage has put up a noteable fight today. However he who laughs last, laughs loudest, and after a day or two, I will win :wink2:

I resigned myself to simply getting some paint on the canvas that I can work with soon; a trend that I will probably continue tomorrow. I have to get away from the impression that I am painting models and instill some realism into the metalwork.

04-07-2013, 12:46 AM
really love your work the detailing is supreme.

Chas McHugh
04-07-2013, 03:41 AM
Thanks Napier. If anyone believes in divine intervention, look closely at the red smear marks bottom right that were done by accident, and see forelegs, tusks, and a trunk! I think that someone is trying to tell me something!

I always review my work first thing in the morning, and today my opinion is that I love the sky. It is better than any photo here could have you believe. But now that has set the bar for the rest of the composition, and the aircraft that I had thought looked pretty good, will need to be improved.

To paint my first ever elephant is a risk. But we never improve if we do not push boundaries and venture from the comfort zone. An aircraft on the ground needs external influence to make the composition interesting. I am going to run the gauntlet!

....and the wheels and tyres are going to get a good hiding in a few days :lol:

Chas McHugh
04-07-2013, 09:43 AM
Following on from my last, I am again tinkering with the idea of an elephant in the right side as per the outline below, but with a soldier and handler on top of it. The option is to have another aircraft, probably a Thunderbolt taxiing in. Interested in your thoughts about these options.


04-07-2013, 11:00 AM
My two cents (taken hopefully with a grain of salt as I haven't attempted such a complex composition) - I think the elephant may overpower. Being this much in the foreground, I think he would need to be increased in size and he would shift the focus away from the Dak. I don't really think that you should put any real object into that corner. If a T-bolt goes in, I think it would need to be back near the top edge of that sand taxi strip or runway. One additional thought - your mountains in the background almost disappear behind the tower. Are they partially obscured by cloud coming in? Really liking how this is developing...

Chas McHugh
04-10-2013, 03:13 PM
To be honest, this is super quick work for me as it was started 18th March. I am used to a three month project! As an update; Undercarriage fixed, propellers inserted as is the astro dome. Now I can concentrate on the right hand side this weekend.


Chas McHugh
04-13-2013, 01:18 PM
I would have enjoyed painting the elephant, but it would have had to be larger and there was not enough room for it and the temples which I want in the painting. Instead I went for the fighter option and have painted a Hawker Hurricane fighter. This is a base undercoat at present and will develop in the coming days.

04-13-2013, 09:31 PM
Much better- Man when you put that elephant in there, that's where my eyes slammed into. Thanks for the step by step- super nice work!


04-14-2013, 02:17 PM
This is really developing nicely, Chas.

Chas McHugh
04-14-2013, 06:07 PM
Although the change today is one of simply underpainting; I include it as a WIP photo because it is part of the process that I am using and may become important in the eventual sucess or failure of the painting. My thoughts are turning towards the foreground and when I paint the foreground, I do not want to be battling with a white canvas. Therefore I have toned the canvas albeit with some variations in colour to help me formulate a plan of action and ensure that scaling is correct. A Dakota is exactly twice the length of a Hurricane for example.


Chas McHugh
04-16-2013, 01:21 PM
Hurricane has had its second layer:

Does anybody know what sort of (anti-aircraft) airfield defence was used in Burma? (He says whilst thinking of foreground options)

04-16-2013, 01:37 PM
I think 40mm Bofors were pretty universal, also Bren guns. If you want an animal,there were always Water Buffalo around. Can't go wrong with the ubiquitous rusty oil drums, sand bags and hand painted sign boards.
Comming along nicely by the way. I think the tail wheel on the Dakota might be a tad big, comparing it with the rear wheel on the ambulance, and allowing for it being further away, but it might be me being a bit 'picky'.

Mark A Bufton
04-17-2013, 11:04 AM
Perhaps being picky is a good omen....to me, it means there's nothing "major" wrong ;)

04-17-2013, 12:58 PM
I'd be happy with just the Hurricane! Right at the beginning you said you wanted a Wooton-esque feel.... well you've got it with one little exception.

Yours is too good. Wooton was a very 'loose' artist - if you look at some of his aircraft, they are not accurate at all! Please take that as a compliment...


Chas McHugh
04-18-2013, 01:18 AM
I very much appreciate all the feedback, thank you.

John, you are right about the almost abstract methodology associated with Woottons work. However the limitations in his case were driven by a need for speed and no guarantee of availability of paints, which by and large can be mitigated by colour mixing. Some of his work, and I am thinking of Normandy Mustangs, was damaged by shrapnel incurred during the creative process.

In fairness, Wooton maintained this loose style even in the calm of his studio as seen in a pair of 'Falkland' Harriers, in which accuracy is secondary in importance.

I set out to paint an image that Wootton was familiar with, but to paint it with due care and attention to detail that Frank may or may not have approved.

There is always a danger in projects such as this that accusations of plagiarism get thrown around. However artists young and old have done this over the centuries. The detail to be seen here is far beyond what Wootton would have done and with an original twist on a known composition, have effectively created original work that stands up on its own. It would be nice if I felt I had learnt something new, but at this stage I doubt that I can say that. However, it is not over until the varnish is dry and the frame is on board.

Chas McHugh
04-20-2013, 01:43 PM
I have quite enjoyed myself today whilst attacking the foreground and introducing many new colours after what had been a fairly limited palette. My son has suggested that I include Frank Wootton sketching in the composition!!


04-20-2013, 02:10 PM
I have admired all 20 (so far) of these WIP photos and still am fascinated with this project.

Thanx again for the running commentary as well as the art work


Chas McHugh
04-22-2013, 02:36 AM
Glad you have enjoyed following the progress, and I have appreciated all of the feedback. Once the foreground is touch dry, I shall revisit areas that can be improved upon, add details such as antennae and the fwd door on the Dakota, and review and amend highlights and shadows. These will all be subtle in nature and not obvious on an overall composition photograph, so the data burst of update photos will now reduce to a trickle.

If I was honest, I had no game plan from the onset for this and made big decisions on the go. I did obey rules of composition and perspective which may be why I am getting away without a robust script to work to. My method has been spontaneous but considered and both small jeep and elephant were not meant to be. I do not advocate that a plan or pre drawing / oil sketch is essential, but I can respect the logic behind those who do.

What I do advocate is research, research and more research, and immerse your mind into the canvas. If I was there, what would I see. ....and hopefully the answers will become clear in the coming days as chocks lay near the foreground and stretcher bearers load / unload their charge. I hope that the composition means different things to different people and your own imagination plays its part.

04-22-2013, 05:20 AM
I have always enjoyed watch your progress on your paintings and once again you have created a beautiful painting. Great job.:clap:

Mark A Bufton
04-22-2013, 06:00 AM
Absolutely love that foreground!!! If I'm honest, the foreground is the bit I struggle with mostly. As always, your mastery shines through (though I imagine you won't entirely agree).

It's lead to my confusion....exactly which emotion comes after sheer awe?

04-23-2013, 04:45 AM
Absolutely love that foreground!!! If I'm honest, the foreground is the bit I struggle with mostly. ?

as chas has done here and it works superbly , when painting grass to give depth you move from a very light lime white with no detail in the background to mid ground mid colour mid detail then to the foreground worked in very dark and very detailed:thumbsup:

that's the basic theory , you as i mark have difficulty pulling it off as well as chas has here !!

Mark A Bufton
04-23-2013, 07:20 PM
Tell me about it. I'm currently at that stage of an illustration involving an area of long, burnt grasses in a deforested area. Guess the ability of the foreground to come under intense scrutiny tends to pile on the pressure :D

Chas McHugh
04-24-2013, 02:12 AM
If it helps you guys, this is my technique. Apply generous dollops of various colours including blobs of black at the edge of the canvas.

For working the colour, I used a shaping tool. Effectively a brush with a solid rubber tip.

Lots of strokes this way across the canvas //////// followed by \\\\\\\\ followed by ~~~~~~~~ with the very tip of the shaping tool. This created an area quite loose or even abstract in nature. I finished the 'shaping' with vertical ish strokes.

I then painted in with a brush the evidence of earth popping through with paint marks laid in horizontally. A little evidence of purple colour included as that is the opposite colour to beige. A sharp knife was used to pull whiskers of grass from the greenery into the water all at random and all away from the green, releasing pressure as the water was entered to create a tapered line.

The vegetation at the left side is used to lead the eye across to the aircraft as is the direction of the footpath. The white door of the ambulance attracts the eye although the composition has been created to have the undercarriage - engine - cockpit area as a focal point. That being one third into the canvas.

There is a fair amount of texture in the foreground whereas the paint across the remainder is flat. However the foreground is not so lumpy as to look odd. You need quite a bit of paint on the canvas for my technique to work, far for paint than any other area.

When it is dry, I can build on that and hopefully make it more interesting and effective. Patience plays it part, and of course there has been underpainting rather than a virgin canvas.

Chas McHugh
04-30-2013, 02:56 PM
My 'people' always start off as basic shapes and develop over several layers. The Briefing is at stage two, the stretcher party, stage one. There are many more layers to come. I have scaled each group against either Jeep or Dakota, and as I believe that the Jeep & Dakota are scaled against each other correctly, so should the composition work. I will also put an airfield controller up in the tower looking down on events.


04-30-2013, 04:46 PM
Looking very nice...

05-01-2013, 12:02 PM
I like all the action to look at. One of your best, Chas.

Chas McHugh
05-06-2013, 11:23 AM
Now time to start all-over again:
The Jeep has almost 100% been repainted, and deliberately dark in order to have a kharki colour glaze that will soften the edges later.

05-07-2013, 03:34 PM
Going well Chas .

Chas McHugh
05-11-2013, 01:32 PM
11 May 13. The Jeep is now completely repainted and the group of men briefing get another layer. The ambulance is next.

After some discussion, the forward access door is now closed. Apparently it is tiny in real life and serves limited use.

Chas McHugh
05-14-2013, 02:05 AM
It appears that the locally hosted image may not be high resolution, which is of limited value when updates are concentrating on small detail. A high resolution image can be seen on my website www.aeroartist.com and click the table easel wip (in the centre).

Chas McHugh
05-25-2013, 02:00 PM
I think it may be done:


05-25-2013, 06:00 PM
The revised Hurri does fit in better Chas.

05-25-2013, 06:30 PM
A super piece of work you've done here, Chas. Thanks for the ride along in the WIP.

05-26-2013, 05:04 AM
Great painting Chas, lots going on. I love the little emergency going on at the back of the ambulance .
Thanks for sharing.

05-27-2013, 08:58 AM
Very well done. An interesting and well composed scene with alot going on. You have really put a tremedous amount of work into this one.

Chas McHugh
05-27-2013, 02:46 PM
I appreciate your comments gents. Having slept on it, there is a bit of shadow missing from under the Dakota tailplane but apart from that I am happy that it is as good as it is going to get. I need it to have a layer of retouching varnish prior to 9th June (Exhibition at Cosford Air Show) and I am confident it will be dry enough to enable this. I had planned to have an aircraft taking off in the background but have discounted that for fear of making the composition too fussy.

Chas McHugh
06-01-2013, 06:21 AM
I thought it was done. ...& then noticed that the engine exhaust was missing! Paint brushes out, and before you know it, another 3 hours work.


06-03-2013, 07:37 AM
Great piece Chas. Hopefully you don't have to take it home from the exhibition!

Chas McHugh
06-03-2013, 03:36 PM
Believe it or not, I do not want to sell it....yet! I have a one man exhibition in Dec14 and I have never before had sufficient stock to undertake such a project. I need a collection of my best works and this is top of the tree. I have just varnished 10 paintings that have been stored to dry properly, and seeing them all together is fantastic, yet I dont remember actually painting any of them. To make my situation worse, I am going to the Falkland Islands for 3 months, which is one less painting for next year. Of course such an excursion is most likely to be the source of a new painting accurately depicting a Falkland winter.

06-03-2013, 04:08 PM
Just put it up as POA and when it sells ask for permission to show it again in December

06-05-2013, 03:54 PM
brilliant painting. has given me enthusiasm to paint the BBMF dakota I saw over my village last weekend.

Thanks for the WIP pics,


Chas McHugh
10-03-2017, 07:32 AM

I do my best to provide faultless customer service; and when I took a call last December from a D-Day veteran, I found myself unable to oblige. He wanted a print of a D-Day Dakota and was clearly passionate about the Dakota specifically with regards to D-Day.

Despite me not having a D-Day Dakota in my portfolio; he went ahead and purchased a 'Burmese Angels' print even though he did not serve in the Far East. He lives near a relative of mine, and so in order to deliver the print flat (as opposed to a tube) I delivered the print in person over last Christmas time. Unfortunately there was no response at his home, and the property looked neglected and unkept. Telephone calls in the following weeks proved fruitless, and eventually I feared the worst. I had taken a deposit and hit a brick wall despite my best efforts at resolve.

Therefore I was delighted to take a telephone call from him earlier this week in which he notified me of a prolonged stay in hospital, but happily in good spirits. He was keen to pay the outstanding balance ten months after paying a deposit.

So I thought I would cheer him up by adding a complimentary D-Day Dakota pencil Remarque. He does not have the internet and therefore will not have any idea about it until I deliver it in person this Friday. Queue an emotional moment in my logical world. Whilst not wishing to establish a precident; this customer put his life on the line for our country and has no family of his own - an all too frequent tale these days about WWII veterans. The least I could do is give him a day of my time to provide at least in part what he really wants. Such a gesture is good for the soul.

10-03-2017, 08:37 AM
Very good of you Chas!! Glad to hear he recovered, there isn't many of those WWII veterans left these days.

10-03-2017, 10:06 AM
Nice gesture Chas.

10-03-2017, 01:18 PM
Very kind and no doubt it will be well received.