Thursday, 20 May 2010

And finally

The last layers of paint were the highlights. Adding thinner layers of lighter colour to the legs, arms and face. Srtonger highlights were added to the hair, dress and shoes.


Some key pointers.

Never worry about a mistake. It can be painted over.

Start with dark colours and work to light ones.

Never worry about copying artwork exactly. The artwork crews painted were often crudely done and if it's slightly out, it kind of makes it more authentic looking. Look at the two 'd's' in the text.
The girl is also different from the original art. But so what, I'm amazed I could do this.

A simpler route would be to go down the cartoon route to start with.

There are probably much better ways of doing this and any (constructive) comments would be appreciated. These can be added to the blogs.

Thank you for dropping by.

Fill in detail

With a colour run out as reference on normal print paper, I started to add layers of colour and the detail. The face was re-traced as the flesh base colour was already down. If there was a mistake, I just painted over it until I was happy. I started to add in shade as well. Again any mistakes, or colour I was unhappy with, were painted over. So slowly the layers build up creating more definition and shade.

Colour fill

On another trace, I rubbed over the back of the image with a soft pencil (like a 6b). Placing the trace back over the white area, I traced round the face edge, hair, arm, legs etc and filled in the areas with colour.

Painting the pin-up

Using another trace of the artwork, white chalk was rubbed onto the back of the girl image.

Re-positioning the trace was done by placing the trace over the painted lettering to get the alignment right and then taped down.

I traced the outline of the pin-up and filled the area in with a white base paint.
This was done so the colour would be brighter. Also, it would show up the pencil trace mentioned in the next blog. The same could be done for the lettering.

Start painting

Now. This was a tricky one. What type of paint to use? Looking at other people's comments on the web, it seemed different types of paint were preferred.

There are special leather paints you can use (make sure there not dyes). Others opted for enamel paints and some for oil paint. However I was with the water based acrylic party. Firstly, because my son has a set. Secondly, because the colours stay bright. But mainly because they are cheaper, don't smell and more importantly, are flexible and less prone to cracking.

There probably are some drawbacks with acrylics. I don't know what would happen if you had your jacket cleaned. But how often do you send your jacket off for cleaning?

It's possible the paint could soften if left in damp conditions for some time.
I've been out in some serious rain fall and nothing has happened to the artwork.

If I was going to wear the jacket all the time, then i might think about the leather paints.

Anyway. Back to the jacket.

First, the type was painted on, along with the bombs (to show missions flown). I put twenty five on, as this was the amount of combat missions bomber crews were required to fly over Europe. It went up to thirty later. it also suited the shape of the image and gave a better balance.

Two coats were applied to the type and the drop shadow (in red).

I noticed that the less coats applied, the more worn/older it looked. Of course the less paint you apply, the quicker it will wear off with constant use.

You can see the outline from the chalk trace on one of the images.

Oh. One thing to be wary of is the grain of the leather. I found that if the paint was too thin if sometimes ran into the grain. I just cleaned it away with a cotton bud. You can see how the grain affects the paint in the detail image.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Trace the image onto the jacket

There are probably better ways of doing this, but I just rubbed chalk onto the back of the tracing paper and then taped it onto the jacket. I put plenty of chalk on. I did try a duplicate/carbon type paper that Tailors use on fabric. But it didn't take to the leather. The leather must be clean from grease and dirt before doing this. Next I traced around the text using a ball point pen. The image was faint, but I could see the text on the leather.

Find an image, get a name

A lot of war time nose art was referenced from Men's magazines such as Esquire, adverts, cartoons, or made up by the crews artist. I mentioned in the last/first post a website that had a lot of the pin-up style girls. You could always re-create an original artwork, such as 'Memphis Belle'. or 'Nine o Nine.'

I was on the 91st Bomb group site and i liked the name Incendiary Blonde. This was a plane that flew with the 322sqn. The girl image I found after looking on Google images.

So I had a name and an image. I found a hand drawn style font and messed around with the composition on my computer. When I was happy with it, I ran several copies out onto an A3 sheet of tracing paper. The jacket was clamped around a framed picture to keep it flat. Kitchen towel was put under the clamps so the jacket would not get marked, as it would have to stay that way for however long the painting took and that depends on how complex your design is. The Hellraiser one took a lot longer, due to the complexity of the font.

The first step

This blog is intended to show how I painted Bomber nose art on my leather A2 jacket and on a budget.

I'm not saying this is the best way, or even the right way. It's the way I did it and it turned out better that i thought it would.

I have a love of old planes and in particular the B17 Flying Fortress and was always fascinated by the names and artwork, fighter and bomber pilots/crews put on their planes.

As well as their aircraft, they also would paint them on their A2 and G1 (G1 being the Navy and Marines version) issue leather flying jackets.

I've wanted one of these jackets for ages, as they look really cool and are probably the basis of most bomber jacket designs to date. Even Indiana Jones wore a version.

I looked on the internet and found really good reproductions, such as Eastmans and But these cost a lot of money and if I was going to paint on it, I didn't want to ruin a good jacket. The best option was to look on ebay and find one which looked like an A2 that I could afford. Finally I got one for £25. I found out later that it was G1, but it was a good quality jacket all the same.

And so I started to research the planes and crews and where they got their references from.
There is a huge amount on the web about Nose art and the people who painted the original artwork. A good site for the artists and pin-up reference is

There is also an abundance of excellent reference of bomber nose art on Flicker.

Eventually I found an image I thought would be good. It was a picture of 'Betty Page' (yes I know she was much later) it had that sassy quality that was popular with the crews.

So now I needed a name. After looking at the 91st bomb group web site and the 100th I came up with 'Hellraiser,' which fitted the image nicely.

Now i needed to know the best type of paint to use and how to transfer the design to the jacket.

I'll explain how i did this on the next blog on another jacket I named, 'Incendiary Blonde'.

Above is a picture of Hellraiser.