I had a request from the Western Canada Aviation Museum for a donation of one of my Lamp designs for their Annual Charity Gala held in October. I said yes, but when they saw my Aviation pieces, they told me that it would be great if my donation piece were also related to aviation. I loved the idea but the challenge was to design an aviation art piece within a month and I had no idea what I should make. I said ‘yes’ and began to think of what it could be. If I were to make something real and meaningful, it had to be from a real aircraft part. I asked the museum if they had access to aviation salvage; broken pieces, parts, anything. They told me that they have some pieces lying around in their hangar at St. Andrews airport. We set up a time and I went through the junk to see what inspires. I looked at these interesting ‘teardrops’ and knew right away that I could turn one of them into an art piece. I brought it back to my workshop and sat in front of it wondering what it is and what it could be.
I brainstormed lot of ideas and finally settled on turning it into wartime nose art. A bit of research informed me that this ‘teardrop’ is actually a ‘Loop Antenna’ used on many bombers during the Second World War. This one possibly came from one of them.
One of my favorite bombers that were also flown by the RCAF during the wartime was the Avro Lancaster Bomber. Some more digging later I settled on replicating the ‘Sugar’s Blues’, nose art from one of these beautiful bombers.
This antenna is about 25 inches in length, 11 in width and stands19 inches tall without the base.
I spent many hours disassembling the antenna and then degreasing, cleaning and sanding. Years of sitting in elements, the screws and bolts were locked tight. Lots of good old WD40 and perseverance finally led to all the pieces coming apart.
It was a great experience disassembling the antenna for hidden under every piece and layer was some history. I found nameplates of companies that built the antenna and the components inside.
There was a beautiful ‘Loop’ antenna that was enclosed inside the teardrop along with many other interesting components.
After thorough cleaning began the long and tedious process of sanding and progressively polishing the aluminum base to near mirror finish.
Now was the time for the art side of this piece. Researching out the nose art I also found the inspiration behind the original one.
I then had to illustrate the typography on computer and finally study the proportions with several printouts.
I also did a lot of digging on the actual paint scheme of the Lancaster Bomber and spent several hours going through the shade cards to pick the right color. After the first coat had dried, I wasn’t 100% happy with the tone so made another trip to the paint store bought 4 more shades of the green. Tested all our and finally was happy with one of them.
After 2 coats of paint I drew the illustration on the antenna and began delicately painting the details stroke by stroke. It’s been a while I held a paintbrush in my hand for art. I was very pleased and happy with the finished result; so happy that it was difficult saying goodbye to art piece for it was created for the Museum and would go to a loving home.
About Sugar’s Blues:
This replica nose art belongs to Lancaster Bomber KB-864 of no. 428 squadron RCAF. The figure is based on the popular “Varga" pin-up girl who was featured in the January 1945 edition of Esquire magazine. The aircraft’s markings were NA-S and the aircraft would have been referred to as “s for sugar. "Sugar's Blues was also a popular wartime dance tune during those days.
No. 428 Squadron RCAF, also known as 428 Bomber Squadron, and 428 Ghost Squadron, was a bomber squadron in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Throughout its service in the Second World War the squadron was based in England and flew bombing missions against the enemy.
Incidentally, Flying Officer Willard Josephus Sheldon Kathan, one of Canada’s last surviving Second World War veterans, reached the 100-year mark on April 25, 2014. He flew as a flight engineer on board Royal Canadian Air Force Avro Lancaster, nicknamed Sugar’s Blues. A veteran, who flew in some of the most dangerous air operations of the Second World War he, recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
This aircraft Loop Antenna was part of many bomber aircrafts during that era and this hand painted replica nose art is on one of its kind; a homage to those magnificent men and their flying machines by Gagan Singh of Gagan Design.
ps: An aviation connoisseur bought the Nose Art in the Charity Gala silent auction for $750. Great to know it has gone to a good home.