Duncan Aviation, Battle Creek, MI
After a week of vacation at Lake Michigan with family, I arranged to resume my work at Duncan Aviation. After meeting with Tom, my contact there, I spent the first hour saying hello to familiar faces and evaluating possible subjects.
This time the hangars were packed with small jets. It was a very different scene than last October. There were so many choices to work from it was almost distracting. One Dassault model kept catching my attention. The aircraft’s blue belly had a presence unlike some of the other adjacent planes. The cerulean blue wings and under-carriage caught reflections of light from the upper body of the plane. There was a water-like quality to these areas and I was attracted to the liquid nature and saturated color of the composition. The turquoise green protective film covered the exposed windows and an industrial orange safety strap hung vertically in front of the engine cowling. These simple elements created a stark, even abstract, composition.
When I asked which ‘pit boss’ was in charge of the servicing of that plane, I was informed that it was the older brother of a friend and classmate from my K-12 childhood education. A wonderful aspect of a small town upbringing is the familiarity and comfort of a shared history. Starting a project with this dynamic offers a certain element of relaxed congeniality which can help to facilitate the process. Over the next week I found that familiarity and flexibility valuable.
The first time I worked at the Duncan hangars, aircraft were scattered to the four corners of the building, away from the vast sliding doors which gave access to incoming and outgoing planes. This time however the hangars were filled to the point that when a plane needed to come in or out an elaborate ballet occurred with the moving and repositioning of the jets. I had unwittingly chosen a subject that was just in front of hangar doors.
I had scheduled only one week to complete the piece. While the composition was not particularly challenging, the circumstances tested me. Due to the placement of my muse, the hangar doors were subject to frequent openings and closings which meant alterations in light source. A change in lighting can completely change color, tone, value etc. I found myself changing these components several times throughout the week. Further, the aircraft I was working from had to be jockeyed to move other planes positioned deeper within the hangar. All of these disruptions made me a little concerned about completing what I had started.
One day, one of the employees brought in his granddaughter whom he had mentioned to me during my first visit to Duncan. He had explained how Brianna had begun to show a strong artistic aptitude even at her young age of 9. The visit with Brianna extended for several hours and involved me setting up a small still life and lending her some of my art supplies so that she could work along side of me. I had not planned for this tutelage during my work week but viewed it as a pleasant distraction. I reminded myself of the moments in my early years when someone dedicated time to foster my young artistic inclinations.
At one point during our time together, Brianna turned to me and asked: “Are you famous?” I laughed and said “No”. She then replied “Well, you should be! You need to get yourself out there more.”
This was just another example of how much I learn from the most unlikely sources while I am out working on a project. www.duncanaviation.aero