Nose Art: Research or a Distraction? (Melissa Robbins)

This is a timely post to say the least. All four of my kids (8,6,4,2) are home from school for Spring Break and as I write this on Thursday, I haven’t seen the sunshine since Sunday. That’s four days of straight rain, people. This ain’t Seattle. Rain and four kids stuck inside equals a BAD spring break. Anyway, knowing all four would be under foot, I’ve made a point get up at my usual 5 am writing time and really focus on writing, not email or Facebook. It worked. I managed to meet and surpass my writing goals without taking time away from my children.

Those same four crazy kids certainly help my imagination. My eldest struggles with reading and writing so we have focused on that this week. Emma has such a vivid imagination and we worked on characters, a setting, and a plot for her story about a pink otter, a mermaid, and a princess who floats on a large leaf boat, traveling the high seas. Although, I discovered she would rather be a director and act and leave the script writing to the professionals.

On Wednesday, my kids and I visited our Museum of World Treasures. Growing up in DC, I’m a wee bit spoiled on the whole museum thing, but my kids loved it and being that my story takes place during WW2, that section of the museum is my personal favorite. However, my American and English characters cringed when my four year old daughter informed me the German naval officer’s uniform was her favorite. A German? And a sailor at that. My RAF flyboy, Connor stomped off to pout. There is also a display of a dispersal hut with two airmen mannequins. One of them wears the Army Air Corps patch on his shoulder. My son has the same patch on his leather jacket, a gift from my father, who is as big of a WW2 nut as I am. Duncan must have forgotten or didn’t realize his patch used to belong to a pilot. His blue eyes lit up and I was like, ‘That’s it!’ That is the look I want to give to my flyboys in my story, because they love flying so much.

I have said it before on this blog that drawing affects my writing. My sketches inspire my creativity, but they can also be a distraction. When I should be writing or critiquing a fellow writer’s work, I’m sketching. My latest deviations have been nose art for my pilots. I got a new set of illustration markers and coloring with my kids makes for a great activity. Did I mention it has been raining all week?

Anyway, researching nose art has been uber fun. Those flyboys were so creative and naughty and the artists really were considered the most essential members of a squadron. Did you know that Walt Disney himself created the Flying Tigers emblem? The Royal Air Force didn't showcase nose art as much as the Yanks did, but as Connor would say, “If that ruddy Jerry can have Mickey Mouse on his plane, I can have a raven.” He is referring to Adolf Galland, one of Germany’s top aces. I’m sure the two have dogfighted on occasion.

Drawing the nose art has been a creative experience for me since it was considered an expression of the pilot’s personality. I tried to reflect the cartoonish style of the 40's. So here is my latest deviation from writing. I have several sketched out, but these are the ones colored.

“Bacon” – 1st Lieutenant Jackson Spencer, P-40. Bacon is Jack’s beagle. It’s my favorite of the lot. Snoopy wearing his pilot helmet and goggles was a popular nose art figure, but I wanted to be original with Jack’s.

“Raven: Harbinger of Destruction” – Flight Lieutenant Connor Buchanan, Spitfire. A fellow writer friend came up with the raven for Connor since he hails from Maryland (half English), but also because of all the war mythology and the Tower of London attached to the raven. The ‘harbinger of destruction’ is funny to me because not only does Connor destroy German planes, but he’s very rough on his own.

“For King and Country”- Squadron Leader Basil Godfrey, Hurricane. I like this one on so many levels. Plus the Grim Reaper appears less creepy wearing a Union Jack cloak versus a black one.

“Spyder” – Pilot Officer Johann “Spyder” Snyder, Hurricane. There are conflicting reports as to how Spyder earned his nickname. Did his squadron leader not want to use Spyder’s German name or it is because Spyder is so handsy with the ladies, it’s like he has more than two hands???

“Rosie” – Flying Officer George Rosegate, Spitfire. The fox was Connor’s idea. George is too modest and shy to put a fox on his plane, but Connor knows how sly George is on the inside. The rose in the fox's mouth represents his hidden romantic side.


Penny Rader said...

I love research, too, Melissa. Unfortunately, I don't have much drawing ability. Thanks for sharing your art with us.

Joan Vincent said...

Research is always in danger of distracting me from writing. There are just soooo many avenues to stroll down and "window" shop. I love your art and think it a superb compliment to the writing on many levels.

Melissa Robbins said...

Thanks, ladies! I like that "window shop" idea, Joan.