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Remembered Today:

"Wolff's Requiem" color study

Russell Smith

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Hi folks. Its been a while since I have posted anything new around here, but I have been lurking. Anyway, I've finally gotten the color study for this one finished. The piece is entitled "Wolff's Requiem" and depicts the death of Kurt Wolff in MvR's 102/17. Here are the facts:

- Wolff was flying MvR's tripe 102/17 when he was killed. There are, of course many different visual clues that distinguish 102/17 (and its cousin 103/17) from all other tripes, but the 3 that I feel are most important are: no wingtip skids; the curved leading edge of the horz. stabilizer; and, of course, the serial on the fuselage. The paint job was slightly different also, but i don't think that feature would be as obvious. To tell the story, I feel that I need to be able to show at least one and preferably two of these features in an obvious way.

- In addition to showing 102/17 I want the viewer to be able to see Wolff in the cockpit. After all, the painting is more about him than it is the airplane. The middle wing of the tripe limits the number of angles from which you can view the pilot, especially when you add in the details above that need to be included.

- The weather was lousy that day, so lots of clouds. In fact, it was pretty much lousy all of that week.

- The action started around 15,000 feet. Given the falling nature of a dogfight, I imagined my scene to be around 10,000 feet.

- The engagement consisted of at least 10 aircraft - Wolff in 102/17, Schoenebeck in his Albatros, and a flight of 8 Camels from Naval Squadron 10. In a thread posted earlier this year here on the forum, it was supposed that the flight leader, FLt Fitzgibbon, had taken 4 Camels down to chase after some German aircraft. Meanwhile, 4 other Camels stayed above. Wolff and Schoenebeck attacked the 4 upper Camels and suddenly found themselves at a disadvantage. Wolff was shot down by FSL MacGregor, who stated later that he suddenly found himself on right on Wolff's tail, got off a brief burst and then zoomed to avoid collision. Here is Schoenebeck's account of the fight:

"One day we flew both to the front. That was done often because a flight of 2 is harder to spot than a whole squadron. If one was smart enough to use the sun in ones back the enemy could be easily surprised. Wolff was a smart leader and from the sun we attacked an enemy flight. Wolff was shooting brilliantly but got caught in a dogfight. I flew behind him as suddenly another Englishman appeared behind me. I only was able to get rid of him with great difficulty. While I was busy shaking off the Englishman another machine attacked Wolff from behind and before I could help I saw how Wolff was going down into a spin and hit the ground. So was Lt.Wolff, whom had me for covering him and who had to protect myself, falling in front of my very eyes. I was deeply shocked. On his funeral I had to carry his cushion of decorations."

- I usually don't find it necessary to depict every plane that was involved in an engagement, but in this case I decided to do so in order to capture the tension of a dogfight as well as the desperation of the moment.

Compositionally, this subject provided some challenges that were both tough and unique. Generally in most aerial scenes your subject is the victor. When that's the case you can follow some pretty simple rules: make your subject the largest aircraft in the composition, put it in the foreground and put the vanquished foe going down somewhere in the background. OR, if you're depicting the moments just prior to the victory: again, make your subject the largest aircraft in the composition, put it in the foreground pointing or turning towards its target and put the soon-to-be vanquished foe smaller in the background.

In this case our subject IS the vanquished foe. To make it more complicated, the victor is in such close proximity to the subject that his aircraft is going to be similar in both scale and value to the subject's aircraft. In working with this subject I was reminded how much that middle wing on the tripe really limits the usable angles for painting. When the subject is the pilot, you want to be able to see the pilot in the painting (even if it is just his head). That middle wing really blocks the view of the pilot from many angles.

A few colors and values still need a little tweaking here and there (the triplane as I see it on my screen tripe looks a wee bit oversaturated when compared to the real deal) , but generally speaking I'm satisfied with the direction that it is going

The color study measures 11" x 17" and the finished piece will measure 44" x 28.5".

Many thanks to Mike Westrop for his help and input on this piece.



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Excellent as always Russell and welcome back.

You obviously like a challenge as the angle of both craft make it a very difficult piece technically. The narrative really helped as you really get the sense of MacGregor effort to pull up and avoid a collision.


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Thanks Gunboat. This piece did indeed give me several weeks of headaches before I finally came of with a composition that I liked.


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