Military Themes

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The Paterson Museum
Woodstock '94
Art Around the Park '93, '94
All photography
Sylvie Ball


In 1990 I was looking for fresh subject matter to use in my paintings and photographs.  I saw some aircraft markings on a helicopter in a war movie and became intrigued with the subject.  My interest in the aesthetic led me to rare out of print books, mostly used by model airplaine enthusiasts, that went into great detail about how exactly to paint airplanes in a variety of wartime theaters. 
The airplanes of Great Britain that flew in WWII were particularly intriguing not only for the beautiful design of the aircraft, but also for the elaborate paint schemes that were applied to them that were specifically designed for the missions they flew.  These considerations would include climate, the time of day or night of the mission, and the type of terrain the airplanes flew over, such as water, earth, forest or desert.  
A separate scheme was used for the under and upper surfaces of the aircraft.  A 1940-41 example of a "temperate land scheme" for an operational aircraft would be a disruptive pattern of "Dark Earth" (dark brown) and "Dark Green" (olive drab) applied to the upper surfaces.  The familiar camouflage pattern that we have all come to know so well was born.  In order to blend into a daytime atmosphere when viewed from below, the undersurfaces of the aircraft were painted in a light blue or greenish color aptly called "Sky."  If a bomber was flying night missions, it would be painted all black on both upper and under surfaces. 
Along the sides of the fuselage, boldly emblazoned on these atmospheric schemes were a brief string of alpha-geometric code letters that would indicate the squadron and the identity of individual aircraft. The two letter prefix keyed to a squadron number or group followed by the national emblem, followed with a single letter, such as S, T, U. etc. representing the individual aircraft within the group.   
A component of this string always included the concentric circles of the British roundel in varying shades of red and blue, sometimes surrounded with a white or yellow ring.  Red was always the color of the center circle.  The roundel would also appear on the upper and (sometimes) the lower surfaces of the wings.  

Sylvie Ball
The squadron codes,  camouflage schemes, colors, and the British Roundel by itself, all became subject matter for the paintings I created between 1991 and 1993.  This body of work was shown at the Paterson Museum, in Paterson, New Jersey during the summer of 1993.  Click on the Paterson Museum link at left to view the exhibit.    
Paterson, New Jersey was known for it's silk mills and textile production.  A small edition of "woven label" bookmarks was created especially for my exhibition by Paxar Woven Label Group of Paterson, NJ at the request of The Paterson Museum. 
I remember working out the colors with Paxar on a conference call over a speakerphone. 
Want to design your own woven label by Paxar? 
Call (888) 44-PAXAR or visit the company's website at  Note: the Paterson, NJ branch of Paxar made my label.  Their address & phone is:
Paxar Woven Label Group
500 E. 35th St.
P.O. Box 2178
Paterson NJ 07509
Phone:  973-684-6564
To see more art & photography with military themes click on the other links at left.
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