I went out Sunday with the Seattle Urban Sketchers group to Kenmore Air in Bothel. Kenmore is a seaplane air harbor, repair, and fabrication facility. Seattle of course is dotted with seaplanes flying overhead, more than likely if you look up, it’s a Kenmore plane. I spent most of the morning in the main hangar drawing a plane that was being refurbished (which is not the plane I’m showing here, although this plane is going through a repair to the pontoon during the drawing). The highlight of the morning was a tour of the shop space in the second hanger where a couple of planes are going through significant upgrades. I was very fortunate to get the tour from one of Kenmore’s pilots and main mechanics – Sam – who is passionate about these aircraft. He loves the industry and is really excited to talk about the construction and technology that went into the design of these machines. There are a number aircraft that Kenmore flies, but primarily they use the Dehavilland Beaver (seen in this image), and the Dehavilland Otter. Both the Beaver and Otter are older model planes that have been the long time standards of float plane travel. The Beaver is a smaller plane with a radial engine making for a squat workhorse look. The Otters are slightly larger with longer turboprop engines which give them a very sleek look. These aircraft are from the 60’s with modern upgrades, but the fact they are from a pre computer era, really means they are quite mechanically straightforward. The see them with their outer skin removed is a fascinating look into a visually complex but ultimately understandable set of mechanical interactions, cables connect directly from the throttle all the way up to the control surfaces on the wings and tail. It’s kind of like a bicycle, pull the cable to move the derailleur, to shift the gear. The magic is both in the elegance and organization. I like seeing things for what they are, and beyond the fascination with flight, I’ve come to realize it’s the purposeful combination of form and functional components wrapped in a package of both aerodynamics and visual complexity that make aircraft so compelling to look at and draw. Expect more in the future.
About a month ago I was at the Seattle Museum of Flight and drew this Harrier. Years ago my uncle Alan worked on some of the electronic components the aircraft. I remember the day that my family was invited to the Oregon Air National Guard base in Portland and along with a few other families viewed a demonstration of a hovering Harrier. I don’t remember if this was a demonstration for us or if there was a Harrier that was taking off at a specific time, but it was a lot of fun and made a lasting impact. My uncle worked on or around aircraft for much of his career and as a kid, I used to ask him a lot of questions about planes. I think as much as anyone his influence on my artistic and mechanical artistic interests was very significant. If I had built a Lego airplane and placed the engines in a structurally unsound, or inefficient location, he would let me know. Although I don’t consider myself by any means an engineer, I do strive in my work to visualize mechanically sound machinery, even if it is for a fanciful project. One year for my birthday Uncle Alan game me a large-scale Harrier model kit as a gift. I’m sure it was his intention that I build it, paint it, and then display it. The fact is I never did built “it” as it was intended. Instead I used the pieces to create my own flights of fancy. I still have the kit actually and scavenge it for plastic parts when I get the itch to build something. The best part of this kit is the engine. A better way to say this is that the coolest part of the Harrier is the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine which is designed to output thrust to nozzles on the side of the aircraft that allow it to hover like a helicopter. I’ve drawn a sketch of one of the nozzles in the upper left of the image. In the kit, the actual engine body was shaped something like a cylinder with two smaller cylinders on each side. I would often stare at this piece and use it to match different shapes and forms as I decided on what I would make. I don’t think I ever actually built this piece into any model because I could never find the right place for it. The nozzles however have found their way onto some of my models. One of those is here.
You can see the front cowling that holds the wheel in place on this vehicle is actually this same nozzle repurposed for my futurist monowheeled F-1 car.
I’ve always hoped my Uncle was not disappointed that I never built the kit from its original instructions. He passed away a number of years ago, and I’m sure the last thing on his mind was why I never finished it, but to me it was kind of the central point of our relationship. I deeply appreciate those odds and ends of plastic parts as a distinct memory of a man who inspired me early on, and this drawing is dedicated to that memory.
I’m taking a few days and driving down Highway 101. It would not be an overstatement to say that this is the most epic scenery on the planet. I wish I could capture it all, every mile and every viewpoint, but I find it satisfying to simply stop every couple of hours and make a drawing. I’m someone who likes to drive; it puts me at ease as long as I’m not rushing to get somewhere and I particularly like taking side roads and turnoffs that could lead to anywhere or just a spectacular dead end. My favorite moment of the day was a spur of the moment detour down into the Oregon Dunes recreational area south of Florence. The weather was very stormy and I was a lone car driving down a narrow windy road with no outlet. To my right and left were small hills covered in furry vegetation. Grass is encroaching fast on the dunes and is predicted to takeover completely in a relatively short period of time. . I passed a parking lot with a single sandy trail cutting its way up to the top of a steep grass covered hill. Even with the pouring rain I decided to stop and sprint up the hill for one good view. It turned out to be less of a sprint and more of a steep set of lurches. When I made it to the top ready for the lookout I was met with a full force wind that slammed a wall of sand in my face. It was so much power that I couldn’t look into it at all, so I turned my back and dropped back down onto the trail waiting for a moment until it subsided. After a minute I thought I had my chance so I sprang back up and was again pummeled by the sand, but this time I forced myself to look out and take in the view for a split second of eye abrading glory. Even when it’s a wall of grey fog and cloud and rain, a good look at the beach and ocean are remedies for all sorts of ills. I recommend this trip to anyone needing to get away for a few days. It’s good perspective.
Tillamook Air Museum Douglas Dauntless
Tillamook Air Museum Mini Guppy
Tillamook Air Museum Guppy Cockpit
Oregon Fishing Club
Somewhere on the Oregon Coast