LOCAL artist and musician John Hunter has been busy during ‘lockdown’ producing a bumper crop of new paintings – several commissioned this year.

John initially completed six new paintings for the Guild of Aviation Artists annual exhibition, which was to have been held at the Mall Galleries in July.

John said: “This would have been my 18th consecutive year exhibiting here, although we all doubted that it would be able to take place this year – which would have been the Guild’s fiftieth anniversary – the pictures will, hopefully, be hung next year instead.”

“Normally at this time of year, I would be musically directing a show at the Georgian Theatre, and conducting the Musicality ladies choir in addition to numerous other musical projects – all of which were of course cancelled – along with our bed and breakfast business in Grinton”

“Out of the blue came three commissions, which of course inevitably involved lots of research and conversations about the work to be done”

The first eventually gained the quirky title Uncle Jack’s Pipe as the focus of the picture was always seen smoking his beloved pipe. John only had an old faded photograph with much of the image missing to go on, and had to ‘re-assemble and re-imagine’ this along with other pictures to create the final image. It transpired after some research that Uncle Jack’s family had always thought he flew B 25 Mitchell’s, but John’s keen eye spotted it was actually the little known Martin Baltimore. In this instance it was agreed that pencil would be the best medium to capture what was required.

His next commission was from one of his choir singers to paint one of her husband’s large-scale radio-controlled models. To enhance the ‘montage’, he decided to include a portrait of Yorkshire aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn, who designed and flew the original Blackburn D1 – now the oldest British aircraft still flying.

“The last of the commissions, to celebrate a 100th birthday in August, was very interesting to assemble, with only an old photograph of the commissioner's father pictured in the desert around 1943. He worked on Hurricanes and had done a little rough sketch himself at some time – but this image seemed to contradict his squadron flying photo reconnaissance missions."

After much research, they came up with the precise registration of the aircraft depicted. Two Hurricanes in full colour over a desert scene in ‘sepia’ with a pencil drawing of ‘Dad’ and a Hurricane completed a nice montage – truly ‘mixed media’!”

John said: “It will be nice to get back to music-making again hopefully soon, but in the meantime, piano practise, gardening and painting helps keep mind and spirit together!”