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Piers Dowell - Airbrush Master

Enth Degree


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Reno Air Races Propeller Blade

A portfolio piece for Piers, this work is a tour de force of airbrush technique. Piers used a part taken from a mould he had made from a Spitfire prop blade. Although Spitfires do not regularly feature at Reno they have raced there in the Unlimited Bronze class courtesy of the Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, California.After completing the piece Piers in fact travelled with it to the 2009 Air Races, a vintage year as it turned out. It was crated and just fitted within the linear inch limitations for oversize baggage! On arrival at the Air Races Piers was astonished by the interest the public showed, in fact he was invited to display the piece for Breitling in their VIP hospitality. So while his work was being displayed in a prime location Piers was enjoying food, drink and a great vantage point gratis!The piece was signed at the 2009 Reno air Races by luminaries of the event from past & present. These include Bob Hoover (chase plane in ‘Ol Yella’ at Reno and chase for Chuck Yeager on his historic sound barrier flight in 1947) Of the portraits on the prop Piers found this by far the most difficult due to the lack of suitable source material. Piers considered using an image of Bob from the ‘40s but felt it inappropriate. Ironically Bob jested when signing the prop that Piers should have rendered an image of him when he was young! Steve Hinton (ex RB51 ‘The Red Baron’ and proprietor of Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, California), has also signed the prop and is portrayed on from the days when he flew the Super Corsair at Reno. Also portrayed is Darryl Greenamyer (ex Lockheed Skunk works and SR71 test pilot). Darryl was the winner of the inaugural Reno Air races in 1964 and had a great run of success in the late 60s and early 70s in a Grumman Bearcat called Conquest 1 which now resides in the Smithsonian institution. The image Piers used as source reference was taken of Darryl when he attempted to rescue a Boeing B29 Superfortress called the ‘Kee Bird’ which was discovered in almost pristine condition on the Humboldt Glacier on Greenland. Sadly the attempt failed at the last minute with the loss of the aircraft. Piers contacted Pete Law (ex Lockheed Skunk Works) through his affiliation with Aircraft Engine Historical Society prior to going to the 2009 event. He wanted to do a portrait of Pete as he has been working at the Reno Races since the ‘60s and the place simply wouldn’t run without him. He is an expert in all things fluid, carburetion, cooling, inter-cooling & lubrication and helps most of the teams in the paddock. Pete kindly offered to sign the piece but said he would appreciate if Piers could use a photo of him and Bruce Bolland, a good friend of his who was sadly killed in an aircraft accident some years ago. Piers was more than happy to oblige and the image turned out to be one of the most accurate portraits Piers has done, and that’s saying something! John Penney (multi winner Reno Unlimited Gold in Rare Bear, Grumman F8F Bearcat ) has also signed the prop over the image Piers has rendered of Rare Bear and Dago Red side by side down the ‘Valley of Speed’. Rare Bear is the current speed record holder for a piston engine aircraft at 528 mph and also holds a climb to altitude record of 91.9 seconds to 3000 metres. Bruce Lockwood (multi winner Reno Unlimited Gold in Dago Red P51 Mustang) . At the 2009 event Dago Red was flown by Steve Hinton Jnr to an unlimited gold win and new lap record at an average speed of 508 mph. In fact Piers was talking to the engine builder, Mike Nixon of Vintage V12s who said that Dago Red actually tops out at 542 mph on the back straight! Piers is fortunate enough to own a Rolls Royce Merlin 66 from a Mk 9 Spitfire and together with his passion for historic aviation in general the motivation was here to produce a really stunning piece. One of images that was most satisfying to paint for reasons above and it’s technical complexity was the image of the Rolls Royce Merlin in the racing P51 Mustang ‘Miss America’ (the aircraft Jeremy Clarkson flew in for extreme machines). It was one of the most detailed images Piers had done to that point and marked his first use of white warmed to pre-emt colour shift, a phenomenon exclusive to airbrushing. Simply put colour shift is when a lighter colour is sprayed over a darker one and it shifts to a cooler version of that top colour. An example is white over black. It will always try to shift to a grey/blue/white rather than a neutral white. To prempt this Piers has perfected pre warming the white with an orange so when it’s sprayed over darker colours it stays neutral. Also depicted on the Blade is an image of the ‘Super Corsair’. The aircraft is powered by a Pratt & Whitney R4360, another engine which Piers owns by importing one from Florida. It is a 28 cylinder 72 litre radial piston engine and Piers has the only one in the UK. The Super Corsair was flown at Reno by Steve Hinton in the mid eighties but was destroyed in a crash in 1985 whist being flown by Kevin Eldridge who baled out and still races at Reno to this day. Due to its complexity and 56 spark plugs only 6 aircraft worldwide remain flying with R4360s. In the Breitling Hospitality Piers spent quite some time talking to Tom Dwelle, an ex Vietnam Vet pilot who owns a Hawker Sea Fury called Critical Mass. This aircraft is also depicted on Piers blade as it was probably one of the most striking looking aircraft to race at Reno. With 4 feet off each wing, racing canopy & tailplane together with a custom paintjob this aircraft really stood out. It was powered by a Wright R3350 55 litre Radial with nitrous oxide injection! Piers does not own one of these unfortunately........... Controversially Tom is restoring the aircraft to stock as the value of warbirds is so high. The accuracy of Piers work is such that he has even rendered the cartoon Taz on the engine cowl and he has captured the motion of the prop perfectly. All this on an image 20 cm wide. The last image on the prop is a portrait of Dwight Thorn, sadly no longer with us he is largely responsible for developing the Rolls Royce Merlin in a racing environment. Since the ‘50s in hydroplanes and later air racing the Merlins power output has gone from a stock 2000hp to over 3800hp in an aircraft like Dago Red. Ever vigilant on presentation Piers has designed the piece to sit on a bespoke rotating display base. It revolves at 2.5 rpm and is floor standing. In Total the piece took almost 150 hours to complete and all images are laid over the classic Reno pylon cheques in white & blue. Although the piece is for sale it is currently on loan to the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford run by John Romain. They are the worlds premier restorers of Spitfires and the prop proudly sits in the foyer.

You won't find an airbrush painter like this...
PDP: High end bespoke paint for Helmets & Custom Bikes in Great Britain. A business started by Piers Dowell in 1991 that runs with the motto ”it costs what it costs to make the job as good as we can make it”. A passion run on quality first and foremost.

Enth Degree: Exquisite customised pieces and fine art airbrushed to a level not available anywhere else in the world. A development of the hyper real mural work on Bikes Piers has perfected over 20 years and has a world wide reputation for. These pieces are unsurpassed in their quality and are totally unique.
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Piers Dowell Little Grafton, Bockleton,
Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire,
WR15 8PT

Tel: 01568 750477
[email protected]