Aircraft Paintings by Denis Pothan

Aircraft ArtI enjoyed art at school and hoped to get an apprenticeship as a signwriter when I left. One funny experience at school was doing a painting in water colours which the teacher rejected as they insisted it had been done in oils.

On leaving school there were no signwriting apprenticeships available so I took on a vehicle painting one instead. Luckily in the same building there was a retired coachpainter who taught me how to apply coachlines by hand to vehicles and how to wood grain, both of these arts are now almost non existant in New Zealand.

Part way through my apprenticeship I joined the Air Force in the Aircraft Finishing/Safety and Surface section where I completed my apprenticeship. Once I had qualified as a Master Tradesman (which covered everything from aircraft painting to packing parachutes) I gradually took over signwriting duties which was also the responsibility of the section, this covered any signage needed on base including designing and painting crests. Eventually I was signwriting full time.

During this time I also joined the local Jaycees and produced oil paintings which were sold to raise funds for the Marton IHC School.

On leaving the Air Force I stopped painting for many years but on a trip around the South Island the urge to paint again surfaced and I bought some equipment and paints in Blenheim. On returning home I started painting, again in oils, some of the scenes from the holiday including the Kingston Flyer and Cape Farewell. A friend suggested I use acrylic paints rather than oils and this has made a huge difference as the drying time is shorter and with limited time at my disposal I could finish a painting in a much quicker time.

Then the idea of painting planes from my era with the Air Force occurred to me and these have been very popular. Rather than sell the original of these paintings I have been selling limited edition prints (50 copies only) but have had several commissions from people wanting planes they flew with backgrounds of where they flew them. This is where the internet has come in very handy for finding the correct markings on the planes and background scenery, such as Mount Etna and the Auckland Harbour Bridge before the Clip-Ons were added.