USAIr 767 side profile

As I mentioned in my recent post about the Piedmont 767-200 illustration, I couldn’t help but to do this polished aluminum USAir version at the same time. It’s certainly not a very exciting airline and aircraft combination, but I was feeling somewhat of a nostalgic vibe at the time and I jumped at the opportunity to create another classic livery for my archives. And it just so happens to be that it was USAir that bought out Piedmont in 1989 (and American Airlines bought out USAir/USAirways last year), so now I’ve got the complete set of 767-200 illustrations from this series of related mergers.

As far as airline liveries go, there isn’t much to this classic scheme. Created by SBG Partners and unveiled in 1989 (right after the Piedmont merger), it’s got all the lines, colors, and simplicity of something dreamed up in the heart of the 1980s. I was able to apply it to my polished aluminum 767-200 template fairly quickly, and as matter of fact, this may have been the easiest livery recreation that I’ve ever done! This kind of simplicity is very much appreciated after spending so much time on some of the others in my collection. It all balances out in the end, I guess.

Unfortunately, I don’t have very fond memories of USAir. They suffered a series of unfortunate (and careless) mishaps back in the 1990s that were pretty scary to read about, and to make matters worse, this was the preferred airline for the company that I worked for starting in 1996. I didn’t mind the business travel associated with that job, but having to fly USAir really deflated my sense of adventure and excitement for each trip. Thankfully I survived!

cathay pacific 747-400 side view

There are very few airline liveries out there that I like more than Cathay Pacific. Arguably one of the finest airlines in the sky, their corporate branding is subtle and classy in a way that makes me compare everyone else in the industry to them – and I’m cringing at the thought of it ever changing. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me like it so much, but you know that I’m a fan of muted colors, and the Cathay Pacific palette has been designed exactly the way I would have done it myself. Clean, classy, and professional without being over the top.

Although they operate a huge fleet of different aircraft types, I decided to do my first illustration of this livery on an airplane that is no longer part of their fleet: the 747-400. This is the aircraft I think of whenever I think of Cathay Pacific, which (for years) was the backbone of their global operations. If you have flown Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong at any time in the past 20 years, there’s a pretty good chance you got a ride on a 747-400.

As far as creating the livery goes, this one was pretty straightforward and easy to replicate. The “wing” logo on the vertical stabilizer gave me some heartburn for a bit as I tried to get it properly proportioned and positioned, but otherwise, there weren’t any major issues. I wish it was always that easy, because some of these livery illustrations are far more complicated than I care to admit!

United Airlines 737-900 "One Hundred"

It’s hard to believe the that the Boeing 737 is over 40 years old and it is still one of the best-selling commercial aircraft available at the moment. Of course the 737 of today is vastly superior to the 737 from 1969, but still – the fact that Boeing has managed to get so many years out of a single airframe is downright amazing. There aren’t many other products in this world that have had that much staying power.

And that leads me to this illustration of a United Airlines version of the -900 series – the newest (and largest) 737 from Boeing. I’ve already told you my thoughts on the current United livery, but I’ll say it again: they really need to separate from these colors to help project themselves as a new and different company. Taking the old Continental livery, removing the titles, and then slapping “United” on the forward part of the fuselage was an ok “temporary” solution after the two airlines merged, but they’ve really got to get past that and create a new brand from scratch.

There have been a lot of new re-branding efforts in the airline industry recently (the new American Airlines livery looks great), so it probably wouldn’t hurt them to take a chance and do something different. But I’ll just leave it at that.

This particular illustration depicts a very special aircraft in the UA fleet. It’s the “One Hundred” airframe, meaning that it’s dedicated to 100 exceptional employees (as voted by their peers) who go above and beyond. The markings for this are subtle, with a small decal next to the main titles on the fuselage, as well as a plaque mounted inside that is visible upon boarding.

Piedmont Airlines Boeing 767-201/ER

Sometimes whenever I start working on a project, I get really into it and end up doing a lot more than originally intended. These Boeing 767-200 illustrations are a perfect example of that. My primary reason for creating a 767-200 template was so that I could render up one with Delta’s old widget livery – one of the best looking airline liveries of all time if you ask me. But once I finished, I thought that it would be cool to do one for American Airlines in their polished aluminum scheme. And if I was going to do that, I thought that I might as well create at TWA version too. But that’s when I really started getting nostalgic, finding myself in Photoshop laying the colors for Piedmont Airlines onto another copy of my blank template. Oh – and I almost forgot that there was a USAir version created somewhere in between all that as well, which I’ll post it up on the blog soon.

The silly part? All of this happened in one 24 hour period. Sometimes my drive to create gets the best of me and it’s difficult to let go of what I’m working on.

Anyway, back to this Piedmont 767 rendering. Piedmont Airlines was a small(ish) US airline based out of Winston-Salem North Carolina founded in 1948, and they eventually merged with USAir in 1989. I personally found it interesting that that they were solidly a US domestic airline with mostly short-range flights, but they did operate one single international route from Charlotte to London (Gatwick) utilizing Boeing 767-200 aircraft. Kind of an odd route for such a niche airline.

My illustration above is an exact representation of one of those 767’s. As with all aircraft liveries of the 1980’s, it sports a super-cool cheatline intersecting the windows right through the middle of the fuselage. Too bad we never got to see this brand evolve, as I do like their brand colors and logo quite a bit.

Long live the cheatlines!

red and white TWA 767 drawing

Here in the US, there aren’t many airlines that have as much history as TWA (Trans World Airlines). They started flying way back in 1925, and lasted all the way until 2001 when they merged with American Airlines. That’s a long time – certainly longer than most of the other airlines flying around in the US today. That said, I’ve only flown with them 5 times – all of that in their last months of 2001 before disappearing from the skies for good. I wish that I could have experienced them in the late 70’s to early 80’s (arguably their “prime” years) just to see what they were really like. There’s just something about the thought of being served freshly-carved roast from a tray while sitting in a paisley first class seat from STL to LAX (or LHR, or FRA, or….wherever) that gets this aviation geek excited. Hey – I love this kind of stuff!

As far as an airline goes, I remember them as being an old (crusty?) established brand. They certainly weren’t known for being a flashy airline and their corporate branding was quite stiff if you ask me. No flashy colors, supermodel stewardesses, or gimmicky products – just a solid, world class airline serving destinations all around the globe.

Their liveries did nothing to convey the opposite, as most of them were safe and sterile – including the version I’ve illustrated above. This was their second to last livery, with the last one unveiled only a few short years before their death. But this one is my favorite. Nothing screams “1980’s” more than thick red stripes running down the side of a white fuselage – it totally reminds me of the A-Team van (with different colors obviously), and I swear I can hear Wham or Madonna playing in the background. Its way cheesy. And I love it.

Southwest 737-700 side view

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Southwest Airlines have always had bold liveries that have drawn attention. The original “mustard rocket” colors were unlike anything else in the air at that time, and the current blue, yellow, and orange get-up is in a league of it’s own as well. So yeah – the designer in me naturally gives them a lot of credit for bucking the trend and doing something different than most of the other airlines (who prefer stark-white fuselages with small splashes of color here and there).

I’ve been putting off illustrating a Southwest 737 for a long time and wouldn’t you know it, soon after I finished it,  Southwest threw everyone a curve ball with the announcement of a brand new livery which placed more emphasis on the “Southwest” titles. That means I’ve got to play catch-up now and illustrate a version of that one. That’s the trouble with doing airliner art – the industry moves fast and it will never be possible for one person to draw them all. At least I have something to keep me busy until I die…

Really though, I’m not bugged by it. I actually like documenting the old airliner liveries the most, and since I eventually plan on creating renderings of every single Southwest color scheme, this means one less I’ll have to do later on. The mustard rocket colors are most interesting to me though, so you’ll likely see that one first.

DL 767-200

As a child of the 80’s, the iconic Widget livery is the one that I think defines Delta Airlines. I can recall with great clarity the advertisements in newspapers and magazines featuring photos and illustrations of Delta L-1011’s and 767’s (just like this one), and I had scrapbooks full that stuff. So yeah – this widget livery is burned into my brain pretty good. The current livery just isn’t even on the same level, IMHO.

As far as the illustration goes, I there were a couple areas that ended up being more difficult than I had planned them to be. First was the exposed aluminum section on the bottom half of the fuselage. This is a highly-polished section of the airplane in real life, and the reference photos I used to make this illustration showed that it was highly reflective and mirrored whatever was underneath it at the time. It’s difficult to replicate that effect when rendering these over white backgrounds (because there’s nothing to reflect other than white), so I had to take a bit of artistic liberty and render it a bit more generic than I would have preferred. The other issue was the typeface for “DELTA” – in real life, it was not the same on both the tail and on the fuselage. Interesting! But a royal pain in the butt…it took me a bit of time to realize this and make these titles look like they should.

Anyway, most of the airliner art I’ve created so far have been depictions of current airlines and aircraft, so it was fun to take a step back in time and create a true “classic”. It was so much fun that I did a few more on the 767-200 – so stay tuned for those.

mercedes 300sl line art

I was a car-drawing machine when I was 10 years old, and by the time I turned 18 I was getting pretty good at it – as a matter of fact, I even started college with the intention of becoming a car designer. My freshman year was all about cars, but I found the work that the product design students were doing to be really interesting – enough so that it ultimately persuaded me to change focus. Despite that change, my passion for cars has never fizzled over the years.

In mid 2011, I set a personal goal to get back to drawing cars (by hand) as much as possible. Automotive art can be a beautiful thing with varied pencil strokes, subtle gradients, and hard reflections – none of which can be captured so artistically in a computer-generated 3d rendering. It had been years since I had put pen to paper and actually created art, so the desire was strong to get back to the basics and learn how to draw all over again.

The good news is that I’ve been sticking with it, drawing and sketching cars between meetings and late at night. I’m still not anywhere as good as I want to be – but I’m pushing on knowing that it’s going to take years to master. In the meantime, I’ve decided to start posting some of this automotive art here on the blog.

First up is a vector line drawing of a Mercedes Benz 300sl – one of the most beautifully designed cars ever IMHO. Deciding to draw this out was a bit of a spontaneous thing, as I was just browsing a car forum one night and I saw that someone had posted a picture of this beautiful Mercedes. I just had to draw it!

Creating the line work for my car illustrations is actually the easy part for me. I start by sketching it out by hand (using SketchBook Pro), export it to Illustrator to do the vector line work, and then I bring that into Photoshop to render it. It’s the rendering part that I feel like I still suck at.

It ended up being a lot more sloppy than I would have preferred, but the only way I’m going to get better is to keep practicing. If you want the vector source file for the line drawing posted at the top of this post, you can get it by clicking here.