The Arts Centre Gallery has an unusual exhibition of artwork this week. Alfred meets the Shaftesbury artist who specialises in painting aircraft.
“I am fascinated by aircraft,” said Patricia Forrest, this week’s exhibitor at Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s Gallery. Patricia has painted since she was a little girl. Her talent was spotted and she studied at the prestigious St Martins School of Art for four years, before spending three years at the Royal College of Art.
After first working as a graphic designer, Patricia moved on to depicting flowers and landscapes. Then a friend suggested that she should try painting pictures of aircraft. Her first aviation piece was sold as soon as it was entered into an exhibition in London.
Frank Wootton, a founder member of the Guild of Aviation Artists complimented Patricia on her work and that encouraged her to specialise in planes. She has now been made a vice president of the Guild. “I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m rubbing shoulders with some very important people,” Patricia laughed.
Patricia’s exhibition features a variety of aircraft, both military and commercial. Concorde featured on the first calendar she created for the RAF Charitable Trust, her employer for ten years. “I was asked to create thirteen paintings, one for the cover and one for each month, to tell the story of Concorde,” she said.
Her exhibition at the Bell Street gallery features the iconic supersonic airliner flying above a snowy landscape. “Apparently, it sold more copies as a Christmas card than any other they’ve sold,” she said.
There is a theme running through her work. “It’s mainly British aircraft,” Patricia said. “One year, when I had to produce a calendar for the Battle of Britain, I had to paint some German aircraft. But the calendar went down really well and I sold nearly all the paintings as well, whether they were British or German planes,” said Patricia.
“I have done so many paintings. I was producing between 20 and 30 a year for the RAF Charitable Trust. I couldn’t exhibit them all, so they were just put in a drawer. But they paid me for the privilege of painting them and putting them into print.”
Spitfires, Lancasters and Short Sunderlands prove popular subjects with art buyers, Patricia said. “Funnily enough, I haven’t got any in the show because the ones that I’ve done have been sold,” she explained.
“I paint fairly photographically because people want realism,” said Patricia. “Beautiful landscapes and beautiful cloudscapes are very important to me. I think if I can get something interesting, whether it is an aerial view or looking up from the ground, it is very important.”
Patricia finds that her paintings sometimes appeal to couples for different reasons. “In a lot of cases, husbands are happy to have the aircraft and equally the wives like the landscape. A favourite painting of mine is a poppy scene with a Lancaster.” That painting was called ‘Lest We Forget’.
In March this year, Patricia was invited to RAF Marham in Norfolk to see the new F-35. “I was very proud to go. We were flown there in a Piper Warrior and shown all over the place. We met the Wing Commander and I presented him with a painting of Operation Chastise – ‘The Dam Busters’. Most people paint the dropping of the bombs over the dam. My painting was set over Holland and featured three Lancasters flying very low. I was going to put it into the Guild of Aviation Artists exhibition in 2018, then I discovered that 617 Squadron was being reformed, the Dam Busters squadron. I thought that I’d rather give them my painting,” she said.
Patricia has lived in Shaftesbury since 2013 and she has occasionally painted aircraft flying over the local landscape. “Once I was commissioned to paint the view from Compton Abbas. I also painted the Tiger Moth,” she said.
Patricia’s art brings visitors to the gallery who might not normally browse a display. “I attract aviation enthusiasts. A gentleman who was in just half an hour ago said he’s coming back again because he’s an absolute enthusiast about aviation. We do get some interesting people.”
Patricia’s exhibition is being held at Shaftesbury Arts Centre Gallery until Tuesday, 20th August.