By Larry W. Bledsoe
Recognized as a master “storyteller,” James Dietz, aviation artist, tells a story with his paintbrush.
A good example of this is “Shooting Star,” which shows an early female aviator in front of her brightly colored Curtis JN-4 Jenny (Our cover picture). The Jenny, one of the first mass-produced aircraft, was used to train thousands of American pilots for World War I service. After the war, since it was readily available and cheap, barnstormers used it to give rides and put on daring air shows.
Most of Dietz’ paintings deal with World War I.
“I’m totally fascinated and enthralled by that period of time,” he said. Dietz constantly reads about the planes, the times, the costumes, the vehicles, the weaponry, and the people. His knowledge of that short span of time is extensive, and his use of that knowledge is apparent in his paintings.
The 94th Aero Squadron, made famous by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and other aces, was known as the “hat in the ring” squadron, due to the squadron emblem emblazoned on the sides of their aircraft. Dietz provides a close-up view of this emblem on a Nieuport 28 in his painting “Aces.”
In his painting “Mud in Your Eye,” Dietz shows an upended Sopwith Camel from the American 148th Squadron. Since combat damage and mechanical breakdowns were common in WWI, incidents such as this scene were not unheard of.
Dietz said that with his training and work as an illustrator in the New York market, he developed the ability to construct believable scenes that conveyed a brief story, with a believable situation, secondary readings, interesting composition and tight technique.
“I usually try to carve out a story situation to paint, then, with an idea firmly in hand, I ‘people’ it with characters and props to make it work effectively,” he said.
Regardless of the period or what is being depicted, Dietz is as meticulous in his research for his commissioned work as he is for the ones he does for his own walls. For example, the painting “To the Victor” depicts a forward Royal Air Force airfield in the summer of 1940. Pilots lounge around the ready shack, waiting for a call to scramble; Spitfires close by are ready for action. On this day, one of the aviators is blessed with an attractive visitor. Her highly polished red MG TA is a classic today, but then it represented the carefree spirit of young fighter pilots and confident young women who were helping with the war effort. An English hunting dog expectantly looks for some attention.
Dietz is recognized as a master artist in automotive art and military art, as well as aviation art. While he is totally fascinated with the first 20 years of the last century, which is demonstrated by his depth of knowledge of that period, he is also much in demand for World War II combat scenes.
A 1964 graduate of the Art Center College of Design, since then, Dietz, who lives in Seattle, Wash. (USA), with his wife Patti, has been a proficient artist and illustrator in film, book, and advertising.
James Dietz’ artwork can be obtained from Bledsoe’s Aviation Art. To order, please call (909) 986-1103.