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  • Writer's pictureIllya Sobtchak

Interview with PEG Vintage

Bomber Nose Art is something of a new area for me, it is something I was aware of, but never knew the background to, but upon coming across this posts interviewee I was interested to delve further and find out about the young 'men', often still in their teens who were drafted in to serve for their country, and who wanted to express their individuality, a call for familiarity and to show courage in the face of death. Each piece whether painted on planes, ships or clothing often depicted scantly clad babes, caricatures of Native Americans or cartoon characters carrying bombs amongst other subjects which were mostly not very PC in our current society, but then when is War ever about being PC?

It is an interesting psychological coping mechanism us humans have, to be able handle the most awful atrocities and still in midst of all this turbulence have a need to express our experiences and rebel against the higher ups; these customisations to military assets were not officially approved of, but the regulations against them were not enforced, most likely unifying the crews giving the men the morale boost they much needed.

Ed Anthony (aka Peg Vintage) is someone who is fascinated by the history of Bomber Art and is carefully recreating and crafting such works for both his own jackets and for his clientèle.

Having a background in art, has given Ed the perfect foundation to be able to reproduce WW2 artwork as well creating custom pieces.

It's been a pleasure getting to know Ed, and I hope the readers will enjoy finding out a little bit more about his experiences and motivations.

Ed Anthony in a custom hand painted G1 bomber jacket.

How did you get into something so niche as painting bomber art on jackets?

This really all started with my love for vintage fashion.

I’ve been collecting vintage pieces from the 1940’s/50s on and off for the last 8 years now, but have always been fascinated by the clothes of that period. There was just so much style and effortless cool in the fashions of that era.

I remember watching the film Memphis Belle back in the late 90’s, and this was my first real introduction to bomber nose art.

Seeing these heavy bombers, roaring engines, brightly adorned illustrations painted on the sides of the fuselages, and the intricately hand painted artworks on the backs of the leather flying jackets blew me away. They were such bold statements and they left a lasting impression.

It wasn’t until around 2 years ago though that I started to dabble with painting on jackets. I have a background in art and design - so experimenting with recreating the vintage bomber art felt like a natural thing to do.

After painting numerous patches I started to experiment with painting directly onto vintage A2 and US Navy G1’s. I posted my work on my IG account and it’s drummed up a fair bit of interest which is positive.

Flying Circus 'King of the Heavies' The 380th Bombardment Group

What are the main inspiration for your work?

I’m inspired by the original jackets and, more specifically, by the stories that lie behind each artwork illustration. Each insignia tells a personal story, creating identity and individuality. Whatever the type of bomber or fighter, the campaign, the mission, these crews all shared a common denominator which was to solidify the bomber crews to their warbird. Nose art was a real morale booster and gave hope in a time when human losses were extremely high, knowing that tomorrow may be their last. It’s just so loaded.

I have also been collecting books on the art of bomber painting and now have quite an extensive research library. This is amazing for inspiration when painting my own jackets and patches.

Hand Painted Patches

How does leather compare to other formats to work with?

I very much enjoy painting on most leather types. Cow and horsehide for me is bar far the smoothest and most robust and allows the paint to go a very long way. Goatskin can be tricky because of the uneven textured surface.

I have recently been dabbling with canvas, denim and heavy weight sweat fabric which is an entirely different kettle of fish to paint on. It can be tricky and requires much more prep time.

When painting on fabric there is much more to think about regarding the paint thickness, colour saturation and bleed. It definitely is less forgiving and once a mistake is made, it’s very hard to go back. Whereas leather, you can just wipe it clean before it sets and re apply.

I believe it’s important to experiment with a wide variety of specialist paints and materials to broaden the spectrum. It keeps things very fresh for me whether you’re painting on leather, fabric, timber, glass etc. Each material and paint reacts differently and each present their own challenge which I very much enjoy.

USAAF 529th Bomb Squadron

Why do you think people still seek out artists like yourself to customise their clothing?

We live in the age of mass production, with cheap disposable fast fashion at our doorstep.

There is a growing backlash against this though and as a result we are seeing a resurgence of interest in craft based specialisms. People want something unique, a ‘one off' that is tailored to the individual.

There is a lot of skill involved in this niche art form and so it appeals to people who want something different.

I like to draw a direct correlation to getting a tattoo. It can be a very personal statement either subtle or extremely bold but catered to that individual. To me there is no difference with personalising jackets.

When painting onto various leathers and fabrics mistakes and imperfections can happen that can actually enrich the artwork. Those unique imperfections in the paintwork are sometimes favoured over a digital or mass produced screen print. It’s about the human touch that people can directly relate too.

It’s not cheap and you are paying for the skill but also a quality investment that can last a life time if looked after.

USAAF 93rd Bomb Squadron 'Suzy Q'

Which bomber artists have inspired you?

The first bomber art I was exposed to resembled playful cartoon characters brightly adorned over the noses of the fuselages of the aircraft. These illustrations were unmistakably by Walt Disney and his talented team of artists that produced over 1200 different artwork insignias for the US air force but also allied forces, Navy, Army etc.

Walt Disney had 5 full time artists working non-stop for five years producing well know cartoon illustrations which included many of the iconic Disney characters we all know today, but also new characters such as the Seabees and flying tigers to name a few.

Alberto Vargas, responsible for the creation of the ‘Varga Girls’ and Phil Brinkman for his figurative, but also famed Zodiac signs are also two standouts for me. They were responsible for some of the most iconic ‘pin-up’ nose art. Although not so PC in this day and age, their figurative work is very technical and exquisitely executed.

Mathew Ferguson was a Canadian nose artist who was highly celebrated and well known for his work in WW2. He painted on many different types of aircraft and also unit insignias, ordinance and jackets.

Contemporaries such as Clarence Simonsen, who has been practising the art form for over 50 years now, and has brought out a number of specialist books on the subject.

It is also worth noting there were many untrained artists amongst the ranks as trained artists were like gold dust. Flight and ground crews who had some technical ability would either replicate famous/iconic works or come up with their own designs personal to the crew.

USAAF 384th Bomb Group 'Wots Cookn Doc'

Is there any brands you would love to collaborate with?

Would be great to do a collab with Nigel Cabourn as have always admired his collections and has been a big source of inspiration to me for many years now.

Possibly a collab involving very limited edition runs of hand painted garments with reference to nose art or some type of vintage illustration/insignia, I’m open to suggestions!

Nigel Cabourn potrait by Ed Anthony

Ed will be having an exhibition of his works hosted at Hang Up Vintage on the the 26th September 2019.

If you would like to contact him for any works you can reach him via Instagram @p.e.g_vintage

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