Artist Aviator

Artist Aviator

“Once upon a time,” there was this little boy who had no idea what life had in store for him. Actually, there are a lot of little boys and girls arriving in the world with the same affliction. Most of us are afloat in the same boat;  we are “not of the Manor Born.”

There was one classmate of mine, beginning with my 4th grade at Edsel B. Ford Elementary through Roosevelt High School in the suburbs of Detroit, that had a mysterious influence on me for a very long period of my life. His name was David Bedell. He was quiet and kept very much to himself and had a gift for drawing pictures. He also didn’t do homework. In both regards he became my idol even though he wasn’t aware.

One of our early grade school teachers recognized his ability and asked him to draw a sailing ship on the blackboard in chalk. The picture he copied from a book onto the board was truly magical to me. I may have already possessed an artistic curiosity, which might be more to do with my yet to be discovered genetic string. But it was my witnessing his talent that stayed with me for most of my life. I wanted to be able to do what he did… that was the hook that stayed with me for so long. I of course was fond of his drawings of aircraft in combat, which he so willingly provided.

I often wondered what may have happened to my classmate after High School; was he an artist somewhere living the good life? Over the years I recall looking for his name in art publications, nada. I wasn’t to find out for another fifty years, when David suddenly surfaced for the first time at our High School Reunion.

In the intervening years Life Happened. What follows is a featured article taken from “The Artists Magazine” in August of 2002.

"Westbound, Direct Tucumcari"“Westbound Direct Tucumcari”

“Taking Flight”

By Loraine Crouch, associate editor for The Artists Magazine, August 2002

When Ron Hart retired from flying after 32 years, he discovered the perfect subject for his paintings­ airplanes. He combined his two great loves-flying and painting. Although he’s been an artist all his life, and a pilot nearly as long Hart never thought about painting planes until a few years ago. “When I was flying every day, I never had an interest in doing aviation art,” he says. But just before he retired, Hart painted a picture of an old Jenny (Jenny is the nickname for the earliest mass-produced American biplane) and entered it in the Pastel Society of America’s annual exhibition at the National Arts Club of New York. When he won an award, Hart felt he was on to something.

“I had no idea what was going on in aviation art,” says Hart. “It’s as if I’ve uncovered a manhole that’s leading me to all sorts of exciting tunnels. And I’m painting one of my greatest loves.” Each day, the Bend, Oregon, artist gets up and starts painting in his studio by 5 a.m. Although he has an archive of airplane photographs and engineering drawings of planes, as well as several model airplanes he uses for reference, Hart relies on his years in the air when it comes to painting the sky. “I’ve flown to just about every place in the world. I’ve experienced clouds firsthand,” he says. “I know about the light and moisture. I paint from my head.”

Working in pastels and more recently oils, Hart enjoys creating realistic planes among the abstract shapes of clouds as in Westbound Direct Tucumcari (above) and Oh Jenny Jenny (below). “I’m always playing,” he says of his process. He’s even started fixing old pastel paintings and then adding oils on top. But no matter what he’s working on, he begins with a detailed drawing. With pastel, he relies on an acrylic and pumice under painting to get the dark values in place. For example, in Westbound Direct Tucumcari he used gray, phthalo blue and ultramarine for his acrylic under painting and then added layers of pastel, working dark to light. Though he admits pastels have some limitations, particularly in terms of the number of layers you can add, Hart loves their spontaneity. “Painting with pastels you can be so expressive, so fast,” he says. “When I was flying, I didn’t have a lot of time to paint. Pastels helped me learn how to move color around the paper quickly.”

With a few years of formal training under his belt, Hart worked at art throughout his aviation career. And flying gave him the opportunity to spend time in the world’s best museums. Although he learned invaluable lessons from the masterworks he studied, Hart credits his many artist friends and mentors with continually helping him improve his work and push it to the next level. “Without these guys, I don’t know where I’d be,” he says. “I don’t care how much formal art education you have, unless someone is teaching you how to do art rather than about art, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

"Oh Jenny, Jenny"“Oh Jenny Jenny”

My former Classmate David Bedell, I found out, attended classes right out of high school at the Detroit Institute of Art, the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Also known as, The Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts. His attendance at the art school came to a screeching halt in 1961 when his dad was killed and he had to drop out of school to help support his family. He got a job as an illustrator with an advertising art studio on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

David said he grew restless and bored with the work and went back to school and earned a couple of degrees from Wayne State University in English (BA and MA). He was in the PhD program at WSU and had won a Rumble Doctoral Fellowship. A colleague got a position at the University of Michigan-Dearborn as Chair of the Writing Program for Engineers. She urged David to apply at UMD for the position as writing instructor. He did and taught writing, literature and technical communications there for many years.

Taken from a “rate your professor” website:

Bedell is a hilarious guy. If you are interested in science, technologies, or outdoorsy things you will have a lot to talk about with him. Super easy grader, and…  almost NO HOMEWORK!

I rest my case.


3 comments on “Artist Aviator”

  1. Claudia says:

    One never know who or what will have a lasting influence over their life. I’m glad to hear your path crossed with David’s later in life. I enjoyed this blog and your illustrations. Happy New Year, cuz.

  2. Buzz says:

    Enjoyable to read and to see where life took you.

    Well written also.

    Keep them coming

    Iam sure you have some good stories to tell about our times together.


    1. Ron says:

      Hi Buzz and thank you. Yes tracking the trail of chicken bones all the way to Montana would/will make a good story one day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: