Aviation Art: John Korellis on the “Colours and Markings of Hellenic Spitfires”

WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos, illustrations and drawings submitted by John Korellis and used by permission

An intriguing, yet rather obscure chapter of WW2 aircraft history is the “Greek” Spitfires, the legendary aircraft flown by the Royal Hellenic Air Force, either with British or with Greek colours and markings.

John Korellis and Tilemahos Panagiotidis are the authors and illustrators of a well researched book, recently published by MMPBooks titled “Colours and Markings of Hellenic Spitfires”.

This book is a reference for historians, researchers and scale modelers alike, who would like to dive into the history, the markings and the colours of the iconic WW2 aircraft.

www.ww2wrecks.com has reached out to Mr. John Korellis, to learn more on his book, his background and his interest on aviation art.

John, please tell us a bit on your background

“I was born in Athens, Greece and as far as I can remember drawing has always been my passion. According to my parents, I was responsible for baby graffiti on a freshly painted house wall – with a permanent marker no less! Needless to say they were not happy with my wall art… While in school, I continued to draw and fell in love with animation art. I diligently, watched a variety of animated TV shows and feature films and even dabbled in comic book creation.”

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“Still, an art career path wasn’t what my family expected as a serious professional endeavor so, it took me a while to decide what to study. Vacalo College in Athens, was my initial foray into the world of art and learned a great deal but animation was my ultimate goal.

That’s what lead me to study in CalArts which was founded by Walt and Roy Disney in Valencia, California. After graduating, I was very lucky to get a job as a storyboard artist and been doing that ever since. Basically, I get to visualize and illustrate written scripts with the director’s guidance. It’s been a wonderful journey so far as I had the opportunity to collaborate with many talented artists and storyboard a variety of animated commercials, TV shows and feature films.”

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What was your motive to start drawing aircraft profiles?
“Plastic aircraft modeling is my hobby and although I admire the wonderful box art each kit comes with, color profile views intrigued me the most. I guess the fact that they provide many marking and color ideas became a source of inspiration. It’s been about 3 years that I started dabbling in profile artwork as an experiment and learning new digital software techniques. Never thought it would become a serious project but as I studied and analyzed the design and stylistic approach to aircraft profiles, a new outlet of creativity came to fruition.”
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Which was your first aircraft profile?
“My very first profile was a Hellenic target towing Harvard Mk.IIb, based on some photos I had purchased. I kept it very simple, just outline and flat colors with no weathering or rivets – was going for aircraft decal style profiles which usually, aren’t as rendered as the ones you see in aircraft color and marking books. As with every artist, initial steps are just that and since then I continued to improve and refine the look and feel of my aircraft profile style.”
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 Are your works done by hand or digitally?
“While I always practice drawing by hand to keep my line quality loose, all my professional artwork whether for storyboarding or profiles is digital. For aircraft profiles, I start by examining factory plans as well as photos of the subject. Many details, especially with different versions of an aircraft have to be carefully, researched and identified as plans may not reveal everything.
You’d be surprised how many field modifications that are visible on photos do not have clear representation on plans or at least have not been archived by museum researchers yet. Beside museum research, being a member of many historical online forums have provided a wealth of information and is a must if you’re trying to be faithful to the aircraft subject you try to depict.”
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“Regarding the stylistic approach, I try to recreate a brush painted feel as if the profile was drawn and painted by hand – like painting and weathering a model airplane! I study and admire the work of many talented aviation artists but Masao Satake, Robert Grudzien, Karolina Hołda and Janusz Światłoń stand out.”
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Tell us a bit more on your book “Colours and Markings of Hellenic Spitfires”
“For the last 3 years, I’ve been working on a book examining color and markings of Hellenic Air Force Spitfires along with my good friend Tilemahos Panagiotidis, another Spitfire aircraft fan. During this time I have met many wonderful collaborators as well as Hellenic Air Force veterans, making the creative journey a fantastic experience.”
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“Hopefully, we can expand the book line-up down the road as many interesting photos have been discovered providing a wealth of information for the aircraft flown by Hellenic pilots. Additionally, I have written and illustrated articles for IPMS Hellas and APMA (Australian Plastic Modellers’ Association) magazines – the topics covered the use of target towing Harvards and brief general history of the Hellenic Air force during WWII.”
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“The elegant and graceful Spitfire is my favorite aircraft – just look at those curves! It has been flown by so many countries that there’s never a shortage of markings, emblems and colors you can paint it with. I have currently, drawn up to 100 profiles and that’s just for the Hellenic Air Force! Truly, an endless source of content and inspiration.”
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“As a professional production artist I always create what is required and needed – can’t be selective. But for personal art and especially aircraft profiles, I’m drawn to the historical background of the subject. Such information will always add further interest to explore, analyze and improve the drawing as you try to recreate an authentic look based on recorded facts. I guess as a storyboard artist I still try to find the story behind the aircraft subject I draw…”
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