What Is Aviation Art?

Aviation artists paint everything from World War I dogfights to future NASA missions. The variety of individuals who enter this field can range from war veterans to astronauts to hobbyist painters of all ages. Read on to learn more about the background, uses and exhibitions of this art form. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Aviation Art Defined

Aviation art is artwork in any medium that features air or space travel as the focal point of the work. Aviation art usually falls into one of three categories: outer space, historical or contemporary.

Illustrations in printed materials became popular and the art was used to convey the action of World War I battles to those at home. During World War II, aviation art played a key role in advertisements, magazine covers and military recruiting posters. Since that time, aviation art has expanded, fostered by both art enthusiasts and government initiatives.

Important Facts About Working in Aviation Art

Required Education None
Key Skills Artistic talent, attention to detail, ability to depict air- and spacecraft accurately, historical research skills
Similar Occupations Painter, illustrator, photographer
Work Environment Some aviation artists work for organizations like NASA and the U.S. military to illustrate publications or fulfill commissions
Median Salary (2018) $49,380 (for all fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 7% growth (for all fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Purpose and Goal of Aviation Art

As an artist creating historically accurate aviation art, you educate the public about actual events or entertain through your artistic rendering of classic aircraft in flight.

Outer space art, once considered futuristic, has become more common since space travel began. In this sub-genre of the aviation art field, you may use photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope or orbiting astronauts to depict scenes that many people will never see themselves.

Military and Government Uses

There are several military aviation museums that exhibit aviation artwork, including the United States Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama, and the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. The U.S. Air Force exhibits aviation art at several locations, including the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.

The NASA art program displays pieces at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and exhibits may travel to other museums around the country.

Other Forums for Aviation Art

Members of the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA) are both artists and fans of the genre. The group publishes the Aero Brush, a quarterly journal with articles by prominent aviation artists. In addition, the ASAA, in partnership with different commercial enterprises, funds annual international aviation art exhibits. Aviation museums around the country show these exhibitions, such as the San Diego Air & Space Museum in San Diego, CA, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah and Pooler, GA, and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Many states' departments of transportation participate in a themed youth aviation art contest sponsored by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and open to young people ages 6-17. Some museums, like the privately-owned Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, fund their own aviation art contests and exhibit the winning works.

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