Flight has changed our perception of the world. Keith Ferris has changed our perception of the world of aviation in his paintings.
The Art of Keith Ferris pulls the viewer into, over, under and in airplanes dating back to the 1930's. An early fascination with the airframe and engine that make flight possible allowed Ferris to create an adventure for all to enjoy.
Keith Ferris started out drawing planes as a child in the 1930's. His father, Carlisle Ferris, was an instructor that taught basic fighter maneuvers at Kelly Field, Texas. "My world was one of excitement permeated with the aroma of airplane dope and gasoline," said Ferris. He started out to describe these aircraft with more than just words - he began with modeling and drawing. From an age of four or five, Ferris used Boeing P-12s, Curtiss A-3s , Douglas O-2s and O-38's of the U.S. Army Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly as his first models.
Ferris enthusiastically modeled airplanes in pencil and began building them in miniature called "scratch built" solid models from balsa wood. This was a perfect training ground for visualizing aircrafts in three-dimension. His attention to detail, fascination with structure and the association of aerodynamic form with function all date back to this time in his development as an artist.
Because his father moved often with the Air Force, Ferris was able to see different types of planes, collect many types of flight manuals and work with various station's photo labs. He always knew that his career would be in a military flying machine. Texas A&M was the natural choice for a young man entering in the Air Force but soon after entering the Flying Cadet Program he learned that his life's job was not to be. A medical condition would force his out of a career he had dreamt of forever. But that summer, he had taken a part-time job that would change his dream. He was an art trainee with the Air Force Training Publications Unit at Randolph. This was a Civil Service position where he would meet his new inspiration - Jo Kotula.
After leaving Texas A&M, Ferris returned to the Art Department of the Training Publications Unit headed by Mr. E.E. (Bud) Dallmann - a man later to be the individual that had the greatest influence on Ferris' art career. Now he had a new mission - to become an artist.
Ferris' career was not a straight line - it took many unexpected turns on the way to what is today a career that includes 21 paintings in the Collection for the Air Force Art Program. Ferris attended George Washington University and Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. Then the art of Frank Wootton was introduced and had a great impact on Ferris. His book, How To Draw Planes, showed Ferris just what truths were to be learned in this specialized field of art and is still a "cherished possession".
Ferris had many jobs along the way to support his family - all preparing him to become acquainted with every facet of art that he would need to draw his own place in aviation history. Whether a manager for a St. Louis art studio, an avid modeler as a hobby or an advertising creator in black and white ads for aviation, Ferris honed skills that would lead him back to his first love - the Air Force.
In 1960, Ferris became a member of the Society of Illustrators. This New York professional artist society brought flying into focus and allowed Ferris to get back to the "excitement and dedication that is the United States Air Force." Through this program, artists were able to fly missions anywhere in the world in exchange for donating their time and talents - to the art collection. The Air Force Art Collection now contains over 5,600 paintings and other works of art donated by more than 900 participating artists. Ferris has over 21 in the Collection at present.
"Best of all, I could fly! And perhaps by documenting flight, I have found a way to serve my country after all."