The South African Guild of Aviation

Where Artists Soar

Where Artists Soar The South African Guild of Aviation, Military and Maritime Artists

Text: Juanita Benade
Photographs: SA GAMMA members

Whether the pen – or the brush – is indeed mightier than the sword will eventually only be determined by the course of history.

Nonetheless, the South African Guild of Aviation, Military and Maritime Artists (SA GAMMA) harnesses each and every “weapon of mass creativity” in its quest to depict combatants and their devices, whether in war or peace. Established in 2014 under the wing of the Zwartkop Scale Modellers at the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum, Zwartkop, the Guild took flight with only a handful of artists. Its goal is to reach a broader civil society by means of artistic expression to the benefit of the SAAF Museum and other Special Interest Groups, whilst providing a specialty artistic resource to individuals, public and corporate entities alike. Barely three years and several exhibitions later, SA GAMMA’s membership has grown significantly, including artists in various South African cities and even abroad. Under the leadership of its current chairman, Theo Burden, the Guild has advanced to become an independently recognised SA Air Force Museum Special Interest Group (SIG) all the while continuing to gain public visibility. This diverse group of individuals share a common interest in aviation, military and maritime subjects, allowing for each artist’s distinct style and niche to be expressed within the broader genre. Its members’ pursuits range from original paintings to fine art prints, sketches, commissioned artworks as well as corporate gifts and the like. Many of SA GAMMA’s artists can be met in person during the Guild’s monthly exhibitions – courtesy of the Windsock Restaurant – at the Zwartkop SAAF Museum Flying Days. Other members living further away or abroad can be contacted via the South African Guild of Aviation, Military and Maritime Artists facebook group or on the artists’ personal pages. Randomly listed, the Guild’s official members currently include the following artists as introduced below:

Theo (on the right) in conversation
with visitors to the Guild, discussing his
Spitfire aviation artworks

SA GAMMA’s chairman Theo Burden closely liaises with the SA Air Force Museum, Zwartkop, other Special Interest Groups and corporate entities. He was one of the Guild’s founding members.As artist and scale modeller Theo’s main interest has always been Spitfires and he focusses currently on scale modelling.

On the far right,
Janine at one of SA GAMMA’s exhibitions.

Janine-Marie van den Heever is a multi-disciplinary artist, with qualifications in Jewellery Design and Manufacture.
She specialises in crafts and other artefacts, with her works including a series of Harvard-themed coasters available from the Harvard Club situated at the Zwartkop Air Force Base, or on order directly from herself.

Don with his painting of
SAAF Spitfire Mk-IXe AX-K 5553 in support of the Spitfire Restoration Programme

The Port Elizabeth SAAF Museum is the proud custodian of the Don Bell Art Gallery. He supports the Spitfire Restoration Programme and is a passionate volunteer at the PE SAAF Museum. This milieu provides input and stimulation for his aviation artworks, rendered in pencil or oil paints as his media of preference. Decades of experience in the architecture, advertising, graphic design, illustration and commercial art industries dictates his commitment to client satisfaction. He is available for commissions with executions in mixed media, water colours or pen in addition to oil painting and pencil artworks.

Young visitors at SA GAMMA hang on every word
as Marthie shares her love for the SAAF Museum and art with them

Marthie Vorster Breet is an accomplished painter, sculptor and sign writer with a profound love for teaching.
She created a number of remarkable maritime artworks alongside aviation subjects and supports various SAAF Museum Special Interest Groups with striking sign writing projects.

Adding another original piece to his extensive personal collection, Lt. Col. Heinrich Janzen (left) receives his painting from Andre, the creator of this Sunderland artwork.

Born in 1955, Andre du Plessis served in the Rhodesian Air Force between 1975 and 1979. Accordingly his main interest is aviation art, yet he enjoys depicting military and maritime themes as well. Working in a wide range of media – from digital art to oils, acrylics, pencil and aquarelle pencils – Andre teaches art in Pretoria with a focus on traditional materials and techniques. Being passionate about art, he views it as an opportunity to serve the Lord. His goal is to paint prolifically and complete at least one painting a month.

Carol at a SA GAMMA exhibition, next to her artworks executed in acrylic paint, water colours and dry point respectively.

Carol Thomas is a keen pioneer of new techniques and artistic approaches, experimenting with watercolours, inks and pastels.
Her paintings and handmade dry point prints predominantly explore the domain of World War II aircraft, with her father’s stories from his years as a youngster living in war-torn London serving as inspiration. She works within the aviation industry (information technology) and in addition to aviation artworks also paints wildlife and landscapes.

At work in his studio, Darryl holds one of his World War 1 aviation artworks.

The renowned and admired South African artist Darryl Legg joined the Guild recently. With a general interest in marine and military subjects, he specialises in aviation art. Working as a full time professional artist, his love for aircraft developed from aero-modelling as a youngster. His medium of choice is acrylic on canvas, executed in an evocative photorealistic technique. Both his parents are artists, with his father, Gordon Legg (a water colourist) being the greatest inspiration for Darryl to pursue art as a career.  Darryl has a high regard for the aviation artworks of Roy Huxley and Michael Turner.

In process: an oil painting by Lynn. This work has since been completed and can be viewed at SA GAMMA exhibitions.

A new and poignant series on Prisoner-of-War camps are to see the light within the near future under the brush of Lynn Greyling.
Working predominantly in oils and studying at the Creative School for art under Elsa and John Blem since 1992, Lynn’s artworks were featured in a private exhibition in the Paul-Jacques in 2014. Her portfolio includes wildlife, equine, military and aviation artworks.

As a South African living in Taiwan,
John’s artworks reflect both his roots
and future alike.

John Ecclestone (aka Cappie) comes from a family with a long line of military history and he served in the SA Army as an Infantry Officer until 2011, in both the Regular Force and Reserve Force.
Being a self-taught artist, he works in various media. This includes commemorative military digital artworks, design, Chinese Shuǐmòhuà (水墨畫) or sumi-e in Japanese (water ink painting), panpastel, watercolour and acrylic paint. He currently resides in Taiwan and continues his studies in the oriental art forms as well as compiling art lessons for young students.

Juanita presents a
military pencil portrait demonstration
at one of the Guild’s exhibitions.

Believing that everyone has a story to tell, Juanita Benade finds the discovery of the veiled humanity behind each and every new work captivating. The challenge is to express this personal narrative alongside the historical and contemporary significance rendered within the work. She enjoys the technically demanding nature and precision required to execute portraits, military and aviation artworks.
Some of her career highlights include the front-page feature of a research article on the South African-born World War 1 fighter ace Captain Douglas John Bell, as well as the accompanying commissioned artwork published in the January 2018 edition of the RADAR Magazine, Royal Air Force Museum, United Kingdom.

The success of SA GAMMA depends on each member contributing his / her particular set of skills in order to benefit the SAAF Museum and Guild, with new initiatives being launched constantly.

Visitor’s enthusiasm and participation in
projects remain the wind beneath
SA GAMMA’s wings

Between 24 October and 19 November 2018, the Guild is to exhibit at theBrooklyn Theatre (CANSA Art Gallery), with the opening event on the morning of 27 October 2018 at 10h30. Another project is an exciting ongoing public participation painting. Here, members of the public get their hands dirty, experiencing painting in oils at the SA Air Force Museum Zwartkop Flying Days during the Guild’s monthly meetings.
To obtain more information on projects, events and members’ artworks, visit the Guild’s Facebook page at: .



Readers are invited to join SA GAMMA’s competition for young upcoming artists and students! Win a year free of membership as well e-tutoring sessions with artist John Ecclestone. SA GAMMA Competition – Terms and Conditions
1) The competition is open to all young upcoming artists and students below the age of 25 years.
2) Submit photographs of two of your artworks within the Aviation, Military and/or Maritime genre (the exact subject matter and medium is participant’s own choice).
3) Submit a short paragraph of about 100 words about yourself and on why you would like to join SA GAMMA.
4) Submissions must be sent to: on or before 31 April 2018.
5) The winner will be announced on SA GAMMA’s facebook page:
6) The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

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