Peter van Stigt is a civilian aviation artist whose designs were already used for 2 special celebration tails for the Dutch 312th & 323rd squadrons. He has been working in the advertising business for years now, designing logo's and housestyles.
F-16.net: How did you get into the business of painting fighter aircraft? Does this have something in relation to your background? In short, tell us what you do for a living?
Peter: I started out as an advertising artist, producing images of just about anything one can find in this world. From childhood I collected everything concerning aviation. At one stage I reached the point that I just wanted to produce things that I liked personally. That's when aviation and my artwork were combined into my 'aviart'. I never hoped or dreamed of a design of mine flying on the tail of a jet fighter though. Let alone the most beautiful of all: the Viper. As life follows its natural course, it came to me instead of the other way around. Back in 1996 the PR Officer of 312 sqn/RNlAF popped the big question and I proceeded from there. As far as the 'Dirty Diana' tail of 323 sqn is concerned, that was bootlegged by two creative crewchiefs using an 1992 T-shirt design of mine. For this they never got in touch with me. Afterwards we cleared the skies and since then we keep contact with me designing some new motifs right now. I never actually painted the tails themselves, just provided the designs.
F-16.net: How did you get in touch with the RNlAF?
Peter: I was in touch with a glider pilot who told me his brother was posted at 312 sqn as a nugget Viper pilot. The latter's name was Harry 'Slinger' van Hulten and he was PRO at the time, together with Hans 'Color' Groenink. They wanted to pick up the dozed in 312-PR for real and found me through Harry's brother. Harry is still flying Vipers, on the edge for the RNLAF Test Group I believe. Hans is flying huge 747 buses for KLM. So my contacts were always on squadron level.
F-16.net: Where do you get the inspiration to start such an assignment? How does such a (thinking) process work?
Peter: First of all it's like seed that's growing silently in your head. After that you might sit on your couch with the TV on, armed with a small note PAD and pencil. Best ideas come late at night when you're tired and susceptible to emotions. A back breaker when you're trying to sleep because the mind is in top gear. After a few thumbnails you go sketch for real, produce a scale drawing of both tail sides and mold the design into them.
F-16.net: You've been painting tails up untill now? Never thought of doing something bigger, like an entire airframe?
Peter: That almost came to fruit. But sometimes it's not what you can do but who you know in order to get that break. I have been designing 8 complete airshow liveries on the Viper. The PRO at that time - Richard 'Tomba' Buijs - was selected to become the RNlAF F-16 solo display pilot. However, he wanted to know how far the Headquarters were willing to go in facilitating the demo. As evidenced by Viper #J-016, very far. HQ knew a guy - a former air force officer - who ran his own design studio: Baseline. So I was side-tracked and went out of touch. #J-016 is still flying with this, in my opinion, very beautiful livery, in the hands of 322-323 sqn. After the notorious 'Vodafone Incident' at Malta, the Leeuwarden Team took over a bit sooner than anticipated.
F-16.net: Can you give us a short overview of the colorschemes that you designed through the years?
Peter: So far just two designs have flown: 312th sqn 45th anniversary 'Bonzo' tail on #J-879 and 323rd sqn 'Dirty Diana'. This was first painted on #J-230 and later in refined yellow backdrop on #J-248. Other liveries flew on non-Vipers, a Lockheed L-749 Constellation propliner and a Stearman biplane.
F-16.net: What is the most interesting assignment that you accomplished so far?
Peter: The most beautiful thing happening to me is something I didn't earn a dime with, but did just for kicks: producing the Bonzo design for Viper #J-897. There's nothing like the sense of pride when you see YOUR design on the Viper, especially when you're a 'wannabe pilot'. Vindication at last. Why not Diana? Because it was a 'bootleg', done by others without involving me. So it's not entirely mine.
F-16.net: Are there any future projects in the pipeline? If so, can you give us a slight hint?
Peter: For a historic flying organisation in the Netherlands (Duke of Brabant Air Force, flying a B-25 Mitchell) I'm continuously designing merchandise. Producing aviation art on commission is a structural part of my life. For the F-16 community I'm currently designing two more anniversary tails for 312 sqn and 323 sqn respectively. For 312 sqn its the 55th anniversary which is celebrated in 2006 and for 323 sqn its the 60th anniversary which is due in 2008. The Air Force machine goes slow. In the meantime the scoop is visible on the art section of this site, couldn't wait any longer.
F-16.net: Are there any painters active within the RNlAF besides yourself?
Peter: Just a couple. Mostly anonymous. You can find their names in a beautiful new Dutch F-16 livery book done by Cor van Gent. By the way, a good friend of mine (American author/artist Lou Drendel) is producing a Viper special markings book as we speak. Eyeball it!
F-16.net: What is the finest anecdote or the best joke or something that went completely wrong, etc. that you remember?
Peter: Any beer call would qualify! How about being initiated as a civilian, together with some others, real jocks. Sitting outside in just a flight suit on a bar stool during a cold autumn evening, blindfolded and soldier's hardhat. Being attacked with eggs, talcum powder and lots of name calling while on your knees being loaded with all kinds of liquor (air-to-air refuelling). Then, still blindfolded with hardhat, running a cooper test-like circuit. At one point you had to go all the way into a pit of dirty water, filled with all the fish remains from the local fish stores. I mean totally under! Then keep running while the entire sqn is giving you GCA directions. In the meantime being sprayed by the fire trucks. Last but not least, again sitting outside on the stool, both blindfold and hardhat come off and a condom is put on instead till over the nose. The task was blowing the condom to pieces with your nose, liquor doing its work. Then finally stumble inside the crewroom, smelling like rotten fish and looking like shit, and socialize. I passed out in Volkel's Delta Hotel. From then on I was called Painter.
F-16.net: You're doing this work for a number of years now. Doesn't it ever get boring?
Peter: I never get bored, it's like a disease. I was born to produce aviation art, I will probably die still doing it. Each image gives me the feeling I'm participating in it. Like a wannabe pilot.
F-16.net: Thanks for the interview!
- Peter was interviewed online by Bjorn Claes in November of 2004 -