Updated 11/27/23 – funded on Kickstarter – Hardcover book available, Race to Acetm cardgame shipping January 2024
Hank Caruso’s imaginative, creative, whimsical and just plain fun illustrations have been a part of the aviation community since the 1990s. Some aviators are so impressed by Hank’s illustrations that they’ve tattooed them onto their bodies!
This new book is a unique blend of historical art from magazines and posters of the 1930s and 1940s alongside Hank’s great illustrations (see sample page spreads below).
For more than 50 years, I have been drawing airplanes and collecting aviation ads and artwork. At some point, the accumulated mass of aero-graphic material demanded a cumulative identity and thus the seed for this book was planted.
This is definitely not a history book in the classic sense. I have not tried to cover the broad scope of World War II aviation in a thorough, systematic way. Yet it does contain historic content. But the Aerocaturestm (more on this later) in these pages were created because I found an aircraft’s appearance or an associated reputation triggered my imagination in some way.
Since I never intended to create this book, I haven’t attempted to represent all of the war-era aircraft that might be considered significant. Instead, I had fun with each illustration based on its own personality. There was no grand scheme associated with their creation. If I have left out your favorite flying machine, I’m sorry.
Many classically themed history books are long on text and short on imagery. I wanted to reverse that balance and create a book that is overwhelmingly pictorial. Text is essential, but only to the extent that it strengthens the impact and understanding of the art.
Aviation history books usually include photographs of actual aircraft. I’ve included none. Instead, each Aerocaturetm is accompanied by an advertisement, recruiting poster, kid’s book, or magazine cover from the same period as the featured aircraft, things that I find myself inexorably drawn toward. I’ve collected these wonderful illustrations ever since I was a kid. The majority of the archival images in this book are from my personal collection.
My caricatures exaggerate physical features of the aircraft, the archival images reflect the spirit of the times: enthusiasm, excitement, and national pride. In essence, they, too, are caricatures of the personality of an era. I’ve never seen another book that features this sort of image pairing.
A word about the book’s organization. I’ve used the date of each aircraft’s first flight as a convenient basis for the order in which I’ve presented my illustrations. This approach helps emphasize the evolution of aeronautical technology over several decades. Also, it “shuffles the deck” so that aircraft of particular types are not all bunched together. This, I believe, adds a bit more liveliness to the overall character of this book.
Finally, it’s worth noting that—from a technological standpoint—World War II did not end with the signing of the surrender agreements. Many aircraft that never saw combat were contracted for and designed during the war years. Had the war continued, many of these “post-war” designs may have become combat veterans. I’ve included several such aircraft in this album because they were indeed products of the war’s efforts and because they reflect the war’s role in creating the next technological generation: the jet and atomic age.
So for me,, this has been a labor of fun. I hope you enjoy it!
– Hank Caruso, American Society of Aviation Artists, 2023
What Is an Aerocaturetm?
“Aerocaturetm” is a term I invented to describe my aircraft caricatures. They are NOT cartoons. I think of a cartoon as something that is visually very simple and generally not with much realistic depth or detail. When I create an Aerocaturetm, my goal is to combine the characteristics of the aircraft, the personalities of the flight crew, and the relevant details of their mission. Yes, they are exaggerations, but the exaggerations are what focus attention on the most important aspects of the portrayal. The exaggerations act as filters to remove the distracting story elements that contribute the least.
When I begin to deveolp an Aerocaturetm, I prefer to work without any reference materials in front of me. I don’t want literal reality to override my visceral impressions. If I can’t work without refering to photographs and 3-view drawings, it means I don’t yet know enough about my subject and more research is in order.
As a stereo (3D) photographer and enthusiast, I try to give my Aerocaturestm dimension and volume. I always have some part of the aircraft extending beyond the frame of the background to create depth. I want the aircraft’s “musculature” to tell about the physical stresses the aircraft structure is undergoing. My images are created using India ink and Prismacolor colored pencils on Bristol pad.
Although I want to give myself as much latitude as possible in telling a visual story, there are certain options I will not entertain. Political and social statements are right out. I want to tell aviation stories, not make comments on the state of humanity and world affairs. I also avoid depicting fatal accidents, in-flight disasters, and overtly graphic combat kills. When all is said on done, I want to leave viewers with a positive, enjoyable experience, not doom and gloom.
2 Aerocaturestm games available
Art from Book