Thursday, April 17, 2014


Celebrating five years of Scale Model News, here we look again at Revell box art, and the artists who created them. The visuals that decorate kit boxes are what the marketing men call ‘primary sales tools’. Put simply, if you can spot a decent box from a distance - or today, easily on screen - the odds are that you’ll go over to have a closer look.

Photographs have often been used, but art seems more satisfying and certainly more exciting. And latest boxes from Airfix achieve a photorealistic look with the help of CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery) software.

We looked at the variety of art from Revell in November 2010, but the time these boxes date from goes back much further, " the heyday of the plastic kit, the 1950s and 1960s, box art was generally created by hugely talented commercial artists, mostly unsung heroes of the illustration world."

The tugboat (above) was painted by John Steel, and is good enough to be framed and hung on a wall.  But we noted a commercial constraint, "However, in graphic studios it’s always been normal practice to leave visuals unsigned, or signatures removed before printing - understandable, as the client is promoting a particular product, rather than an artist’s style of work."

We noted that most artists remained near-invisible to the public, "But over the years, it’s good to report that some box artists have become better known. In the UK, Roy Cross is recognized for his splendid work on many an Airfix kit. In the US it’s been a similar story, with Jack Leynnwood’s finely-drawn 1956 illustration of a C-130 Hercules being noted for its dramatic use of perspective. 

"Away from the drawing board, Jack had wide interests that ranged from playing a Wurlitzer organ and driving a Jaguar XK-E, to flying an AT-6 aircraft."

Since the article appeared in SMN, we've noted that auctions of Roy Cross's work have achieved excellent prices, and quite right too - commercial art it may have been, but his work was technically brilliant, the ships in particular being highly suitable for framing.

We noted some of the sales requirements, "Richard Kishady’s painting (above) of the ‘Red Baron’ Manfred von Richthofen’s Fokker Triplane sums up an exciting style that helped make a box-top a hot marketing item. The talented John Steel was a diver and photographer as well as a talented illustrator, and Revell featured him in adverts that ran in various 1950s-era magazines."

And we recommended the source of these paintings, a book that is still on sale (see below), "Many Revell kit boxes are featured in the fascinating book Remembering Revell Model Kits by Thomas Graham. It’s a terrific read, and nicely printed too. Highly recommended if you’re into reading about, as well as making, model kits by Revell."

Click the boxes below to inspect the Revell book and other books on kits.