Who Wants to Live Forever

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Oil painting of UFOs fighting with World War 2 Spitfires over a ruined French landscape while Jesus directs the action from the ground while seated on a raptor type dinosaur, there's also an overturned car in the foreground and a statue of Freddie Mercury in the midground

‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ is a painting that never would have been without the coming together of two senses of humour. Before we get into the story, the details of the painting are:

Oil paint on Canvas board
Private collection

The story behind this painting is that I’d been commissioned to paint a Lancaster bomber (a World War 2 Allied aircraft), or rather I was asked if it was something I could paint.
“Sure,” I said “how do you want it painted? On the ground like at an airfield, in the air, do you want it pictured from a low angle like from below, or from above as if you’re flying above it?” (it’s always useful to pin down the details for a commission before doing some roughs for approval).
“I’ll leave that up to your artisticness.” My commissioner said (….my mind is….unique, so that can be a dangerous option).
“Okay, how about the Lancaster fighting some UFOs while Jesus directs from the ground from the back of a T-Rex?” Said I without missing a beat.
“Ha ha, that’d be cool*” Said my commissioner.
“Okay, I’ll do some sketches and message you them later to work out what kind of view of the plane you’d prefer.”

For a joke I quickly sketched out a rough layout of what I’d described to send before doing the serious layout sketches.

“I want that*” Came the response.
I thought they meant the sketch, but no, they wanted the UFO/Lancaster/Jesus/Dinosaur battle scene as a painting as well as the Lancaster (the Lancaster was for someone else).

Back I went to the sketchbook to create a more detailed sketch and work out the composition. While working on the composition I realised there was a problem.

A Lancaster bomber wouldn’t have the turning agility to have any chance of taking on UFOs – especially flying saucers at low altitude. Just because it’s made up doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be believable, and while it’s okay to suspend belief, ye cannae defy the laws of physics!

“Hey, you know the painting? Can we change the Lancaster in your painting to a squadron of Spitfires? You know, to make it more believable?” I messaged.
“Yes, but I have a request. Is there any possibility of having a statue of Freddie Mercury (the singer from the rock band Queen) in it?”
“You can have anything you want in it.”

From there I did the layout sketch, using a reference image of the Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux.


Close up of the painting 'Who Wants to Live Forever' by David Nicol showing a statue of Freddie Mercury

Painting the statue of Freddie Mercury turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. Due to the size of the painting the statue ended up being quite small, which made painting it very challenging.

Detail of a crashed UFO or flying saucer in the painting 'Who Wants to Live Forever' by David Nicol

For the UFOs I wanted to use the classic 1950s ‘flying saucer’. It’s such an iconic image and gives B-movie vibes.

Detail of UFOs and spitfire aircraft in the painting 'Who Wants to Live Forever' by David Nicol

Fun fact: for painting the flying saucers I had my wife hold a saucer if different positions and photographed it to create reference photos that replicated the point of view of being on the ground looking up at an aerial dogfight.

Dino riding BeeGeebus detail from the painting 'Who Wants to Live Forever' by David Nicol

Holy dino riding BeeGeebus! Like the Freddie Mercury statue I had an issue with the size of the figure and getting features right at that size was difficult. So I opted for a pair of Aviator style douche goggles, which made him look like one of the BeeGees, hence Holy BeeGeebus.

Fun fact: Does BeeGeebus’ pose look familiar? If you check out Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801) by Jacques-Louis David then you might realise why. Also the dinosaur is based on a toy T-Rex that I bought specifically to use as a reference model as my wife was not keen on me sourcing a real T-Rex as it wouldn’t fit in the front room.

Absinthe poster detail from the painting 'Who Wants to Live Forever' by David Nicol

On the edge of the painting on the remains of a damaged wall is a damaged poster advertising ‘Absinthe Blanqui’. This is based on an advertisement of the same name by an artist signed as ‘Nover’.

The poster is, like the rest of the painting, quite anachronistic. As an art nouveau piece it would be approximately 25 years old if the painting is set in World War 2 era France. Why is it there? Why not? The Freddie Mercury statue is 70 years early, BeeGeebus’ dinosaur is about 65 million years out of time so really it belongs there more than some of the other elements. I also really like art nouveau work.

And finally, if you’ve ever heard of the Golden Ratio, then you’ll have realised that the compositional elements of ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ fall within the concept.