Simon William Atack was born on October 10th 1957 the eldest of three sons in a family of musicians. And almost from that moment, began a lifelong creative obsession for drawing, as soon as he was able to pick up his first instrument; a biro pen! As soon as he was able to comprehend an aircraft in flight he discovered a passion for drawing and painting them, eventually learning for himself how to fly them. He is one of very few artists who can paint from the direct experience of flying an aircraft solo and with a pilot’s working knowledge.
At the age of seven, his far-sighted mother saw the obvious talent in her young son and nurtured it. She bought him an oil-painting kit for his Christmas present and thus, he tore into painting, learning its ways and rules as he worked. He was fortunate in attending a school where creative as well as academic ability was valued. He adored History, Mathematics and English thanks to brilliant teachers, but he was the outstanding pupil artist at his school and, encouraged by his art teacher, he went on to formal study at Wakefield College of Art. Here, his raw talent was turned into a disciplined practice, backed up by solid theory. He also discovered a passion for Art History and is a widely recognised scholar in painting and drawing of the European Renaissance to modern contemporary art.
Life has a funny way of formulating a young person. With such a formidable art training behind him, he went straight out into the world and into….The Royal Air Force. He wanted to join the service having loved the life he’d experienced as an Air Training Corps Cadet and saw a spell in uniform as a finishing school in which he could get paid for seeing the world.
The bit of the world it showed was an unpleasant time of conflict for Britain’s armed forces. Belize, Northern Ireland and the Falklands Campaign of 1982 were being enacted against the background of the ‘Cold War’ between NATO and the former Soviet Union. However, life went on. After Simon’s commanding officer saw his sketches of groundcrews getting RAF and Royal Navy Harriers ready for a combat sortie over the Falklands, he asked Simon to make further drawings for the Squadron messes and offices. These were then seen by others with influence and soon he had become a service artist, painting and drawing the Royal Air Force Commands as they operated at home and overseas. As a serving military artist, the RAF gave him access to aircraft and aircrew on operational duty that other artists could only dream of. However, service life is not forever.
Knowing there was a wider world beyond the RAF that would enjoy the kind of art he wanted to make, Simon left the service in the mid-1980s to begin a professional career as a military aviation artist. His journey took him to the Guild of Aviation Artists (GAvA) where he was able to exhibit and enjoy meeting fellow minded souls. But one great moment for him there was meeting his boyhood painting heroes, the aviation artist Roy Cross and wildlife painter David Shepherd.
David’s work as an aviation and wildlife artist needs little note. Roy was the artist behind the beautiful aviation and maritime paintings used as the box art to illustrate Airfix kits. Simon’s first appreciation that ships and aircraft could make beautiful works of art came from his hobby of model making and the stunning artwork Roy Cross made.
More than any other living artists. Roy Cross and David Shepherd were the most influential figures in Simon’s early career. Throughout the 1990s Simon was painting and exhibiting both with the Guild and for private clients, before a major breakthrough came his way.
In 2000, Pat Barnard, the owner and founder of The Military Gallery, Bath had expressed an interest in Simon’s maritime and naval battleship paintings. Pat was running a highly successful company with the talents of Robert Taylor and Nicolas Trudgian; both world class names in the profession. A series of warship paintings were commissioned by Pat and the success of these led to Simon exclusively joining Robert and Nick to paint aviation and maritime subjects under The Military Gallery banner for seven remarkable years with this world famous company of outstanding artists.
It was a memorable time which saw Simon’s art flourish and his work elevated onto the world stage. Many of the paintings he produced during his career with the company are expertly regarded as some of the finest examples of a ship or an aircraft type executed on canvas.
Today, Simon W Atack paintings and pencil drawings are collected throughout the world, by galleries, museums, armed forces and private individuals. His work has embraced Film and TV drama, illustration for books and editorial features and his name is recognised as one of the world’s foremost military aviation and naval artists.
He finds his focus has moved more towards the human part of the story in the paintings, the pilots and aircrews who had to face and endure aerial warfare in whatever aircraft were available to them at the time, as much as the aircraft itself. It’s going to be a remarkable time ahead for his professional career
And he still makes incredible concept drawings in Biro!
“I am not a pacifist. My paintings portray aerial combat with as much accuracy as possible, but I do not intend them to glorify war in the air.
I want to respectfully honour the memories of good and courageous young people, regardless of their flag of nationality, and the aircraft in which they performed their duty, sacrificed their lives and won a better tomorrow for all of us.
I hope my passion for flying and historical aviation shines through in my paintings. But, without YOU, all of this would be nowhere. Thank you for so kindly supporting me in the past; and I hope you like what I do in the future.”