A post I didn’t want to write : a few words on the ethics of “aviation artist” Ron Cole

Quick disclaimer : I haven’t been posting for several months due to a series of familial misfortunes and events resulting a “complicated life”, to put it mildly. Hopefully things will get back to a semblance of normalcy at some point and I’ll have many things to share. I certainly look forward to that. This is not what I was expecting or wanting to post for my return but sometimes “things” happen.

In every artistic endeavour, artists tend to develop a specific and often quite distinct style. Few artists are able to switch styles with ease, especially whilst keeping the same level of quality. Ron Cole is one of those artists whose style is constantly fluctuating. How does he do that, one might ask ? The simple answer to that is that he doesn’t appear to have a style of his own. He simply takes from others. He is well-known among aviation artists for “borrowing” their work, hastily modifying it and then selling it under his name, along with an “authentic fragment” of an airframe.

Of course, artists constantly copy each other. I was taught at an early age to “study and imitate the masters” if I wanted to improve. This was solid advice. When I ventured into creating aviation profiles, I intensely studied artists such as Claes Sundin or Dave Douglass, to name only a couple. I tried to understand how they achieved such results, and taught myself to do the same. At the same time, I developed my own style.

This takes work, dedication and time. This is apparently too much effort for the likes of Ron Cole, who earlier this year posted on his Facebook page Ron Cole & Cole’s Aircraft Aviation Art about “handmade two-sided acrylic relic displays” he was putting up for sale. And, lo and behold, it appeared that two of the three illustrations (a Fw 190 and a P-51 Mustang) used for these displays look remarkably like my work.

Screen capture from Ron Cole & Cole’s Aircraft Aviation Art’s Facebook page dated August 21, 2022.

The third illustration, a Spitfire, is clearly work by Mark Styling. Perhaps Ron Cole got authorization from Mark Styling to use his work for commercial purposes. I have no way of knowing that. But I do know that he never asked to use my illustrations.

How can I be so sure this is my work ? I think the following animations will remove any possible doubt.

As you can see, Ron Cole copied my Fw 190 illustration, removed my name, made a few quick and dirty modifications and then slapped them on high-priced items. Notice that aside the “modified” sections, every single detail is identical : oil stains, paint scratches, exhaust burn, paint pattern and so forth. The only major difference is the more blurry appearance of his, which is explained by the fact he doesn’t have the original high-definition file and had to use a low-resolution copy he picked up from my site or elsewhere online.

The same goes for “his” P-51 Mustang profile, although I’m not quite sure which of my P-51 Mustang illustration he “derived it from”. I can tell it’s one of my earlier profiles as it includes some mistakes that I have since corrected. Here again, the details are identical : shapes, reflections on the fuselage, stenciling, stains, etc.

All of my work is protected by copyright laws and I’ll be looking into legal action against Ron Cole. I’m not sure whether this constitutes copyright infringement or illegal derivative work. In the meantime, all I can say is that Ron Cole is a sad example of an aviation artist as he has to resort to using other people’s work to produce anything.

2 thoughts on “A post I didn’t want to write : a few words on the ethics of “aviation artist” Ron Cole

  1. Ron Cole has been connected with several shady things, the Oklahoma City bombing for one. His latest stunt was to “retrieve” several IJN a/c from Guadalcanal in violation of international treaty and have them chopped up for key chain fobs and included on his so-called art.

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