Air Art Northwest
846 South Ginger Street
Cornelius, Oregon 97113
PRINTS by JOHN STAHR
Art and aviation have always been important to John Stahr, but it has taken time for this multi-talented Eugene, Oregon artist, businessman and pilot to effectively combine the two in his professional career.
John is neither a classically-trained painter, commercial illustrator nor "self-taught" artist. His route to aviation art began on the ground rolling along the interstate highways of America on the sides of half-million-dollar custom motor coaches. John is the founder and operator of Stahr Design, a firm specializing in custom murals and paint designs for luxury motor coaches. You will find his work on the fancy bus conversions used by businessmen, music stars, racing teams and well-to-do travelers.
Everyday, across America, coaches roll by that are decorated with stunning Stahr originals. His desert panoramas, undersea vistas, mountain hideaways, grace boats, cars, and, of course, aircraft, and are famous coast to coast.
The son of an airline aeronautical engineer, John grew up immersed in aeronautics. Some of his earliest memories are of building balsa wood airliners from the plan views his dad brought home. He recalls that questions to his father about things that fly and how they worked never went without a thorough explanation.
Working on a bachelor's degree in graphic design at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, John explored aviation themes from biplanes to spacecraft in every assignment possible. While in college, he envisioned a career as a commercial artist in a conventional studio. This would most likely had been his fate, but for a small side venture he developed during those college years: John began painting airbrush art on vans to help finance his studies. His van painting hobby turned into an occupation and eventually led to his own shop. The work involved doing multiple paint schemes on custom vehicles and, at the focal points, beautiful custom murals.
His fledgling venture took a quantum leap when he received an inquiry from a wealthy Ohio man who was the proud owner of a huge new luxury bus conversion. He'd seen some of John's work and wanted to fly him to Ohio to do a mural. The prospect of an artistic "canvas" that large intrigued John and he agreed to tackle the project. Through the RV grapevine, that job led to other large commissions on luxury motor coaches. Demand grew and business increased. The proximity of three motor coach manufacturers in the Eugene, Oregon area ultimately led John to relocate his business to the verdant Willamette Valley in 1988.
At about the same time, his interest in aviation, while never fully dormant, was gradually rekindled. Oregon's first major air event, The Rose Festival Airshow, held its debut that same year.
The US Navy Blue Angels were featured at the airshow and John was absolutely inspired by their performance. He then began to work more aeronautical themes into his coach murals and doing "pure" aviation art paintings for sale on the side. In 1990 he became a licensed private pilot and began working on his instrument rating. This made it possible for him to gain a better perspective and to shoot reference photos for his paintings. "I believe that the pilot's perspective and knowing how an aircraft works is an integral part of the creative process in aviation art," he says.
A recently-built home studio gives John a place to concentrate on his aviation paintings, away from the office phone. Working on paintings from his own imagination, or commissioned work for clients, John finds it a pleasant departure from managing a commercial shop. His other interests include catamaran racing, snow skiing and anything to do with aviation.
Airshow scenes are a favorite with Stahr. He self-published his first limited-edition print in June, 1992, titled Northwest Passage. The image depicts the 1992 U.S. Navy Blue Angles in a right echelon formation over majestic Mt. Hood, Oregon's highest peak, with the other volcanic peaks of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Ranier and Mt. Adams visible in the distance. John overflew Mt. Hood to reference the perspective of the various mountains and study the effects of sunset lighting for use in the painting. Northwest Passage was published in a limited edition of 1,000 prints. The original 4 by 8 foot painting has been donated to the Navy, to be displayed for public enjoyment. It is the only original and print edition depicting the Blue Angels team in a scenic northwest setting.