John Berkey is best known for his paintings of spacecraft in the 1970s and 1980s. His approach to painting was both loose and precise. He used water-based opaque paints, usually casein or gouache, which he kept in cups near his workstation and stirred with a dental drill. He lived in Minnesota. I visited him there in 1983.
This painting of Henry Ford’s auto assembly line was an impressive feat of execution. Each square inch of the painting is a masterpiece of abstraction. It shows him at the height of his powers. All the strokes are in proper perspective.
Although he probably had prepared a careful drawing to establish the main forms of the room, the car, and figures, based on whatever existing photos he could find, he didn’t pre-draw all the smaller wires and widgets. Those details he found in the paint.
To paint in this way requires the willingness to cover up your underdrawing in the early stages and “find it in the paint.” It helps to think of painting as a form of drawing, of discovery. The brush is really a drawing tool, and you can rig up straightedges to pins placed at vanishing points to get all the painted lines in perspective.
This was painted in 1976, around the same time he was illustrating the Death Star for marketing the first Star Wars. This kind of painting requires both accuracy and improvization, like playing a cadenza on a Mozart piano concerto.
Have a look at a huge collection of Berkey’s work at the website of collector Jim Pinkowski. Thanks, Jim.