Biographical / Historical
William John Heaslip (1898--1970) was a prominent artist whose aviation-themed work, especially during World War II, was known for its accuracy and detail. Heaslip began his formal training in 1912 at the London Industrial and Art School in Ontario, Canada. In 1913, he began work as an engraver for Lawson & Jones Printers and Lithographers. In 1917, Heaslip enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and was sent for training in ground observation and aerial gunnery at Camp Taliaferro, Texas under a reciprocity agreement between the US Signal Corps Aviation Section and the Royal Flying Corps. Heaslip received further training at the Royal Flying Corps' Beamsville School School of Aerial Fighting and Gunnery in Ontario before being discharged in December 1918. In 1919, Heaslip enrolled as a student in the National Academy of Design in New York where he was awarded the Suyden Medal (Silver) for Drawing from Life in 1920. In the fall of that year, Heaslip left the Academy and enrolled in courses at the Art Students League taught by John Sloan and Wallace Morgan. In 1926, Heaslip opened his own studio in Manhattan and began work as a freelance illustrator, contributing illustrations to American Legion Monthly, a collaboration that would continue until the 1950s. In September 1928, Heaslip attended a meeting of the Ancient Order of Quiet Birdmen and also that year joined the Society of Illustrators. He began to receive commissions for aviation related work including illustrating a series on aviation in American Boy magazine. By 1929, Heaslip had added an abstract logo of an aircraft to his signature which would remain. With much of his work received from advertising agencies, Heaslip created a very well known series of advertisements (later published as a promotional calendar) for Berry Brothers "Berryloid" aircraft finishes in which aircraft were portrayed with colorful paint schemes inspired by the plumage of various birds. Heaslip's work appeared in many publications, including Aero Digest, and he served as the consulting art director for Sportsman Pilot from 1931 to 1938. From the period of the late 1920s through the early 1940s, Heaslip was also a frequent contributor to Boys' Life magazine. In 1933, Heaslip was commissioned by the Franklin Institute to create a painting to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight which resulted in the piece, The First Flight, and throughout the 1930s Heaslip was also active working on mural projects with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Heaslip began work in printmaking in the 1930s with Associated American Artists and was known for work that focused on the human aspect of aviation. He won the J. W. Robinson Trophy for prints exhibited at the International Aeronautical Art Exhibition in February 1937 and demonstrated the processes of etching and aquatint at the New York World's Fair of 1939--1940. With the advent of World War II, Heaslip shifted to patriotic work designed to inform and mobilize the country for the war effort. Heaslip was selected as the artist for a series of illustrations published in the early 1940s by the New York Times/Wide World syndicate designed to inform readers about the major battles and events of the war. The work could be grueling, with illustrations sometimes needing revised right up until publication due to changing information. From 1941-1946, Heaslip collaborated with the Coca-Cola Company on various projects to promote their work supplying Coke to the troops, including serving as the artist for Set No. 2 and Set No. 3 of airplane trading cards and illustrating an aircraft recognition guide produced by the company. During the war years, Heaslip also had work appear in Look magazine, provided art work to the US Marine Corps Public Relations Department, did work for the Office of Civilian Defense including creating a new version of the Civil Defense Logo, and illustrated an aircraft recognition guide for the War Department, Bureau of Public Relations. After World War II, Heaslip moved to Hackettstown, New Jersey where he took occasional commissions, painted and sold landscapes, and taught art classes.