Police helicopter helps artist land first prize

Article by Brigg Ford
Operational Communications Manager
West Midlands Police

THE POLICE’S eye in the sky above the West Midlands has helped a Birmingham artist land first prize in a prestigious competition.

Robert Perry used a night-time aerial image of Birmingham city centre – taken from the helicopter’s onboard cameras – as inspiration for his entry in a Royal Birmingham Society of Artists’ (RBSA) competition celebrating the city and the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Society.

The ‘altitude landscape’ specialist – who has erected easels on Dudley’s Turner Hill, Alpha Tower in Birmingham, the Rotunda and Brindley Place rooftops – wanted to capture a twinkling cityscape from several thousand feet.

But when several attempts to get airborne in hired helicopters were thwarted due to adverse weather he turned to West Midlands Police.

He transformed an image from the helicopter’s onboard sky-scanner cameras – the curse of countless criminals trying to escape capture – into an oil-on-canvas creation.

It caught RSBA judges’ eyes and on Saturday 8 February 2014 it was unveiled as first prize winner from around 200 entrants in its “Birmingham Today” exhibition at the Society’s Brook Street gallery.

Speaking from his Wordsley home, Robert, a self-proclaimed “local patriot” who studied at Stourbridge College of Arts, said: “I’ve painted many West Midlands landscapes from tall structures but this time I wanted to go even higher!

“The city centre image from the helicopter intrigued me with its abstract light qualities – the sodium street lamps and turquoise illuminating from hotels – and thought it illustrated Birmingham’s vibrancy.

Robert’s 4ft x 6ft oil painting took centre stage at RBSA’s “Birmingham Today” exhibition which ran from February 3rd until March 1st  2014 at the Brook Street gallery.


Birmingham 2014

“Birmingham 2014” 48 x 72 inches (1.2m x 1.8m) Oil.
Orientation- virtually central is “The Mailbox” and just peeking in at bottom centre is the tip of St Martins Church spire.


Note from Robert Perry

The production of this painting entailed working “in-studio” a practice I abandoned many years ago and in order to avoid spattering my motorbikes, pillar drills, linishers, benches and other engineering equipment due to my “energetic” methods of applying and spraying paint, I rigged up the “side-unit” (usually fitted to my van when in “field study” mode) as a kind of indoor spray-booth or “spatter booth”

It is a rather heavy piece of equipment so quite a lot of thinking and head-scratching was necessary to devise a system whereby it could be easily hoisted and stabilised in the studio-workshop without compromising its main facility as a fitment to the side of the van!

Robert Perry Landscape Artist

Side-unit in operation. Northern Spain

Side-unit in operation. Maginot Line, Northern France

Side-unit in operation. Maginot Line, Northern France

Side-unit. Interior adaptation.  Closed.

Side-unit. Interior adaptation. Closed.

Side-unit. Interior adaptation.  Open.

Side-unit. Interior adaptation. Open.

Question: Might this adaptation for use in an interior situation spur a new phase of my work ? ! !