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Original Issue


"I enjoy being completely immersed in the research and painting of a project," says Artist Don Moss, whose precise renderings of boating's newest navigational gadgetry appear on pages 20 through 25. When Moss was given the job of illustrating the form and function of such sophisticated devices as omnigator, loran, ADF, RDF, radar, depth sounders and autopilots, he set a course to the nearest marine hardware store to find out what all these things were. Almost instantly, like the yachtsmen who flock to the boat show, he contracted a serious case of electronicitis—that newest seagoing syndrome whose chief symptom is a helpless fascination with the blips, blinks, beeps, hums, glows, dials and knobs now available to any landlubber. Soon Moss's studio in Ardsley, N.Y., hard by the Hudson River, was crammed with enough gear for a transatlantic passage in a fog. To help him navigate, an electronics firm parked a radar-equipped demonstration truck practically in the Moss backyard. "We read a freighter, a tugboat and the Tappan Zee Bridge on the screen," says Don.

As an amateur boatman, Moss soon found out that "if you can tune in Bonanza on your television set you can get a quick, accurate fix with these instruments." But, as an artist, he still had a major problem to solve: How do you suggest in line and color the fascination these precision instruments hold for the gadget-lover without making them look like a manufacturer's product advertisement?

Moss is a versatile technician who makes full use of the modern tools of his trade. For his diagrams of America's Best Ski Runs (SI, Nov. 14,) he used automobile spray enamel. On other assignments he has turned to household enamels, pebbles, rice paper and even milk-based paints to provide unusual and striking graphics.

For this job he decided to blend photography with sharply outlined paintings done in bright, flat, acrylic paints. "Within the diagrams," he explains, "I stripped in photographs of the dials and charts to retain the feeling of accuracy. The acrylic gave me luminous colors for visual excitement."

When he is not grounded by SI, Moss, an ex-Marine and currently a vice-president of the Society of Illustrators, frequently takes to the air as chairman of the U.S. Air Force Art Program. Atone time or another he has illustrated an early-morning scramble of an F-102 fighter squadron based in Germany and a rocketry display high in the night skies over Florida.

Except for a lingering desire to follow in the drumbeats of Gene Krupa, and a fondness for skiing, boating, tennis and the outdoors, Moss's main hobby is his work. After several years of training in New York and Boston art schools and a four-year hitch with the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II, Moss began his successful career in magazine illustration in 1946. Though he is skilled in many mediums, he is a master of watercolor. His new book, The Art of Watercolor, has just been published for the Grumbacher Library series.

If Don is now also something of a master of electronic navigation, however, it is not likely to do him much good. Most of his boating consists of helping his three children launch their aluminum raft in the surf off New York's Fire Island. And, says Don, "for that, you don't need an omnigator or a loran."