The people behind the repainter's brush
A series of interviews by William Reynolds
We meet Mike Pearson
My chat with Stephen was very interesting...next I approached Mike Pearson, who has a very large and varied collection of repaints and models in the Avsim library...are all repainters similar? Is there a pattern here?
Let’s find out:
Q: Thanks for your time...so Who is Mike Pearson??
I am 47 years old (in three weeks), born in Long Beach, California (USA), moved to Arizona in 1970, currently reside in Glendale, Arizona (Phoenix suburb). Married, no children, two dogs (therefore my wife has three children, lol). I studied at local junior colleges and Arizona State University (multiple college degrees).
I am a career firefighter/paramedic working for a small rural fire district; and I also do wildland firefighting during the summer in addition to my regular shift duties. I have worked in some form of public safety for over thirty years (won't get rich doing that), and I can retire in about a dozen more years (hooray). I have been in the military, twelve years mixed active duty and reserve time in the Army. I served as a flight medic and infantry medic during that time, in various duty postings.
Q: What attracts you to Aviation in general, and AVSIM in particular?
Some of my earliest childhood memories were of the activity around Long Beach Airport, I think I lived very near to it before moving to Arizona. After that, I figured out I liked to draw/trace aircraft at a young age (perhaps around six or seven). I have built more than my fair share of plastic models over the years as well, and all of that was a good preparatory for me to meet technology in this current hobby. I also hunt, fish, and camp, so I haven't totally fallen into the geek and nerd abyss, lol.
I am an avid student of military history, so much of my painting/modeling direction has followed that road.
This hobby of virtual aviation has blessed me with an international fan base that is truly unique. I regularly exchange emails with fans literally from all corners of the world, and the common love of aviation seems to have little regard for current events or tensions. I have had at least two or three instances where I have fielded emails from some 70-year old who emotionally tells me the history of a particular repaint I did; like, when he actually was a crew-chief on, or flew, that very aircraft back in the day. After he politely tells me the one or two mistakes I made in the paint, he then thanks me again for touching his memories in such a way. You can't make up that kind of satisfaction, it is earned by selflessly sharing your talent and paying it forward.
AVSIM.... It was a completely random event that aligned me to AVSIM. I was trying to upload on another popular site and their upload interface was somewhat complicated. I checked out AVSIM's upload interface (which hasn't changed in ten years, thank God....), and that was that. I topped out at just under 3,500 files before the 2009 hack, and about 1,500 of those files were lost. Fortunately I am quite the cyber-pack-rat, and save most everything. I still have a 12-year-old laptop for the floppies, how sad is that?
My stuff has migrated all over the internet, though; my favourite is 'Swire Mariners', a Cathay Pacific fan website. I have been to one AVSIM convention (2005, San Diego); and there I got to meet a couple of my heroes in the hobby (Frank Safranek and Tom Gibson).
Q: How did you start making "repaints", what was your first repaint, your biggest "disaster", your biggest frustration?
I originally started repainting in 1998, with FS98, after I figured out how to convert r8 textures to bitmap format and back again (thank you MW Graphics....). I painted some civilian air ambulance helicopters (with MS Paint) and uploaded them to a now-defunct site called Keith's Virtual Helipad. Keith shut down the site around 2000 for health reasons, and all of the archived files were lost. I puttered around with repainting, not uploading again until 2002. By then I had gotten into Paint Shop Pro, and really started to scratch the surface of good repainting, although I was nowhere near it yet......
....which leads to the biggest disaster, which was also one of my most formative influences in painting, and one of my favorite stories to tell. I did my first batch of Russian paints sometime in 2003, some FS2002 Tu-134 models by George Sukhykh. I was under the mis-impression that I could actually paint something nice at that moment in my painting career, and I published some very crude paints. A more experienced painter named Bob Koendering sent me an email describing my paints as (his words) 'a child's coloring book,' and other comments of a most stuffy Teutonic nature. My words of response, fueled by my fine Irish temper, are not re-printable here; but the outcome of the story was that after the first impact, our emails became very friendly, and he taught me a lot of fundamentals of texturing. I owe a lot to Bob.
My design program of choice is FSDS, although I have a working knowledge of Gmax and 3ds Max.
Q: Your favourite project??
I was a child and adolescent of the 1960s-1980s, so that aspect of retro-period aircraft appeals to me very much. I have validated that with several years of work with Stefan Fischer's RetroAI project, and more recently, with my own organic AI model projects (BAC/EE Lightning and MiG-21 Fishbed). Anybody who can sort out the myriad model options and loadouts of those two project wins a cookie, lol; and I really think they hurt my brain a little.
I'm former infantry, so I am not sure that is possible..... So, retro AI, and the new-found ability to make my own models, this is my favorite project, all-encompassing.
Q: Favourite aircraft in real life, and in the Virtual World?
As primarily a contributor, I want to answer this one a little more diversely. I am just a casual simmer pilot, so a lot of aeronautical accuracy or inaccuracy of the sim or its aircraft is lost on me.
So, I want to list my own little group of heroes of the hobby, people who have heavily influenced me or validated my directions of effort. There is no order of precedence here, and any omissions are not intentional,you can't list them all in just one article.
Billy Rutherford: who taught me that the dark, dusty, mysterious corners of the earth are very much alive in FS; and shared some nice paint kits. Rest in peace, Billy, the hobby is a little less bright with your loss.
Frank Safranek and Steve Holland; two of the most insufferable and wonderful technical advisors a fledgling model designer could ever ask for. If my wife ever tries to throw me into alcohol rehab, I'm blaming it on you two, but my models are better for it.
Stefan Fischer: who helped me find a focus and true niche in my efforts, instead of randomly jumping around in my projects. I still do that, but not as much.
Military AI Works, et al: Without it I would not have painted 500 F-15s, contributed to many projects, nor met so many of the wonderful people who have helped me get into the modeling side of things (Nick, Jake, Steve, Des, Gary, Kevin, Miljan, John, and the Marks).
Tony Mikos: for helping me get it through my thick head that I and my work are somewhat popular in the hobby.
Sergey Bunevich and Rysiek Winauer: for helping me progress the Russian side of my work.
Bill Wolfgren of Bear Studios: for teaching me the actual fundamentals of modeling, although I beat my head against a wall for seven years before I got a rhythm for it.
Mike MacIntyre: without Mike's flight dynamics, my models absolutely would not be.
Lastly, to answer the original question:
Real commercial aircraft: Even split between Boeing 747 and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar
Real military aircraft: Even split between Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
FS9 aircraft: CLS 747-200/300, it's a heavy beast, and I painted over 300 of them.
FSX aircraft: I don't use FSX, email me privately and I'll tell you why. It is visually stunning, though.
I also like Thirdwire's Strike Fighters Series and Micropose Gunship, when I want to go out and blow stuff up; sometimes ya just gotta do it.....
Q: Your favourite repaint (yours or from another author?)
Anything I paint or model is something I want in the sim; so, naturally I like anything I do; and I am thankful for the ability to translate a desire into something tangible in the sim. But, there are far more talented people than me in the hobby, so I will answer this question in terms of my all-time favourite designers rather than repaints.
Kazunori Ito and Mike Stone made simple, rough models, with simple, rough textures, but they were wonderful aircraft that nobody else did at the time, and they were very re-paintable; and easy to fly around.
Q: What are your family's thoughts on your hobby and the amount of time you dedicate to it?
I have a pretty uncomplicated life outside of work. I work in a fairly hazardous profession, so I try to make my time off as low-key as possible.
This hobby is an excellent de-stressor for some of the intense things I deal with as a public safety provider. I work two days on and four days off and am at home many days during my wife's work week; so after chores whatever I do with my time is my concern. I play with my dogs a lot, and they hang out in my office while I model and paint. If they had opposable thumbs, I would teach them how to use DXTBmp and do my bulk texture conversions, lol.
My wife actually loves the hobby because she is intrigued by its artistry; and that it is relatively inexpensive other than computer/software upgrades. I joke with friends that she likes it because it keeps me from being thrown out of public houses. She jokes that she is a confirmed COW (Computer Orphan & Widow); but her dad worked heavily in computer-related endeavours during his career, so she is used to the culture.
Q: Future Plans??
I intend to use and artistically support FS9 until they make an OS that doesn't support it anymore. With the advent of virtual drives, that may be quite awhile now. I would like to extend my knowledge and ability in Gmax/3ds Max, as I believe that they or their direct descendants will be the modeling platforms of the future for flight simulation. With my new-found modeling ability, I have a large agenda of retro and current military AI aircraft I want to do; so I am pretty much booked through 2013. Then, we shall see what is next.
Questions from fans may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org I do not take fan requests for models at this time, just because I'm still new at it and want to clear some agenda items out first (and get a little better at it). I do consider repaint requests on a case-by-case basis, for FS9 freeware aircraft, or FS9 payware aircraft that I own (the list is considerable).
Glendale, Arizona, USA
Thanks Mike, what an interesting background!