Text: Serge Van Heertum - Translation: Marc Arys   © sbap 2017
Pictures: Jean-Luc Béghin, Collection Serge Van Heertum / sbap

It was already announced some months ago and finally it is there...

what was announced then?

The new piece of work of Jean-Luc Béghin "Cockpits" edited by "les éditions Paquet".
This book dips the older generation of aviation passionate, of which I am also part, again into the world of highly detailed drawings of airplanes and especially cockpits. Drawn by this Belgian mythical draftsman who filled the newspapers for youngsters during the 60's and 70's.
It was always a delight to receive the "Spirou magazine" on Wednesday and discover the artwork of Jean-Luc, in particular the pages and other drawings commenting on the life of the Belgian Air Force.
How many hours didn't I sit in front of the poster of the F-104G cockpit, thinking I was flying this splendid supersonic machine. Thanks to Jean-Luc, I felt like one of those modern sky knights.
The eagerly awaited book came out on January 25 and is an overview of Jean-Luc's artwork not only through his well-known drawings but also through all kind of souvenir pictures browsing his life, his passion, his collections, often incredible and all his encounters with prestigious names of aviation world or spatial conquest like Chuck Yeager "Mister Mach 1", Neil Armstrong the first man on the moon, Edgar Schmued genial designer of the renowned "Mustang" but also the granddaughter of Charles Lindbergh.

Itinerary of a spoiled draftsman...
Jean-Luc was born in Brussels in 1939 and very young, was confronted to the war, the occupying forces but also to the daily sights from the aerial war above Belgium. All these airplanes in the sky during his childhood, fed his passion, his love for the "things of the air". Very quickly he combined drawings with the world of aviation, his first drawings representing a Junker 87 "Stuka".
Aged 5 in 1944, the young Jean-Luc lived several experiences which left some marks, notably during the liberation of Brussels by the American, British and Canadian troops.
His universe was suddenly filled with starred flags with white and red horizontal stripes, and some new "exotic" words.
At his home it was a constant parade of "G.I.'s" and "Tommie's" for whom his mother played boogie-woogie and swinging tunes on the piano. Jean-Luc had his first chewing gum and tasted other pleasures imported from across the Atlantic such as "Milky-Way"-bars and "Hershey's" chocolate packs.
Sometimes allied soldiers dropped him off at school by Jeep or G.M.C. truck. In July 1945 during a public exhibition held at the Brussels Park, he had the opportunity to see a Flying Fortress B-17G from close by, a P-51 Mustang and many other mythical planes.
This sudden passive invasion of the capital city by the American liberators would determine the follow-on of Jean-Luc's life as we will see later on.

The beginning in the "Strip World": the team of André Franquin...
During the fifties, he met Jidéhem through his brother who attended school with him. Jidéhem corrected his first drawings and opened him the door to the mythical workshop of the "avenue du Brésil" manned back then by Franquin (Gaston Lagaffe...), Jean Roba (Boule & Bill...), Jidehem, Marcel Denis and the colourer Vebruggen. From then on, two passions would cohabitate, fuse together to never leave him: aviation and drawing.

 The begining with a candy bar publicity in the late 1950's
 A first mini cartoon... ...publicity for a French car Company in 1966

The "Studio Dupuis"...
Shortly after, Jean-Luc won a contest giving him access to the sanctuary of the saints, the studio from the "Editions Dupuis". There he learned the basics of the art of the illustrator, from pencil sharpening to the inking up. He will run across Yvan Delporte and Charles Jadoul and on a scenario of this latter he will complete his first "mini-récit" (short story) : Bertrand l'écraseur (Bertrand the speed merchant). He also signed some advertising illustrations (Citroën - Mars). We are at the start of the Golden Sixties.

The "Journal de Tintin" (Tintin Magazine)...
Fulfilling his military service at Mechelen, he illustrates the "History of the Jeep" for the military magazine "Nos troupes / Onze machten". This gave him access to the great "Maison Hergé" as the magazine was printed at the same spot as "Tintin Magazine" and moved on to this studio at the end of his military service. So at "Tintin", under the direction of Evany (Eugène Van Nijverseel) het will meet several great names of the journal: Greg, Tibet, Macherot, Weinberg (Dan Cooper...), Attanasio or Jean Graton (Michel Vaillant...) with whom he will collaborate for the album "Suspens à Indianapolis" published in 1966. Hergé, the father of Tintin and Snowy, himself proposed him to join the studio, but Jean-Luc was not really interested; the "Tintin" atmosphere did not suit him, being preferably keen on returning to the "Crazy Boys" of the Dupuis Studio! (sic).

Back to Spirou...
He rejoined the Spirou-team for the second time in 1963 (although episodically continuing to work with "Tintin" until 1968: some technical redactions, game illustrations, etc...). The first years were essentially dedicated to illustrating the "coin des dégourdis" and the "fureteur", vacancies opened when Eddy Paape left for... "Tintin" ! He draws several "Histoire vraies de l'Oncle Paul" (1965, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970) as well as "cartes blanches" (white cards). It was also at the beginning of the 70's that he reunited with Jidéhem to collaborate on numerous automobile columns known under the nickname "Starter".

  "Carte Blanche" technological chronicle
  Meet the Major "Pointfix" making an overview of the pilot helmets in 1969

At that time, our "Jean-Luc national" will really be standing out especially within the aviation editorial. His stories are real reports into the heart of the aerial missions. Moreover, his illustrations and pictures were to capture the youngsters and this in particular by his famous posters and reproductions "Vous êtes dans le cockpit" (you are in the cockpit). Thanks to his unique view and his extreme attention to details, one really had the feeling of being at the controls of the depicted planes (F-104G, Mirage V, C-130) and later on, the airplanes of Uncle Sam : Bell-XS1, Douglas C-47, F-16 or B-747, to name a few.
For "Spirou", Jean-Luc made also several press reports in the United States, among other things to attend the take-off of the lunar mission Apollo 16.
Following the success of his reports, his notoriety within the aviation society allowed him to fly aboard multiple aircraft: Fouga Magister, T-33A Shooting Star, CF-104 Starfighter.
Due to his passion and his sympathy, Jean-Luc became a member of honour of the 350 "Ambiorix" Squadron of the Belgian Air Force and of the 439 "Tigertooth" Fighter Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, back then based in Germany.

The American dream...
In the mid 70's Jean-Luc and his family moved to the "new world", his childhood dreams becoming a reality. This move to "Stars and Stripes" withheld him not from continuing his artwork, his unanimously appreciated drawings and his collaboration to the bay book of the little groom (Spirou).
California became his home-base and all along these years he had the opportunity to come across with icons of aviation and de facto his reports received a more "U.S. minded" accent.
Thousands of little European readers discovered the "Golden State" through his "Bons baisers de Calfornie" (Kisses from California). Always profusely illustrated (pictures and drawings), his chronicles, depicted perfectly the "Californian way of life" in all his aspects : culinary, sports, cultural, automobile,...

 1970 the fabulous poster of the Apollo program cabin with Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong
  The short story of the Thunderbirds in 1971 
when the team was present in Belgium for the Brustem airshow
 Inside the Porsche 917 in 1971
The unavoidable "Slivers" poster Jean-Luc aircraft conception with a lot of humor
 The wonderful Lockheed F-104G cockpit
 1972 the brand new Belgian Air Force transport aircraft, the Lockheed C-130H Hercules

 The back side of the Ryan Nip "Spirit of Saint Louis" poster
Jean-Luc pictures was used to make two fantastic View-Master... ...giving a 3D perception of military aircraft
 See also our special Archivalia page: Belgian Air Fore 3D

From his American lair and in collaboration with Pierre Sparaco, Jean-Luc published two aeronautical master pieces. One dedicated to the "Spirit of Saint-Louis" from Charles Lindbergh (1977) and the second to the star of the "Century Market", the General Dynamic F-16 (1978).
In 1983-1983 he starts "Si l'Amérique m'était contée": a weekly magazine describing the 50 states of the U.S.A. 1984 saw the adventures of "Hubert H Rainbow", a series of comics which will continue until 1986, still allowing the readers to discover California. The end of "Hubert H Rainbow", mint also the end of the collaboration with the "Spirou Magazine".

And next...
Without leaving his combined passions, Jean-Luc was hired by the American bureau of "Air France", and spent almost 20 years at Los Angeles airport as "chef des operations au sol" (chief of ground operations).
He retired in 2005 and again fully consecrated himself to his two passions resuming the illustrations of cockpits and enhancing his impressive collection of "aviation artefacts" which he amassed during all these years. With, of course, taking time with his family.

 The books in collaboration with Pierre Sparaco. 1977 Lindbergh... ...and the General Dynamic F-16 in 1978
 This 1975 drawing served me as a model for my student overall ... Thank you Jean-Luc ;-)
 The B777 project: The basic features... ...and the finished work. Simply amazing!
 A recurrence of 2015 and a twinkling to the famous "Century Market"
Jean-Luc artwork bible is out…

The lithograph of the "Dakota" in a jewel case

Since 2016 rumours were on that the "Editions Paquet" were to publish a book written by Jean-Luc, our "Graphico-Aéronautique" (Graphic and Aeronautical) icon. And so on January 25th, 2017, the piece of art, so long awaited by the old passionate who preciously and jealously kept all these old posters, rolled from the press. The arrival of Jean-Luc Béghin within the "Cockpits" collection is seen by the editor as a chance and a privilege.
As for me, reading this book taught me a lot of things, made me wander back to the nostalgia of my golden youth and put me back into the old readings. The only thing missing to this idyllic painting is to meet the artist and get an autograph to complete this artwork book.

  The long-awaited baby at the good place in the bookstores

"This artist with a surgical precision in his drawings, takes us to his magical aeronautical universe, comes across mythical encounters be it airplanes or the men who build aviation with a big "A" and a lot of courage.
You will be taken by his perfect draft and the level of incredible details of the cockpits of these airplanes. They will give you the taste of taking place aboard, close your eyes and fly off, living adventures and intersect with amazing destinies.
And for those who like to rhyme aviation and poetry, they will get to know Hubert, the nostalgic French basset hound, who will be their guide all along this Art book, expected as well as awaited by all the aficionados of airplanes or by the lovers, having their noses up in the stars"
(Les éditions Paquet).

Through those few lines I would like to thank Jean-Luc Béghin for letting me in his project with a modest picture and also Pierre Taquet, our collaborator, having played the go-between to allow me to have a privileged contact with a great gentleman, with a kindness as great as the distance between California and Belgium.
I can only advise our SBAP readers to order this astonishing piece of work, which, I am sure, will give you hours of historical and aeronautical happiness.

  By clicking on the page of the book, you can order your copy ... 
If you like aviation and Jean-Luc Béghin artwork, do not hesitate any more.

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