Volume 13, Number 2, July 2011
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Revisiting a Favorite Airbrush Project: Image Extension
By Janean Thompson
Back in 2006, I did a project I documented for AirbrushTalk and it has shadowed me ever since. I loved the finished look of the paintings I did at that time and wanted to try doing them again. The technique - I named “image extension”- is used to create a quasi-3D image with a photo of leaves. (Photo 1) The coloration and subtlety of the image enlargement was most interesting and unique. Now, I want to do another experiment using that same technique.
To begin, I gathered materials to complete the work: My airbrush and air supply (Revolution CR along with my Iwata super quiet compressor – the Studio Smart Jet Compressor); an image to work with; colors to complement the image (at least two colorful tones and a shadow color); Backing board/canvas/rag matting, etc., upon which to work; foam board elevation boards (slightly smaller than the trimmed image); and cleanup materials.
Clearly this image is lovely on its own and doesn’t need much enhancement; but the image extension method is not used to alter the original image, only add a new twist to the way that image is displayed. Since I love gardening and do it every minute I can, I selected a photo from the garden for my project.
With a print made for this purpose, I tore any border from the photo to create a feathered edge similar to that of handmade paper. (Photo 2) That look seems to fit the enhancement best as I have tried sharp-edged photos and they look too harsh. With the softened edge, the color tones seem to flow off the photo and onto the back/support material rather than fight the hard edge of the print.
Along with the colors and textures created with the image extension, you should consider the way the finished piece will be framed. In this case it will receive no frame – it will seem to float on the wall. I could have selected any number of options and would most likely have framed it in a sleek, simple, clean metal frame to match the contemporary look of the finished image. But, the contemporary look I achieved was just as pleasant without any frame at all.
The photo should be elevated above the surface of the background material with a piece or pieces of foam board. To do this, attach foam board that is at least ¾ inch smaller on all sides than the photo. Attach the foam board with acid-free ATG tape (double sided tape), but do not attach the package to the canvas or other ground for painting. You will want to be able to move the photo on and then off the canvas so you can bring the tones under the edges of the photo. This creates a smooth transition and looks best.
Set the elevated photo onto the backing (in this case acid-free mat board) and sketch the areas where the shadows appear in the photo. (Photo 3). Remove the photo and apply coloration to the shaded areas. For the shadow tone I selected greens and browns, and I begin from the darkest areas of the photo. That gives me the foundation upon which I will add the brighter tones.
Move to the next color and extend the image area of that color onto the canvas. (Photo 4) Repeat with all the colors you wish to use. I added a few brush strokes and more pencil detail for definition.
Allow the backing to dry completely and then attach the photo onto that surface. Use an acid-free liquid adhesive for maximum holding power. You can elevate the photo or attach it to the mat board without elevation.
As a finished presentation, the photo has taken on an entirely new look. (Photo 5) Photography has such a wide audience that it’s always neat to find a new way to display and offer your work. This is a simple, yet attention-getting approach of image extension that does just that. Try it and see your photographs presented in a completely new way. My bet is you will like it.
“Fire on High”
|Fig. 1—A rough sketch always helps.|
With the outline in place, start adding a little depth and layering with the white to give the flames a little more shape. Remember more white means brighter color saturation when the candy is applied over the top. Lay bright heavy lines where you really want things to pop.
|Fig. 2—Some people like these things black and white like this, but you cannot always take the easy way out.|
Now we’ll do some smooth layering.
|Fig. 3—Add depth by layering your flames.|
I talk about layering a lot, but in this piece it is crucial. The reason for this is that fire is three dimensional, but flame shapes are two dimensional. Our minds want to draw hot rod flames and even I do it in some spots here. I can’t help it, but the fact of the matter is fire is an intangible, multi-layered, 360 degree thing. This being said, we must paint it as it looks, not as we picture it in our heads. So to achieve these tight layers that give fire its ultra-realism, we need a stencil. And not just any stencil, but a do-all stencil from Artool's Freehand Series. These stencils are designed to fit so many shapes, lines and curves that they are a must have. Use the stencil to conform to the various dramatic curves as seen in Fig. 3-4.
|Fig. 4—Nothing beats Artool's freehand stencil with a few modifications for doing flames.|
Well it is color time! This is the fun part, but there is a small obstacle. The true drawback to using transparent craft paints as compared to true automotive candies is that these water-based paints will produce a lot of hazy overspray that you will have to battle with while airbrushing this piece. But no matter, we have to work with what we have. Clean out the Iwata HP-C and fill it with a transparent or “candy” yellow. Now as you begin to fill over the white lightly, you will notice some spots pick up color and some over-sprayed areas actually drop back. This is a good thing because the white overspray is taking in color from the transparent yellow and dropping back. You will also notice that spraying the yellow on the black does nothing. This is the candy effect.
|Fig. 5—There’s mostly line art right now, but going back with some white in those flames will help fill it out.|
Do no be discouraged if your piece looks a little messy halfway through like mine. It is a very simple process to knock areas down with black or also use white and yellow candy to bring others up. I, too, have downfalls when doing these projects. I tend to overdo them and put too much on the page, so this is why we practice.
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Now I am going to go back in and add red candy over the piece. I am very careful this time around because I want the red to turn the flames orange. Too many passes and these things will become red. So, I proceed once again with the Iwata HP-C at around 35 psi. I lightly touch the yellow around the edges and use the red candy to push back the rear layers. This will give the piece color and also depth.
|Fig. 6—The piece looks good, but just needs to be sharpened.|
Well the color is in and now we need to play cleanup as best we can. Using a little black you may want to use some free masking techniques with the Artool Freehand stencil to clean up some of the background; and using some more white/candy technique really pops out the flames. Just try to keep it clean and layer to your liking. Until next time, keep on paintin’!
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Calling all spray artists!
I shall begin with a little background here…
Hello, I'm Shen…I am a graffiti artist turned airbrush artist turned traditional artist turned Mommy and I'm now airbrushing once again. I call the airbrush my second love, as nothing can ever take the place of spray cans or aerosol art to me. I tagged "Shen Shen 210" back in the day at age 16 and was told recently upon coming across my old friend Alex/Neon (the Montana Spray can artist & distributor for the USA) that I was a legend and many of my former crew members and peers who are now Graffiti Legends themselves were looking for me, wondering where I had gone. But I'd been kinda busy.
The airbrush blew my mind when I first held it, as I realized that I could achieve much better results than with the early tools available to aid an aerosol artist in the late eighties, so I became hooked instantly. Following my switch, I launched a successful business for over 15 years, airbrushing everything you can think of throughout the state of California, all the while getting better and better in drawing, painting, and learning how to create my own visions on the surface upon the easel before me.
I then took some time to develop traditional brush painting skills, culminating with a 55x12 foot brush painted mural, and then, finally, had my beautiful baby girls—to which no painting shall ever compare. Well, now I'm back in the airbrush world and wanting to be an agent of change, as I see something bigger and better; but for that I will need the help of my fellow artist friends. But before I get into that, a little more history follows.
One of the reasons why I made the decision to work in a different media was partly because when I told people that I was an airbrush artist, and before seeing my work, they would think that I did nothing more than paint skulls and tee shirts at amusement parks. I have painted plenty of skulls, and my first job was painting tee shirts at Great America, which I loved, but those styles have not defined me. Another reason I picked up paint brushes was because I got tired of the slick airbrush look and wanted to experiment; and, lastly, I feel that the more skills you have under your belt, the more capable you are of breaking the rules, which I have always loved to do!
I wrote many articles for Airbrush Action Magazine in the late nineties--painting ties, canvas, tees, and leather. I also taught at several of the Airbrush Action Getaways. Teaching is an incredible opportunity to really master what you are doing, and I highly recommend it for every artist. Everyone has an artist inside them, but not everyone knows how to unleash it. That is where we who are actually painting come in. People need our help to learn how to become more creative; that is why they are so blown away when they view our art. I believe the two essentials for a potential art student turned artist in his own right are (1) a desire to create and (2) the willingness to try. I believe that after this the rest will evolve organically.
One of the reasons, I believe, that I was able to break out of the traditional model of an "airbrush artist" was that I apprenticed under every fantastic artist (no matter what media they used) that I had the opportunity to work with, and I still do to this day. A recent conversation with Thomas Blackshear was one where I told him I would just love to be in his studio to watch him do his magic. He said that he would be honored and that he might absorb something from me as well. I was blown away! Another famous artist I had the privilege to work with was John Pugh, one of the most amazing trompe l'oeil artists living today. I learned perspective, among many other amazing disciplines from John, and I will never be the same after my time working on his team. Others include Mark English, Gary Kelley, Greg Spalenka, Andrea Mistretta, Michael Cacy, and several more…not to mention a thorough study of anatomy through life drawing, and of obscure and well known artists whenever I have a free moment, from books, museums, galleries and the Net. Inspiration is everywhere, but it is our job to take notice and let ourselves, our techniques, and our subject matter grow from this inspiration.
Well, enough for now. I am on a flight to New York City to study the silkscreening process with the famous and brilliant printmaker David Fortune. So, until next time, enjoy and take advantage of the infusion of life that occurs when we tackle the incredible job of creation that we are so blessed to have!
NOTE: All displayed paintings were created using the Iwata HP-C Airbrush, EZAir Cleaners and the Artograph LED 2000 Projector.
More of Shen's work may be viewed at: www.ShenStudio.com.
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The NEO for Iwata Series Airbrushes are available in two styles:
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Basic Airbrush Techniques 6-Hour Hands-On Workshop
With Robert Paschal, MFA
Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011
Time: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 – 5 p.m.
Place: McKinley Hall
First Presbyterian Church
(65 miles north of NYC on the Metro North Line)
For thirty years Robert has used this curriculum to teach thousands of students the basics of airbrush technique in this hands-on workshop.
Designed for the person who has never before used an airbrush or for those who have used one without success, this time-proven class in basic airbrush techniques has been taught throughout the U.S. Students will learn how to handle and hook up an airbrush, air sources to use, compatible materials, suitable work surfaces and their preparation and the simple maintenance procedures that are required. A high-quality Iwata airbrush will be used by students as they render a series of pre-printed exercises, while learning the fundamentals of airbrush technique.
All materials/equipment are supplied for use in class. Space is limited.
...the link between you, the visual artist, and the manufacturer of art materials.
|ARTtalk is a monthly eight-page newsletter available FREE-OF-CHARGE from Participating Art Material Retailers in the U.S., Canada and Bermuda. Each month you'll find informative articles that deal with a variety of subjects such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, arts and crafts, and more. These explain various techniques—how to work and paint with watercolor, oils, or acrylics; use pastels or pen and ink, airbrush, and more. You'll find information on art history, current events and art world news, as well as an occasional "Kids' Korner." Subjects vary and change each month.|