Volume 13, Number 6, March 2012
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Journey from Dark to Light
A Rose by Any Other Name is Not the Same!
By Shen—Jazz, Celebrity and Portrait Painter
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Hi everybody! After a break in airbrushing due to a job transfer, I'm back with a brand new project for you, and I have to say it's great to be back!
Zombies are the big thing nowadays with all the games, comics and toys that are on the market, not to mention "The Walking Dead" on AMC. It only seemed fitting to bring you a new zombie entitled “Undead Sebastian Birch", produced by Moses Jaen.
Before I get started there's one thing I've not spoken enough about regarding our hobby and that's safety. Years ago I'd just be at the kitchen table spraying away, having no concern about what I was breathing. When it came time to move and I'd wash down the walls, it would be pretty self-evident that overspray had found its way throughout the house; and after seeing what was coming off the walls and the glass coffee table top, it served as a wakeup call that I'd better rethink my setup. So take it from me, spend the money on this stuff and you'll be better off. So, with that said, here's my setup:
Here's my spray booth. It has two fans in the bottom to vacuum the overspray out of the air, and it's closed on five sides to trap overspray within the booth. You'll notice two dryer hoses on the end. These are placed out an open window to evacuate the fumes and paint particles. Finally, the booth itself has three layers of filter, including a charcoal filter that eliminates the smell. You'll also notice I'm wearing a respirator. While this might not be absolutely necessary with the booth running, I see no reason not to use it. Better to be too safe than not safe enough, right? Now, let's get to the bust.
The problem with painting zombies and corpses is that the color you see in the movies is rarely what actual decomposition looks like. But one must stick with what people are familiar with seeing on the screen to catch their attention at the model shows, so my advice is to do a Google search for zombie images and paint what you see.
Here's the bust with a base coat of flesh tone lightly sprayed over a gray primer coat. The light flesh tone will help make the following colors stand out more.
Here I've mixed up some olive drab and sprayed all the holes and torn parts of the zombie. Further, I noodled the color on the rest of the bust to start the breakup of the base coat. While pretty much any color would work, I like the dark greens for their "yuck" factor.
Next, I began noodling various shades of browns and grays on the bust to start building up the colors. I simply went through my paint drawer and picked out colors I thought would look good. That's the fun part of painting things like this. You can go with just about any color scheme you want and it will work.
Here's the axe that goes with the bust. Earlier I sprayed a coat of steel over the head and masked off a triangle on either side. Then I sprayed red over the silver. Before the paint had enough time to cure, I used a piece of tape and dabbed on the red to pull pieces of it away to show the steel underneath. Finally, I sprayed some rust on the axe head to make it look old and well used. You'll see that in upcoming pics.
In regard to the base, I wanted to paint old rotting wood. This sounds difficult, but it's actually pretty simple. Base coat the wood and then start making streaks throughout with differing shades of browns and a hint of green. I like to deepen the recesses with olive drab, then darken the deepest parts with black and then follow with browns. There's no definite how-to on this. Just pick colors that you feel would look good and go from there. The key is to go from light to dark with your colors because light colors are easier to cover than dark ones. You can really notice this in the next three pics.
You'll really see all the different shades I used on this project in this pic. You'll also notice the effect that noodling has in breaking up the base color. In noodling, you don't really "see" the different shades, but your brain picks up that they're there. The best way I can describe it is to listen to your favorite song. Now imagine that the bass or cymbals are removed. It's a small part of the music and you don't notice it right away, but if it were removed you'd notice instantly that something was missing. Noodling the colors are the "bass" and "cymbals" of the project.
This was an easy and fun project. Special thanks to my wife, Melissa, for taking my spray booth pics, getting me a neat pop-up photography studio for Christmas and standing behind me on displaying gruesome things like this in the living room. You're the greatest, sweetheart!
A new issue and a new challenge, this article will cover the ever elusive realistic flames. This time around we will attempt to work this effect into an entire composition. This is more challenging than it sounds due mostly to the fact that three-dimensional cubes can be very tough to draw and to paint in proper pose. These are the things that have perplexed you since high school art class. But, no worries, we shall fear no project!
There’s much to do in this composition, so we had best get started. First off you will need a surface to paint this piece on. I chose a composite panel made up of a thin PVC core with aluminum on either side. These panels are usually used for signs but make great durable rigid panels to do demo airbrush work on. The panel I have already has a black finish on it so all I have to do is scuff up.
Fig. 1 - Clean and scuff so your paint will stick.
Once the panel is scuffed, clean well with soap and water or alcohol and make sure that your surface is completely dry. With the metal clean and dry you may now apply your masking paper. If you read my articles you will notice I always use this adhesive-backed masking paper. I cannot stress enough how well this stuff works for airbrushing. You can cut it, draw on it and reposition it, and we will do all three in this project. (See Artool’s complete selection of masking films at http://www.iwata-medea.com/index.php/artool/masking_film; and http://www.medea-artool.com/artool/maskingfilm.htm.)
Once you cover the panel you will next need a pencil and brand new x-acto knife. As you will see in the pic, I simply drew my design with the pencil straight onto the mask. Now drawing these cubes is a task in and of itself. You want to use a pose that will really make your cubes look like tumbling dice. You will find out that drawing these is easier said than done. Here is a tip: Always make sure that your lines on each side of the cube are parallel, meaning if you continued them forever they would not touch. Also, the lines that intersect at the top and bottom of the squares should intersect at the same angle. This is tricky, but use a ruler and keep drawing until you get it right. If it looks wrong it will look fake, and remember that.
|Fig. 2 - Keep the cutout to piece in your mask later.||Fig. 3 - Cool clean cuts make a crisp design.|
You can probably guess the next step, which is to cut carefully along the lines with an x-acto blade. Don’t apply too much pressure and use a ruler to keep straight lines.
Next we go up to the shop to start the spraying. I am using an Iwata HP Plus gravity feed brush for this project. I do not use this brush nearly enough and it is just as good as my HP-C, so let’s knock the dust off it. I use some white to prime the area of the dice and lay down a good, even coat as a base for our candy apple red.
Fig. 4 - A white base will make the Candy Red POP!
|The professional Iwata Airbrush line is imported and manufactured exclusively by Medea Airbrush Products, along with commercial spray guns, Medea Textile Colours and Com-Art Airbrush Colours.|
Next we begin with the red candy. This paint has very distinct characteristics to consider when using. First off, it is transparent and gets darker the more passes you lay down. This would be impossible to get a uniform value out of normally, but this is going to work to our advantage in this case. Once the red has been established to your liking then we can begin to play around with our dimensional shapes. Now, as I mentioned earlier, we will use the building quality of the candy color to bring out the dimension in these dice. I usually cut and unmask one section of the die at a time and darken or lighten the edge depending on the light characteristics for the cube. In some cases I use a piece of paper to mask a line on the fly.
Fig. 5 - Paper and index cards make a great free-mask.
You can’t do much with a couple of plain red boxes except rent videos from them, so we need to load these dice so to speak. Before we get to dotting these things we are going to take a transparent white in the Iwata HP Plus and turn the pressure down to about 45 psi. I would also suggest taking off the crown cap to get a finer line from the brush for this instance. With that done, simply look at the corner of the dice that poke out of space and give them a very lightly brushed highlight. You may also want to highlight an edge or two and put a little light burst on the corner for good looks. This will give the dice a plastic look.
Fig. 6 - Make sure your boxes have a bit of light and shadow.
Next, with the transparent white still in the brush it is time to put in those dots. For this we keep the same brush and same settings. The trick to doing this right is holding a die in your hand and framing it up just as it is in the picture. Then pay close attention to where the number dots land and also how they are shaped. You will notice the dots on the broad side of the dice will be larger and round, but the other sides (since they are in perspective) will have smaller, less concentric circles. These perspective dots will be orblike.
Fig. 7 - Make sure your dots are adjusted for perspective.
Well, now you have a great looking pair, but they are not hot enough, and we need fire. After unwrapping all your masking, keep that Iwata HP-Plus just the way it is, as now we enter the realm of the realistic flames. Realistic flames are possibly the easiest-hardest thing to do with an airbrush. Built on the theory of candy colors I have explained in many articles, these flames are stacked in layers. First, use an Artool freehand stencil to wisp in some smoky lines. Set yourself free and let these lines have a life of their own. Don’t try to make them look like the flames you see in your head; they have to be random.
Fig. 8 - Building the flames is a layering process.
Next use your freehand prowess to elaborate on these lines. Remember that the value of white will directly affect the value of the candy colors going over the top. Put simply: when candy hits black it is black, when it hits white, the brighter white the brighter color. Think of it like a “magic” marker—you color a picture with invisible markers and then the magic marker makes a picture show up when you color over it.
Fig. 9 - You might like it just like this, the ghost flames.
Now that you ate your veggies, it’s candy time. Take that same Iwata HP-Plus and fill it up with some yellow candy. Then go crazy because you really cannot mess this up with candy. When you spray over the whites, it will turn yellow, but if you hit the black, the transparent yellow never shows up.
Fig. 10 - Lay on the transparent yellow to light up the flames.
Next is the layering of the colors. Using a bit of the candy red you can spray over the yellow in spots where you would like a deeper, darker color. Guess what—transparent colors take on what’s underneath, so red and yellow make orange! Flame orange! Keep building up layers to your liking. You may even want to go back and put in some more white, repeating the candy process to brighten certain areas.
For a more in-depth explanation of the flame technique, see the Archives for my other articles on this topic. Well, if and when you decide you are satisfied, spruce it up, sign it and shoot on a clear coat and enjoy. Till next time, Keep on Paintin’.
Fig. 11 - All finished and it looks like a hot hand!
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It is easy to transform an otherwise simple and uninteresting wooden tote into garden art or color coordinated planter for your favorite small plants. If you use it as a planter you might select plants that require less water to keep the tote cleaner and more durable. Sedums are always good candidates if you use this as a planter. One suggestion is to leave the plants in their original containers and fill in around the pots with moss, mulch or bark.
This project employs one of the garden totes I make from old fence pickets. (Photo 1) It is super simple to make and, once decorated, it makes a great gift or decorative element in your garden or that of another. The decision you will want to make is how you want to decorate it. I love the look of aged, old, worn but still useful items for the garden or in the beds around the house. I keep one of these on my patio table full of small geraniums or sedums, since they can tolerate the morning sun and there’s marginal watering and less “weeping” on the table. Additionally, you could line the compartment with a piece of scrap plastic to prevent furniture or surface damage from water leaks.
|Photo 1: A handmade tote ready for decoration.|
With the garden tote very lightly sanded – there are lots of splinters on this old, weathered fence wood – you can begin to add decoration. To show off the tote, you might use bright, springtime colors or more neutral tones if you want to keep it on the subtle side. I like, no—I love color so I’ll add some pop with bright tones.
The airbrush of choice is my trusted single action Iwata Revolution SAR and the Silent Air Compressor that is so quiet you don’t even notice it running. Colors are acrylics in bright tones. The only other things you will need to do this project are sandpaper block for the splintery surface (and to antique the finished surface if desired), a cloth to remove the dust, both surface protection and clean up materials and painters’ tape for masking.
Masking off is easy with painter’s tape and newspaper. That way you can control the exact placement of color.
Apply your acrylic colors to the planter/tote. You might want to use several colors or just one. It is always up to you. I thought two colors added more interest on this particular project. I used one color for the side panels and handle and a second color for the compartment area. (Photo 2) With the first color on the areas I wanted, I added the second tone. Super simple application allowed this to be very easy and fast to complete.
|Photo 2: After the tones are applied, allow the tote to dry completely.|
To create a more weathered or antique look, I allowed the colors to dry, then lightly sanded the edges and areas where wood showing through enhanced the finish. (Photo 3) You may or may not like this look…if not, ignore this and apply a coat of clear sealer to make the colors last longer. Again, the old look is what I enjoy, so I didn’t overcoat mine. It will slowly weather and look older and older but still have color and form that is useful.
|Photo 3: Antiquing (roughing with sandpaper block) the surface adds visual interest.|
So many other items can be finished in this super quick and easy manner. Any wood surface is a candidate—boxes, shelves, old furniture and more.
(Photo 4) My tote will be in the garden, among the spring vegetable and herb plants. Speaking of herbs, they are great in a small moveable garden like this one. You can always find the right spot for a little color and visual excitement!
|Photo 4: Completed tote with plants in place.|
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|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.|