Volume 1, Number 1, July 1999
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The following steps involved in producing a typical airbrush illustration reflect a glimpse into my day-to-day work as an airbrush illustrator.
The airbrush is used in an astounding array of artistic endeavors from fine art to fingernails. Artists using airbrush in esoteric ways may also use exotic techniques and materials.
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Most illustration projects, however, require a fairly down-to-earth approach--one which frequently includes at least as much preliminary work as actual painting. The reality is that airbrush art does not happen by magic. Several of the following steps would be necessary, integral aspects of any illustration project, regardless of whether an airbrush was to be utilized.
The Art Director explains the objectives of the assignment (preferences regarding style and direction, intended purpose, and production specifications, including reproduction scale). He or she will likely have a "rough" of some sort which may be in the form of a layout or a "comp" (short for comprehensive art) as a guideline for the project. Assuming the illustrator agrees to budget and deadline, a purchase order is supplied by the client, and the project goes forward.
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A good starting point is a page of thumbnail sketches to determine the best possible composition. In my case, these are loose, fast "doodles" usually intended for my eyes only.
"Scrap" (pictorial reference) relating to the subject is photographed or gathered.
This preliminary drawing, usually drawn on tracing paper, is faxed to the client for approval. Obviously, if changes are required, it is much easier to alter the pencil tissue than the finished artwork. For an airbrush illustration, my pencil tissue is normally more of a crisp, linear "road map" than a "beautiful drawing."
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The nature of the subject, the style of the art, and/or reproduction requirements determine which surface will be most appropriate for any project. Once the choice has been made, the drawing on the pencil tissue is transferred to the illustration board, paper, or canvas. There are numerous methods for the transfer process, but I frequently use a graphite transfer sheet, retracing the drawing to get an image onto the working surface (much like using carbon paper to make a duplicate in a typewriter).
Before diving into the painting, I consider whether or not there may be any further preliminary work required, e.g. inked lines (such as seams in the body of a car) or brush painted features (such as eyelashes). These kinds of details can be applied after the piece is painted, but since I frequently illustrate with transparent airbrush acrylics (Medeas Com-Art Transparent Colors), I prefer to get these details onto the rendering early. Theyll show through the transparent media I glaze on with airbrush later. I do not, however, apply any pencil rendering at this stage because, if adhesive frisket film is to be used in the painting process, it will likely pick up part of the pencil work (not any paint layered over it) when removed. If pencil rendering is to play a role in the finished piece, I wait until all masking has been completed.
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Most of my airbrush illustrations are a combination of frisket masking, loose masking and freehanding. If frisket masking is required, the film is applied, cut with a #11 Xacto blade or surgical scalpel, and removed and replaced as the painting progresses. My personal preference is Frisk Matte Finish Low Tack Film. I save all removed frisket shapes until the painting is complete. Almost every airbrush piece requires some loose masking. This may be achieved with custom masks cut from 5mil acetate or paper, templates (such as circle or ellipse guides), or the Artool Freehand Shields. These manufactured Freehand Shields, available in a broad selection of sizes and shapes, adapt easily to almost any subject and speed up the rendering process.
I use the versatile Iwata HP-C for the bulk of my airbrush painting, but I step up to the Iwata Custom Micron B for any extreme detail work. I use a variety of paint in my work, including gouache, airbrush acrylics and even oils, but I put more Com-Art Transparent and Com-Art Opaque colors through my airbrush than anything else. Medea has recently expanded the range of these colors, giving the artist a better selection. My favorite working surfaces include Frisk CS-10 board (when I can get my hands on it!), Crescent 9208 Premium Hi-Line illustration boards, and Strathmore 2-ply 100% rag medium surface Bristol paper.
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I always allow a little time at the conclusion of an illustration for adjustments, finishing touches, and final cleanup of the finished art.
...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.|
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The Artool Body of Art temporary tattoos are the perfect choice of anyone considering a real tattoo, since all of the Artool designs look so absolutely real! These realistic designs can either be applied by Paint-On Transfers or by the Artool Airbrush System. Wear them for about a week for fun and see if you like the idea of having the real thing. When it finally fades away, try it again. Or just apply a new tattoo every week--the Artool way!
Temporary Body Art is the hottest new trend to hit the scene in years, and it's now the rage worldwide. The Mehndi/Henna body art is enjoying a huge resurgence of popularity in today's Western cultures. Artool has captured this art form with an instant application technique and easy removal process. Anyone can achieve perfect and realistic results within minutes!
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Liquid frisket is a fluid rubber latex solution that prevents paper from absorbing paint. After the paint has dried thoroughly, the liquid frisket (or masking fluid) is removed and the white of the paper shows through. Liquid frisket is a resist that is used extensively in watercolor technique as well as airbrush technique.
Liquid frisket is applied in the same manner in both watercolor and airbrush techniques--with a paint brush or a liquid frisket applicator. It is brushed in the area where you wish to retain the white of the paper and then allowed to dry before the area is painted. Once the airbrushing is completed, the frisket is rubbed off with either a finger or a rubber cement remover. It should always be removed within a few hours so that it does not become permanently attached to the paper.
The tools for applying liquid frisket should be cleaned immediately after use with soap and water. Liquid frisket dries quickly and can ruin a paint brush, but dried fluid can be removed with ethyl alcohol.
Masking fluid should be used only on certain types of paper. On extremely smooth (high or hot press) paper, liquid frisket will adhere so well that it may be impossible to remove; and it should not be used on rough paper--particularly watercolor--because it tends to tear the paper upon removal. Therefore, a medium surface paper, such as cold press (not), is recommended. The paper chosen should also be surface sized so it does not permanently absorb the frisket.
Liquid frisket is available in two forms--clear and tinted. With the tinted form, you can see exactly where it has been applied. One drawback, however, is that the color tint may stain the paper, so white liquid frisket may be preferable.
Using liquid frisket can give an artist added freedom. By covering detail work in the foreground with frisket, you can freely paint the background.
To practice, draw a circle in pencil. Paint in the circle with liquid frisket, covering the pencil line, and let the frisket dry. Airbrush over top with paint. (If the paint builds up on the frisket, dab it with a paper towel.) After the paint dries, remove the frisket. Youll notice that the pencil lines were removed with the frisket, and the bright white paper will show through.
Where can you use this form of frisketing? In developing water droplets, highlighting an eye, painting reverse brush strokes, or anywhere you want an irregular edge.
TIP: Use care when removing liquid frisket that has dried paint on it--so you dont inadvertently stain your paper.
Does it seem like your paint flow is choking? If you are one of those artists who doesn't take his or her airbrush completely apart every time you finish painting and clean each part thoroughly, this might occasionally happen to you!
First of all, most "sane" airbrush T-shirt artists don't clean their guns until they stop working completely. They usually just plug in a new one in order to keep making money. But these clogged airbrush guns do get worked on when the crowd thins down.
Many T-shirt artists have a problem with florescent colors, as these pigments are usually a little larger that other colors. So be especially alert here to paint build-up.
If it seems like your color flow is choking off, the first place to look for trouble is in the tip or cone. Many times, there will be a build-up of color on the inside of the tip where paint has dried and built up after time. The best way to get rid of this build-up, which eventually cuts off the paint flow and causes problems with the internal mixing of air and paint, is to use a wooden toothpick to dislodge the dried paint and pigment. Do not use a needle or any metal object, as this will scar the inside of the tip, causing more build-up. A wooden toothpick will give way before the tip is damaged in any way. A little cleaner helps to soften up the dried paint, so soak those old tips instead of tossing them, as they might come in handy sometime in the future; and at $5 to $10 each, who can afford not to clean them if they are still in good shape.
Take a close look at the tip or cone. Look for a trumpet shape on the very end or a split on the side or an uneven shape on the very end of the tip. All of these little problems are signs to throw away the tip. Look for nylon tips in the near future that hold their shape and last for years.
TIP: Before disassembling your airbrush, check to see whether the choking paint problem can be attributed to a clogged breather hole in the bottle top--a common occurrence.
Two major art materials trade shows and workshop programs that take place each year in the U.S. are the Art Methods and Materials Show in Pasadena, CA, sponsored by American Artist magazine and the Great American Art Event, Melville, L.I., sponsored by Pearl Paint. At both of these highly acclaimed shows, a multitude of hands-on workshops/lectures take place. These presentations cover a variety of subjects which would be helpful to anyone interested in airbrush technique. Classes on color theory, composition, materials, and techniques, along with airbrush-specific classes such as introduction to airbrush techniques, intermediate and advanced classes, nail art, body art, temporary tattoos and photo retouching are available.
Featured at the AM&M Show, scheduled for October 14-17, 1999, at the Pasadena Convention Center, will be airbrush classes by Richard Sturdevant and Pamela Shanteau. Pamela is also the featured airbrush instructor at the GAAE, Long Island, on November 19 and 20, giving artists on both the East and West Coasts the opportunity to take her dynamic classes. See her website at http://www.pamelashanteau.com/.
For further information on both shows/workshops, see http://www.arttalk.com/workshop/workshop.htm.
The 14 Annual Airbrush Action Vargas Awards were presented at the Meadowlands Hilton, Secaucus, NJ, on Friday, June 4. The recipients were Robert Grossman, Roger Huyssen, Doug Johnson, Martin Mull (renowned artist and comedian), Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, and David Willardson. A highlight of the evening was Martin Mulls video acceptance speech, which elicited roars of laughter from those in attendance.
Among artists in attendance were Bob Anderson http://www.arttekstudios.com/index.html and Robert Paschal (former Vargas Award winner) , the co-authors of The Art of the Dot, Advanced Airbrush Techniques; as well as the former award winners: illustrator Michael Cacy, who presented several of the awards; automotive airbrusher Craig Fraser of California; educator Debra Eastlack; and T-shirt artist Terry Hill. Also in attendance were industry leaders from Medea/Iwata/Artool--Will Naemura and Gary Glass; Silentaire Technology--John Smith; Createx--Vince Kennedy; and others. Cliff Stieglitz, publisher of Airbrush Action magazine http://www.airbrushaction.com, reminded everyone to mark next years 15th anniversary celebration on their calendar.
Gary Glass was recently appointed Vice President, Marketing & Sales for Medea Airbrush Products, Portland, OR. He is also affiliated with the Paschal Group as a Strategic Marketing Consultant. Glass has over ten years of experience in the airbrush business and is also an accomplished artist and airbrush user. "I believe that Medea, with its extensive line of Iwata Airbrushes, is well positioned to continue its leadership presence within the industry," said Glass. http://www.medea-artool.com/.
Look for the next issue of Airbrush Talk©--September 15, 1999