Volume 1, Number 2, September 1999
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Since most artists who use the airbrush are self-taught, simple, little bad habits are not uncommon, even among professionals.
If--like most of us--you use a double-action airbrush, you may want to take a step back and have a look at a couple of common "glitches" in technique, which can make life miserable if not corrected.
1. The airbrush I use most often (an Iwata HP-C) is a double-action airbrush; that is, I push down on the trigger for air and pull back on it for flow of paint. This is a typical double-action design.
It is important to remember to push all the way down on the trigger before pulling back for paint. If you desire less pressure, adjust the regulator at your air source, because depressing the trigger only partway is a very poor way of regulating the amount of air pressure.
The Result: Insufficiently depressing the trigger can cause spitting, splatters, and other unwanted spray quality.
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This problem is more prevalent than one might imagine. Some people are a little afraid of the airbrush and may press partway down in an effort to be cautious. The more cautious or tentative they become, the more problems occur. Remember that when you push straight down on the trigger of an airbrush of this type, it's just air. It is not until you pull back on the trigger that paint actually begins to flow.
The Remedy: Remember to push all the way down on the trigger before pulling back on it for paint.
2. When we are in the act of painting with a double-action airbrush, we have pushed down for airflow and we are pulling back on the trigger for the appropriate volume of paint flow. If you neglect to allow the trigger to return to the forward position before interrupting the flow of paint (e.g., snapping your finger off the trigger in mid-spray) you are asking for trouble.
The Result: Paint remains on the needle and possibly in the tip--paint that is just waiting to spit out onto your work the instant you depress the trigger again.
The Remedy: Remember to push the trigger forward (into the air only position) before disengaging it.
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3. Doing everything right and the airbrush still spits? Maybe the problem is the airbrush after all. Check to see that the nozzle cap is at least finger tight so that air cannot escape around the threads. Occasionally, this frontal portion of the airbrush may loosen up all by itself, causing an erratic spray pattern.
Check to see that the needle cap is clean. If paint builds up here, the airbrush may spit or spray erratically.
If the problem is not you and not the airbrush, what then? Remember that paint viscosity is directly proportionate to air pressure required to push the paint through the airbrush. Even though you may be diluting pigments properly, heavier pigments (such as gouache or heavy acrylics) may require a little more air pressure to assure a constant, even spray pattern.
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At one time when people thought of "fine art," they pictured traditional brush application of oil paint on canvas. Artists like Chuck Close helped to change this in the 70's with the advent of Super Realism. I can still remember seeing his work for the first time in a SOHO gallery. I was using the airbrush in my own paintings at the time, so I connected with this "new school" immediately.
I was also an acrylic paint user. Few people realize the importance of acrylics in the acceptance by fine artists of the airbrush as a tool. Acrylic paint made possible the spray application of a non-toxic, professional grade, highly pigmented, permanent color without the danger of using solvents. For artists used to working on canvas, acrylics proved flexible over time and provided an archival paint film that could withstand the continual atmospheric changes that stretched canvas goes through.
Acrylics were easy to reduce for airbrush, and companies like Liquitex offered (and still do) a medium viscosity formulation that was closer to sprayable consistency than the typical oil-like viscosity. In those days, airbrush companies didn't quite know what to make of artists trying to spray acrylics. There were times when I was told flat out by an airbrush company that you couldn't do it. The rest is history and we have all seen that airbrush and acrylics go hand-in-hand in fine art applications where both paint film and color permanence are important.
You may wonder what makes a piece of artwork "fine art." It is a combination of intent, approach, subject matter, presentation and technique. Certainly, the use of the airbrush carries with it the perception of commercial art or illustration. The smooth color and value transitions and the brush stroke-free application that attracts us to this tool can lessen or destroy the fine art appeal. My approach over the years has been to use the airbrush in tandem with traditional brush techniques. I don't attempt to use the airbrush in all areas of a painting but only those that seem to require it. I tend to use layers of traditional brushwork, followed by airbrush, repeating the process until I create the look I want. This helps to maintain a more expressionistic appearance while making use of the qualities for which the airbrush is known.
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I am also careful not to use friskets unless absolutely necessary. The hard edges that this procedure creates do not exist in nature. A "frisketed look" can be visually distracting, unrealistic and runs contrary to a fine art approach. If you must use friskets, soften the edges with a fine round brush. This will help to create the illusion of depth as objects bend away from you in three-dimensional space.
The use of airbrush technique tends to tighten style for better control of paint application. Varying and combining application methods can add new interest and wider fine art appeal.
NOTE: You can see Robert Anderson's work at his ArtTek Studios Web Site at www.arttekstudios.com.
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An air compressor compacts (squeezes) or compresses air (called "ambient air," meaning the air we breathe) under pressure to create a force of air. This pressurized air occupies a smaller space either inside the compressor or in an air tank connected to the compressor.
The higher the pressure, the harder the compressor has to work; and the higher the pressure, the faster the pressurized air will escape from the compressor.
Oilless Diaphragm Compressors do not require lubrication, but they do make some noise while operating. They usually don't come with an air tank and tend to pulsate and run constantly. This means they heat-up quickly and must be turned off every 20 - 30 minutes to cool down. They generally put out relatively low pressures of 30 to 40 PSI. Therefore, these compressors are best suited for applications that do not require a lot of air force, i.e., nail art, model detailing, craft painting, cake decorating, etc.
An alternative is an automatic shutoff unit. This feature turns the compressor off automatically when the airbrush is not in use, thus eliminating heat build-up, which extends the life expectancy of the compressor and eliminates the constant noise.
Silent Compressors have oil-filled motors and are noiseless. Unlike the diaphragm units, it is important to periodically check the oil level of these compressors. If you run them without oil, you will burn up the motor just like the engine in an automobile. It is also very important to use the right kind of oil, namely a synthetic-based product, i.e., SILAIR. This will prevent harmful carbon build-up on the compressor valve plate and eliminate the odors produced by mineral-based oils.
All silent compressors are piston-driven and oil-filled, which reduces friction in the motor. Also, they have an air tank that allows the unit to shut off automatically when the tank is full of air. This has several benefits: It keeps the oil and air cool and it provides a lifetime of use with proper care.
Silent compressors are excellent for those working in confined quarters or with others or whenever noise is a problem. These units come in many configurations, so it's important to match the correct paint and airbrush to the right compressor for your particular application.
Silentaire Technology has a complete line of compressors to cover the needs of all airbrushers from nail and hobby art to illustration and fine art to sign painting and murals. See www.arttalk.com/Silentaire and visit your retailer for further information.
...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.|
When you think of textile art, T-shirts are usually the first things that come to mind. They have long been the accepted standard in the airbrush industry. In recent years, there has been a trend to explore new venues of presentation for textile-based art, and denim is one such media.
There are certain advantages for choosing denim. One advantage is a greater monetary return for your efforts--work on a denim jacket can command a higher price than the same work done on a T-shirt. Another advantage is the universal appeal of denim; people from all walks of life--young and old, rich and poor--all share a common ground in their appreciation for denim. This represents a very broad, potential customer base.
In the process of garment assembly, along with the various dyes used to create the different colored clothing, the material can be treated with additional chemicals. These "chemicals" can take the form of softeners, fillers and resins used to stabilize the fabric, control shrinkage and make the fabric easier to sew. Any residual of these chemicals can, in a sense, create a "false surface" that, when painted over, might be lost the first time the garment is washed. The outcome would be a portion of your work being literally "lost in the wash." To avoid this event, I pre-wash all my garments before painting on them.
Although you can paint on any color denim, I've found using a "Faded Blue" denim works best. The reason is twofold: First, it is just easier to work on, not requiring a white base coat (unless for effect); and, second, most people wash their denim because they desire that "faded" state. Starting with a "Faded Blue" jacket extends the life of the artwork by circumventing excessive washing.
I use a homemade T-shirt board to stretch my jackets over. It is a 24" x 36" piece of 1/4" thick composite pressboard with the corners rounded off at the top. This makes for a very stout surface area on which to stretch the jacket. Stretch the denim taut, and hold it in place with spring clamps.
Using generic masking tape, the jacket is covered, leaving only the area to paint exposed.
You may or may not choose to apply a white base coat at this time. This choice is based on time constraints and overall intensity of color desired. If no white base coat is desired, I apply a coat of Extender/Medium (depending on the paint system used), allowing it to air-dry before heat setting. If a white base coat is desired I proceed as before; allow the Extender/Medium to air dry (approximately 30 minutes) and then apply a coat of opaque white and allow this to air dry. To heat-set in either case, I use an iron and an old linen pillowcase. Clipping the pillowcase to the top of the board, I iron the surface through the pillowcase for about three minutes. (A cheap egg timer works well here.) Not only does this heat-set the paint and/or mediums, but it also flattens the nap of the surface, thus minimizing the effect of overspray.
Using an Artograph projector, the basic outline is transferred to the surface. I use a piece of chalk. I've found that as you paint over it, the chalk outline either blows away or any residual is absorbed by the paint.
You're now ready to paint!
Let us assume we have selected the support we wish to paint on (in this case denim), and our subject is wildlife (some exotic big cat) and the denim has been prepped as outlined in the previous section. Personally, I favor a gravity-feed airbrush for textile work over the conventionally accepted siphon/bottle-fed airbrushes you see generally. I've found the Iwata Eclipse CS to be an excellent airbrush for textile work. The color cup design allows me to mix my colors as I go along and also helps facilitate easy cleaning. The Eclipse CS has a unique nozzle design that is ideal for the thicker, textile paints--it allows a smooth flow while working at lower pressures which translates to finer detail.
Since this is a text-based presentation, let's say our background is simply a solid color or a simple wash of colors, and we have already completed that part. We have left the shape of our subject unpainted, in this instance by using a mask created with common wax paper and readily available repositional aerosol spray (found at most art supply stores).
To start, you want an opaque-looking paint base in the color that will be predominant throughout the body of the animal depicted. Mix this base color, keeping to the middle value, relative to the range of colors you use. While this is not a totally solid color, it is close, and the paint strokes that show through can be used to suggest fur texture later on. Paint the edges of your subject's outline to establish its presence over the background work.
Using an opaque projector, transfer the key lines that establish the major features of your subject. These should include the major facial features (with special attention to the eyes) and the specific fur areas that relate to the species (stripes, spots, etc.)
Mix a color that is the next darker value of your base coat, and use this color to draw in the areas that indicate shadows, major fur areas and dark areas such as the eyes and nose. I've found Artool templates (the "Pharaoh" and "Bird" from the Radu Vero series) to be extremely helpful in defining the basic areas and for further refining detail later on.
Using several different colors, each still close in value to the middle value of your base color, slowly build on the textures and details of your subject. The paint is applied sometimes in a wash and sometimes in short or long strokes, as needed. This is done to suggest the illusion of fur. As you do this, your technique has to be consistent with the areas you wish to render as suggested in your references.
Continue to add both washes and airbrush strokes of increasingly darker values, concentrating on those areas that will be darkest on your subject. Overall, there are still several steps to complete until you see your darkest paint, and there are areas that will be painted in opposite values, going progressively lighter, that will render your dark areas darker by contrast.
From this point, the process that began with a flat base color, moving through a darker drawing stage, now moves into creating a more three-dimensional appearance. We're now at a place where your eyes and imagination begin to get a feel for the outcome. Work back and forth between all the colors and values suggested in your reference(s) to make the necessary adjustments to your painting. The final step is to add the really dark values; this is most prominent in the eyes and nose area of your subject. These need to be darker than anything in the background to offer a better contrast and to bring the subject forward as the center of attention for the viewer. The same thing is true of the lighter values as well. The contrast of these two extremes brings the final impact and presence to your work!
Ideally you should have the work sold before you ever begin; at the very least, you should have a market for the type of work you do. However, when first starting out as a working artist, this is not always possible.
Seeing as Wildlife Art is one of my mainstays, let me use that as an example and share what has worked for me.
It has been my experience that every wildlife preservation effort is dependent on donations and fund raising events to supplement its other means (if any) of financing its work. Contributing to such organizations is a win/win situation for all parties with numerous advantages for everyone involved.
For the artist, it introduces you to your "target market"--those who have an appreciation and passion for wildlife and wildlife art. It allows you an association with a source of photo resources for the type of work you do, resources you might not otherwise ever obtain. Most important, it allows you to do something positive--to give something back.
The Wildlife Preserve obtains much-needed funds and is able to draw more attention to its efforts via your unique offerings. This in turn allows the Preserve to sell more works for you and increases your presence to your target market, which in turn benefits them as well!
Those who buy your work are gifted with the pride of owning something truly unique and the satisfaction of knowing that they helped out by buying your work. The best advertising money can't buy is that of a satisfied customer bragging about his discovery of a new talent as evidenced by his new wearable art.
Initially, you may introduce yourself by donating a piece or two for some fund-raising event, but you will find that every wildlife effort has some form of gift shop or similar outlet that they sell product through on a regular basis. In the case of such organizations, I sell the work to them at a reduced rate. In this way, they can in turn resell them at a fair price and still realize a profit. What I lose on large individual sales, I more than make up for in volume, and this widespread exposure leads to many other commissions outside this one venue. This type of marketing is indeed a very worthwhile avenue to pursue! It is rewarding not only financially (which in turn allows you to contribute more), but also spiritually, allowing you to truly make a difference through your work.
NOTE: J.w.Baker specializes in Fantasy & Wildlife Wearable Art.
Online Gallery: http://www.jwbart.com.
And (Coming Soon) GhostDancer - "Nothing is ever forgotten..." - http://www.ghostdancer.net/
"Art is Enlightenment ~ Never Embellishment" ~ Sapienter si sincere ~
Airbrushing--it has been around since the first caveman with an idea. He or she blew blood through a hollow bone to make an outline of his/her hand on a cave wall. Granted, technology has advanced the process, but the idea is still the same. Get an air source and force paint through a tool to create a design.
Something else has remained the same for a long time: the way we apply the airbrush to earn a living. T-shirts and textiles have provided a solid source of income for many airbrush artists for many years. Photo retouching has benefited from the airbrush as long as there have been photographs. Other artists spray automotive paints to earn their daily bread; still others use the airbrush with other mediums to create the illustrations that inform and delight us when we read our favorite books and periodicals. All of these fields of airbrushing have been explored and developed for many years and are the usual areas from which we all use the airbrush to make a living.
Fingernail airbrushing has made great strides over the last 10 years to become a staple in women's beauty salons. Everywhere, women are displaying beautiful airbrushed designs on their nails. It is as common as, well, let's say airbrushed T-shirts. During the 1990's, fingernail art has chiseled its way into the bedrock of our industry, and it is here to stay.
Enter the new kid on the block. With the subtlety of a neutron bomb, Body Art has exploded onto the airbrush scene. Across the nation, customers are lining up (sometimes very long lines) to get airbrushed make-up, airbrushed body painting and airbrushed temporary tattoos. This trend will continue well into the next millennium, I fathom, and will be a great income generator for the savvy airbrush artist who positions himself or herself to take advantage of the demand for these services.
A successful temporary tattoo/Body Art parlor works with the exact same model of a successful airbrush T-shirt shop. The set-up is the same--just the painting surface and pigments are different. Adapting your airbrush set-up to do body art requires literally zero equipment investment. You only need the inks, stencils and transfers and you are on your way to profits! Check out these websites to learn more about the people who make and use the new temporary tattoo/body art pigments and products:
If you snooze you lose. Include Body Art in your airbrush arsenal and watch your business grow! Or watch someone else's grow.
Emerson R. Bigguns
NOTE: Photographer and writer Emerson R. Bigguns has had photos and articles published in many art-related fields. Attending and working at various art conventions across the country, Emerson has his hand on the daily pulse of the art scene. Look for Emerson's behind-the-scenes perspective on the art world in future issues.
Yi AppointedSakura of America, well known for the popular Gelly Roll pen and Cray- Pas oil pastels, has named John Yi as National Sales Manager. Yi has a strong background in several consumer product industries including arts and crafts and has worked as a gallery director/manager and an illustrator/designer. He was formerly affiliated with Aztek, Inc. and Badger Air Brush Co.
Airbrush Workshops ScheduledSee some of the best airbrush instructors at workshops coming up this fall: http://arttalk.com/workshop/workshop.htm.
Art Methods and Materials Show
Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena, CA
Oct. 14 The Meat and Potatoes of Airbrushing- 6 Hr. - $120
Oct. 16 Airbrush Techniques for Breathtaking Effects and Details 3 Hr. - $65
Oct. 16 Temporary Tattoo and Body Art Application 3 Hr. - $65
Oct. 14 Your First Airbrushing Adventure 3 Hr. - $65
Oct. 15 Mixed Media Special Effects with Airbrush 3 Hr. - $65
Oct. 17 - Mixed Media Portraiture 6 Hr. - $120
For info on the above classes/registration, call 1-888-200-7895; or see www.artmethods.com/index.html
Great American Art Event
Melville, L.I., N.Y.
Nov. 19 Temporary Tattoos and Body Art Applications 3 hr. - $60
Nov. 19 - The Meat and Potatoes of Airbrushing 3 Hr. - $60
Nov. 20 - Techniques for Breathtaking Effects and Detail 3 Hr. - $60
Nov. 20 - Airbrushing for Children 2 Hr. - $20
For info on the above classes/registration, call 1-800-PEARL94; or see www.arttalk.com/workshop/li.htm.
Look for the next issue of Airbrush Talk©--January 15, 2000