Volume 3, Number 1, July 2001
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Being an illustrator, the prospect of working at mural scale is more than just a little scary to me. "Large," to me, is something like 30" x 40", which is as large as most illustration board comes off the shelf. However, this week I'm putting the finishing touches on the first of two murals that I am creating for an interior retail space in Bermuda--ninety-two square feet of mural to be exact, and that's just the first one, four feet by approximately twenty-three feet. For you artists who paint large exterior murals, this would be a piece of cake, but that's an awfully large illustration for me--not to mention, quite a departure from my usual daily routine.
Having not painted this large in years, it has been a learning experience...and, I must admit, mighty satisfying to see the concept take shape this large. I decided to write a little about my project for this installment of "Cacy's Corner" because I discovered some things along the way that might be of use to you should you ever decide to tackle a project like this.
I began the murals just as I would any other illustration, preparing my drawings at a comfortable scale and faxing them off to my client for approval. Once everyone was happy, I projected the preliminary composite drawing (in photo copied sections) up to full scale using an Artograph Super Prism.
Since the mural was to be painted upon panels on the west coast and shipped all the way to Bermuda, I selected a surface that I knew to be lightweight. I considered canvas, but the client preferred rigid panels, which could be easily removed and replaced during periodic renovations to the retail space where the murals are to be hung. Gatorfoam® Graphic Arts Board is a material commonly used in the exhibit and display industry. Manufactured by International Paper, it is a moisture-resistant, warp-resistant, rigid extruded polystyrene foam core faced two sides with a smooth, high quality white Luxcell® surface and is available in five different thickness. It is several times more rigid and durable than Fome-Cor® (also manufactured by International Paper), but you still want to be careful not to ding corners and edges. I had used this product on trade show exhibit projects in the past, but this was the first time I had painted on this type of board, so I had to educate myself to the possibilities as I went along. What a "dream-come-true" for airbrushing!
I procured a stack of 4' x 8' panels from a local plastics supplier. I began by laying down a coat of gesso, but soon discovered that the gesso wasn't necessary. In fact, for the style of painting that this project called for (a combination of brush painting and airbrush), the raw surface of the Gatorfoam® was actually a better ground than the gesso.
Much of my underpainting was executed in Holbein Acryla Gouache and Palmer black gesso (which were brush painted) and a smattering of permanent markers. For the airbrush portion of the job, I used a variety of airbrush acrylics, including Dr. Martin's Spectralite, Createx, and others, but the bulk of the surface was painted with Com-Art Opaques and Com-Art Transparent airbrush acrylics applied with an Iwata HP-C, Eclipse, and two relatively new trigger guns from Iwata, the RG-3 and the LPH-50. Virtually every medium I threw at the Gatorboard adhered well and looked great. Subtractive techniques that we commonly use on cold press illustration board (like scraping paint away with a blade, erasing, and grinding) worked well on the Gatorboard, allowing me to manipulate the paint on the surface.
To meet my deadline, I had to call in some of my illustrator and designer pals to help out. A.D. Cook, Raphael Schnepf, Janis Emerson, John Siebel, and even a fabric artist visiting from India painted on this mural with me, and we all agreed that the Gatorfoam® is an amazing surface to paint on.
Masking was done with 3M masking tape and Frisk's Canvas Mask. Cutting masks on the hard Gatorboard surface was easy, forgiving (even when contours were masked and cut more than once), and no paint was lifted when the masks were removed. Once the painting is completed, the mural panels will be shot with a clear protective coating.
Now, to get this project packed up and out of here!
To learn more about, find out where to get it, and even order samples, visit the website at www.gatorfoam.com.
There are many reasons to love working with an airbrush and many reasons why airbrush work is some of the most original and intriguing art to be found. Always fascinating are the soft mingled colors, the minute droplets of color that blend visually to create gradations unobtainable with any other tool. Textures or the illusion of layers and multi-dimensions are easier to create with an airbrush than one might realize.
Most instructional books on airbrushing show glimpses of the potential of textures created by broadcasting paint over or through some type of found object. Most often, text examples are items such as lace or crocheted items. These "open weave" materials are ideal for partially blocking out the particle flow from an airbrush, acting as a type of mask to prevent the spray from contacting the paper/illustration board/van side panel/etc. The resulting pattern can appear to float above the background surface. They can also add depth and alluring texture that will draw the viewer in for a closer look.
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Other texturing materials might include window screening of various weaves, nylon tulle (old fashioned netting like wedding veils are made of), loosely woven grass or reed place mats, sequin tape (lengths of vinyl from which sequins are punched - available at fabric stores), plastic baskets, mats, or webbing. Scrap yards and junk stores can yield many original pattern masters: metals with pierced holes, expanded metal scrap, metal grates, shavings and curls of metal, wads of scrap wire, rings, gaskets, nails, and screws. Kitchen gadget sections often hold interesting possibilities, too: Strainers, a bundle of skewers held in a fan shape, toothpicks, kitchen matches, and even plastic cutlery give interesting patterns. Consider toys and small trinkets as well as coins. The garden or back yard is a source for many natural materials that offer great texturing opportunities. Grass, reeds, pine needles, or twigs when bundled, grouped or overlapped, can be used to create random lengths of curved and/or straight negative lines.
Application with any of these tools will yield unique patterns and textures that can be combined to multiply by many times their versatility. Smaller amounts of visual textures, those created by more open-weave materials, make great backgrounds. Less master material allows more paint to pass through it, thereby creating a heavier coverage of any given color. When a more closed-textured master is then applied over the dense one, the result is three-dimensional. The two textures work together to amplify the illusion of depth. And, reversing the master or shifting, it allows a single tool to create a number of different patterns. More bang for...you know.
Face it. There are thousands of textures out there, and looking for them can be as much fun as using them. Keep those eyes open; you never know what you might find.
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Basic Rules of Masking:
In this installment, I use 3M Post-It products to paint a canopy and glare shield. This CF-100 was built for the Canadian Air Force exhibit at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs. All kits in the collection are to have black glass. These techniques can be adapted to a variety of other applications.
3M Post-It products
|Click on any image for a larger view|
Masking off the area around the canopy and glare shield.
Note the thin strips.
Corner at the left-hand side.
First corner complete.
Masking along the front edge.
Mask moved to the right-hand corner.
Masking the main section of the canopy.
Completed main section and glare shield.
Marking the mask for the front frame.
Front frame mask in place. Rectangle cut with Excel blade.
Left side frame in place.
Completed canopy and glare shield prior to touch up.
The overspray seen on the engine nacelles could have been avoided with some plastic wrap or another strip of Post-It.
For touch-up, I used the square Shader and the shorter Vrush Pen from my Vrush Pen 4-Brush Set.
For information about Post-Its and other 3M products: http://www.mmm.com.
Apologies in advance to anyone this may offend. The views expressed below are not necessarily those of AirbrushTalk.com, any of its advertisers, contributors or staff.
The first part of this series explained some of the history and background of the garage kit industry. From the recent postings to some of the garage kit email lists, including a lively discussion about recasts, there is more to say. New understanding has also changed my perception of the situation.
A knowledgeable member of the garage kit industry pointed out that licensing is a gray area. It may not be clear as to how much a concept or image needs to be altered before it can be considered sufficiently different from the original. This gray zone is evidenced by the inconsistent pursuit of garage kit producers by license holders. Recasting, on the other hand, is undeniably theft of an artisan's work and is causing great damage in the industry.
Imagine that recasters and legitimate producers are competing in a two-mile race. The recasters have a one-mile head start because they are starting with a sculpt that someone else has already turned into a kit.
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GEOMetric Design (www.geometricdesign.com) is an American company that has been doing things right from the beginning. They make high quality resin and vinyl kits at competitive prices. Their figures are licensed, neither an inexpensive nor easily accomplished feat. GEOMetric will soon either be sold or go out of business. True, garage kit companies come and go all the time. The problem here is that GEOMetric has an extensive line of popular figures with a good following in the market. GEOMEtric kits are being recast, or "knocked off" in the vernacular, and sold at lower prices. This is having a definite impact on sales, particularly in foreign markets. This is but one example.
Also of note is the pirating of Japanese anime (ah-nee-may) kits based on characters from Japanese entertainment media. The list includes mecha or giant robots from programs like Macross and Gundam. To see the extent of this recast market, one need only search eBay for "resin model kit" or "vinyl model kit." Most of what you will find are knock-offs.
Just like in the U.S., most Japanese production companies are small. All anime kits are licensed from the owner of the series and/or movie. One-day licenses are automatically granted to producers when they arrange for table space at the Japanese shows. Most noteworthy of these is Wonder Festival or WonderFest. (This is not to be confused with http://www.wonderfest.com/ (WonderFest in Louisville, KY.) These "Event Only" kits, or EO for short, are available only the day of the event. Full licenses entitle the holder to sell the heck out of the product. Volume-based licenses limit sales to a number specified in the license agreement. All of these types of licenses are, apparently, less expensive and easier to obtain than U.S. licenses.
The anime recast market is hurting the production of original Japanese garage kits. Media companies are becoming less willing to grant licenses. Model show security is becoming tight to the point of strangulation. Several original kit producers will no longer sell to overseas buyers. Some have gone out of business. Clearly, the source of these kits is being threatened and it is responding defensively. This can't be good for U.S. fans.
Well, that was kind of depressing, huh? But all hope is not lost. The next installment will examine the often-tricky task of telling a recast apart from an original.
We as consumers can make a difference: buy no recasts.
I love horror movies, I always have and I always will. Quite simply, that is how I ended up being a special effects make-up artist. So when I was called on to provide fx for my favorite horror-rock band, the Misfits, and one of the all-time greatest horror film directors, George Romero, I jumped at the opportunity with reckless abandon.
Sometimes (more often than not), directly after taking one of those kinds of jumps, the “art” part of special effects artist can become an issue. Things like budget and time constraints become the pinnacle of importance, and you are forced to bear witness, as much of your original artistic vision gets swallowed whole by the repulsive beast known as a shooting schedule.
However, this monstrosity can be effectively combated with timesaving application tools and techniques that allow you to concentrate on the quality of your work. In this battle, no weapon is as invaluable as your trusty airbrush! Full body make-ups can be achieved with stunning results in a fraction of the time. Using two airbrushes, one “all around” type brush and one higher quality brush, you get the range and versatility you need to handle just about anything, while also giving yourself two colors to work with at the same time. I prefer an IWATA HP-C and an IWATA ECLIPSE; more on that a little later.
Now, let’s get back to the video…basically, the storyline revolved around the “zombied-out” band members having attacked a group of fans, causing various wounds whilst trying to eat them. The video begins when the injured victims arrive at a small hospital desperate for help. Unfortunately for them, just seconds latter an unknowing group of EMT's gurney in the Zombies from an arriving ambulance. Wasting no time, “All Hell Breaks Loose” and we are treated to a Romero-Misfits Zombie shindig, replete with the head-biting, blood-spurting, pulse-pounding action you would expect from such a pairing.
I had been given about three weeks for pre-production and then it was off to Toronto, Canada, for the shoot. The designs of each were a combination of two goals: The first was to capture the intrinsic qualities and characteristics of each band member in the make-ups, and the second was to pay homage to my favorite Zombie make-ups of film. I spent a lot of time going through back issues of Fangoria, books and other reference materials to decide on a look. I tried to emulate the ultra-realistic work of Optic Nerve in “Night Of the Living Dead 1990”, as well as a taste of the camp in “Return of the Living Dead.” I wanted these to be completely different...eerie in a real but not-too-real kind of way, if that makes sense.
|WatercolorTalk.com features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.|
Technically speaking, the make-ups were sculpted in Leisure Clay on Ultra-cal life casts of each member, smoothed down with 99% alcohol, molded in Ultra-cal and Hemp and run in black tinted GM Foam Latex. I pre-painted each piece (three of each character so that I had two safety pieces with me on set) with custom-made PAX paint through an Iwata HP-C. Once everything was painted and powdered, I had a solid two or three hours left over before getting on the tour bus and leaving for Toronto.
We shot the whole thing over two very busy days; I applied for about 13 hours straight the first day and something like 18 hours the second day. I was working alone because my fiancée/assistant was recruited to play a nurse who gets her face bitten off by the drummer, Dr.Chud. That little acting stint kept her busy almost the entire time, leaving me flying solo…but, thankfully, the band’s multi-talented manager, Ken Caifa, lent me his artistic hand when he could.
For each of the band members, their prosthetic pieces were glued down with Pros-aide and the seams were blended off (that means hiding the edges of the foam latex piece) with a material called cabo-bondo. They were then painted with the same custom-made PAX paints that I had pre-painted the pieces with.
Now some of you may be wondering what the heck I am talking about there. Pros-aide is an acrylic emulsion adhesive used in the make-up effects industry as an adhesive for gluing on prosthetic pieces. PAX is a type of paint, often custom mixed by the artist, that employs Pros-aide as a medium for its flexing ability, thus allowing the finished paint job to move with the very flexible foam latex piece without cracking. It is made by combining Pros-aide and acrylic colors and then thinning that mixture down with water, in this case until it is thin enough to flow through your airbrush effectively. Cabo-bondo is simply Pros-aide thickened with a fine powdery material called cabo-sil until it reaches a mayonnaise-like consistency. With that said, let’s talk about technique.
When pre-painting, I only base out the pieces, render the deepest shades and pick out some of the highlights. This provides an excellent template for a much quicker paint job on set without being too constrictive or causing the colors to become excessively muddied. I also stick to more solid color patterns; gently blending the edges of each color with overspray.
Once the make-ups were applied, I shaded out most of the blending areas and then threw in some really punched-up highlights for that really “contrasty” break-up. This helps to trick the eye into perceiving the prosthetic piece as being one with the performer’s face. I keep my Eclipse bottle loaded with the shading color, an extra bottle with the base color, and the highlight color in my HP-C. This allows you to go back and forth quickly. It is important not to be afraid to hit the same area multiple times until you are really comfortable with it. I never move on until an area is where I want it to be; that’s just how I paint…in sections. Once the base coat is on there, everything is handled in small sections.
After I have the piece blended off with color, I use three new colors (highlights and shadows) to give the piece dimension and help it blend into the paint job that is going on the rest of the body. I did all of the body make-ups with Michale Davy’s Airbrush cosmetic colors and an Eclipse. Once the highlights and shadows are complete, I use combinations of the multiple colors that were used thus far and my HP-C to spray stipple patterns all over the prosthetic piece and body. This creates a mottled effect, which has two purposes: 1. It goes a LONG way to adding realism to any flesh/organic type paint job, and 2. It ties the entire make-up together.
Well, without getting too long winded, that is pretty much it. Thanks to the use of airbrushing, I was able to handle an ABSOLUTELY impossible amount of make-ups and FX gags in an extremely short amount of time and still end up with astounding results.
It takes a little adjustment to get used to airbrushing make-up as opposed to hand brushing everything, but it is well worth the effort. The end results of combining some hand details with a good airbrushed paint job just can’t be beat. Both in the shop and on set, the airbrush is an indispensable tool of the modern FX artist.
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Look for the next issue of AirbrushTalk©--October 2001