Volume 3, Number 2, October 2001

Published four times a year by The Paschal Group, Inc.
Publisher: Robert Paschal
Editor: Jeanne Paschal
Also see — The Newsletter for Visual Artists

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With Michael Cacy

Your All-Important Portfolio

In previous installments of this column, I have addressed self-promotion, but this is the first time I will directly address the issue of the almighty portfolio.

For most of us in the world of illustration, or any other facet of graphics business, the portfolio is vitally important.  Your portfolio contains your credentials...period.  Never mind how many degrees or honors you have accrued or where (or even if) you went to school.  This is the real world for freelancers, anyway.  Unless the artist is applying for some sort of government, corporate, or institutional staff position (in which case the prospective employer may even actually read your resume), the portfolio is the means by which that artist greets the buying business public.  I have a BFA degree with honors from Art Center College of Design--somewhere in a box.  None of the art directors I deal with could care less.  They want to see if whatever I have in my portfolio includes samples somehow related to whatever projects are in the works at that moment at their particular agency.  Can I make them look good?  Can I deliver on time?  Is there enough consistency in the works presented so that the art director feels confident in delegating responsibility to me?

Since the portfolio is the first step for those just entering the field, and may mean something else to those already established as professionals, I'll start off by speaking to those who might be building their portfolios at this moment.  I realize, because I regularly look at portfolios of budding young potential ad biz stars, that if you have just graduated from art school or have been diligently developing a volume of work on you own, you are undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get out there and start setting the world on fire.  There are certain ideal criteria for the works selected or created for the portfolio.  Consider these carefully before professionals see that portfolio:

1.  Don't even think about showing your work until the portfolio is fully developed.  If you are just starting out, you are probably impatient to get going, but is that portfolio of yours really ready or is it half-baked?  You may well have just one shot at it.  If you failed to impress art directors or designers the first time around, it will likely be difficult to get back in to see them again.  Musicians call it "wood shedding," but you may need to spend a little more time creating pieces specifically for the sake of your portfolio so that it really "sings" by the time you show it for the first time.  Is each piece in the portfolio the very best you are capable of creating now?  If a piece which was created last year or the year before still looks great and reinforces other pieces in your book, then include it.  But no art director wants to see every piece you ever created.  He or she just doesn't have the time or patience.

As a side note, for those of you just emerging from art school:  Though I consider it rather unfair, in the real world, art directors begin to squirm a little when they see pieces in a portfolio that look like class assignments.  I say "unfair" because art directors and designers once had student portfolios of their own.  But weed out any piece that looks even a little like student work.  Remember that your work is being judged from this moment forward against every other professional on the planet.

2.  This brings us to another criterion.  Only show the types of work you really enjoy creating.  If you have done extremely tight, precise renderings of gadgets, but prefer splashier, expressionist concept work, then your choice is obvious.  Otherwise, you might just be pigeonholed as an expert on gadget renderings and that, of course, will be the kind of work that will come to you.  If you have truly enjoyed creating your art, then that joy will most likely shine through and be conveyed to the viewer.

3.  Are you specialized and focusing on a particular look...or versatile and proficient at a variety of styles and media?  Either way, keep in mind that you are bound to be remembered for just one aspect of your portfolio.  A number of worthy considerations to ponder, here:  Whatever that sensational thing is that you do so well, back it up.  Show the viewer no less than four consistent samples in a particular style or medium.  Let the art convince the potential client that you are qualified to create that look with the same flair and quality every time you are called upon to do so.

Many illustrators wear different hats.  That is to say, one individual may be skilled in various media.  For example, while I am best known for airbrush, I am not too proud to do comp art (TV storyboards and other concept or presentation art).  In reality, most of my work winds up being mixed media, anyway...not solely airbrush.  And, when I paint for fun, I often paint in watercolor, yet another passion of mine.  Though I rarely show those paintings in my portfolio, several art directors and designers regularly trust me to execute their projects in watercolor.  If you are similarly inclined to work in diverse media or styles, include only two or three of your strongest styles in your book (each reinforced with consistent samples).  Any more, and the viewer will likely come away confused about what you actually do.  Or worse...the viewer may consider you an unfocused dilettante.

4.  Get to know a little about your prospective client before showing your work.  Approach this like the pros and do your homework.  If the agency, designer, or publisher deals mainly with food or high tech clientele, for example, a portfolio full of sports art or landscapes may not be of any interest.  Tailor the samples in your presentation to impress your potential buyer.  I don't have "one" portfolio that I show to every client.  I always "customize" the presentation by selecting samples that I think will dazzle the viewer by somehow relating to his or her clients or business.

5.  A question frequently asked by young artists is, "How many pieces should be included?"  I suppose it depends on what it is that you have to show, but, again, don't show 'em everything you've ever done.  As long as the viewer can easily get into and back out of your book in five or ten minutes, you're probably okay.  Lead off with one of your strongest images and end on a strong note for the sake of making an impression.


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Another frequently asked question is in what form or size would the presentation be?  Simple is good.  Tricky--not so good.  A portfolio in some sort of book form is easy for the viewer to handle, requires no "brain strain," and does not detract from the art, itself.  Pieces too large to be included in a reasonably sized book?  Get your work shot by a professional photographer and include 8 x 10s or large-format transparencies.  Clean and professional presentation is key.  Make it look like you care (because, of course, you do).

6.  Let the art speak for itself.  If you're after freelance gigs and not applying for a staff position, forget about a bio or resume.  They're not going to read.  They're harried by deadlines.  If you're lucky, they're only going to have time to look at the pictures.  Because of time constraints and other issues, agencies or design firms often ask illustrators to leave their portfolios and return for them later, so don't count on verbal explanations to carry your presentation.  Your art must stand on its own merit.  If your work exists on a CD, you can leave that.

7.  "Leave Behinds"--Though the prospective client may not have immediate work for you after having seen your portfolio, be sure to leave something with him to remember you by, something to put on file for future projects.  A CD, style sheet, or simple postcard featuring your artwork with contact info will do.  Personally, I prefer a printed sample to an electronic sample.

8.  If a rep is involved, he or she...not the artist...will be presenting your work, and the rep will have very specific guidelines about how work should be presented.

Okay, if that portfolio is red hot, you'll find out real soon.  Hey, I think that's your phone ringing, isn't it?


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Characters & Colors

by Lynne Bouchard

When Leo Gonzales was 16 years old, he marketed himself as a private art instructor doing house calls to a few budding artists.  He taught airbrush, pastels, drawing, and watercolor--anything that they wanted to learn.  A decade later, he developed his own art program sponsored by a local art store where thousands of talented students have gained their jumpstart from his tutelage.

In 1989, Leo decided to take his art into a new dimension.  As he fell in love with motorcycles, he partnered with Auto Body Specialists and Painters to form (custom painting and mural art for motorcycles).   As he marketed himself at every poker run and bike rally in New York, he also loved taking documentary-style photographs as a freelance "motor journalist" for Thunder Press and Backroads.

By the end of his third year of painting bikes, Leo was convinced that custom painting could never consistently  "put food on the table."  As he was ready to resign this exhausting art form, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger's director of special projects, Peter Paul Scott, approached him with a unique assignment.  It was called THE TOMMY BIKE.  Art4MC had only five days (!) to design, paint, assemble and transform a brand new 2001 H-D Heritage Softail Classic into a fashion flag bike for NYC's Fashion Week, the MTV Music Awards and the many other special events that would establish the hot designer's presence.

On the exact same day as the upstart of the Tommy Project, Iwata Airbrush promoter Gabe McCubbin and promoter Robert Paschal invited Leo to display his artwork at a "Cycle/Auto Art" exhibition at the Gallery at the Square in Beacon, NY. From what he knows about cycle art shows, the art tends to be about the "dazzle" of photo-realistic commercial illustration (what airbrush is popularly used for). Hence, Leo's retirement was put on hold by two very exciting distractions.

The Tommy Project was completed on schedule and was a great success.  Unfortunately, this left Leo a mere five days to generate artwork for his own exhibit.  Designing and applying murals on tanks and fenders can be so time-consuming that nothing he would enter could possibly represent his talent justly.

It was then that he recognized the one medium that made the most sense.  Pastels!  Not only does he teach this from week to week, but this was also the medium that he was fastest at.  He describes his creativity with pastels to be "spontaneous and electric"

In a matter of days, Leo combined his photography, pastel work and his love for the motorcyclist image to create his most demanded art form to date: Rider Portraits.    His show presented five 24"x36" paintings of bikers in their element.

"The motorcycle community is so rich in artistic visuals.  The faces, the bikes and the scenes are full of romance and lyric.  I am so fortunate to be an eyewitness to this exclusive society."  Leo takes a series of photographs of given bikers on (or next to) their bikes and represents their personalities through rough textures and uninhibited pastel colors.  The result is a fusion of poetic gestures and dramatic color work voicing the artist's rendition of the model(s).

Choosing the Models

Leo remembers being on line at a grocery store with his Uncle Arthur.  As the cashier was bagging their purchase, she casually asked, "Are you a biker?" At the time, Uncle Arthur had no tattoos, long hair or any evidence of riding whatsoever.  Neither one could figure out what made her think this.  To the best of her knowledge, she said it was something in his face.   On the drive home, Leo studied his uncle's face, hoping to figure out what a "biker look" was about.  Could it be the greasy nose, the dry skin, a swollen zit on his neck or the unkempt moustache?

"In my paintings, I try to downplay the commercial elements of "bikedom" and instead bring out the parts of the rider that the grocery cashier saw in my Uncle (what is unknown to most).  My focus is not on how "cool" their leather or chrome looks.  I obscure the attention on  'costume' or precise technical details of the bike, focusing on those things would be typical of an illustrator's approach."

As is, the biker image has been so overused as a fashion plate that it has become a challenge to separate the wanna-be's from the iron horseman.  Even more of them actually go to the extent of purchasing a motorcycle with the hopes of completing that fashion statement.

Leo Gonzales' goal is to represent presence. You may view his works at the Gallery at the Square, Beacon, New York, through November 4 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons or by appointment—845-838-3557.

Greeting Cards, Gift-Wrap and Stationery

by Janean S. Thompson

With the holidays quickly approaching, perhaps you would like something unique in the way of greeting cards and gift-wrap.  Have you ever considered creating your own designs, color combinations and textures? While there are many painterly ways to achieve dynamic cards and envelopes (also wrapping paper, gift boxes and bags), airbrush applications offer some of the most interesting results.  Even the beginning artist can have success with any of these techniques.

Airbrush artists who work in aquamedia will already be aware of the way in which acrylics, inks, fabric paints, liquid stains and dyes adhere and/or penetrate these absorbent surfaces.  Each of these colorants offers a slightly different finished look, each providing ever-widening results.  Combinations of these colorants are especially interesting. Anything water-based that can be applied with an airbrush is suitable for card, stationery and gift-wrap decoration.

One of the fastest and most useful application methods is to press a strip of double-sided tape on a long vertical surface such as a scrap mat board or corrugated cardboard.  Then anything you wish to airbrush can be gently set against the tape strip and held in place.  This avoids pinholes or other possible surface damage to the front of an envelope.  Envelopes and stationery sheets can each be done with this method.

Gift bags can be opened, set upright and airbrushed with the same paints, inks, etc., as the stationery items.  To avoid mists of color on the inside of the bag, fill each bag with loose clumps of tissue paper (color coordinated tissue).  Gift-wrap is created in the same manner as cards and envelopes. See the project suggestion below.

If you thin acrylic painting medium to a workable consistency, you can spray lightly over your finished items to create a uniform gloss or matte finish.  This layer might also be used to anchor any dry pigment surface decoration desired, such as metallic powders or micro-glitter. Work quickly, as the "adhesive" layer sets up very fast.

Project Suggestion: Gift-Wrap

Roll banner paper, butcher paper or similar paper onto a worktable or your protected floor.  Select liquid watercolor, acrylic, fabric dyes or inks from your materials and fill the appropriate cup/bottle.  Spray on the paper surface lightly, avoiding over- saturation (which causes wrinkling). Allow each color to dry or spray wet-on-wet for a blended appearance. Add a metallic layer for a lustrous finish.

For a more bizarre texture, crush a large sheet of paper.  Hold tightly and spray the outer surfaces.  Allow it to dry, then unroll the ball and re-roll.  Spray on a second color (or third or fourth) in the same way as the first, allowing each layer to dry before proceeding.  The resulting patterns are very striking.

You may never buy commercial paper or stationery again!

Painting a Better Demon

By Glenn Hetrick

Before we get into the actual nuts and bolts of the style of the paint job, there are a few notes that I would like to mention. First off, many of the hints that I am sharing with you have been handed down to me from pro painter Richard Mayberry at Optic Nerve studios. Also, many thanks to John Vulich (owner of Optic Nerve) for allowing me to share these techniques.

Next, on a technical note, it is important to know that I use an IWATA HP-C with "cut back" springs to do much of my work. I have learned a lot of what I know from articles and books on FX make-up. Having gleaned much of my knowledge in this fashion, I know all too well how frustrating it can be to try to learn from an article when important details are left out, so I will try to be as detailed as possible. The "cut back" springs trick is most certainly one of those details. Before proceeding, a word of warning…this is for professional level painting, and pursuing this tip with reckless abandon can RUIN your airbrush…PROCEED WITH EXTREME CAUTION ONLY!

If you disassemble your IWATA HP-C as if you were going to give it a thorough cleaning, you will find two springs in the assembly. The first, located at the back end of the brush, provides the tension of the needle action. The second, located in the air intake assembly, controls air flow. I have cut both of my springs back by about one third (meaning that the remainder of the spring is still two-thirds of its original length). This, in turn, makes the airbrush much more sensitive to the touch in both regards of its "double action." It also renders it much more responsive to the trained hand. One of the biggest benefits is that when you are painting for long periods of time (I have repeatedly put in 15-hour stints) it is much easier on the hand by allowing for a more relaxed grip. With practice, it also allows for a more complete range of paint flow while also making it easier to maintain small detailed lines. The down side is that it is definitely somewhat more difficult to control the brush. This certainly demands extra practice, but the results are well worth it.

Next, in regard to the pictures accompanying this article: The full head mask is a stunt version of the demon for use in long shots. It is designed for quick on and off and did not require as much detail in the paint job. Yes, I know that it is not the same demon that is in the pictures of the prosthetic appliances. That is because there were more than one of these demon characters, and it just so happened that I painted and finished a different character when we were doing stunt masks than I did when we were painting make-up appliances. Regardless, these pix will serve the purpose of this article because all of the color and paint schemes were basically the same.

The reason I supplied both is so you could compare the style of the differing paint jobs. The stunt masks were painted more quickly and did not receive the finely detailed layers of color and pattern that were used on the appliances. The gloves were painted in the same way as the stunt masks. Please take some time to visually note the many differences in the reference shots.

Now, lets roll up our sleeves here for a minute and get into the actual paint job. All of the demons were painted using Rubber Cement Paint. This is a very toxic type of paint and you MUST use a full respirator while using it. That being said, Rubber Cement Paint is a great medium because it bites into the foam latex that the pieces are made of, facilitating wonderful color layering and also providing a very sturdy paint job that will not rub off.

Rubber Cement is used as a base and then tinted with artist's oil paints. When color and consistency are achieved, it is thinned with NAPTHA so that it can be blown through an airbrush. I also use NAPTHA as a cleaner for the brush when working with this type of paint. It is extremely important to constantly clean your brush, as this paint will gum up quickly if left to sit in your brush.


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This paint is best used very thin, as the pigment can often be too opaque to achieve subtle layering. Patience is important here; you can always add more color, but it is near impossible to correct if you go too heavy-handed. I can't stress these tenets enough, as they are the most important parts to a successful paint job with this type of paint.

If you will, focus on the pictures of the bald cap for reference during this part. The base coat of a light beige/sienna/flesh tone is applied first by hand with an inexpensive chip brush. This coat should be particularly thin so as to allow the maximum adhesion of the paint to the foam. If your base is too thick, the whole paint job will sit atop the foam and thus will rub off with friction--and that's a bad, bad thing.

Once the base dried, I loaded my airbrush up with a thinned-out red. Using a continual (very important--no starting and stopping!) figure eight pattern, I covered the entire piece to break up the base tone. The pattern should be very tight; that is to say small figure eights. You will notice if your paint is too concentrated during this step if the entire head looks like you painted eights all over it. This is intended to be break up, not an opaque pattern. Vary the size and placement of the pattern as you go and move your brush in and out from the piece to provide varied concentrations of color. This will add to the illusion of transparency when the paint job is complete. That is more or less always the main goal with flesh paint jobs--achieving translucency on a solid surface.

After I was happy with the red pattern, I cleaned out the brush and filled up with a purple/blue tone that was very thinned out. This is a sort of wash color. Too thick here and you will ruin what you have done up until now for sure. Repeating the same pattern, I went over the whole piece, randomly breaking up areas with this tone. Subtlety is key here. Make sure to concentrate only on some of the areas to make it look random and organic. Before changing colors, I stepped far back from the piece and sprayed a very light overspray of this color over its entirety to cool it down and to gray out some of the underlying flesh tones a bit. You will also notice that this pulls the paint job together quite a bit. The pictures of the bald cap appliance in progress reflect this stage of the paint job. features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.


Next, I cleaned out again and reloaded with a thinned out red brown. I repeated the same patterning, focusing on breaking up the patterns that I already had. Use this coat to make sure that the patterning is not looking too uniform or intentional. This was a much quicker layer. I only spent about half the time with this color as I did with the first one. Do not overdo it. You should be spraying much less than half of this color than you did the first; remember the goal is to break up the patterns, not to paint opaque layers. You can also use some very large but light patterns here.

Finally, I used a slightly thicker version of the red brown to add some sun spots/freckles. This gives the flesh some life. Keep these details extremely varied: some dark, some light, some solo, some grouped, a few large, some very small, etc. After this layer you may see a bit too much of one color or another. You might need to go back in and overspray with the purple wash to cool it down in areas. I also left some of the areas a lot warmer than others to represent broken blood vessels.

On the face appliance I went heavier with the red and red brown in the recesses and also hit the high points with a light overspray of the base tone to punch up the highlights and give the pieces some dimension. Last but not least, I used a very tight speckle pattern around the eyes of this guy using a red, red brown, and a darker red brown mix achieved by mixing the red brown with a very thinned out black. That same black was utilized in the final step of applying the clan tattoo to the forehead. We made vacuform stencils of these patterns, since we had to make several of each character and continuity is of the utmost importance. After roughing in the tattoo with the stencil, we went back in and detailed it freehand. I found that tattoos are best grayed out a bit and with some intrinsic patterning. I have tattoos, myself, and I often notice that tattoos are painted incorrectly. They are not a solid black (unless brand new!), but rather have light and dark spots due to the "fallout" of the ink as it settles into the skin. Perhaps I will examine realistic tattoo painting in greater detail in some future article, but let us move on for now.

Once the paint job was finished, we used a relatively new product called V-matte to seal the make-ups. It is superior to powdering the paint because it seals and mattes out the paint without obscuring the colors. I highly recommend giving it a try. I believe it is available through Burman Industries in Los Angeles, CA.

Well. That's it for now. I hope you have enjoyed my ranting and raving! If you have any questions, I will try to respond personally if you e-mail me at:

Please be patient and I will reply as soon as possible. Until next time, Stay Ghoul and have a Horribly Happy and Haunting Halloween!


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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.


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Look for the next issue of AirbrushTalk©--January 15, 2002