AirbrushTalk©  
Volume 4, Number 3, September 2002

Published six times a year by The Paschal Group, Inc.
Publisher: Robert Paschal
Editor: Jeanne Paschal
E-mail: arttalk6@aol.com
Also see www.arttalk.com — The Newsletter for Visual Artists
 

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CACY’S CORNER

With Michael Cacy

Visualizing Your Finished Painting

The importance of thinking your airbrush painting all the way through before you begin the painting process

Let's face it, airbrushing is--as painting techniques go--a somewhat mechanical process. To avoid a) becoming a slave to the process and b) painting yourself into a corner during the creation of your masterpiece, it is always a good idea to think the project all the way through before diving in. Planning out the sequence of steps involved in rendering your particular subject may take only minutes and save headaches later, make your task easier, and result in a higher caliber piece of art in the end. Don't worry--I'm not suggesting any "brain strain" that might diminish the fun of the actual painting. There should still be plenty of room for experimenting, shifting of gears, and even the occasional "happy accident" along the way.

I always think my projects all the way through and encourage my workshop students to do the same. In fact, in my illustration courses, I often sit down with my students one-on-one and work out a written step-by-step outline. This amounts to mentally rendering the entire piece as a first step. If there are potential pitfalls in rendering your specific project, this is probably where they will show up first, not on your artwork.

Usually, three elements are necessary to establish a sequence for any painting.

1.    The finished painting in your "mind's eye."
That is, if you are, for example, combining elements from various pieces of reference, you need to visualize exactly how the pieces are to fit together in the finished painting in terms of composition, color, value, etc.

2.    Your reference(s).
This means, naturally, the photos, research, and other visual materials from which you intend to draw and paint. (As a personal note, since the airbrush painting process demands that we always be analytical in breaking down value, I find it less confusing to work from a black and white reference. If my major piece of reference is a color photo, I photocopy it at various settings in black and white. I rely more, then, on the black and white versions than the original piece of color reference while painting.)

3.    Your preliminary drawing (whether drawn directly onto the working surface or in the form of a pencil tissue to be transferred later).

Establishing a logical step-by-step rendering sequence

Determine where to start. There is, of course, no hard and fast rule that says we should paint the subject first and the background second. Each project is unique, so let each speak to you. Now that you have an image of the finished painting in your mind's eye, your reference, and your drawing, sorting out a procedure should be easy. My primary concern is usually, "What will be the easiest or most efficient way to get the job done?" (There's usually a deadline involved.) For example, if one area of the painting looks like it will require a lot of frisket shapes that must be cut, revealed to allow painting, and then replaced (when teaching, I refer to this technique as working "area-by-area"), I will paint those shapes first that look like they would be the easiest to deal with in terms of replacing the originally cut frisket masks and save the more complicated shapes for last, hoping to forego the need to conceal those shapes at all.

When painting in transparent media, I normally paint from dark to light (a technique I refer to in my teaching as "cut-and-blow-as-you-go"). Painting in this method, regardless of what type of masking is required, allows me to paint within an ever-expanding window. That is, properly planned, my project may not require me to replace any of my masks. So, whenever possible, if masking is required, I try to plan for more "cut-and-blow-as-you-go" than the more tedious "area-by-area" (which means frisket shapes must be replaced).

Most airbrush illustrations are the result of a combination of freehanding, fixed masking (frisket film or tape, for example), and loose masking techniques (acetate, paper masks, or freehand shields, for example). So, another consideration is which aspects of your subject are most appropriate for which technique? Let's say your are sorting out the steps involved in a portrait project. Your subject is wearing a jacket. The buttons on the jacket may be best approached as frisket shapes so as to isolate them from the fabric. Or, an option may be to airbrush them later with opaque media, over the painted fabric, using circle or ellipse templates as windows. But either way, this is a good time to make such a decision. The structure of the fabric (form, folds, wrinkles) may best be handled by simply freehanding and utilizing a loose mask or two. Scrutinizing the "look" of the various elements in your reference photo(s) can make these kinds of determinations. Refer back to you research materials often as you plan your rendering sequence. The references you have gathered and your drawing are your roadmaps. The mental image you have of how the painting will look is your ultimate destination.

Yet another criterion in your planning might actually be to save some area for a decision later on. For example, I may have decided exactly how I want my subject to appear (based on the visualization in my "mind's eye"), but I might have in mind a couple of different possibilities for a background. In such a case, I might decide to paint the subject first, see how it develops, and then make my choice as to which background would best serve my subject based on the portion of the painting already completed.

Having made all the critical decisions in planning out a step-by-step approach, you've painted your piece from start to finish in your head, and you are confident and ready to tackle even that challenging project in front of you. Only now you can see light at the end of the tunnel.

PATRIOTICA - Show Your Colors!

By Janean S. Thompson
(Click on any image for a larger view!)

What a great new line of ARTOOL products--Craig Fraser's Patriotica™ freehand template shapes: flags, stars, eagles, eagles with stars (neat!) and skulls with stars for eyes! The collection is such fun and so easy to use. Now it is a snap to create scenes with eagle heads or soaring eagles, perfect for mural background applications or to use as a repeating graphic effect.

The stars included are placed in the stencil in a "funkadelic" random pattern that fits within any motif. Stars of varying sizes seem to float in a cloud. I can see them on everything from bed linens to window shades, on household items like cabinets and wastebaskets, or perhaps a dynamite border around the ceiling of a game room. Wow, what potential!

Dazzle them with an original T! It's easy with the grand assortment of designs on the Patriotica templates.

But let's settle down to an easy project that will give you a real patriotic boost: an original T-shirt design (Photo 1). Or it could just as easily be a cap, flag, table runner or placemats! What you will need to complete the shirt project is a set of Patriotica templates, a white T-shirt, fabric paints and an airbrush. My favorite for this type of project is the IWATA Eclipse ECL2001 with easy-fill, large capacity bottles. Also recommended is a sheet of foam board or corrugated board to help hold the shirt tightly while you are working.

Begin by slipping the rigid support inside the shirt. Use tape or paper clamps to hold the fabric tight. This insures a clean image and makes it easier to position templates. Cover the portions of the templates you will not be using to prevent unwanted shapes from intruding on your design. Artmask adhesive-backed friskfilm or a simple paper barrier will help prevent overspray from spoiling your clean field.

 

Fire up your airbrush and do samples of the images you are considering using. Paper models are helpful until you become familiar with the way the design lays out. Experiment with right and left images by flipping the template (be sure the template is clean or at least dry before flipping it) and see how to use a small section of the template for image extension.

The focal point, the largest eagle design, goes on first: Front and Center
The first collection of star shapes is placed below the eagle. The full section is painted in varying tones.

When you are pleased with the model, fill your bottles or prepare your paints for the bottle/cup. Begin at the top of the layout, so that you can work without danger of spoiling a freshly painted area. Lay on the first section of template you wish to use, apply color, and then reposition and do another section. In this case, the eagle was done first in red, with a bit of copper highlighting on the beak. The stars were placed in one large full section, and then additional stars were feathered on the ends and below the original "block" of star shapes. Notice that the stars were not airbrushed solidly. This variance creates the illusion of dimension.

Random stars are added around the original block to soften the squareness of the grouping.

You could create interest by duplicating subject matter. After the initial application, clean the template and flip it over for a mirror image. Use of the same design with a left and right profile can be very interesting. Exact duplication is easy with the Patriotica template set. The ribbon patterns are especially striking on home decor items such as pillow fronts, bed or table linens, lamp bases, throw rugs, and even as borders around the perimeter of a room.

Cleanup of templates is easy. Soak in water to loosen thin layers or in solvent to remove buildup or oil-based paint. These sturdy templates are designed to handle contact with the harshest industrial strength solvents.

When you use Patriotica templates, you can really show your colors. Whether it is a wearable or home decor item, what you end up with will show your patriotism and support of America!

Iwata Airbrushes
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.

Surfaces for Airbrushing - Part 1

By Jürek

Claybord by Ampersand

One of my favorite surfaces to work on is Claybord. It's ready-made and is available in white and black. If you need a perfectly smooth, absorbent and rigid surface, Claybord has it (www.ampersandart.com). If you are familiar with the old scratchboard method, you will love Claybord. You can carve into the surface of your painting for the highlights and fine details or you can use etching-like methods by scratching a design and glazing exposed white clay with transparent glazes. When working on wildlife art, you can easily simulate the fur by scratching the surface with a fine tipped tool or ProEdge knife. The same method applies to human hair. Oil-free steel wool can be used to remove mistakes and create certain textures in your paintings. Finish with gloss or matte acrylic varnish with UV inhibitor.

Canvas

My personal solution to a perfect canvas is the one I make myself.

Materials:
Quality cotton duck canvas, unprimed
Gesso from Golden Acrylic or Liquitex
Canvas stretchers
Same size piece of 3/4" high quality plywood
Canvas pliers, staple gun, brush and squeegee orbit sander

  1. Stretch canvas tightly on plywood; staple to the other side.
  2. Apply gesso with large brush or squeegee, dry and sand it with 80 grade sand paper.
  3. Add a few more layers, dried and sanded in between.
  4. Cut Gesso with clean water and spray with spray gun, e.g., "RG-2."
  5. Continue till there is no more visible texture of canvas.
  6. Carefully remove staples and dry canvas.
  7. Stretch it again over final canvas stretchers and paint.

Sintra

I have used Sintra Board for the last 15 years. It is a polypropylene product that is extremely lightweight and flexible, yet very durable. Sintra can be easily cut, drilled, shaped and heat-formed for possible 3D paintings. It resists moisture and can be used outdoors. (My friend Craig Clark painted huge outdoor murals in arctic Canada with no problems.) Sintra Board comes in many colors and in thickness from 1mm to 19mm. All you have to do is sand very lightly, wipe with alcohol, spray a layer of acrylic medium, let it dry and paint. Protect the final art with varnish.

Artool Products Co.
Art bridges for painting and drawing with soft and wet mediums. Safety non-slip rulers, and cutting mats for use with art and utility knives and rotary cutters. Low-tack film for airbrushing, illustration and fine art. Airbrush templates for illustration and graphics. Body art and finger nail art accessories and paint. Manufacturer of innovative art materials, tools and airbrush accessories for fine art, illustration, T-shirt art, body and finger nail art, sign and automotive art and graphics. Artist Bridges, Cuttingrails, Freehand Airbrush Templates, Friskfilm, Artool Cutting Mats, Body Art and Nail Art supplies.

Hardboard

Popular name: Masonite. Sorry, but don't buy this from your nearest lumberyard!

For art, use a 1/8" or 1/4" tempered panel manufactured without any oil-tempering process. Some lumberyards will help you find one as a special order, and it is also available from Ampersand. It will not crack, warp or bend, is tested to be archival and is acid-free, pH neutral. Prepare hardboard the same way as canvas.

Wood Boards

Available from major art suppliers, these classic Old World Masters' favorites are coming back. Maple and Baltic Birch are preferred.

Glass

Materials:
1/4" glass plate, etched on reverse side (chemical etch or sandblasted)
Com-Art Transparent Colours
Clear Coat -Urethane--"House of Color" or spray can enamel

After the painting is done, dry it and spray with a dry (light) coat of Clear Coat.
Repeat and apply a wet coat.

Tools of the Trade

By Daniel Smith - (click on any image for a larger view!)

Over the years I have acquired an arsenal of tried and true tools for applying acrylic paint. One of my most versatile and indispensable is the airbrush. It has helped me to bridge the gap between acrylic and oil, allowing me to create smooth gradations and soft edges without blending wet-in-wet.

Early in my career, I was confronted with condescending remarks regarding airbrush use. I got the impression some artists felt that using this tool somehow constituted cheating. Do you use airbrush? This question fell into the same category as "Did you trace that?" Since those early years I have effectively concealed my airbrush use, and now I often am asked how I achieve such realism, detail, and softness with acrylics.

My philosophy in painting is quite simple. "The end justifies the means." In this day and age, we have many tools to aid in the creative process. Among these are cameras, computers, projectors, etc. All of these tools can be useful in facilitating the process, but what is most important is the end result - creating a great painting that is uniquely yours inspired from within.

Most of my painting is done with brushes. Approximately five percent utilizes the airbrush. Nature is comprised of many textures, most of which are best rendered with a brush. Where I find the airbrush most useful is for underpainting and glazing. I lay in all of my shapes and forms with a brush and ultimately refine them with the airbrush. I will blend brush strokes, darken shadows, glaze in color, etc. Once the form has the correct color and value I will render the detail on top, usually with a brush. After this stage I may make further adjustments by lightly glazing with the airbrush. This type of use is virtually impossible to detect and helps immensely to speed up the painting process.

I also use the airbrush to render smooth blends in skies, water, and snow. It is great for creating mist and breath coming from an animal's mouth. I also use a brush when painting these elements. Dry brushing can create similar effects and is great to use in combination with the airbrush. It helps to keep your painting from having a too-soft, over-rendered airbrush look.

One of the aspects of airbrushing I like the least is making a mask. I try to avoid doing so but inevitably end up having to. On occasion I will use liquid watercolor mask. Its downfall is it can be used only once. My preference is a thin sheet of acetate with a light coat of spray adhesive on one side. I cut partially through the film, being careful not to cut into my painting. I then remove it and bend the area until the film separates. The advantage of this type of mask is it can be reused and you also end up with two masks - one for the area inside and one for the area outside of the mask.

For me the airbrush is just another tool for applying paint. The majority of acrylic and opaque watercolor painters I know use one. It is not a magic wand that will transform a bad painting into a good one. As with all painting tools, it is only as good as the talent behind it.

I always say being an artist is a journey with no ultimate destination except to improve. It is crucial to challenge yourself, take risks, and step outside the proverbial box. I hope you all have a pleasant journey.

You can see more of my work on my website - www.danielsmithwildlife.com.

Painting AFV Models Using Diffused Shading

By Andrew Dextras

The completed but unpainted model.

The black pre-shade coat has been applied and the dark yellow basecoat has been sprayed using a very random and "splotchy" pattern.

One of the most difficult aspects of painting AFV models is to impart a sense of weathering to the paint scheme. There are many methods that modelers use to achieve this: pre-shading, post shading, washes, dry brushing, paint chipping and pastel streaking, among others. Some of these techniques, although very effective, can be considered "risky," as they can sometimes ruin a model because they cannot be reversed or are difficult to cover up if a mistake has occurred. Because of this I had been experimenting with ways to achieve depth to the model's finish and maybe eliminate some steps in the process.

The whitewash has been applied. Notice how random the pattern is and how the corners and edges have been left darker.

The post shade effect has been applied.

I begin by cleaning the model well in soapy water and rinsing thoroughly in clean water. Once dry, I begin by spraying a "pre-shade" coat of Tamiya flat black paint with a ratio of 30% paint - 70% thinner using my Iwata HP-C. By pre-shading the model with a dark color you are able to gain some depth to the finish as well as integrate the various materials used to make the model (plastic, polyurethane resin, photo-etched brass, metal foil, etc.). After the pre-shade is dry you can now plan what the model's paint scheme will be. In the case of my Sdkfz 251/9, I decided to tackle one of the tougher schemes: winter wash. This white camouflage paint was applied over the vehicle's primary paint (usually dark yellow or dark gray) in order to conceal it in winter conditions. This whitewash would gradually wear away and was usually applied pretty sloppily.

I then mix up a dark yellow basecoat using Tamiya acrylics in a 25% paint - 75% thinner ratio. At this point you will need an airbrush with a very small needle/nozzle combination. I use my Iwata Custom Micron B, but an HP-B equipped with a pre-set handle and crown cap will also work. A pre-set handle is essential when applying the basecoat unless you have supreme airbrush control. I use the pre-set handle as a "safety net" when spraying with the needle closed down tight, as it is sometimes easy for your finger to slip and cause too much paint to hit the model. Begin by spraying very light coats of dark yellow over the black pre-shade, making sure that you let the black show through in random patches throughout the panels and particularly heavy in any recesses. If at any point during this whole process you apply too much yellow, (or white in the next step) simply go back and spray black over the area and reapply the dark yellow. You can recover from any disaster with this method.

Silentaire Technology
Silent compressors for use with airbrushes, spray guns, and air tools from Werther International.

 

Another view of the model with post shading. Notice the subtle streaking up the side of the model.

The completed model showing the diffused shading effect.

Once this coat is dry, mix up some Tamiya acrylic paint at a 20% paint - 80% thinner ratio. Close down on the needle and begin spraying the whitewash, making sure you keep the edges quite dark (where the whitewash would wear quickly) and the centers lighter, all the while making the pattern appear as random as possible. By spraying very random patterns of white you are ensuring that the model won't appear too "toy-like" with very obvious light cloud pattern panel centers. By making sure that you've created a very random pattern that's very "splotchy," you are effectively eliminating other techniques that are used to create the same effect. Dry brushing your model can achieve the same effect of lightening the panel centers, but why not kill two birds with one stone and do this while you're painting with your airbrush?

The completed model. Notice how random the paint looks.

One of the more common weathering effects is "washes." By running highly thinned dark paint in corners and recesses, you create an illusion of shadows and depth. Again, this can be a risky process, so why not create depth with your airbrush? Begin by mixing up some Tamiya flat brown and flat black paint in a 10% paint - 90% thinner ratio. This technique is known as "post shading" and was popularized by Australian modeler James Blackwell. Begin by spraying this mixture into corners, panel lines and recesses. You will need a fair amount of control to pull this off with subtlety, so practice first on a spare model or scrap plastic. A high precision airbrush such as a CM-B or HP-B is highly recommended and will make your job much easier. Once the panel lines are shaded you can begin vertically streaking the side of the vehicle to simulate dirt and grime. Try and be subtle and this will pay dividends. I finish off the model with some chipped paint effects using pencils and more streaks using various pastel powder shades.

Once these techniques are mastered, you will have effectively eliminated both washes and dry brushing in your weathering process; and by using a very precise instrument like the CM-B, you will have more control over the finished product. So grab your airbrush and try some of these effects. You will find yourself gaining more confidence in your painting and eliminate some tedious steps in the process.

WatercolorTalk.com
WatercolorTalk.com features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.

Airbrush Workshops

October 11-13, 2002

Art Methods & Materials Show
Pasadena Conference Center
Pasadena, CA

Attendees may choose from 175 workshops, demos, and lectures taught by the nation's leading artists at the 7th annual AM&M Show. On the Show Floor you will be able to visit over 80 exhibits by art materials manufacturers, see free demos, try a wide variety of art materials and paint a square on the world's largest canvas painted by multiple artists.

Pamela Shanteau will instruct the following airbrush classes:

      Learn to Airbrush the Fun & Simple Way
      Incorporating Airbrush with a Paintbrush in Fine Art
      Creating Textures with Claybord and Airbrush

Richard Sturdevant will teach the following classes that incorporate airbrush:

      Realistic Airbrush Portraits
      Beginning Airbrush
      Wildlife Painting

Pre-register now to reserve your classes: www.artmethods.com. And be sure to visit the booths of those companies that bring you AirbrushTalk: Artograph, Iwata/Medea/Artool, Createx, and Silentaire.

 
ARTtalk
...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.

November 2, 2002

ARTtalk.com Gallery at the Square
Beacon, New York

The ARTtalk.com Gallery at the Square in Beacon, New York, (60 miles north of New York City) will present workshops in airbrush techniques on Saturday, November 2.

10am - 1pm
Basic Airbrush Techniques - Black and White
3-Hour Hands-on Workshop

2-5pm
Intermediate Airbrush Techniques - Working in Color
3-Hour Hands-On Workshop

The fee includes the use of equipment and all class materials. Instructor is Robert Paschal, MFA. Robert has taught these classes internationally and is the author of Airbrushing for Fine and Commercial Artists and co-author with Robert Anderson of The Art of the Dot-Advanced Airbrush Techniques. He has received the Vargas Award and American Artist magazine's Art Masters Award for Airbrush Teacher.

Class size is limited and pre-registration is required, so don't delay. For further information, go to www.arttalk.com/workshop/workshop.htm or call 845.831.4458.

Whether you wish to use airbrush in fine art, illustration, crafts, tattoos, nails, or makeup, a basic knowledge of airbrushing is necessary. Here's your opportunity!