Volume 6, Number 4, November 2004
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With Michael Cacy
Not Clean...Not Paint
While this installment of Cacy's Corner may not seem as "flashy" as a few of my previous installments, the premise of this specific column is a fact of life for airbrush artists.
Cleaning your airbrush during the painting process and at the conclusion of any painting session is a must. Anyone with airbrush experience knows that a dirty or clogged airbrush just won't perform the way that it should. The information I offer here comes from years of keeping my airbrushes operational without going "bonkers."
Nobody ever said that airbrushes aren't sometimes cantankerous. The head design of most airbrushes is somewhat delicate, so even the tiniest particle of pigment or dust may cause you problems. Keeping your airbrush clean has always been a priority, but modern airbrushes offer some advantages over those I started with in the sixties. I have used most available brands and types of airbrushes over the years. Not being the tidiest artist on the planet, for me, the advent of gravity feed airbrushes allowed for more time spent painting and less time spent cussing and fooling around with the airbrush. The airbrush I use most is a simple Iwata HP-C, a gravity feed airbrush with a relatively large cup (large enough to get a finger into). I like the speed and ease of clearing the airbrush as I paint and the simplicity of cleanup once I finish a project. Siphon feed airbrushes (those where a paint cup or bottle attach at the side or bottom of the airbrush) may be your cup of tea, but they also present more areas to be cleaned. For the type of work I am most often engaged in, the gravity feed types work more painlessly for me, but whether you use a gravity feed or siphon feed airbrush, the principles are the same.
Do not get into the habit of wiping down any part of your airbrush (except the exterior of the body) with a tissue or paper towel. Reason: If you wipe the inside of the paint cup with a paper towel, paper filaments or fibers may get inside and clog the nozzle. This can cause you undue aggravation. You are better off using a lint-free cloth rag.
I prefer to clean the paint cup using a fairly stiff #4 synthetic bristle brush and/or a cotton swab. I work mainly with water-base media, and the easiest way to clear wet paint is to flush clean water through the airbrush. But, when paint remains, I flush a little airbrush cleaner through my airbrush. If you use volatile media, the principle is the same, but you would use a solvent instead of water and cleaner.
Never allow paint of any kind to dry in your airbrush! Clean up your airbrush while the paint is still in liquid form. This is especially true if you paint with traditional artist's acrylics like Liquitex.
Occasionally remove the needle from your airbrush and draw the business end through a rag moistened with cleaner or thinner.
If parts need to be soaked in cleaner, leave them soaking for only an hour. Rinse when done.
So, clean and agreeable, your airbrush remains your best friend and ready to paint another day.
Isn't it time to Fire Up Your Airbrush?
By Janean S. Thompson
|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.|
Since it's just a bit past the Halloween season, I thought I'd paint a classic Universal monster! In this article we'll cover shading and highlighting clothes and fur. Geometric Designs' The Wolfman bust was the perfect choice.
Sculpted by the skilled hands of Chris Elizardo and produced by Al Matrone's Geometric Design, this bust has it all--fur, skin, wood, and flesh, not to mention it's very affordable. It's all here! Geometric couldn't have gotten a better sculptor than Elizardo.
I began by spraying a light coat of gray primer onto the entire surface of the bust. This will highlight any imperfections that need to be filled and sanded and also give the paint something to bite into and adhere better.
Next, I sprayed the Wolfman with Freak Flex "Mummified Brown" and the tree received a coat of FrekFlex "Cursed Earth." My Iwata Eclipse HP-CS handled this task easily. The HP can spray a wide pattern, which is good for initial coverage as in this case, but can also handle tight detail work.
Next I started on the tree detail by streaking several colors. The colors complemented each other and blended well as to not look uniform, but rather much like a tree looks in the woods. The colors and spraying sequence was as follows:
I also sprayed a bit of flesh tone on the Wolfman's face and hands. This looked too bright, so I over sprayed some Freak Flex "Mummified Brown" to darken it up. Finally I sealed the work thus far with Testors Dullcoat.
Next, to bring out the details in the tree bark and fur of the Wolfman, I washed the entire piece with flat black, and then I dry brushed several shades of browns and grays to highlight the fur.
The tree portion received several washes of browns, dark green and burnt umber, and was then dry brushed with tans and dark grays.
I decided to give him a dark gray shirt. At first I was thinking about a denim look, but then I realized it would clash with the rest of the paint. I chose to use Freak Flex "Gravestone Gray" sprayed at about 5 pounds of air pressure to avoid overspray. Shadows were sprayed in with Com Art's "Transparent Smoke." A final sealing of Dullcoat finished the work. An Iwata Micron C+ was the tool of choice here. If Rolls Royce built an airbrush, it would be the Micron series. One can spray hair-thin lines with this brush. Throw away your other airbrushes and buy one of these!
I had a blast painting this piece. If you're looking for an inexpensive and superbly sculpted piece, this is the one for you. Until next time!!
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In 1964, Gene Roddenberry wrote the pilot for a new series, which he called Star Trek. On page 51 of the script, Roddenberry wrote about a character called the Orion Slave woman, which he described as being wild, with green skin that glistened as if oiled.* It's been over 30 years since this well-known sci-fi icon of television has been seen on the airwaves.
The fourth season of STAR TREK ENTERPRISE marks the much-anticipated return of not only an Orion Slave Woman, but for the first time her male counterparts. In the first of a three-part storyline, "Borderland" writer Ken LaZebnik reintroduces the Orions to a new generation of Trek fans. Makeup Department Head Michael Westmore, working with a crew of 25 makeup artists, brings to life the scene of a large Orion slave market, complete with eight Orion men and one Orion Slave woman. Paul Wight, who is known by wrestling fans worldwide as "The Big Show," plays the enormous Orion slave leader. Populating the market is also a huge display of all types of exotic life forms brought to life through the skill of both makeup artistry and hair styling.
Back when Star Trek was originally conceived, makeup technology wasn't as advanced as it is today. For Fred Phillips, the makeup department head, creating an Orion Slave woman meant taking a tube of Max Factor grease paint and applying it by hand to every inch of actress Susan Oliver's body. The makeup, which rubbed off easily, had to be touched-up constantly with each camera take. Check out the book STAR TREK ALIENS & ARTIFACTS (written by Michael Westmore and yours truly) to learn more about the series' makeup challenges. Knowing the problems of Fred's first green encounters, Michael Westmore, a couple weeks prior to filming the episode, asked me to apply various formulations of green makeup to models for numerous camera tests to find just the right shade for the high definition cameras, which were also new for the season. The shows producers Rick Berman and Brandon Braga decided that they didn't want to use the same color as was used in Star Trek's original pilot (which was more of a turquoise), but opted for another shade of green. The issue of the shade of green that would be chosen would be whether it would remind viewing audience members of the Incredible Hulk, Shrek, the Frankenstein Monster and/or the Wicked Witch of the West. The producers also wanted the skin to have a natural green appearance and not look like it was coated in makeup--a tall order to say the very least for the makeup department to fulfill.
There were three major hurdles that needed to be addressed prior to the actual filming: first, what product to use that wouldn't rub off; second, how much product would be needed to spray the actors; and, finally, where to spray such a large volume of product.
After working on the feature Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas that used extensive airbrush body makeup (our average day was 150 bodies were sprayed), I knew that the airbrush would be the solution to our application problem. To apply makeup on actors (of which all the guys were to be over 6'6, with Paul being 7'2) by hand like Fred Phillips had done, was out of the question.
The product chosen was Reel Creations Temporary Body Inks color, Avocado. Known as a leader in the film industry, Reel Creation owner Fred Blau had to create over two gallons of product for the needs of the production. While the product was virtually rub- and sweat-proof, it did contain a large amount of isopropyl alcohol.
Production finally worked out a deal with the Paramount paint shop so that all the body makeup could be sprayed in their facilities. The paint shop was already set up to spray solvent-based products with a powerful vent system that occupied an entire wall so no fumes could ever be smelled. After the two days of spraying, however, the vent filters were covered in green makeup! We were also fortunate that we could use the shop's industrial air compressor to power the spray guns. While the process was relatively simple, the makeup application required the layering of many thin coats of product with the use of airbrushes and spray guns to create the proper density of color saturation.
For the actors (which were comprised of professional stunt men, body builders, and actors), if they didn't arrive to the studio bald and rid of all body hair, then it was a stop at the hair department for a clipper cut all the way down to the scalp. Next, it was off to the upstairs makeup department where the team of makeup artists, working under the direction of makeup maestro Michael Westmore, began the laborious process of gluing on several facial appliances that would give each man the appearance of skin piercing (only used by the male of the species). Many thin layers of green makeup were applied to the actors. The Orion makeup team consisted of Jeffery Lewis, Todd McIntosh, David De Leon, Steven Anderson, Garrett Immel, and myself.
Once the face and neck were completed, the next stop was to Paramount's paint shop where I used an Iwata LPH-50 spray gun to apply thin layers of green makeup over the performers' bodies, blending the color up to the neckline, completing the illusion. One of the main reasons I opted for that particular model of spray gun was that it could be operated at a relatively low psi (13, as a matter of fact), which would produce less overspray. Less overspray would mean a lower health risk and less waste of product. A problem that occurred while spraying down the bodies was a visual color shifting (a marbleizing effect) as the product dried on the skin. Garrett Immel was quick to suggest to me to spray those problem areas with a little straight alcohol. This fixed it. Apparently, he had the same problem occur on the feature Hidalgo when he was spraying the horses.
After this step, the performers returned once again to their respective makeup artists to have airbrushed contouring added to their bodies so as to match the work done on the faces. Upon completion, it was back down to the spray booth where I sprayed a thin layer of Green Marble Sealer over the entire makeup to help preserve its appearance. From there the performers were off to the wardrobe department where Bob Blackman's team outfitted each of them with his own hand-crafted costume, complete with boots that gave each of them an extra inch or two to their already towering size.
One last time the performers made their way back to the makeup department so that metallized chunks of foam appliances could now be glued to their exposed bodies, giving the appearance that metal plates had been screwed into their flesh! This step couldn't be done until the performer had his costume on so that the makeup artist could see what wasn't covered with wardrobe.
On-set touch-ups, which were constant (due to atmospheric steam and smoke on the extensive set), were handled using Iwata Eclipse HP-CS airbrushes attached to portable battery-operated Tamiya Spray-Work air compressors. The Orion actors seldom left the set, as the high definition camera allowed for rapid shooting. However, a makeup station was set up in those rare instances when they were allowed off the set for a proper touch-up. Two large CO2 tanks complete with Iwata Eclipse airbrushes were always at the ready. While most of the actors were pretty good sports about the whole tedious makeup process, by the time it was all over, they could definitely understand what Kermit the Frog means when he says, "It's not easy being green."
*Originally the Orion Slave Woman was first seen in the pilot titled "The Cage," which was subsequently used for the only two-part episode of Star Trek called "The Menagerie." The only other use was the Orion woman by the name of Marta (played by actress Yvonne Craig) of the Elba II penal colony from the episode "Whom Gods Destroy." It's interesting to note that the pilot's original title was "The Menagerie" but was later changed to "The Cage." A little television trivia for you!
A special thank you to the publicity department on Star Trek Enterprise for their permission to print this article and photographs.
|Silent compressors for use with airbrushes, spray guns, and air tools from Werther International.|
Welcome to Canvas Wrap, an ongoing series of step-by-step instructional articles on the art of airbrushing as fine art. Canvas Wrap will present a "no secrets" approach in these articles. If I've done it I'll show it, and if I know it I'll share it. Most projects featured here will be demonstrated on prepared canvas, but most processes will be applicable to illustration board as well. For those of you desiring to work on a smooth canvas surface, I've written and posted an article on my web site titled "Creating The Perfect Ultra-Smooth Canvas For Airbrush," which can be viewed at http://ADCookFineArt.com/aa-article-canvasprep.html.
My recent series of paintings have been life-size and larger figurative paintings. In my recent painting titled "Eclipse" (36" x 36"), I've stayed with a monochromatic theme of blues, and our figure is painted a bit larger than life size. In our first installment of Canvas Wrap we're going to start at the beginning. Over the course of the next few articles we'll focus on individual components and discuss the workings of other parts of the human figure--hands, torso, hair--and touch base regarding various textures.
I photograph all my own reference materials and subject matter - in this case, our model Brooke in front of a prop I created by cutting a circle in a piece of black Gatorboard. From those I chose my final painting reference image. The color photo has been manipulated in the computer and I've decided to paint her in blue-violet hues. Once I'm happy with what I see on screen, I print it out as a large high-quality print that I will refer to as I paint and also as a smaller print that will fit in my projector.
The transfer of the image to canvas is pretty straightforward, but at the same time it's important to get it right. I project my image onto canvas and draw her lightly with a blue watercolor pencil. I always try to draw the image with a pencil that is closest to the color I intend on painting. Watercolor pencils are my preferred option because they tend to disappear when painted over, they're easily erased, and they're compatible with acrylic-based paints (as opposed to lead or wax-based pencils). Take your time in the drawing process to make sure you draw everything that is important, but at the same time try not to draw so much that it becomes a drawing. I try to include some light shading as reference points in areas where there are no distinct lines. An example of this would be ribs, abdominal area, shoulder, variables in the cloth, and shadows.
Once I'm satisfied with the drawing, my next step is to start creating my acetates. Very little masking was used for this painting. Rather, she's masked almost entirely with 5-mil acetate assisted with the use of Artool templates. We'll get into some of this later. For now, using clear tape I've taped a couple pieces of 30" x 40" acetate together to make a sheet large enough to cover the entire painting. Next, I trim the acetate piece down to 36" x 36", which is the exact size of my canvas. Properly planned, this entire painting will be created using one sheet of acetate. The canvas is then laid flat and the acetate is positioned and taped in place with masking tape.
Now starts the fun part. Using an X-Acto knife with a new #11 blade, I cut every shape in the entire painting. Sometimes I do this with the art flat and other times with the canvas on the easel. Whatever is most comfortable for you is fine. I take caution here to only cut deep enough to score my acetate, being especially careful to not cut all the way through. Then with a Sharpie pen I draw X marks across the cut lines so that alignment of the pieces is easier later.
At this time I also cut shapes that look like cat's eyes and I draw a dot at each end of those just to see them easier later. These shapes will be popped out and the openings taped over to hold acetate down along various edges. Lastly, I add notes on the individual shapes to remind me later what they are. Sometimes the notes just reference "up" or "hand," "torso," or whatever I think I'll need to know later. What seems obvious now may become a bit confusing as these pieces get popped out and the acetate dismantled throughout the course of the painting. The notes will be very helpful in identifying the pieces and aid in accurately repositioning them later.
A.D. Cook is an artist based out of Portland, Oregon. Since buying his first airbrush nearly 30 years ago, he has continued to paint in many media, including dozens of murals for the Hollywood Video stores, commissioned works, and fine art paintings.
Visit A.D. Cook's web site at http://www.ADCookFineArt.com to see more examples of his murals and large-scale paintings.
|WatercolorTalk.com features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.|
Artool Products Company, Portland, Oregon, USA, is proud to announce the availability of the new Artool FX II Freehand Airbrush Templates, designed by Craig Fraser. It is a collection of six of the "kewlest," hippest stencil effects to hit the market since the last ones they made. Here's the solvent-proof lineup: PUZZLED (FXII 8), NUTZ N' BOLTZ (FXII 9), GEAR HEAD (FXII 10), DOLLA' BILL (FXII 11), DRAGON SKIN (FXII 12) and THE BLOB (FXII 13). If these names don't get your creative airbrush juices flowing, seek professional help. Just remember our (constantly changing) mission statement: as long as there is something innovative, original, one-off, or unique in the "kustom" painting world, Artool will make a stencil out of it. And since there is always a right tool for the right job-don't hinder your future-buy them all in ALL SIX!!! (FXII 14)!
The new Artool FX II Freehand Airbrush Templates by Craig Fraser are now available at your favorite Iwata-Medea-Artool supplier. For a complete listing of the Iwata-Medea-Artool catalog on the Web, go to www.artoolproducts.com.
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Happy Holidays from the Staff!