Volume 8, Number 1, May 2006

Published six 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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Metal Sculpture Refurb

by Janean S. Thompson, photos by Bill Thompson

When you have outdoor metal art pieces around your home, every once in a while you have to examine them to decide if it is time to do some upkeep or repair. Such is the case with a pair of cactus sculptures that reside in my front entry "flower" bed. Long ago I realized that no mater how much I wanted lush flowering plants, the deer were not going to let me have them. No matter what I planted, they nibbled it down to the ground. After experiencing the loss of dozens of nice shrubs, flat after flat of bedding plants and several rosebushes (deer think of roses as a delicious desert), I decided to redirect my energies. I moved my floral ideas behind a garden fence in the backyard and decided to do something dramatic in the front entry area. The drama materialized in the form of three heavy steel sculptures, two of which have pointy, painted metal blooms.

The panhandle of Texas has strong winds, hail, more wind and infrequent, but sometimes torrential, rains. These elements wreak havoc on all outdoor painted surfaces. The blooms on the steel cactus had been assaulted by recent hail and were showing the effects. The bodies of the cacti are made of rusted iron and look great no matter what happens. But those blooms had taken a pelting and needed some attention.

Simple tools, airbrush and air source are assembled and ready to go!

My plan of attack was to wire brush the petals of each bloom, removing any chipping paint, and then prime and repaint. The blossoms would be refreshed in shades of red, orange and yellow. I gathered the tools and planned the project. The airbrush and air source I used were my faves - the Iwata Revolution CR Airbrush and the incredible Iwata Studio Series Smart Jet Compressor. I also used a wire brush, sandpaper, enamel paints, cardboard overspray shields, a hand broom and tape.

With my limited knowledge of metal painting work, I consulted a friend who restores autos and found that thorough preparation of the metal surfaces is absolutely mandatory if long-term adhesion is what you are aiming for. The steel brush was a great starting tool. It knocked off most of the lose paint and cleaned the surface. I carefully sanded the surfaces, avoiding the sharp points of the blooms. This extra step helped to clean the surface, allowing the primer to adhere better. His suggestion of brushing and sanding the surfaces worked well. The object was to smooth the surface plus get it very clean. I then brushed off any remaining dust with the small broom and then sprayed two coats of primer.

Wire brushing removes any lose paint and readies the surface for a coat of primer. Priming over a super-clean surface gives great long-term paint adhesion.

Solid bloom color is applied in three even coats, inside and outside.
When the initial primer coats are dry, examine the surface. If it appears to be smooth and well adhered, continue with the coloration of the blooms. Through trial and error I found that airbrushing three coats over the entire bloom and then adding the soft interior color was far more effective than completing the inside and then doing the outside. Overspray and untidiness were not a problem with the protective cardboard shields.

When two coats of the first color were completely dried, I applied the contrasting tone to the inside of the bloom.  Let me say that nobody would accuse me of creating realistic blooms, but colorful they are. And since the preparation was done correctly, the freshness will last a nice long time. Let it rain - let it hail. These blooms can take it!

With the interior contrasting color in place, the blooms are finished. Compared to the old, battered blooms, these newly refinished blossoms shine!
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Up Against the Wall

by Kirk Lybecker

I had what seemed an unusual request that someone, having seen my Web site, and wanting to add a little more interest to his place of business, gave me a call. I went out to see him, only 12 miles away from my shop, and find out what he wanted. Lee Stearman owns a laser tag arcade called UltraZone. The architecture is fairly modern and very brightly painted with primary colors on most of the walls. He was looking to see if there was something that we could do to the remaining white wall. The problem was that it should not have a traditional mural on it. That would not go well with the rest of the building and would tie him down stylistically to one concept. He has a good grasp of who his customers are and what they would want. Not everyone is a 14 year old boy, and his customers range from small kids to adult groups who want to "shoot each other up" every once in a while.

After several sessions with designs of various types, we agreed on the idea of a wall treatment. Rather than a painting of things, there would be painting to make the wall seem something that it was not. We generally agreed on the idea of making it look like it was made out of slightly dented metal plates, much as one would see on the insides of an old warship.  There were to be a lot of diagonal lines to make it look unpredictable as well as tying it to the rest of the space. The rest of the arcade was done in a series of angular lines. I would also paint the top edge of the wall to appear to have a black girder up there with the appearance of yellow light coming out from behind it. This would tie all of the walls to the one existing girder and give these rather incongruous lines some sense of order.

Fortunately, there was a period of time that the arcade could be closed: Sunday night, Monday and till 4 p.m. on Tuesday. That would give me what I thought would be enough time if I did some careful planning beforehand. I am glad that they were flexible on the times, as it took longer than I had expected.

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The first thing was to measure the walls. This I had done when I was doing some of the drawings for my presentation. The whole area was from 16 to 18 feet high and 56 feet long. There were several doors and fixtures that I did not think would need to be painted. I thought that I would need two gallons of a light steel gray paint to do the background. This would allow me to paint both highlights and shadows on the rivets. I got this at a specialty paint store, Chromatix, along with tape, paper and plastic to cover the counters. While I was there, I also saw some of the new generation of metallic paints. These have a very tough acrylic base so they will stand up to high traffic areas. This would come in very useful later.

Next there was the problem of making some specialty stencils for the repetitive things like the rivets. I would also need some stencils for the girder around the top of the wall. These had to be done in irregular patterns in keeping with the theme of "Not the Usual Thing." This was done on a drawing table by using strips of paper. I marked off the width of the girder and roughed in the drawing by hand. That way I could see if my pattern was becoming too much of a pattern. Next I cut the strips of paper horizontally. I tried to keep the length at about 6 feet. Any longer and they would be too clumsy to handle. I also taped some of the thin areas of the stencil to give it some support. Since I had not done this before, I thought I would either be able to tape the stencils up and spray them or, if that did not work, use them to mark out my pattern and cut frisket paper to mask off.

The rivet stencils came in two sizes, the ones for the smaller rivets and the one for the massive bolts. This was done with a piece of .125 Plexiglas. I cut it into strips, set up a jig on the drill press and cut the holes to alternate over an imaginary line down the middle. This would give me a nice zigzag pattern for the rivets. When it came time to use this stencil, I had only to tape where the line should be and use that to line up the stencil. I made a similar stencil that would fit against the door frames to keep the bolts an equal distance from the edge of the door and equal distance from each other. I also cut a half hole on one end so that I could line up my next series of bolts by placing the half part of the stencil over the last bolt. This worked out very well.

The last bit of planning that I did was to get a list of supplies that I would need and the equipment that I should bring. As I said, I got the wall paint from the local specialty store. The paint that I would use for the detail and texture painting would come from Medea. I have used their Com-Art paint before and this would be a very good match for this particular wall. The main colors would be black and white, with yellow and magenta for the girders. The thing about painting is that you need to add a little color to the black to make it look right. So I tend to add a little violet and blue to the black to keep it from looking too black. One can also use Paynes Gray as an alternative, as it has the blue in it already. I also want to put rivets on the black girder. This would mean adding some white to the paint or doing a light misting of white on the girder. That would be needed so that shadows from the rivets would show up.

Load up the car and find out how much stuff you can get into it? Surprisingly, I can get an 8-foot ladder into my old Subaru. This I did on Sunday night. The stuff got unloaded and I was most fortunate in that there was a crew of Lee's employees to help me. They taped off the wall and put plastic over all the counters and one of the architectural features that hung over the main lobby. This took several hours and most of the prep for painting was done.

I arrived bright and early the next morning to get started. Eric, who is the manager, was there to be my assistant. There was a lot of stuff that I was not required to do. First I had Eric putting on a coat of the steel gray paint. He is tall and this was not much of a problem for him. I started by drawing out the design for the girders. I put down a chalk line to keep things straight. This was a bit of a problem as some of the walls were curved. Next I experimented with a girder to see how it would go. The first one I tried painting was the yellow. Yellow is transparent enough that the chalk lines would show up under it. Then I did the magenta shadow. I knew that all of my overspray would be covered by the dark color of the girder. I thought I could just paint the girder in with a brush. This did not work all that well because the brush tended to leave a ragged line that, with the texture of the wall, was difficult to smooth out.

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On the next section of the girder I tried painting the whole section in a dark color. I know that it looks black in the pictures, but there is some white in it.  This is to allow me to make a dark shadow on the top edge of what seems to be a black girder. I put up one of the pieces of paper that I had cut out, tacked and taped it to the wall so that the edges would not come up and tried spraying with white. Several coats later I found that this was taking a lot of time to dry. After it did dry, I could put on a coat of yellow and the magenta shadow. Keep in mind that the transparent nature of the yellow would allow it to color the white but not have any effect on the black. The same applies with the magenta.

My third attempt to do the girders was first to paint in the yellow and the shadow.  Then using a frisket paper to cover those areas, I would next use the spray gun to paint in the black. The frisket paper that I used is Art Mask. I have used this on several other fairly rough surfaces. Unfortunately, this was too coarse a surface for the frisket to stick. But, fortunately, the girder was high enough that people would not notice a few pinholes where I pinned the frisket to the wall. This seemed to work the best. Naturally, it is the last thing that you try that seems to do the trick.

While I was doing the girders, Eric was finishing up the steel gray painting. He had taken some art classes and was interested in how to do some of the airbrush work. I gave him a quick lesson on how the brush worked and how to use the stencil to paint in the small rivets. He did an excellent job. While he was doing that, I worked on the larger rivets around the doors. The stencil was one of my better ideas. The thickness of the plastic made it so the stencil did not flutter when I sprayed it. Also, the thickness made the spray somewhat soft, which kept the rivets from looking pasted on. I also got started spraying some of the dents and the warping of the steel plates. The dents were done freehand and are not too complex. I did try then out on a wall in my own studio first.

I used several types of spray equipment during this job. The primary tool was an Iwata LPH 50. This gun would be my usual choice for such a large project, especially where you want to keep the overspray down. The brushes that I used for the detailed areas were an Iwata Eclipse C and a Kustom TH Trigger gun automotive prototype brush. I modify my Eclipse with the .5 mm nozzle rather than the smaller .35 to accommodate the thicker paint. I was also testing a Kustom Automotive brush that has an air cap to flatten the pattern. They both worked very well. Lastly, I used my old W 88 to apply the thick metallic paint to the doors. This is modified with a 1.5mm nozzle and very blunt needle to give me a nice finish with a particularly thick paint.

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To make a dent you should draw either a line or small circle. On the side that you think is going to have a shadow, spray one in. I was using the Eclipse C with a .5mm nozzle. This modification is good for free-handing smaller areas. Paint a shadow and then imagine where the light side of the dent is going to be. Paint a lighter shadow under that area. Then use a slightly thinned white to paint in the light area in the dent and a little light on the upper edge of your main shadow. If you really want to get tricky, paint a very light highlight on the edge of the main shadow about ˝-inch in from the edge of the shadow. That will help with the dimensional feeling.

I then painted in some slightly random vertical areas with a thin dark solution. I did this mostly at person height around the areas that people would be standing. The effect would be that the wall was not smooth but had places where the metal seems to have warped. There is no reason to do this over the whole wall because people won't see it above 6 feet and probably won't notice it if this effect is behind the counter. I think the same with the dents and dings.

The rivets and bolts look good but they look much better if I put some shadow around the wall on the highlight edge of the bolt. This makes it look like it had warped the metal when it was hammered into place. It also helps if there is a bit of a drop shadow on the side that is away from the light source. This is much more necessary in the parts that are close to eye level. The rivets at the top of an 18-foot wall would not much benefit from the detail. The farther up the rivets are, however, the higher the contrast has to be to get them to show up at all. So at this point I went back onto the lower rivets and gave them a little touch up.

I also found that it is not necessary to actually have a line to delineate the plates. A little bit of white paint to show a highlight works well enough and a line in there does not do anything to make it look better.

By this stage of things we were into our second day and still not quite finished. We were finished enough to see that the doors did need some kind of treatment. I tried painting one with a concoction of gloss varnish and some silver pearl pigment that I had a sample of. This would go on already black doors with the hope that they would look metallic. No such luck. They only turned out looking a shiny gray and not a particularly nice gray at that. So I cleaned up and went back to the drawing board.

Fortunately for me there was another week before I could get back to doing the last touch up. I had seen some copper colored paint at Chromatics and was wondering if that would work. The problem was that it was $95 per quart--a little over the budget for the materials. I decided that it was the color that I wanted. The paint is quite thick so it would not go through my W 88 easily. I did have to thin it with a little water. This was sprayed on with a low air pressure to keep the overspray down. By then we had taken the tarps off most of the lobby except for the counters so I did not want copper paint everywhere. This turned out to be a really good choice. The copper looks almost like slightly old sheets. The reflectivity of this stuff was perfect for the darker area that they were in. It gave a lot more light to the wall. The other advantage was that the copper color set off the gray of the walls, complimenting each other. It never hurts to get lucky!

The last door was one that Eric wanted to design. Since he had been such a help, I could not say no. He wanted a door that had a vignette effect to it. The door was painted with the steel gray to start with. Then the vignette was done in a combination of Com-Art Violet and Paynes Gray. This gave it enough darkness and a little violet to contrast with the gray. The steel gray was slightly blue and green. This, with a couple of dents for effect, and the job was done.

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We did take a couple of pictures of the finished project. The best part was that Lee was very happy with the results. His crew was equally awed by the effect. However, you should never present your bill to a man armed with a laser rifle! features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.

Creating Simple Effective Textures with the Airbrush

By Kent Steine

In this example, we will be re-creating the look or illusion of texture on the surface of a wood plank. Flawlessly integrating the airbrush with various media to create elements of texture, highlight or informational detail has always been a difficult task for many an "airbrush artist." Even the controlled edge, whether created by shield, mask or frisket, yields a different look and effect than an area or passage created with various brush techniques. The real trick here is to integrate the two applications without contrast or conflict. Remember, the effect is meant to supplement the airbrush; by increasing the variety of "edges," we are able to create.

The result, when applied with authority and dexterity, can create the illusion or our impression of, in this case, wood. I learned some of these techniques many years ago while painting backgrounds and special effects for an animation project. The veteran background painters offered similar views on their artistic approach. This was that they were creating "illusions." Rocks, trees, grass and wood were all suggested rather than precisely detailed photo realistic renderings. For example, in my last article, I mentioned that painting hair wasn't necessarily about rendering it strand for strand.

When we think of wood, a variety of impressions may come to mind. An infinitely detailed representation, as one may view wood through a magnifying glass or macro lens, is probably not one of them. Everyone has stored impressions of their visual experiences. When we see a painting, for example, with only one dimension, canvas, and brush strokes, it is the experience of our visual memory that allows us to assemble the elements. If there is something amiss, out of proportion, perspective or place, our "visual memory" becomes strained to put the image together. This is why, in some cases, the untrained eye finds it difficult to fully appreciate a Picasso or Van Gogh, for example.

Remember, we see with what is behind our eyes.

Enough of the psychology of painting, it's time to create an illusion.

For this example, I will be using series 310 illustration board, value 2 orange (burnt umber), value 4 yellow-orange (raw sienna), ivory black, white, an Iwata HP-C airbrush, an Artool shield, a cheap watercolor wash brush and a number 1 sable brush.

1. The first step involves blocking in the area to be rendered as wood, with a mixture of raw sienna and burnt umber, in my HP-C. I am not concerned with spray pattern, or evenness at this stage, as much as simply filling in the area with a local color. With the remaining burnt umber in the color cup, I remove the air caps and stipple the darker color randomly. During this stage, I vary the air pressure to create larger and smaller dots. Thus begins the creation of texture for the wood surface.

2. With a number 1 sable brush, a mixture of the burnt umber and ivory black, I very loosely establish some large cracks that will follow the grain of the wood. They are randomly placed, yet have a directional and mass order of composition. This dark color is mixed at the same viscosity used for spraying in the airbrush.

3. Adding water to the same mixture, I quickly spray over the entire area. With the paint still wet, I use the watercolor wash brush to sweep the surface in a horizontal direction. This is executed in a loose, yet orderly manner. The soft bristles of the wash brush in the wet paint create the effect of long running lines of wood grain.

4. Using the same mixture of burnt umber and black, I soften the shadow side of the large cracks. This is the edge closest to the light source. It is done to increase the depth of the cracks, identify the light direction, and separate the height of the adjacent planes.

5. With raw sienna, burnt umber and white, I make a lighter, duller version of the original local color. Using the HP-C and an Artool Essential Seven Shield, I lightly spray elected edges of the light or higher side of the cracks. This dulls or weathers the overall look of the wood and further represents a variation of height and depth. I save this mixture of lighter value color for the final stage.

At this point, the effect or illusion of a wood surface has already become apparent and would almost pass. However, adding a few more stipple effects and some directional highlights will give it added texture and polish the rendering.

6. Using the lighter and dulled local color loaded in a number 1 sable brush and the HP-C with water (only) in the color cup, I highlight the edge adjacent to the softened shadow side. As the line or edge is established, I am following with the airbrush, lightly spraying water on the paint. This slightly blurs the line, while retaining the desired sharpness. The greater or lesser amount of water applied will vary this blurring effect. This same effect is executed with the dots created by the stippling procedure. Only the larger dots require this treatment for the effect to read as a whole.

The final rendering is presented in cropped and uncropped form. Although this appears to read as a wood surface, upon closer inspection, it is merely airbrushed paint, dots and lines.


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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.

Airbrush Workshops

Mark your calendar: Learning & Product Expo: ART! will be held June 2-4, with classes beginning June 1, at the Marriott Inn & Conference Center at UMUC, Washington, D.C. Immerse yourself in a unique experience for artists where you can visit an exhibit hall packed with art material manufacturers and choose from 200 art classes! Among the classes/demos to be held are:

June 1

"Airbrushing 101/Airbrush Fundamentals" with Pamela Shanteau
"Freehand Airbrush Portraiture" with Kurt Bittle
"Automotive Art 101" with Pamela Shanteau

June 2

"The Airbrush and Beyond" with Pamela Shanteau
"The Push and Pull of Airbrushing" with Kurt Bittle

June 3

"Airbrush Basics: The Starting Line!" with Kurt Bittle
"Intermediate Airbrushing & Special Effects" with Pamela Shanteau

June 4

"Intermediate Airbrushing & Special Effects" with Pamela Shanteau

Visit for further information and to register; or call 866-734-6736 to register. Register by May 26th and save!





Look for your next issue of AirbrushTalk in July 2006!