Volume 8, Number 3, September 2006
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Airbrush - Photo Vignettes
by Janean S. Thompson
|1. Hand-torn photo, canvas and elevation foam board ready to start.|
The materials you need include: the airbrush of your choice (for this project I used the Revolution CR Airbrush); and air source (I used Iwata Studio Series Smart Jet Air Compressor); a matte finish photo; acrylic paints that coordinate with the colors in your photo; a primed canvas several inches larger than your photo; a piece of foam board 1 inch smaller than your photo (on all sides); pencil. (Photo 1)
For this project, I created an interesting edge on the photo by tearing along all sides. This adds visual impact and creates a nice contrast to the finished airbrushed additions. To tear the photo paper, first lightly fold the paper and then run a blunt object through the fold to tear off the outer edges.
|2. Penciling in the image extension areas.|
Position the photo on the canvas so that you have a margin of around two inches all around. With a pencil, lightly draw some shape extensions around the photo. (Photo 2) These will be the areas in which the airbrush paints will be placed. The area behind the photo may be painted, if desired, or left unpainted. Simple shapes are what you are seeking. A soft background will add great interest with the sharpness of the photo. For this project I wanted to create a more impressionistic or abstract background--something different.
|3. Image embellishment with soft transition from the photo to airbrushed designs.|
The tones you apply to the background should correspond with those in the photo. Attempt to bleed out darks where darks occur in the photo and lights where there are light areas. (Photo 3) If you desire, you might want to bring some of the airbrushing onto the surface of the photo. Many of the dry, matte-finished photos can be airbrushed without damage, but some of the inks do run. If you intend to bring the airbrushed tones onto the photo surface, be sure you have tested to be sure the inks are permanent. To check the placement of your canvas airbrush work, carefully align the photo with the canvas. (Photo 4)
|4. Check the look of the detailed photo with the airbrushed background.|
The degree of detail you create in your embellishment is up to you. In this photo, you see that the leaf details and colors have been softened but remain close to those in the picture. That softness allows the photo to be the central subject, but the surrounding area enhances it. (Photo 5)
|5. Completed artwork ready for framing—unusual with the softness of the background and the sharp detail of the photo.|
Even if you choose to use a softened or "out-of-focus" look for your background colors on the canvas, you can add a few crisp details to entertain the eye and spark interest for the viewer--perhaps an insect on a leaf or some textural sharpness that would not ordinarily be there. Since your artistic license allows you to do whatever you want to do, do it! Exciting things can happen when you do the unexpected.
Use of the pencil to define the areas you have painted can also be a great way to add texture to the area around the photo. Line designs seem to contradict the smoothness of this particular photo, but will be part of the appeal for the viewer. Pencil lines and exaggerated softness will catch attention.
Experimentation with different degrees of complexity will give you unique pieces for competition artworks in the mixed media category. You'll blow their socks off!
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Recently, I received a question forwarded to me, from a makeup artist by the name of Christopher Russo, on the topic of High Definition makeup. I've included a portion of his letter here so that I could respond to it for the benefit of other readers:
"I have used Revlon Color Stay* base with a 50/50 mixture of 244 Fluid and a bit of Silicolor (available from Michael Davy). Works great using Eclipse HP BCS siphon feed. I use Dinair Glamour colors for cheek color and underbase shading. I've had problems when it came time to do a good cleaning between these color changes. The airbrush clogged because colors are incompatible and turned to gum. 244 Fluid does not mix well with Dinair. Would like to line upper eyelids for finer work with my airbrush. Can't get it to work, I think that the makeup is too thick to get through the nozzle opening. Do you have any suggestions on reducing colors and or other products to try?"
Well, Christopher, you've discovered a very important first lesson when airbrushing makeup. All product lines are not created equally! It's an incredible misconception makeup artists have, that to be able to thin down any airbrush product line (with disregard to its chemical structure) is to dump some 244 Fluid in it! 244 Fluid is not the cure-all for airbrush product lines! For those who are unfamiliar with what 244 Fluid is, let me explain. The Dow Chemical Company created 244 Fluid as a base fluid that is used in a number of personal care products. It's chemically classified as a cyclomethicone. The reason that it will readily mix with Revlon Colorstay is because that product is a dimethicone base. Dimethicone and cyclomethicone are defined as silicones. So 244 Fluid is only compatible with product lines that contain those ingredients.
NOTE: I contacted Dow Corning Product Service Department to have them double check the accuracy of my chemical analysis. Lacy Hardy, of product services, read over this article and wrote back that I am correct on the matter. However, your 50/50 ratio is too high, as you will over thin the product so it no longer has enough binders to hold it together. In makeup, the binders give a product longevity so that it will last longer. Colorstay, which comes in a 1.25 oz size, I found, can be thinned down with 3/8 oz. of 244 Fluid. If interested, I have an entire recipe worked out for the process. (Contact AirbrushTalk and they will forward your request to me).
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The reason 244 Fluid will not work with the Dinair Glamour makeup is that line is chemically a polymer-water base. So it's water based, not silicone based and in there lies the rub. Those two are completely incompatible. Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymers act as a film former. Once the airbrushed makeup dries, the polymer vehicle produces a continuous film on the skin. It's this synthetic plastic ingredient that will give the finished makeup the longevity of a shooting day. Note: When in doubt, always contact the company as per their recommendations to properly thin down their product.
Graftobian Makeup Company has produced an extensive line of glamour makeup, which they call, GlamAire. It's somewhat similar to the Dinair line; however, they make a thinner that is actually the base ingredients without any pigment added. So by using their thinner you aren't lowering the binder. Also, I can't stress this point enough: Never add tap water to any airbrush makeup product, as it can contain minerals that can contaminate or, worse, compromise the chemistry. Only use distilled water if a company instructs you that water can properly thin down their product.
Concerning your wish to be able to airbrush the eyeliner: I would strongly caution you against this because of the extreme danger! I would advise you use the more traditional approach to create your eyeliner, namely the old-fashioned makeup brush. Some things never go out of fashion! And you won't be looking at a possible lawsuit, either.
I would suggest you peruse some of the back issues of AirbrushTalk, for past articles I've written that you might find right up your alley. I also wrote an extensive article for Makeup Artist Magazine titled "Air Essentials" (issue#44) on all the airbrush makeup lines up to that point. I am in the process of up-dating that article for a future issue in the magazine, as there are many more product lines available now.
Lastly, I have been working with the Zazzo Company to produce an entire line of stencils for both beauty and character makeup work, called the "Makeup Masters Series." Look for those early in 2007.
I hope that this information was of help. If anyone else out there has any questions, let me know and I'll do my best to answer each and every one of them. Good Airbrushing!
*Disclaimer: Commonly being used by makeup artists both in film and television for its longevity, though not with Revlon's corporate approval for this method of application of their product line to the skin.
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Space...is more than just a black field with white spots. That may well be a reasonable definition of what we see as we look up into the night sky. However, the subtler big picture can be rich in texture, color and most importantly...depth. You wouldn't paint a cube or box from edge to edge with a solid black and expect it to read as anything but a spot or hole. In order to represent this cube as a dimensional object with form, depth and volume, we would approach rendering it as such, with light and dark or colors. Outer space, the night sky, and astronomical objects have form, depth and volume, and can be represented in the same manner. If you have ever had the opportunity to view the night sky far away from city lights, this perspective becomes apparent.
The following approach for rendering the deep night sky, outer space, and astronomical objects has been used to produce everything from illustration to animation background art with convincing success. A noteworthy item is that, in general, classically animated features presented night sky and outer space backgrounds as blue. However, while painting backgrounds for the Nexus animation, I rendered a few multi-field pans using this more realistic look. We will be working at a size and finished look of how a conceptual study, or sketch, would appear.
Materials used to produce this example are: Iwata HP-C Airbrush; Artool FH-5 Mini-Shield; 2" sponge brush; circle templates (any size); acrylic titanium white; ivory black; ultramarine blue (value 2 BP); napthol crimson (value 4 R); yellow ochre (value 5 Y); cerulean blue (value 4 B); illustration board; scrap acetate or paper; water. (NOTE: The napthol crimson, yellow ochre and cerulean blue can be substituted with any similar hue.)
Step 1) With the illustration board in position, mix the ultramarine blue, and ivory black with water, to a viscosity that will spray through the airbrush. I am careful not to over mix the colors, as I want separate areas of black and ultramarine blue. I mix these on a large flat glass palette. We apply this mixture to the board with a sponge brush. This is done for two principal reasons: The first is that it is a faster, more economical way to apply the amount of paint required to block in the desired area and the second being texture and the appearance of depth. With the sponge brush, it is possible to apply the paint in a quick, loose manner. The resulting patterns of the black and ultramarine blue appear as areas of greater and lesser depth. You will be able to blend this area to your liking with the addition of more or less of the mixture.
Step 2) Using my Iwata HP-C Airbrush, with both air caps removed, I begin to stipple a mixture of white and cerulean blue at an air pressure setting of 10 lbs. At this pressure setting, the dots are relatively small and fine in appearance. I also lower the pressure to create some larger diameter dots. This is repeated with lighter and darker values of the cerulean blue. At the same pressure, I then begin to stipple with pure white, blending the light and dark blue, and white stipple effects. As overall patterns begin to take shape, I vary the pressure to create much larger and smaller (finer) dot patterns. Areas with more of the black under painted coverage become the focus for this application. Again, this simulates the appearance of depth with contrast.
Step 3) With the starfield area now established, I replace the air caps on the Iwata and begin to spray freehand (soft-edged) dots using the red, cerulean blue, yellow ochre, and any other colors I may want to manufacture by intermixing these hues. There are many stars and objects in the night sky that contain a great deal of color, such as The Pleiades (blue-white), Mars and Betelgeuse (red), Arcturus (orange), and Alpha Centauri (yellow). (Remember...stars twinkle because of light refracting through our atmosphere. Planets do not, because we are viewing reflected light.) I vary the size of the soft dots in accordance with the view or area of space being represented.
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Step 4) In order to make our example more convincing, we will include a couple of familiar astronomical objects to put this view into perspective. I position a large circle template in the lower left corner of my board, and mask off the exposed area with some scrap acetate. With a mixture of the cerulean blue and white, I rapidly spray into the exposed hole of the circle template, allowing some of the paint to underspray the template. This will create a soft, yet evenly controlled edge.
Step 5) Shifting the template to a smaller diameter opening and placing it evenly over the established blue sphere, I mix and spray various Earth tones, such as yellow, green and brown, into the area that has been segregated by the circle template. The smaller diameter circle rendered within the larger version will simulate the effect of atmosphere at the surface of our sphere or, in this case, planet. Using the Artool Mini Shield, I begin to establish areas of apparent land mass and clouds on the surface. Using the circle template and a piece of paper, I cut out a circle the same diameter as the inner sphere. With this makeshift shield, the Iwata, and the ultramarine blue, I create a shadow and light source upon the blue sphere. Make sure the shadow is relative to your axis.
Step 6) Moving away from the main object, I attach a circle template in the same manner as before, using scrap acetate to mask my exposed areas. This time, the diameter of the opening is much smaller. With a mixture of white and yellow ochre, I lightly and evenly spray into the exposed area of the smaller sphere. Using a second circle template with an opening of the same diameter, it is attached so that the circles overlap in the same manner as the larger blue sphere's established shadow. I then begin to render various areas of light and dark with the yellow-white mixture into the exposed template opening. This technique creates a soft, luminescent shadow on the smaller, lighter sphere.
Step 7) With the starfield nearly completed, the final effect is created by spraying pure white dots into the previously established color dots. This takes a bit of practice and good hand to eye coordination in order to hit the colored areas directly in their centers. Use this effect to vary the sharpness and softness of your stars and, in particular, make the colored stars glow with intensity.
Step 8) The finished starfield and view of Earth as might be seen from a distance greater than the orbit of the Moon. As a point of reference and view from this perspective, I have included Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn at their apparent size from this astronomical distance within our solar system.
An example rendering such as this can easily be produced within 30 minutes or less. Have fun and "keep looking up."
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Classes begin October 5
Hilton Burbank Airport & Convention Center
Immerse yourself in a unique experience for artists where you can visit an exhibit hall packed with art material manufacturers and choose from a program of 200 art classes-including airbrush. Visit www.learningproductexpo.com for more information and to register.
With Robert Paschal
Robert Paschal, MFA--artist, author and publisher--returns to Milwaukee to teach this popular hands-on workshop. All equipment and supplies are provided for use in class. For further information, call 414-442-9100; email email@example.com; www.artistanddisplay.com.
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Beginning October 15, AirbrushTalk will post new "Airbrush Quick Tips" on AirbrushTalk.com. An announcement of the tips will be e-mailed to subscribers with hyperlinks to pages on which the tips appear. This new e-blast will go out six times a year, alternating with the AirbrushTalk e-newsletter. "Airbrush Quick Tips" are appropriate for beginning, intermediate and advanced airbrush users.
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