January 11, 2016

Brad Pitt airbrush portrait

I am testing a new approach to portrait airbrushing after watching an other magnificent Clint Eastwood portrait by Alberto Ponno. It incorporates meticulous detailing with very low air pressure and properly diluted paint. Contrary to the previous portrait I sprayed of Andre Hazes, this portrait of Brad Pitt is airbrushed on smooth Van Beek Retouch paper. It does not appreciate erasing very well and does not absorb a bunch of paint, but the smooth surface does allow to spray fine detail. Size of the image itself (i.e. the head) is 25 cm wide, 30 cm tall.

The airbrush I used is my trusty Iwata HP-BH and the paint is Inspire's brilliant H2O water based paint. The portrait is entirely freehand (which means no masking of any sort at all); no color pencils were used to apply accents, only a very limited amount of erasing was used.

Working method: spray the average tones, then apply dark accents and finally spray the highlights (although so far I haven't used the white). I try to airbrush around white areas as much as possible, to keep the necessary spraying with white to a minimum. I used Base White for highlights in the Andre Hazes portrait and was quite pleased with the result. Coverage is good, the paint allows to spray fine lines and it clogs only just a fraction faster than regular colors (cleaning the needle more often than is the case with other colors is required) - I take the needle out of the airbrush and clean it by rolling and sliding it between my fingers that I press together. Thoroughly cleaning the airbrush after spraying with white is done, is a must - the Inspire Base White has very strong adherence.

Sequence shows newest update at the top (text continues below the photos - extensive tips). By clicking one on the photos, the slide show mode is activated, in which the photos can be viewed by using the mouse scroll wheel. Roughly speaking, each update equals 3 drops of paint - so you can get an idea of the amount of paint used for the portrait in each stage. The camera I use, is a lousy cell phone cam of a Samsung S4 Mini, often used in artificial lighting (which makes the quality of the photos even worse...). This portrait being sprayed with Black Smoke (a dark shade of grey), suffers less from the lighting than full color portraits.

Jan 16 2016 13:30

Jan 15 2016 17:00 - skin texture and hairline

Second update Jan 13 2016 of Brad Pitt portrait. Detailing and correcting textures.
Inspire H2O paint is absolutely brilliant; it allows to spray very thin (saturated) lines
without clogging the airbrush, while it is reasonably easy to erase.
Even on very smooth / slippery paper it is a dream to spray.

Jan 13 2016 10:10

Jan 12 2016 13:00 hrs

Same stage as image below, shot in daylight

Jan 12 2016 01:11

Jan 11 2016

Jan 10 2016 - III

Jan 10 2016 - II

Jan 10 2016 - I

Note for those who try to improve their already good skills but want to reach the next level:
Commonly airbrushes are set up using some type of image projection device. The disadvantage of this method is that only some of the details are transferred (drawn) onto the surface; the rest the artist has to estimate by frequently looking at the reference image. Alberto Ponno has developed a unique method that allows him to have a continuously projected reference on the surface he works on. Alberto has mad skills that are unsurpassed in this dimension today and combined with the perfect reference his method provides, it results in stunning airbrush art. For lesser gods I described a cheap alternative method that works with (semi) transparent surfaces like paper, poly carbonate sheets and canvas. It allows the artist to focus on applying the paint to the surface without the perpetual worry of misplacing the spray and creating an incorrect shape which makes it necessary to correct mistakes afterward.

Paint mix-ratio and air pressure
Another tip some may find useful is, I keep a tiny piece of paper in my left hand (I airbrush with my right hand) that I use to stabilize the jet of paint before attacking the paper or canvas. I keep it very close to where I need to spray and once the stream is stable, I quickly jump over to the surface I paint on. I do this very often, stabilizing for extremely thin lines, as well as wider sprays for surfaces. This way I always know exactly what the effect will be. When diluting the Inspire H2O : reducer = 3 : 18 (drops) and air pressure is just high enough to drive the paint out of the airbrush, I can spray ultra thin lines for hours on end. It is useless to set air pressure using the pressure gauge on the compressor, but as a reference for beginners the hand barely moves over the dial when air is sprayed. I prefer to check air pressure by airbrushing air (no paint) against the back of my left hand. Room temperature and humidity that vary each day affect the required pressure, so using the pressure gauge is pretty much useless.

Tip to continuously spray ultra fine lines
Approximately every 5 minutes I take needle out of the airbrush and clean the tip between my fingers. Below you see an image of my 'warming up' - sprayed on cheap office copying paper - before airbrushing which is meant to get the 'feel' and dexterity to airbrush properly.

Getting the feel of the airbrush and
setting up the gun properly before
the real work on paintings begins.
(The ruler scale is in millimeters)

My experience with Inspire H2O paint
I have been airbrushing since 1980 and tried many brands of paint, but I can safely say both the solvent based and waterborne paints from Inspire are better than the rest, require no chemistry degree to use and are available for a very reasonable price. They adhere to all types of surfaces and as far as I'm able to judge, are very light resistant. All these properties make these paints the best deal in the market today. A truly huge compliment I have to make to the waterborne H2O paint, which does not noticeably behave different than their solvent based paint. Most waterborne paints are no match for their solvent based counterparts, but the only way to distinguish Inspire's products is by the scent of the solvent. The thing that I don't like about the paint are the bottle lids; while it is easy to dose the measure of paint required, when closing the twist top lid, a small amount of spills over or jets into the room (when closed swiftly, which is messy). But in all honesty, I haven't come across a solution that works flawlessly in the decades that I have been airbrushing - The Createx flip lid also spills paint and the pipettes of the Schmincke and Illu-Color type bottles dry out and crumble after some time.

Next project
Actually this portrait is a test to test the limits of the paint, the airbrush, my dexterity, patience and ability to concentrate. The next project will be more realistic (detailed) than this one, 100% freehand as well. I will use additional tools that I didn't have while airbrushing this portrait, which will be explained in that blog entry.