September 6, 2012

The magnificent uselessness of the Paasche Turbo

To a certain breed of maniacs among airbrush artists the legendary Paasche Turbo has a strange kind of appeal. I always felt it to be something similar as seeing a woman that is too beautiful to approach - an out of my league type of beauty. Only difference is that the Turbo is a lot cheaper than the chick... Like many gorgeous women the Paasche soon starts to frustrate many of her partners (sorry ladies..., don't take it personally) - adjusting it to a level where you can work with it is an ordeal for those unfamiliar with its quirks. But once you have struggled your way into having a clue about how to adjust and use the tool, you may fall in love with it forever, while there will also be bunch of artists that hate the gun without end.

Various generations of Paasche Turbo airbrushes

When revving up the Turbo it sounds like a dentist's drill, but once you have untethered yourself from audible similarity of the tooth doctor's torture practice, it allows to spray lines finer than any other airbrush, while allowing you to control their intensity and even texture (i.e. stippling), just by listening to the sound of the Turbo - a somewhat low pitch at modest speeds and screaming high pitch at 20,000 revs per minute. The Paasche makes it possible to control the amount of air, the amount of paint independently from each other, without compromise. It dislikes spraying paints with coarse pigments and only allows disappointingly small amounts of paint to be poured into its paint cup.

Three tests of the tool I show here. The first I did on a fair long ago in the RAI exhibition hall in Amsterdam. I had never seen or heard of the Turbo in my life when the stand manager (the legendary - in some circles - Henk Bensdorp) said to me: 'Here, try this.' while handing me the airbrush. I recall thinking wtf is that? And next how the hell do I use it? 'Oh just put some paint in there and fiddle around with the adjustments.', was the instruction I got. Which was somewhat distressing since and audience began to build, wondering where the dentist drill sounds came from.

Artists that are hired to demonstrate on a fair, like to feel confident about the tools they use, because there are shiploads of people watching what they're doing, some of whom actually are experienced artists themselves. So the Turbo made me quite insecure, especially since it was not tuned optimally, to which I was oblivious at the time. But after some fiddling it sort of worked and the portrait in the image below was the first result, a 50 x 70 cm portrait of Mr. Humphrey Bogart:

First encounter with the Turbo (never finished)

During the show dozens of obtrusive people stood close behind me, bumping into me and thought they were being funny by asking me if I was a dentist, making it difficult to focus while still trying to figure out how to adjust the Turbo properly. But in spite of that, the tool intrigued me, because I soon felt its potential was huge. After Day 1 of the fair I took it home and fiddled with it. Gradually I began to understand how it should be adjusted properly. Not that I was able to do that after one day spraying with it, but it started to dawn on me and I got somewhere about halfway to tune it properly. At home I sprayed the image below, during the next days of the fair and I gradually became enthusiastic about The Paasche Turbo's spraying performance:

Turbo test on 15 x 15 cm paper

I thought it would make sense to spray a small image, since the Turbo allows to work in very fine detail. The airbrush is not suited to spray larger surfaces - it simply sprays too fine. That is what makes it unpractical compared to other excellent brushes such as Iwata's Mircron series airbrushes. But if you're into detailed airbrushing there is nothing like the Paasche Turbo! Long after that particular show, I rediscovered the Turbo again, but this time I knew exactly how to tune the tool. Once again the Turbo amazed me by spraying lines almost as thin as a hair in a controlled way and once again the gun baffled me. It simply allows artists to exactly place lines of varying widths where they want them to be placed. Your personal dexterity is the only limitation to the quality of the detail:

Paasche Turbo test with proper adjustments

The Paasche Turbo is not easy company; it does exactly what it wants to do and nothing else - i.e. spray ultra fine lines and controlled spattering. If you practice real hard, find the proper mix ratios for your paint and tune the gun properly, you can deposit single drops of paint exactly where you want them.... Its excellent capabilities are its brilliant limitations, but I have come to love its magnificent uselessness. You might want to take a peek at two videos that demonstrate some of the adjustment options of the Turbo: Video 1 and Video 2

Unfortunately Paasche stopped producing the miraculous Turbo, as well as the also magnificent V1. The airbrush guns the company produces today are a far cry from the superb tools they produced in the past. I don't know what happened in the company, that caused it to abandon their traditional outstanding craftmanship, but older and experienced airbrush artists surely understand what I wrote here. Not every change is an improvement.