September 6, 2012

The magnificent uselessness of the Paasche Turbo

To a certain number of maniacs among airbrush artists (are they all maniacal in a way?) the legendary Paasche Turbo has a strange kind of appeal. I always felt something similar as seeing a woman that is too beautiful to approach - an out of my league type of beauty. Only difference is that if you safe money persistently you can actually buy the Turbo in a shop... Like many women the Paasche soon starts to frustrate its owner (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 mastered that, you may fall in love forever. Or perhaps hate it without end.

Various generations of Paasche Turbo airbrushes

When revving up the Turbo it sounds like a dentist's drill, but when you have gotten over that, it allows to spray lines finer than any other airbrush while allowing you to control their intensity, 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 separately, without compromise. It will not spray paints with coarse pigments, it is very picky and only frustratingly small amounts of paint can be poured into the 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 it.', 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 with some effort it worked sort of adequately and this 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 stand close behind you, bumping into you and asking if I was a dentist, making it difficult to focus while politely responding to all sorts of stupid remarks that by the end of the day you've heard a hundred times. But in spite of that, the Turbo intrigued me, because I 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. At home I made this, during the next days of the fair and I went overboard from being enthusiastic about its 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 and once again I went overboard as a result of my fascination with the gun. It simply allows artists to exactly place line 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