February 29, 2016

Danny Trejo - freehand airbrush portrait

Freehand airbrush portrait of Danny Trejo, work in progress. Started using Vallejo Flow Improver with Inspire H2O. Mix ratio paint : reducer : flow improver = 4 : 12 : 2. The increased viscosity results in less tip dry and slightly longer drying time of the paint, which improve color blend fades. DO NOT use Flow Improver when spraying ultra-fine crisp lines, because the mentioned properties also cause the paint becomes too fluent  after it hits the paper and spreads in all directions, which airbrush artists call spidering. The dimensions of the head are approximately 28 x 28 cm. I used an Iwata HP-BH airbrush and Van Beek Graphic Art Supplies Retouche paper.

Oldest stage below, newest on top. By the way, if you click on one of the images, you will see them against a dark background (in Google's 'lightbox') and will be able to scroll through all photographs on a page by turning your mouse's scroll wheel on a PC or Mac. As usual, below the photos additional information concerning this portrait is presented.

In frame

Reworked in July 2022 in Affinity Photo

Mar 27 2016 - 14:00

Mar 3 2016 - 12:00

Feb 29 2016 - 13:30

Feb 29 2016 - 12:00

Feb 28 2016 - 21:00

It occurred to me that a mix-ratio paint : reducer over 1 : 3 doesn't work well with Inspire H2O. For ultra-fine lines 2 drops of reducer for each drop of paint works best. When the paint is diluted beyond the 1 : 3 ratio the paint skids all over the paper surface - the same thing occurs when spraying on canvas. I sprayed this one on wood and acid free smooth paper. It's probably worse on synthetic paper (which I haven't yet tested). But when you stick to the 1 : 2 ratio it is safe; the paint behaves fantastic.

Air pressure
I never look at the dial of the pressure gauge. I just blow air against my hand to find the proper pressure to spray with. I tend to lower the air pressure so that the paint is barely pushed out of the airbrush, but one has to be careful; at some point the airbrush starts to make stipple patterns (which is controllable with intense concentration) and with even lower pressures becomes unpredictable. Also at low pressures, the jet of paint takes a few seconds to stabilize. I keep a small piece of paper in my left hand (I hold the airbrush in my right hand) and after stabilizing 'jump' to the painting surface. I re-stabilize the jet of paint on the small piece of paper very regularly and make sure that the needle is cleaned as often as necessary by taking it out of the airbrush and wiping it clean. Inspire H2O Black Smoke paint stays stable longer than its Base Brown and causes less tip dry, I found out suring spraying.

Removing blots
When a spider forms, it can be removed by quickly dipping the spot with the hand that is not holding the airbrush. This trick leaves no unwanted residue as long as the hand motion is approximately perpendicular to the painting surface. Smearing motion will leave traces.... Mind you, this only works when spraying with very low air pressures that do not deposit a lot of paint on the surface per measure of time.

Working in layers
The master painters of old (dudes like Rembrandt and Vermeer) often used a technique called 'glacis', which means working in transparent layers on top of each other. They knew that working this way created the illusion of depth and allowed subtle color nuances to be achieved that can never be reached in one pass. These tricks that the old masters used, work with the airbrush as well. In fact, the Inspire H2O paints are excellently suited for them. They're transparent, but also have the proper pigment intensity to create great results when working in many layers. It is the exact opposite as T-shirt (speed) painting in which colors are blasted on the tissue in one or two passes at higher air pressures, because the T-shirt fabric absorbs the paint well and spiders will therefore be prevented. But if you like working in more subtle ways on harder and smoother surfaces like paper, airbrush board and canvas, spray in many layers (using a number of different colors).

This is what the cut-out will look like when framed.

February 12, 2016

Creepie prez - Yupo paper test

My first impression of the man was that he was creepy. There is a dispute whether he was a satanist, but there was never any doubt that he lead a tough and crappy life, particularly in his younger days. I thought his facial features would lend themselves well for a test of Createx' Yupo airbrush paper. It is a synthetic material, which I had never tried before. I used an A4 size sheet, which basically forced me to spray more delicate lines and areas (large paintings are no challenge). The paint used for the test was Inspire H2O and the airbrush an Iwata HP-BH.

Yupo paper requires very careful appliance of paint - low pressure (barely enough to push out the paint; I never look at the compressor's air pressure gauge) and a mix-ratio of paint : reducer = 1 : 7. The airbrush rarely is further away from the paper than a few millimeters while spraying during the entire test.

Erasing must be done with great caution, especially when using hard material erasers. Erasers made of soft material are more forgiving, allowing to erase controlled fades. Erasers of hard material at some point abruptly remove the paint entirely, leaving a blank spot in an airbrushed area. When used with cautious dexterity they can also be used to erase faded areas, but it remains a tricky enterprise.

As usual, oldest stage at the bottom, newest on top. Findings concerning spraying and erasing on Yupo synthetic paper you see at the end of this page below the images.

Feb 14 2016 12:30 - although one can
never be sure, I think it's finished now...

Feb 13 2016 19:30 - Couldn't leave it 'unfinished'
Did some more work on the portrait...

Feb 12 2016 20:15

Feb 12 2016 15:00

Feb 12 2016 13:00

Feb 12 2016 12:00

Feb 12 2016 - First experiences with Yupo paper
Not sure what to think about synthetic Yupo paper. Perhaps it has to grow on me. I don't think it is an improvement over 'traditional' surfaces; it's very slippery and requires caution in erasing. On the other hand colors sprayed seem more radiant and saturated (provide applied in many layers).

Feb 13 2016 addition - Erasing Yupo paper better understood
Erasing Yupo 2.0 Started to get the hang of it I guess. Yupo allows to bring the white back entirely when erasing correctly. Clay board and various types of paper allow artists to erase back to approximately 90% white, but Yupo goes all the way. Experiment with eraser of different types of hardness / softness. Once the effect of working with various erasers is understood, this type of surface can be very helpful in creating perfect highlights and removing unwanted areas of overspray. I can now imagine that some artists would really like this synthetic surface.

Erasing very thinly sprayed areas is the most tricky; a little too much pressure will remove all paint from the surface. The good news is that the white area, left by accidentally removed paint, is perfectly sprayable and corrections are easy to make. This property also lends itself quite well to soften hard edges caused by masking. I am starting to like Yupo more and more...

Yupo and Inspire H2O
From what I've read (haven't tested it yet) Yupo is not suited for all airbrush paints. But I find that the paper works quite well with Inspire H2O. I discovered that diluting the paint a bit less than I usually do - paint : reducer = 1 : 2 or 1: 3 - will slightly improve adherence to the surface, while not noticeably affecting its handling in the airbrush and worsening the clogging of paint. Artists accustomed to clayboard type of surfaces will need to adjust their spraying and erasing routines somewhat, but once they've done that I think they will appreciate it.

Feb 14 2016 - Yupo's non-absorbtion
I think I figured out why colors look saturated on Yupo and why corrections - spraying over accidentally erased areas - are easy to make. Colors are saturated because none of the pigments are absorbed by the surface; they are all layered on top of the paper and therefore all contribute entirely to the visual effect. Over-saturated areas that sometimes occur when using traditional paper or clayboard are simply not possible. Concerning the erasing: when a mistake in erasing is made, spraying over the area is starting all over again from scratch, not building on the remains that could not be removed. Conclusion: although airbrushing on Yupo required certain adjustments, I came to like it. To artists with above average dexterity and patience I recommend Yupo.

February 3, 2016

Charles Bukowski - freehand airbrush portrait

I never read novels, except a few written by Bukowski. His life, for the greater part, has been a struggle - abusive father, severe acne, alcoholism, arrest by the FBI (on suspicion of draft evasion), death of a lover, shitty jobs, publishers that failed to recognize his talent as a writer and poet, divorce and leukemia (which killed him), basically all the type of crap that makes life thoroughly miserable. In some cases that results in interesting facial characteristics, a challenge to airbrush artists.

Newest phase on top, oldest at the bottom. Below the latter is some more text.

Update March 7 2021

Four years after I sprayed this portrait with an airbrush, an Iwata HP-BH airbrush gun and Inspire H2O paint on paper, I digitally reworked it in Affinity Photo. Bukowski had a nicely twisted mind, resulting from the life he was cast into on this planet, that drove him to write hard hitting, strange books and thereby gaining a considerable following of people that probably had strange aspects to their personality as well. Which they carefully hid of course in an attempt to inconspicuously participate in the imposing human society in this dimension.

Affinity Photo has all the tools to allow to apply subtle details to any image that take it to a more elevated level. Artists that got familiar with this type of functionality appreciate the efforts of the developers, who most likely are artists themselves, given the perceptive properties of the program's features.

August 21 2021 - Colour overlay
added in Affinity Photo

August 21 2021 - Halftone filter
added in Affinity Photo

August 21 2021 - digitally edited
in Affinity Photo

March 7 2021 - digitally edited
in Affinity Photo

Feb 10 2016 12:00 finished

Feb 8 2016 12:00
Almost done. Charles Bukowski freehand airbrush
portrait. Only white highlights on skin and hair (this
will reveal how well Inspire H2O Base White works)

Feb 7 2016 20:30

Feb 6 2016 12:30

Feb 5 2016 23:00

Feb 5 2016 17:00

Feb 5 2016 15:00

Feb 4 2016 16:30

Feb 3 2016 21:00

Feb 3 2016 18:00

Feb 3 2016 14:00

Learned a lot while making this portrait. Diluted the paint as follows: Inspire H20 : reducer = 1 : 6. But in order to avoid having to spray with white too much (highlights and hairs) it will have to be diluted even more. This makes it necessary to spray more layers, which will take more time, but also give the painting more depth while allowing me more control over the intensity of areas and lines. I asked the mega talented Italian airbrush artist Luca Roccaforte once how he (and Alberto) sprayed the fine hairs in a fur and he told me they spray around it... It requires a lot of focus, control and time (patience), but it probably is the only way to avoid spraying the highlights and hairs with white over previously sprayed colors in order to prevent the infamous and irritating blue hue.

The paint I used (obviously) is Inspire H2O, the airbrush Iwata HP-BH and paper Van Beek Retouche paper - image size just under 30 x 30 cm. It would be a lot easier to spray a larger image, but there's no challenge in that. Also using solvent based paint would allow spraying of finer lines and less clogging, but it's not recommended for indoor use.

Photographs are shot with Samsung S4 Mini cellphone cam. It explains the low quality of the images. There is a noticeable difference between photos shot in daylight and in artificial light. All the different settings in Samsung's standard cam app and an app called 'A better camera' were unable to produce decent photos.

A note on the dreaded blue hue when spraying with white on top of previously applied colors
Spray around the hairs as Luca explained as much as possible. Accurate spraying of the shadows on and below hairs, minimizes the covering of white over other colors. Things go wrong when the white fades on its edges. When spraying crisp, hard edged white lines, the result is not too bad. Spraying with white as a final process does give the extra accent that makes paintings (especially portraits) stand out. Inspire's H2O is the best I've encountered so far. Mix ratio paint : reducer = 1 : 3 Clean the brush often; the white has powerful adhesive qualities and opacity while allowing to spray ultra fine lines (provided it is cleaned properly and often). To clean the airbrush I used an environmentally friendly organic type cleaner - ASA airbrush cleaner (500cc) from Airbrush Services Almere.

And finally a nice quote from Mr. Bukowski. Those who have more than two properly functioning brain cells should think about his words real f*cking hard: