Published in Airbrush Action Magazine, April 2001
Size and Surface: 48” x 36” on 100% pure cotton duck stretched canvas. For the purpose of this painting, I’m working on Monet Master Wrap Canvas by Masterpiece Artist Canvas. Additional preparation includes several thinned coats of acrylic matte medium.
Equipment and Materials List:
- Artograph Projector
- Shark Great White Compressor
- Iwata HP-C Airbrush
- Hand Masker Paper/Tape Dispenser
- Masking Tape – 1/8”, 1/4”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1-1/2”, 2” and 3” rolls
- 12” Masking Paper (rolls)
- X-Acto Knife with #11 Blades
- Artool Freehand Airbrush Templates
- Mahl Stick
- 4” Chinese Bristle Brush
- Acetate Sheets
- Golden Matte Medium
- Frisk Canvas Mask
- Com-Art Transparent and Opaque Paints
- 3M ReMount Repositionable Spray Adhesive
- Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating
It started in October on a beautiful Indian summer day. In Oregon, those kinds of days are rare, especially for autumn. So, I called my buddies at Indian Motorcycle of Portland and asked them if they had a bike I could borrow for the afternoon. They were kind enough to offer me anything on the floor, and a hot red Indian Chief caught my eye. I’ve been wanting to take one of those out for a spin for quite a while, and the day and the opportunity where perfect. The Chief and I made our way to a cool Portland park with a pristine lake. So after shooting a couple of good rolls of film, I had reference material for my next painting – the fifth in an ongoing motorcycle series of works.
I prefer to work from my own reference photos because I like knowing the painting is mine from beginning to end, and I enjoy the process of shooting good reference material. The process also helps me to better understand the subject matter at hand. Additionally, I know there won’t be any copyright concerns using my own photos, versus painting from someone else’s images. When I process the film I always order two sets of prints. This allows me to have a backup print in case my reference material gets damaged or lost in the process of working on the painting. You don’t want to be left without your reference photo under a tight deadline and have to wait for new prints to be made.
Step 1: Transferring Your Drawing to Canvas
I’ve applied several coats of Golden Matte Medium thinned with distilled water over the drawing. Matte Medium works as a translucent ground to prepare support when an opaque gesso is not desired. This process will help to smooth out the canvas’s surface and create a nice surface for spraying. I lay the canvas flat and use my hands to massage the Medium into the surface. By doing this, I’ve also completely sealed my drawing into the painting, which assures me that there is no way to smear the pencil drawing. Allow at least a day for the Medium to dry between coats. This painting required six separate applications of thinned Matte Medium.
Step 2: Masking
I initially start by outlining and masking the shapes with 1/8” and 1/4” tape and other sizes as needed, then fill in larger areas with tape and paper. Burnish down edges of tape everywhere with your fingers, and where they cross over other pieces of tape use your fingernail to burnish the intersections. Burnishing prevents the paint from seeping under the tape and which would leave a rough undesirable edge. For highly detailed sections, you can lay down a large piece of masking tape or Frisk Canvas Mask and cut pieces out with an X-Acto knife. Always use a new blade and be extremely careful not to cut into the canvas’ surface.
It’s important to make sure you thoroughly mask and paper over everything that you don’t want overspray to find. Don’t assume that because an area is several inches from where you’re painting that it won’t pick up overspray, as overspray has a tendency to travel quite a distance, especially when painting larger areas.
Step 3: Painting the Background
Step 4: The Sidewalk
Step 5: Stenciling Details
Step 6: Tanks and Fenders
In preparation, I mask the areas to be painted in the same way I previously masked for the background areas. I applied 2” wide masking tape over the Indian logo and engine fins and cut them out with an X-Acto knife. I prepare clear acetate sheets to define the crisp edges and reflection areas within the masked areas by drawing the shapes onto the pieces I plan on using later with a permanent fine-line marker. If I need to create a crisp edge, I can either hinge the piece with some tape or use a little repositionable spray adhesive to hold the masks in place while painting. If you’re looking for a softer edge, you can simply hold the acetate away from the surface while spraying. It is best to use “real” acetate for this process because you can cut pieces out easier than using “imitation” acetate. The reason for this is that acetate can be score and cracked to pop the pieces out – other materials don’t necessarily allow you to do that. The advantage is that you can position your acetate where you need it, lightly cut the shape with a sharp blade without actually cutting it out, and bend the acetate to release the piece you need. There is no risk of cutting into your art, and you can create a more detailed piece using this process. Additionally, I use Artool Airbrush Templates and other shields to create quick edges as needed.
Step 7: Spraying The Red
Step 8: Masking The Tank
I mix approximately two parts “hot red” with one part opaque Phthalo Green [creating a deep red] for the dark shadow areas. I’ve used the green for this because it is red’s complementary color. Many of the larger highlight areas include opaque White mixed with my hot red, and a few drops of opaque Magenta added to brighten it up a little. As I get into lighter and darker areas I adjust the colors as needed. I also use straight white to under-paint some of the hotter areas and glaze over with the other reds. Additionally, the tops of the tanks which get the most light will receive a light mist of transparent Bright Red to warm it up a bit. Since there is already some Magenta mixed into my opaque Red highlight color, it doesn’t take much to warm it up – I just want to push the white back a little. I slowly build up my colors while painting the shadow and reflections by airbrushing freehand, and with a combination of acetates and hand-held shields – no additional masking is used for these areas.
The hot spots and glows are sprayed with straight opaque White. Often, you’ll see these glow with a little red halo (or glow) around them, but when they’re on red the halo goes unseen, so just using white is sufficient, so long as it’s not overdone. As we get into the chrome areas the red halo will be more obvious.
Once the tanks are done, I allow the paint a day to dry and move on to the fender. Because the fender is further from view than the tanks, I paint the shadows and reflections with a much softer edge. This is done by doing a little more freehand spraying, and when using templates, I keep them away from the surface enough to soften the edges. This can be done by hand-holding the templates or making a loop of masking tape and putting it behind the acetate to hold it away from the canvas’ surface. When doing the latter, be sure to spray with low air pressure [under 20 psi], and build colors slowly so that the paint doesn’t sneak behind the acetate and leave a shadow of the tape.
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