Thursday, March 12, 2009

New toys!

I have to confess that I have been intimidated about glazing my Imps. His small size presents a number of technical issues, not the least of which will be the need to hit some pretty small targets with an airbrush.

I started out glazing with rather marginal airbrushing skills. Although many believed my older acrylic work was the result of airbrushing, the fact was that all I ever did was block in the basic tonal shifts. All the real shading was done by hand with water-thin layers of acrylic. Switching to ceramic underglaze has forced me to improve my airbrushing skills. I have come a long way with my ability to target my spray to a specific spot - and to avoid other areas. (Joan's ability to leave strands of mane flaxen while darkly shading the body around them never fails to impress me!) Still, as my wrapped-up Imp shows, I am heavily dependant on masking.

For something like Imp's feet I can use masking. (Even if removing the latex from his spindly legs is nerve-wracking.) The problem was that with a head less than a half-inch long, even the most basic facial shading was going to take some serious precision. I decided it was worth it to try out some new tools.

For years the standard airbrush used for underglaze has been the Iwata Eclipse (top). Many of us had tried finer brushes only to see that the pigment would not pass through the brush. It wasn't that they splattered; the paint simply did not come out. But I wondered if some of the newer intermediate brushes might work, especially now that so much of my own underglaze work involved translucents. Translucent underglazes like the Duncan E-Z Strokes have a much lower clay content that traditional underglazes.

Underglazes are hard on airbrushes anyway. They are deceptive, because unlike acrylics they never dry completely so they don't clog the brush. They clean with water no matter how long they sit in the brush. But the clay content puts a lot of wear on the internal workings. It's a bit like slow-motion sandblasting of all the internal workings. I'm used to replacing the cones, and eventually the entire brush. It didn't seem sensible to invest in an especially fancy airbrush, even if it would work.

But my favorite supplier, BearAir, was running a buy-one-get-one special for the month of March. They had stopped carrying Iwata products a while back, and I had already considered trying one of their replacement brands. I thought I would use the opportunity to try the new brands as well as some of the finer brushes, for not that much more than I would have paid for a single Eclipse.

After speaking to the salesman at BearAir, I decided to try the Peak C-5 (middle) and the Richpen Apollo 113C (bottom). The fellow I spoke to felt that I stood a better chance with the Peak C-3, which was not quite as fine as the C-5, but that one was not included in the special so I took the chance. We were both pretty sure the Apollo wasn't suitable, but I've wanted to try some of my improved airbrushing skills on a micron-like brush and it seemed like a good compromise. (This brush is one step below "micron technology".) I figured the worst that could happen was that neither might work, and it might force me to revisit cold-painting some day just so I could get some use from the brushes.

What has surprised me is that both brushes - which arrived this morning - worked just fine with my watered-down translucents. Even more surprising was that the Peak gave a far finer line than the Richpen. It may be that the pigments were too coarse for that brush to perform properly. Eventually I'll have to test it with airbrush paints to see. But it really didn't matter, because the improvement from the Peak was more than I had ever hoped for! Even new my Eclipse brushes have never been able to give that fine a line. It was also really easy to maintain that fine line for long periods, which is something I've never been able to do.

What's nice is that both the Peak and the Richpen use the same fittings as the Eclipse. That was part of what made the decision for me. I've become really fond of the all-in-one "Fast Blast" bottle caps. They don't have any metal parts, which is great since I used to worry about corrosion contaminating the underglaze. They also come in sizes that fit both the cheap flip-top paint bottles (24mm) and the manufacturer's bottles for the translucents (20mm). With so much time invested in getting all my paints and bottles just the way I like, I wasn't keen to try anything that couldn't just plug in to the existing system. Fortunately both pens not only fit the bottles, but they use the same hose fittings.

That means I can use the Eclipse (with it's cheaper cones!) for larger work, and then switch to the Peak when I need to paint really precise things. I am excited to see what might be possible with this set-up. But mostly now I'm more confident that I can shade Imp's eyes without giving him a dark facial mask. I was sure folks would start to wonder if all the foals were some kind of dun or silver!


Adalee said...

Woot! I think I'll get a couple... Thanks for the link & review!

Addi :)

Lesli Kathman said...

At $75 for a pair of them, it sure is a great deal.