History of Airbrush Paintings
The earliest airbrush paintings are believed to date back to as early as 13,000 years ago, when prehistoric peoples used hollow bones to spray pigments and make outlines of their hands on cave walls. The first modern airbrush, however, dates to around 1893. Early airbrush prototypes were used to coat photographic plates and retouch photos by hand. The advent of new technology in the early 1900s inspired artists to experiment with new airbrush techniques to produce images of this machinery. The Bauhaus group, known for their unification of fine art and practical design, taught artists to use this new medium. Airbrushes were also common for creating advertisements, pin ups, and animation images. During the 1950s, color field painters experimented with the tool to create large canvas works. Today, airbrushes are used to add small details to other painted surfaces and are still prevalent in the world of graphic and graffiti artists.
Airbrush Paintings Techniques
Artists who create airbrush paintings usually do so with a freehand technique to gauge the air pressure, distance of the sprayer from the canvas, and the type of paint used. The single action airbrush method allows the artist to simply press the airbrush trigger to release a set ratio of paint to air. Artists can use different nozzles to adjust these ratios as well as the width of the paint spray itself. The double action technique requires the painter to press the trigger to release air and adjust it to release paint, allowing for more precise control of the paint spray’s width. Because airbrushes allow artists to add details to achieve more realistic compositions, many artists combine them with other mediums. Comic, graphic, and graffiti artists, for example, pair the airbrush with cut stencils to control the painted area. Color field painters of the 1950s and 1960s were known for using airbrushes to add finer details onto already painted surfaces.
Artists Known For Airbrush Paintings
American abstract and color field painter Jules Olitski is most known for producing airbrush paintings on canvas. Olitski originally incorporated small streaks of airbrushed paint around the edges of his works but later made his efforts more noticeable in paintings like “Exact Origins” (1966). Dan Christensen produced “spray loop” paintings like “Serpens” (1968), swirling colorful streams of airbrush paint on a solid background. Man Ray created “aerographs” by spraying paint over found objects. Jean-Michel Basquiat, who had a background in graffiti art, used airbrush painting techniques to add smaller details to his canvases. Other artists associated with the airbrush medium include Wassily Kandinsky, Albert Stadler, Richard Saba, Kenneth Showell, and William Pettet.