Airbrush Step-by-Step

Painting a Portrait of Larry Harvey- The Founder of Burningman

In honor of one of the enigmatic people in our lifetime, I wanted to paint a portrait of Mr. Larry Harvey;  the founder of Burningman.  Burningman is one of the most outlandish and outrageous art events, showcasing the worlds’ most beautiful art installations and creative minds in the world.  Every year, tens of Thousands of festivals goers converge on the dry playa lake bed of Black Rock City in Nevada, USA to celebrate life, music, yoga and art.  This past year, we saw the passing of Mr. Larry Harvey from this world to the next.  So in honor of this great man’s vision, I will be painting his portrait.

Step 1:  I first start with a little knife work, cutting out only the dark black areas that will be painted black.  This includes the eyes, nose, mouth, wrinkles, creases and ear holes.
Step 2:  Next, I mount the freshly cut stencil onto the canvas and tape it down.  remember that the background will also be painted dark, so I can actually leave it uncovered.
Step 3:  Now, I can spray all of the openings black.
Step 4:  You can see where I have sprayed black with the airbrush.  I do this as a guide to my freehanding.  I know where all of my facial features live and I can begin frehanding.
Step 5:  Using a transparent black in the airbrush, I carefully add layer after layer of shading to all of the necessary features of the face.  Remember that, freehanding with the airbrush is an important skill that takes lots of practice.  You can learn more about it in my blog called “beginner practice strokes and shading”   
Step 6:  Continue building up the shades with light transparent layers while softening the hard stencil lines. It looks like it’s starting to get there.
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Step 7:  It is always a good idea to step back and look at the project, after a while. I like what I have done, so now I can continue to shade in the hat and shirt, to match the shading in the face.   Always keep in mind the intensity of the shading is what will always set the mood in the piece.
Step 8:  Here, I am simply pushing back the shaded areas with black and pulling out the highlights with white ( or by avoiding areas to appear white)
Step 9:  Here is my favorite part and, it seems, the favorite part of anyone looking at your portrait: the highlight in the eyes.  For this job, I am using a 00 fine tip paint brush.  Also, I am using an opaque white that I have been layering on to build up the highlight.  I am very happy with the whole piece and I will call this done.  Thank you to Larry Harvey for the inspiration, and thank you for joining me today.  Keep practicing and embrace what it is that inspires you to paint! 

Artist’s Tool Box:

Master Hi-Flow Sb88 Airbrush Kit with Master Compressor TC-20 & Air Hose


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