Archives for August 2012

Shading & Blending Tip by Terry Hill

The dot, line, dagger, shading and blending. Master the dagger stroke, and you’ve conquered theairbrush.

SHADING AND BLENDING ARE deceptively simple because just about anyone can achieve a reasonably good blend of two or more colors on a flat surface with little experience using a double-action airbrush. Nonetheless, the skill and control required to produce the subtle blends and shades commonly used in portraiture, complex graphics, murals, and more require a level of skill only attainable with a solid mastery of the dot, the line, and the dagger stroke.

For the complete how-to article go to

Hot Tip: Creating Universal Hand-Held Masks

Here’s another fabulous top pro tip from illustration great Rick Lovell:

There is a huge variety of pre-made, hand-held masks for airbrushing on the market. Some specialty masks with specific shapes are worth paying for, but I’ve found that I can make my own masks very inexpensively that work for most day-to-day applications.

French curves are templates made out of rigid materials like metal, wood or plastic that draftsmen used to use to create a variety of smooth, precise curves. A Burmester set consists of three different templates that when used together, can create almost any compound curve you can imagine. They aren’t cheap, and they are usually found in a set of one particular size. They are also relatively thick and inflexible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a wide variety of sizes of French curves that were really cheap, and that could be bent and lifted off the surface for crisp-to-soft edges, or just thin enough to allow for really sharp edges that thick materials don’t allow?

Here’s how to do it. If you have a set of French curves already, use a photocopier to make copies at various sizes: 25%, 50%, 100%, 150% and 200% of the original sizes which will give you 5 sets to work with. Or, you can just go online and search for images of French Curves. Download the highest resolution graphic you can find and print it at the sizes listed above. This variety of sizes should provide you with just about any curve you will ever need to paint, large or small.

Finally, tape .005mil acetate over the photocopies or prints and carefully cut out the curves with an x-acto knife.  With acetate, you don’t have to cut all the way through the material; just score it with a sharp knife, gently bend the acetate at the score line, at it will snap along the score creating a nice, clean edge. You can use Mylar, but it’s harder to cut and you have to cut all the way through; it won’t snap like acetate will. I have the 5 sets I made years ago out of acetate, and they are still good as new. I store them in a regular file folder in a flat file drawer, and when they get too opaque from lots of painting, I clean them with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel.

For more great information, visit the Airbrush Action article archives via  Or, for great airbrush how-to videos to stream check out www.Airbrush.TV

Crescent’s New RendR Paper!

Here’s a cool quote of the day:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.  Albert Einstein

I want to introduce you to a great new paper, RendR, from Crescent Cardboard Company, written by my special guest blogger, Mays Mayhew.

Like most artists I use a sketchbook to brainstorm, conceptualize, and come up with ideas for my larger work. My sketchbooks are very important to me. I want to use the best materials in my work. One the most annoying problems with sketchbooks is using heavy media/mediums that soak through the page and make the reverse side useless. Or worse, RendR Crescentjust finishing a meticulous drawing and then using media on the other side that ruins it. I’ve heard other artists complain about this, too, but since it was always like this, artists accepted it.

But as a Product Developer for Crescent I have the unique ability to invent new products. I don’t have to accept annoying problems. And as an artist, I wanted a sketchbook that I could ink up one side and then use the other side of the page. The goal was that every page was a clean slate, a blank canvas. I wanted a sketchbook that allowed every page to matter.

My team and I worked with several paper mills to develop the perfect paper that not only prevented inks to bleed through but also didn’t have any show-through on the other side–not even a ghost image. It took a year. It wasn’t a simple task. There were several challenges creating a paper with no bleed-through, an artist grade paper and one that artists could afford.

The result was a phenomenal paper that exceeded all of our goals. RENDR paper is smooth enough for marker and inks with a slight tooth for pencil. Now you can get a sketchbook with full confidence that every page will start as a clean one. A sketchbook documents an artist’s journey. It’s important to respect that journey by using quality materials. Take pride in your work. Use RENDR – No Show-Thru Paper sketchbooks.

Mays Mayhew, artist and inventor of RENDR – No Show-Thru Paper

Billy Dee and Me, Part II (Continued from Yesterday)

Billy Dee Williams liked my energy and entrepreneurial spirit, and we stayed in touch.  On a visit to Los Angeles in 1994 we arranged to meet for lunch.  He was gracious enough to pick me up at my hotel with his assistant Patricia.  The conversation quickly turned to Billy’s disappointment in not getting the cover of Airbrush Action, which went to famed movie poster illustrator Drew Struzan.  He was very diplomatic, but his point was most clear. Uncomfortable. Nonetheless, Williams and Patricia invited me to check out his new home and art studio somewhere in the Hollywood hills.  When we stopped at a red light a street person approached Billy’s side (he was driving) for money.  “Go get a job!” Billy snapped and raced off.  “Man, I can’t believe these people,” he exclaimed.  “And he didn’t even know who I was!”

It was a very funny moment, but you probably had to be there.  I loved hearing Williams’s stories about celebrities, and this time I asked, “Tell me about Richard Prior.”  [Note: at the time Prior had multiple sclerosis, and a history for drug use and spousal abuse].  Pointing to the back seat, he replied, “Why don’t you ask Patricia back there.  She used to live with him.”  Patricia went on to share her horror stories about a physically abusive Richard Prior.

Fascinating stuff.  Williams further shared that he could no longer be friends with such a high-maintenance person, and that he believed Prior’s illness might be AIDS, not MS!  Again, fascinating stuff.  Williams home, a contemporary on the edge of a cliff, was beautiful and his studio, a “dreamy” space, would be the envy of most artists.  His landlord stopped by with his early-teen, if that, son, and in no time the inappropriateness started to fly as Billy talked about one of his favorite subjects: women and his herculean conquests.

This was a tense, awkward, and extremely hillarious moment, especially in the stiffened company of a mortified father and his young child.  Also, again, Billy Dee did not disappoint in the colorful company department.  As a favor, later that year, Williams made a guest appearance, gratis, at an early Coast Airbrush/Airbrush Action Party in Anaheim, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.  We fell out of touch until I ran into him at a convention in Burbank about three or four years ago.  I thought I’d be long forgotten, but he gave me a big bear hug, suggested we meet for dinner before I departed for Jersey, and offered his latest telephone number.  I try calling from time to time with no luck. I’m proud of the extraordinary memories I clutch of the time spent with a Hollywood legend and airbrush artist.

Billy Dee and Me

Until now, I shared the following story strictly with my closest friends. 

In 1993 I discovered that Billy Dee Williams, one of Hollywood’s top leading men in the 1970s (Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany, Brian’s Song, and others) and 1980s (Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and even 1989’s Batman) airbrushed, and I thought it would be a great coup to feature his art in Airbrush Action.  I called his agent and sure enough (I have to admit that I didn’t have much confidence in a positive response), Mr. Williams was not only interested, but I was told he read Airbrush Action!  I was truly flattered that an A-lister read the magazine.

A breakfast meeting was arranged for the interview.  Present were Joel Cohen, the writer, my best friend Art Beins (I needed a hometown witness for this seemingly historic moment!), Mr. Williams, his assistant, and me.  After meeting at his upscale Manhattan hotel, all of us piled into Williams’s limo.  I felt that we connected immediately, and Billy’s focus was directed at me throughout most conversations.  As the limo careened across 40-something street, Williams stated, “Clifford, I killed a lot of women on this street.”  “Really,” I replied, not completely understanding what he meant.  “That’s right,” he continued, “I used to have three women a day, every day.  I had to have it.”  “The same three women?”  “No.  Three different women every day.  I had to have it.”  All of us just sat in silence. . . . . . and awe.

Soon after we were seated, Billy discovered that no alcohol was served before lunch, so we had to uproot and relocate.  Even for Manhattan, the happening center of the universe, finding a legal joint that served alcohol in the morning was a challenge.

Billy sat opposite me, and regardless who asked him a question he responded to me.  He oredered a Rob Roy cocktail (scotch, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a cherry); we all did.  I’ve never been a drinker, but I didn’t want my very special guest to feel alone here.

Williams is one of the most charismatic people I had ever met, and I soon realized that the most charming thing about him was that he had absolutely no filter!  The interview itself consisted of the typical garden variety questions asked of any featured artist; how it all began, choice of airbrush (Aztek, if you’re curious), compressor, paint, surface, blah, blah, blah.

I was intriqued by his stories, and I craved more.  Believe me, if you hang out with Billy Dee Williams long enough he will never disappoint.  He went on to reminisce about a meeting he had with the execs at ABC to discuss a possible TV series that centered around Williams.  “Clifford, there was an attractive female at the meeting with very large breasts, and you know how it is when you’re really thinking about something, and you mean to say one thing, but another thing comes out? Well, I looked at her and said, ‘My, you have beautiful breasts.’  My agent, always fearing I might say the wrong thing, was floored. It was funny because I really had no intention of saying that.”  “What happened next?” I asked.  “Well, the meeting ended soon after and the show never materialized.”

Tomorrow, in Part II, I’ll write about my visit with Billy Dee in Hollywood.

FYI, Billy Dee Williams was featured in the 1994 January-February issue of Airbrush Action.


Eric Munson Memorialized

I just received the news that friend and 5-time Airbrush Getaway alum Eric Munson died.  Although he didn’t smoke, lung cancer took his life August 2.  He was 41.  His mother, Connie, felt compelled to call us because “airbrush was everything to Eric.  He was a recluse who lived and breathed art.  He must’ve had 1,000 books on art and airbrush.” She also wanted to get word to Jonathan Pantaleon, his favorite instructor at the Getaways.  “He loved Jonathan,” Connie explained, “who would sometimes call Eric to motivate him.”  Our thoughts and hearts go to the Munson family. You may e-mal the Munson family at:

Believe It Or Not, You Are a Salesperson

Periodically, I conduct a mini-lecture on sales at the Airbrush Getaway.  Typcially, a good portion of the group will admit via a show of hands that they’re bad at, or uncomfortable with, selling a customer.  Little do they realize how good they really are.  We’re all salespeople, but most of us don’t perceive ourselves that way despite a stellar record in sales. You sell all the time on the behalf of major companies and you don’t earn a dime in commission!  For example, think of a movie you really loved and how you anxiously and excitedly shared your experience with anyone who would listen.  Movie studios rely heavily on the word-of-mouth of their sales force: YOU!!!  Just imagine how many movie tickets you sold (yes, sold) in your lifetime.  A genuine belief in and enthusiasm for what you sell is a huge factor in closing.  And if you employ the same energy and confidence in selling your art or art services that you would selling a movie or product that you love, you’ll increase your business exponentially.  Also, regardless the bad day you may be having, don’t let your customer know or sense that.  Theater actors could be depressed and experiencing a day from hell, but you’d never see it in their performance.  It’s called ‘maintaining’ [their energy level]. Best of luck in elevating your numbers!

For great articles on airbrushing, please visit our archive at  Have a great weekend.

Drew Struzan’s Advice on Flesh Tones

A couple of years ago I called Drew Struzan to try to convince him to do a DVD on his technique.  For those unfamiliar with Struzan, he is one of the all-time great illustrators, having done most of the movie posters for Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and many others.  His poster credits include Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., the Star Wars series, Back to the Future, the Harry Potter series, and the list goes on forever.  Struzan, whom I’m honored to call a friend, is very softspoken, shy, and modest.  Anyway, when he asked what he could possibly contribute, I suggested a detailed demonstration on flesh tones.  Struzan chuckled.  ‘What’s so funny?’ I asked.  ‘Flesh tones are a mystery to many,’ to which he replied, “It’s no mystery at all.  Achieving any flesh tone is a simple matter of matching color.”   I was speechless against that punchline!  The DVD was never made.

To discover more tips from some of the World’s best, visit

Great Tip For Achieving the Perfect Tack For Frisket.

From the archives of, here’s a fabulous tip from illustration great Rick Lovell that he discovered at an Airbrush Getaway for providing the perfect tack for frisket: “For working wet with sponges and spattering, I apply 1 part two-coat rubber cement, 2 parts one-coat rubber cement, and 2 parts Bestine thinner to Canary tracing paper.  This mixture provides the perfect tack for frisket, and in combination with Utrecht’s Canary tracing paper, it’s waterproof and will not allow wet media to seep under the cut areas.”  To see how this method was applied go to: