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Gregory Bridges – Part 1

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Anyone who disputes the notion that the future is rooted in the past should talk to Australian artist Gregory Bridges. When the futurist-surrealist built a sand castle as a 10- year-old, he learned a lesson that he’s never forgotten, one that he’s applied successfully to his artistic technique.

Presumably to keep him from wandering off to explore the beach at Melbourne, his parent had entered the youngster in a sand castle building competition. Thinking it would be cheating to build his castle with the aid of any implement, young greg did his entirely by hand, while the girl next to him used buckets for turrets and a spade to straighten the sides. The girl won first prize; to his surprise, he won second.

The results taught him that it was OK employ creative aids. And remembering the event in later years, he realized, To succeed, I had to use whatever was available to me to create the best effects.

Consequently, today the successful painter, designer and illustrator- who is celebrated for his exquisite detail and his ability to transform ordinary objects into exciting visual treats- uses a combination of airbrush and conventional techniques to execute his powerful, often symbolic work.

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His prolific output, which includes some impressionist pieces, ranges from movie posters and album covers to magazine and book covers to ads for corporations and ad agencies.

I like to create a scenario of what might be, or some unexpected setting. Make small things big and big things small. I like experimenting with brush strokes and forcing a random or accidental moment for the shape of a building or for a city scape.

Always fond of the backgrwnd paintings in Hollywood science-ktion -es, Bridges comments, “Ws really magical when you cmte a new shape and add fonn and lights and some atmosphere with the airbrush. Suddenly it looks like a huge building in the distance. I really like creating the illusion of depth.” Bridges tries to do something different with each new painting. It isn’t long before good ideas star) flowing, but to his dismay, many excellent ones don’t make it for lack of room. “I don’t like to have too many things competing in a picture. I like it to be bold and simple.”

Because Bridges finds stalting a piece the least exciting part of a project, he’ll seek inspiration from such sources as music (the best device for him) or a movie. He does most of his painting at night, when there are the fewest disfmctions, section of Sydney.

To get the artistic ball rolling, he will create an overall theme by drawing numerous thumbnail concept sketches, each about an inch high. These ketches, which he refers to as “shorthand illustrating,” take him only a few seconds each. Bridges then chooses the most promising one and explores that idea further with more elaborate sk&hes. If he’s undecided about which is the best, he’ll fax his favorites off and let the art director choose. And he’ll identify any that may exceed the budget so that the director will be aware that selecting one of those will involve extra cost.

To make the sketch believable, the artist searches through his library for reference material, or in the unusual instances when he doesn’t have what he needs on hand, he’ll photograph a model or a landscape.

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After the concept is decided on, he renders a color version for the client so that he doesn’t waste time doing something that may be inappropriate for the client’s needs. After preparing the background with a base of colored gesso, he’ll bring in a model if necessary and do the final reference photography. I’ll use all the reference material I can find to make the image convincing.

Bridges applies a color gesso background to provide what he calls “a good tooth” for pencil. To save time, he uses midtones first, then indicates the image with colored pencil. “I try to stay loose and undefined at his point to allow room for some unexpected things to grow. After I have loosely drawn it up, I add more secondary midtones, without trying to work everything out, and then follow up with brush-work.”

He airbrushes the background, works over this with a layer of brushwork, and then returns to the airbrush to finish off the the form and to add highlights. When the work looks almost _ completed, Bridges will use an airbrush to lighten or darken certain elements in the picture with opaque or transparent colors. He generally likes to use a mirror to check the work during its creation.

Pressed to explain what distinguishes his work from others, Bridges guesses that it tends to show ordinary things in a new way with a lot of detail. That and making ordinary things, like an elephant or a horse, into a giant high-tech machine or building. When he was young, Bridges wanted to be an architect, among other ambitions, and the hidden desire comes through in his work. He believes that in the future there will be few limits to the sort of shape that you can make buildings.

Bridges, who will solicit opinions about a work in progress from anyone around him, prefers to leave it for a few days before applying finishing touches. When the piece is finished, he wants the viewer “ layman or artist “ to believe in the work and to be moved by it.

To bridges, a painting is successful when, no matter where he looks, not even a tiny corner of it doesn’t work well. Therefore when he is creating a piece, he strives to bring any unresolved areas up to the level of the painting’s best parts. It’s only when every part of the painting equals the best part that it becomes unsuccessful for him. Only rare do viewer’s oohs and aahs sway him, leading him to see a work through their eyes.

Generally, his favorite pieces are those he’s had time to complete to his satisfaction. Unusually by the time he’s completed a painting, he’s pretty well had enough of it, and it’s not until months or years later that he can look at it and say, That’s not bad. Some favorites among his works: The Whale, Trojan Fantasy, and Blue vision.

Bridges is a futurist who doesn’t at all mind looking at the past. He was born in 1951 in Caulfield, Melbourne, Australia, and spent his early childhood at Glen Waverly. His father, Ronald, was an optometrist and a mechanical engineer, and his mother, Betsy, worked i n photography, teaching at Swinbourne Technical School. Bridges credits his mother for contributing in a positive way to his ability as an artist by encouraging creative activity and his father for helping, by example, with his son’s business acumen. When Gregory was 12, the family moved to Sydney when his father became general manager of a large aluminum company.

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Excelling in art, Bridges was one of the ten top pupils in the state of New South Wales in the higher school certificated art examination. After attending the arts diploma course at Gymea Technical College, he worked as a detailed draftsman.

Continued: Gregory Bridges – Part 2

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