Welcome and hello!
Have you mastered the first line yet? Can you perform it at will? At this stage, you should be comfortable with the feel of the brush in your hand and have a handle on pulling an 18-inch vertical line. Before moving on to the horizontal line, you should also master paletting, a process outlined on page 69. (Note: if you haven’t practiced at all, or haven’t read the previous issue, please begin at Between e Lines, Lesson I: Airbrush Action, January-February, 2003)
Your first thousand strokes should’ve taught you the feel of the brush and the muscle memory that comes with repetition. Most students find this exercise tedious, and I agree that it isn’t very exciting. But, without it, you will never attain the necessary foundation to perform your best stuff.
With the horizontal line, you’ll attempt a completely different stance and cadence than with the vertical line, so you should practice standing up. This exercise is conducted on a panel so you can best observe your progress through an accumulation of increasingly straighter lines. Executing and then reviewing your lines provides a visual that will affirm your improvement. Initially, everyone needs to take baby steps, with small rewards of improvement to gain confidence. Attempting complex designs now would set you up for failure and possibly discourage you from continuing.
Getting it Straight
In Photo 1, you can see that our next nine strokes are basically the same as those in Lesson 1. (You should practice the straight line exactly as I’m teaching it. In design work, you might pull it a bit differently.)
Begin with a new panel. Tape 1/4-inch blue fine line horizontally across the top. If you want to feel like you’re working on “the real thing,” you can then attach your panel to a wall or to the side of your car.
In Photo 2, your stance should be bent at the waist and knees, balancing yourself with one hand on the vehicle. Seems awkward, doesn’t it?
Place your paletted brush along the top of the blue line and pull it toward you in a steady and deliberate stroke. Use a light touch against the surface. (Some folks notice a dragging or chattering of their ~ a l m or fingertips along the panel. This can be remedied with a small amount of baby powder, which will also eliminate some of the oils on your hand. Or, you can repeatedly wipe your palm and fingers on may seem like a minor point, but it is extremely crucial.)
You’ll find that as you move along the surface, your touch i s sensitive. A black car on a hot day, for example, can be unbearably hot. Every vehicle’s comfort zone varies greatly. Some vehicles are very low, sometimes you’ll work on a ladder (very difficult), and sometimes you’ll lie on the ground! Make yourself as comfortable as the situation allows.
At this stage you should make lines that are only about 19-inches long. As in Lesson 1, you will repeat this process, creating lines and wiping them off, retaining every 100th line until you reach 1000. You’ll end up with ten lines on your panel. Each of those represents 100 strokes; each will show your progress.
Into the Curve
The remaining eight practice strokes will be done in the same way, but with a twist. The first 400 should be done seated. The last few should be done on a panel taped to a wall or on the side of a car. It’s an excellent practice to vary the height of the panel from time to time, so you’ll best learn to adapt to all angles and positions.
In photo 3, the strokes are the same as some we have already practiced. Allow yourself time to digest and understand the peculiarities of these lines-each is as important as the other.
You’ll need to shift your body from side to side slightly as you make the curving line. You may notice also that it can take just a little more effort to align the curves than i t did with the straight lines. Use tape when necessary to give yourself a starting point (see Lesson 1 ) , and follow through with the 100 marks for affirmation. Don’t rush.
Keeping it Steady
Control and concentration are two of the most important factors for striping success. There are other aspects that should also be considered.
The first is cadence, or pace. Move slowly through your practice strokes; don’t hurry. Breathing is critical- you must relax at all times. To lower my heart rate, I d o breathing exercises before I attempt to stripe. Here’s a trick for attaining steadiness: just before committing to the stroke, take a breath, let half of it out, and then catch it. Hold your breath until the line is executed. You can probably do this comfortably for 20- or 30-seconds in the working position. I use this method for almost every stroke. With the finest strokes, it is absolutely necessary to be steady, which means not breathing. There aren’t many “tricks” of this trade as important as staying steady!
Consider practicing total body control by standing in the striping position and paying attention to your steadiness (or lack thereof). Are you too far forward? Do you feel stretched out or cramped? Also assess your lighting. Is it adequate, or too dim? Are you creating shadows on your work surface? Are there distractions preventing you from focusing on your work? You must control these factors-move the light, change your stance, or tell everyone to leave while you practice or work. Put on your favorite music and try to find your “zone.” Eventually you’ll learn to work under just about any condition. That’s when you’ll appreciate all of the practice strokes and your great discipline.
To best block out external distractions, try strapping on a Walkman and groove to your tunes with the headset on. Controlling your working environment may take some effort, but i f you’ve mastered the basics, you won’t have to worry about the most crucial aspect of your work-the strokes.
It’s time to put together your own collection of samples. Try to photograph (disposible cameras will do) closeups of pinstriping whenever you can. You’ll start to comprehend the possibilities and learn what makes each striper’s work distinctive.
In the next installment, I’ll discuss symmetry and balance, and we’ll look at the works of some inventive stripers. In the meantime, practice your lines on the panel and discipline yourself. Don’t rush ahead until you have mastered the previous line.
Remember, it’s still not time to start messing around with designs yet, but we’re close. Keep your brush handy, practice your breathing, and get that camera snapping! ‘Til next time, Wizard