The Lost Art of

Paint, air, and a whole lot of prac­tice

Motorcyclist - - Contents -

the first air­brush was patented in Iowa in 1887, and within a decade it had be­come pop­u­lar as a means to touch up or com­pletely al­ter pho­to­graphs—like a 19th-cen­tury Pho­to­shop. It wasn’t un­til the 1960s that air­brush­ers turned their noz­zles to­ward the trunk lids and gas tanks of cars and bikes, and nowa­days the word “air­brush” of­ten brings to mind elab­o­rate and de­tailed mu­ral paint­ings on cus­tom mo­tor­cy­cles.

The high-wa­ter mark for cus­tom paint sits some­where around 2012 or 2013. The pop­u­lar­ity of cus­tom street­bikes and the rise of bike-themed re­al­ity TV in the late 2000s sent rid­ers scur­ry­ing to paint shops, which seemed to be crop­ping up ev­ery­where. “Any­body and ev­ery­body sprouted up,” says Cory Saint­clair, who is widely rec­og­nized as one of the best air­brush artists in the in­dus­try. “There was so much bad work that got put out there that peo­ple started stray­ing away from do­ing big cus­tom stuff. Peo­ple got burned.”

Saint­clair puts 30 years of paint­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to use to cre­ate pho­tograph­grade works of art. He’s been airbrushing since he was 12. “As a kid I was re­ally into art, but I was also a car and bike nut,” he re­calls. “Then one day I flipped open a mag­a­zine and saw an air­brushed car—i had no idea you could do art on ve­hi­cles.”

Airbrushing en­tails lay­ing on fine, thin lay­ers of paint to cre­ate in­cred­i­bly de­tailed im­agery, but Saint­clair says the paint­ing part is easy. “The hard­est part is the con­cept,” he says. “I’ll spend more time sit­ting and think­ing than I do paint­ing it. Next is trig­ger con­trol. That’s a big is­sue for peo­ple. Ev­ery­body al­ways goes too dark.” In­deed, Saint­clair’s work is so del­i­cate that the changes to the face he’s paint­ing on a fair­ing are barely vis­i­ble as he sweeps his gun across the panel.

A mu­ral on a bag­ger’s batwing fair­ing might only call for 2 ounces of paint, but that paint may take 12 hours to ap­ply. Saint­clair ad­mits that skulls and flames per­sist as pop­u­lar themes, but his spe­cialty is faces. “I con­cen­trate on the eyes,” he says, leav­ing his gaze on the paint­ing as he works. “That’s where the feel­ing is.”—ari Hen­ning

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.