Sanka - "Airbrush" rhymes with "awful".

I'm sure there are some examples of airbrushing that are quite good. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that those examples' goodness rises in direct proportion to their undetectability. What I mean is, good airbrushing is invisible. This ad from Sanka typifies what makes airbrush so awful.

In 1973, when this Sanks ad ran in Good Housekeping, airbrushing stood on the precipice of it's ascendency. Fancy words, huh? The airbrush would come to define the eighties. Most notably, it's presence would be felt on hundreds of shitty album covers like This lady who calls herself "Brooke" and Boston's entire discography. These album covers are recognizable, and the music's quality may be debatable, but I insist that these renderings are pretty bad. You look at them and instantly go "airbrush". The technique is very hard to disguise, and rarely is. In fact, in the eighties, you were nobody unless you used an airbrush. One more example of bad judgement, thanks to the eighties.

 An airbrush is basically a small hand held spray gun. Because of this, if you want a clean edge on something, you have to cut a "frisket", which is more or less a sticky-backed stencil that you cut with an X-acto knife. Airbrushing without a frisket gives smokey appearance, and the overspray tends to bring out the paper texture in blank areas of the paper as the paint floats across the surface and is caught on the imperfections in the paper. Because the paint is being blown onto the surface, you don't really ever MIX colors when airbrushing. The colors can be speckled into each other with a light spray, but that's not the same as actually mixing. An airbrushed artwork tends to look foggy, speckly, and lacks detail. The best results are always achieved on smooth surfaces, like the side of a van. I say "best" as in "no paper grain or cotton fibers to catch the overspray". We see the best examples of execution and technique on vehicles, due to the durability of the surface and the sophistication of the paints available for automotive use. But why, why, WHY is the subject matter in these examples almost always that of  a petulant adolescent fantasy? People who want things painted on their cars tend to like what they like, and it usually stems from a masculinity complex.

It can be quick, however. Millions of hack artists have made money airbrushing T-shirts while you wait. You get what you pay for. Airbrushed T-shirts are almost always freehanded, without the use of friskets. So, you get the smokey overspray in the fibers of blank areas, just like on paper. For some reason, airbrush artists are preoccupied with painting evil clowns. If you get "good" at painting evil clowns on T-shirts, you can make a mint in any tourist trap, painting shirts for thirteen year old boys trying to look tough... or any gang banger wannabe trying to look like a thirteen year old boy. It's surprising (or not) to see how many professional airbrushists still have mullets.

Airbrush guys just looove to paint chrome. It's one of the few things that lends itself to a sprayed medium. Quite often, it's priority number one when Billy gets his airbrush kit. Once he sort of figures it out, he then begins to paint pretend album covers for his horrible junior high garage band. If he's lucky, he grows out of it by the age of twenty, or not.

So, yeah. Sanka. Dehydrated decaffeinated coffee. Sanka gives you both reasons not to drink coffee in one product, as well as all the reasons to hate airbrush. Here's a slogan for General Foods' Sanka division. "Sanka: Everything by negative example." You're welcome, Sanka.


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