Grex Airbrush interviews artist David Hollar to uncover some of the techniques he uses to create his photo-realistic paintings. The airbrush has definitely helped re-invent how artist work in this particular art form. Photo-realistic painting almost creates an illusion. Like magic, it easily amazes all and everyone is always interested in seeing how it's done.

Where did you get inspiration for this piece?

There is not really much of a story behind it, I was out walking our new puppy and thought that he would make a great subject for a painting. I got my camera and went out to take a few pics, I'm not sure why I was thinking that it would be easy to get a decent shot... about 50 pictures later I finally got one that I could use (who knew a puppy would be so hard to photograph).

Can you share briefly the step-by-step process?

I first prep a piece of masonite by wiping it down with alcohol then sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper. I then paint the board with gesso and sand again to get a nice smooth surface. After drawing and masking my subject I usually start with the lightest color in the background and work to the darkest. I then start on the main subject and again work from lightest to darkest. After the painting is finished I go over the whole thing fixing blemishes and improving detail.

Can you please share how you mix airbrush colors?

Grex Private Stock has a broad selection of consistent rich colors which already can be used straight from the bottle. Coupled with knowing the CMYK values, it gives me an edge in my ability to mix paints of any hue I want when I need to. It's my own preference to mix colors as it gives me better control when creating photorealistic paintings.

In this piece of work, I started out with an opaque base, either Opaque Titanium White (GXPS-201) or Opaque Carbon Black (GXPS-200). I then look at the color wheel and try to pinpoint where the color I am needing to mix falls upon and reference the mixing ratios. Starting with the base I mix transparent colors with a drop at a time until I get what I think is a close match then spray and compare it. Other than the primary colors I also use a few colors that create shortcuts to mixing such as Arylide Yellow (GXPS-102) and Quinacridone Magenta (GXPS-108). And for shading Carbon Black (GXPS-200), I use Phthalocyanine Blue (GXPS-110). As you can see, it's a bit of experimentation. I use different colors within the Private Stock lineup to mixing; it really depends on the painting.

Another technique which I used was to mix all the paint with Private Stock Translucent Reduce-Air (GXFX-500) and painted it on a Gesso board so as to allow the use of scratch and eraser techniques.

Why are you choosing to airbrush for your work (photorealism)?

I have always been fascinated by photorealism and to me it is the pinnacle of airbrushing. I enjoy when someone looks at a painting and can't believe it's not a photograph. I think the greatest reason is that I love the challenge.

Although some photorealists use many different types of media to create photorealistic paintings, I choose to use the airbrush because of its ability to quickly create subtle transitions from one color to another giving a more natural look with very little surface texture.

Why are you using a Grex products?

I am a firm believer in using what works and I don't like to fight with my airbrush and paint. The Grex airbrush is one of the finest airbrushes that I have used and the level of detail that I can achieve with it combined with Private Stock is simply amazing.

About the Artist

David Hollar was first introduced to airbrushing in England in 1988 and learned how by reading several airbrush books. He has been painting professionally since 1996 after opening Air Designs in Lenoir, NC. Known for Medieval subject paintings as well as Animal portraits and motorcycle murals. David has been commisioned to work on several paintings for use by ETAC LLC. He is currently the owner of Infernal Graphics custom airbrushing in Lenoir, NC.

Equipment and Supplies Used

Grex Genesis.XN airbrush

Grex Genesis.XD airbrush

GXPS-201 Opaque Titanium White

GXPS-200 Opaque Carbon Black

GXPS-110 Trans. Phthalo. Blue

GXPS-101 Trans. Shading Black

GXPS-103 Trans. Golden Ocher

GXPS-124 Trans. Ultramarine Blue

GXPS-114 Trans. Brown Ocher

GXPS-106 Trans. BS Naphthol Red

GXFX-500 Reduce-Air