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Lesson Plans

Thumbs down on airbrush!

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
David Zimmerman (fastedy)
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 21:51:18 -1000

Thanks to Henry for his swell e-mail graphic of a traditional blow type

Several years ago, at my students' request I purchased a good airbrush set
for my advanced class to use. I figured they could take turns and use it
for backgrounds and special projects as needed. Well, as Henry mentioned,
it just wasn't enough for even my tiny Art III class. They wasted a lot of
time waiting for their turn at the airbrush. The students never cleaned
the brush well enough so the next person got clogging and splattering. I
ended up having to maintain the brush and it was a real pain. I finally
had to limit its use to the large needle and nozzle size because every time
they took it apart to clean it, they bent the fine needles.

Ventillation was difficult. At first I constructed a partitioned area by
the back window and mounted a big exhaust fan in the window. I also made
the kids wear masks. Every once in a while some kid would turn the fan on
reverse and the entire room would fill up with misty paint sending the
whole class flying from the room. Finally I made them go outside to
airbrush but then the breeze outside was always a problem.

I've had better luck, again like Henry, using pastel with paper stencils
(frisket gets expensive). You can cut stencils from cheap, glossy
newsprint and hold it down with your hand while rubbing along the edge of
the stencil with a finger or stomp. This gives sharp edges to the pastel
and allows you to do some airbrush-like blends of brilliant color. I've
also used cheap spray paint, (outside on the lawn or on drop clothes
outside) to let kids experiment with spray techniques. You can get paint
for as little as 99 cents at some of the Home Depot-type stores or even
lesson ideas out of airbrush manuals--my favorite is rendering a large
water droplet with a shadow and highlight. Its pretty easy and the results
look very realistic. Its also fun to wad up paper, spray it from an angle
and then smooth it out. A kind of moonscape results which makes a great
background. We draw 3-D shapes in pastel, cut them out and paste them onto
this moonscape background.

Sorry to be a pessimist, but the airbrush was more trouble for me than it
was worth. I hadn't airbrushed myself since I was a student, so perhaps if
I had been more experienced at it, things would have run smoother. If
you're going to add a new tool or material into your room, be sure to play
with it and work out the bugs yourself before introducing it to the class.

Deb Rosenbaum
fastedy (David Zimmerman) l

A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the butt.