Fence Pailing artworks – Frida Kahlo & Salvador Dali: by Rob Lock

This artwork was a huge surprise. I didn’t expect that it would come up so well. This was the project that really showed me the potential of the process.

Each Saturday morning, I run an airbrush course. I have been teaching airbrushing for over 30 years now. And I love the fact that there is always something different, something unusual happening in my classroom.

Lately, one of my students, Rob Lock, has been bringing canvases into class, that he has made from fence paling, and painting them up. Each canvas celebrates a famous artist that has inspired him.

Rob has completed Units 1-2-3-4. So he has done all the B&W units and the first of the colour units. Somehow or other, he talked me into letting him go off on a creative tangent for the last 3 months. I am so pleased that I let him go. The results have been wonderful.

These artworks are designed to be outdoor garden installations. The sun shining through the trees overhead adds another moving aspect of the artworks.

I made the mistake of telling Rob about another Venturian on the west side of town, Jamie Cortorillo and his wonderful artworks on freight pallets made from wood. I am joking when I say it was a mistake. I am so impressed by what Rob has achieved that I felt that it was worth writing about. I really hope that it inspires some of you to take up his idea.

The idea of painting straight onto wood has been a common feature amongst our students in recent years. I will be writing more about this idea in coming articles featuring several artists in New Zealand.

If you are a student of Airbrush Venturi, there are a number of very interesting features of the creative process, that are worth writing about here.

I wanted to begin with colour straight off the bat, rather than building form. Also, working from the back forward, is standard stuff from my training.

Firstly; is that Rob has developed several processes of “sanding” the artwork back, using scotch pads and wire brushes on a drill. He airbrushes the artwork and then “distresses” it in various places, so that it appears to fade in and out of the panel.

Secondly; making up “canvases” from old fence palings enables him to create canvases any width that he likes, and to assemble the panels with specific textures and tones in each paling, to create wonderful base textures for the artworks.

I love the fact that I purposely overwork the use of every colour and then sand it / distress it / until it has just the right amount of contrast.

Not only do the palings have great textures and colours through them, but the weathered edges, especially at the top and bottom (that are unique to fence palings) just added another “cool” factor to them.

Thirdly, the tonality and texture of the wood helps the transparent colours to create a colour realism that is wonderful.

I purposely left out the black cloth. I only added the braiding coming down in the two stripes. Leaving the raw wood to create the texture of the cloth, is a highlight of the artwork.

I will let Rob give you his thoughts about his recent artworks:

I have been drawing and painting my whole life, but I began taking my art much more seriously about 5 years ago. A mate of mine put me onto the airbrush and the amazing things that could be done. He is into restoring motorcycles and custom painting, so airbrushing is a natural extension of this for him.

I got on the internet and looked at what training was out there. I found Airbrush Venturi and “went from there”. I have been training for a year now. I probably should be further ahead than where I am currently, but I have a habit of wanting to deviate from the standard course and explore the “side roads” and to use the training in creative ways.

Here is the finished project. I am just blown away by it. I can’t believe I did it!

These two artworks of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali have been a wonderful deviation! In fact, I feel that these artworks have really shown me that my training up to this point has been very worthwhile and solid. You spend a year slogging away at your training and it is not until you test your understanding of it, working with your new knowledge in your own creative way, that you find out what you have really learned.

In both cases Tony Vowles, my teacher, used Photoshop to build unique images assembled from multiple images from the internet . . . so that the artworks were not just copies of the same old photos that everyone else worked from, for their art.

The artwork started out in a very exciting way. But then I got bogged down in the detail of it a little, and it took some time to evolve the creative interpretation of the image away from just realism.

I really enjoyed the Black & White training and the artworks that came out of this. But the colour training has opened up some very exciting creative directions for me.

Tony asked me a lot of questions about my art and what my approaches / styles were, and we agreed that I hadn’t developed a unique style, up to that point. But the conversation between us went on for some time about how artists develop a trademark style. He mentioned this artist on the other side of town, Jamie and what he was doing . . . and the idea of creating canvases from fence palings was born.

The decision to add purple to the hair and yellow as the eye shadow really helped to get me away from simply copying a photo and to relax and have some fun with it.

I think that these fence paling canvases has given me a creative process that is really enabling me to develop a body of artworks that are standing out in the inner Melbourne arts community.

The feedback from people has confirmed that everyone thinks that this is a unique idea. I recently did an artwork of Ned Kelly for my mother (see the photo lower down). I took it down to them the other day and the feedback from my family . . . they were blown away. My parents are not very excitable people generally, but their reaction was very animated. I felt heartened by their enthusiastic reaction.

This is the finished Salvadore Dali artwork. I spilled some water on my photo references at the bottom, and I really liked the look of them. So I decided to add paint splashes at the bottom. By using Yellow, it meant that the artwork had a clear Red, Blue and Yellow – primary colour theme going on. A wonderful happy accident.

I am loving the process of painting the artwork, sanding it back and painting again, sanding it, painting, sanding . . . the layers really gives the artwork wonderful depth and life.

On top of that, I love the process of over-working intense vibrant colours and then sanding them back until they have the desired intensity for the artwork.

The cast shadows of the overhead branches with the direct sun on the artwork, just adds another dimension to the whole effect. This whole concept works at so many levels.

When I am talking to people about my training with Airbrush Venturi, I am very quick to explain to them what an amazing course Airbrush Venturi offers . . . how professional the curriculum is. But at the same time, the course allows for people like me who want to explore the creativity of what I am learning . . . the classroom allows for students to go off and do artwork projects way outside of the standard course curriculum.

If you would like to see more of Robs artworks click the Instagram link HERE.

If you would like to learn to create airbrush artworks like this . . . Term 2 classes with Airbrush Venturi across Australia start in late April / early May. Click on the word-link to see the course TIMETABLE for your region. If you have any questions please call 1300-247-278.

If you would like to learn to airbrush in the Knox region of Melbourne, contact the head office on 1300-247-278 (1300 AIRBRUSH) or send an email by clicking HERE.


Written by Tony Vowles