Laughing Clowns – Fairground artwork, by Luke Day & Jamie Cortorillo.

My first reaction when I saw the photo of it all set up, was “man this looks awesome”. Its hard to get the feel of it when it is just sitting in a workshop and only 90% complete.

I will let Luke Day tell the story . . .
I have been a signwriter since 1998, for over 20 years. Amusement rides are a regular part of being a signwriter. Jamie has a graphic design background and has been airbrushing for about 10 years.

The client also owned another ride that we had airbrushed previously; “The Hulk / The Hangover”. They were were very happy with that job, so it now seems that we are the preferred sign contractors for this company. Which is very cool, because there are heaps more coming and they are all different and creative.

The amusement ride industry is very particular about their signage. I could probably have done the whole thing in a vinyl wrap, but the metallic effects, which are so important for maximum impact at night, would not have been achievable.

You must first take note of the fact that this game has four sides, so we had to do four facias. We also had to reburbish 24 secondhand clown heads, and paint them up to match the 8 new heads . . . to make a total of 32 heads.

The client gave us a basic design brief. They didn’t want too much of a cartoon feel for the heads. They specifically wanted the clown face to be the centre feature for each facia.

If you look at the above photo, you will see a new ride “Enchanted Circus”, imported from overseas. They specifically wanted the laughing clowns to be coordinated with this ride.

Jamie and I designed the layout, using Corel Draw 12. Corel Draw is one of the main sign industry software programs.

We started with bare aluminium for the facia cut-outs. If we had vinyl wrapped them, the signage would not have lasted long. We spray painted them using 1K etch primer and then a 2K topcoat, giving the artwork maximum longevity. This is a “direct gloss” blue for the solid base to be revisited the following week.

The next week, we were back at it again. We had to lightly sand all the panels with 800 grit paper, using an orbital sander (you don’t think we did it by hand did you?)

The facias were at the perfect height to be worked on, when we sat them on the trestles tables. I screwed tech screws into the tables to hold them at the bottom and wired them together at the top.
At 6m wide per fascia, it was great to have a large workshop to work in.

The light blue band was masked and sprayed again using direct gloss 2K. Then we gave it a quick scotchbrite the next day (scotchbrite is like a pot scourer from the kitchen, but is specifically made for the paint industry in different grades, like sandpaper. It has the benefit of sanding curved surfaces and not cutting through the sharp edges.)

To prepare for the clown faces on the panels, we went to a little bit more effort. Firstly, we made computer cut masks for the outside shape of the clown heads. Applied these and then added the brown paper extensions. Then we painted the entire area with white (basecoat only). Then we projected the clown faces into place.

The faces of the clowns were all freehand airbrushed in; no masking was required.
The entire faces were created just using Red, Yellow and Blue (no black), using PPG Deltron.

We went for broke so to speak, with the speed of our airbrushing. By working fast and wet, there was no “dry spray”. This meant that we did not even have to put an intercoat clear (D895) over it.

We got all four faces done in one day. Then we back masked the faces and did the gold scroll work. Once again we used computer cut masks for these big masks and lots of app. tape. We may have used a lot of masking vinyl, but this saved a considerable amount of time. The alternative would have been to hand mask everything with fineline tape.

The stars were computer cut masks at random sizes, with highlighted freehand glow centres.
Here you see the panel sections dismantled for clearcoating, but during the painting they were taped together.

The customer specifically requested that the lettering be quite “sparkly”. We could have sprayed it with something like PPG Prizmatique or Ditzler flake, but it would have cost too much. So we agreed to do the lettering using a Avery XL2200 ultramet Gold.

The entire panels were then clearcoated. Not all vinyl’s handle having 2K clear applied over them, but the Avery vinyl has no issues. We used D800 for the clear.

It was wonderful to finally see it the beginning of the assembled. The client was wrapped straight off. But there was still much to do. The client did all the other painting of the framework ok?!

Once the facia panels were all finished, it was time to start on the rotating clown heads. The old heads were very much the worse for wear. We could have gone all out and filled every chip, crack and scratch, but the client request was to “give them a quick once over to make them look wonderful”.

We sanded them with 400 grit on orbital sanders and red scotch-brite pads by hand, then we used Zinsser “stain blocker” primer to seal them. It is an oil based paint (from Bunnings). We used this primer because the test that we did with thinners removed the previous paint work underneath in an instant. This set off all the alarm bells – that these heads could NOT be painted with thinners based paints. So we hand painted them using Viponds enamels (from ASN).

Initially we had tried to take off edges with masking tape, but when we peeled it off, it took 3 previous paint jobs with it !!!! Ha ha ha – not happy Jan! If you look closely, you will see that we masked up the bodies using aluminium foil sheet – no masking tape touching the bodies.
We had to paint the 24 old heads to match the 8 new heads, but the 8 new heads were each painted differently, so we had to paint all the old ones in groups of 8 to match.

In my opinion our painting of the old heads came out a treat, considering that there were at least three paint jobs underneath and all hand painted with brushes with enamels . . . with airbrushed highlights.

The client was not surprised that there were so many problems from all the paint layers underneath. But they were very pleased that we came up with a solution that did not require complete restoration.

The lighting for the stand are colour changing led’s, which means that the stand looks very different depending on which moment you are looking at it. There are over 1150 led lights on the stand, all on separate circuits, so they moving and changing colours in different directions and sequences . . . a symphony of lights.

Overall, both of us really enjoyed the job. For us, it was all very straight forward. We took the time to check our processes at every major stage to avoid problems, and this careful progress really paid off.

The client loves the fact that we delivered on every item on their list and got it done right the first time, ahead of the due date. Fist bumps all round. Another job well done.

If Jamie was here he would say . . . “Onya”.

If you would like to learn to airbrush well enough to start a part time business like Luke, we can teach you to do this successfully. Airbrush Venturi has over 20 schools located across Australia and New Zealand. Every AV teacher regularly does commercial airbrush commissions in their own personal capacity . . . they have the experience to teach you all the key knowledge needed to succeed.

For more information . . .
Ring us on 1300-247 278 (1300 AIRBRUSH)
Go to our website HERE and the course timetable with locations, teachers names, and costs HERE.

To enrol, got to the enrolment form HERE

Written by Tony Vowles