Xavier Rudd stage backdrop “Lioness Eye”, by Stephanie Tranter.

Stephanie say – I love this photo of Xavier Rudd playing live in front of my mural.

On this occasion, I feel that there is nothing important for me to open with, and that it is best to just let Stephanie Tranter tell the story . . .

I have been airbrushing for 11 years now. I am so passionate about airbrushing and I realise this every single time I pick up the airbrush.

I wish I had more time to do all the projects I have in mind to do, but I am working on that !

The backdrop looks tiny during the concert. But when you stand up against it, it is huge. The backdrop is so high, that we had to raise and lower the backdrop to work on each section. Much better than using huge scaffolding.

A friend of mine, Regan, tours with the musician Xavier Rudd, doing his lighting for the shows. Connections! Regan recommended me to Xavier as the go to artist for his backdrops. I was just lucky in that regard!

Xavier has a song called “Lioness Eye”. It is an instrumental with didgeridoo, drums and various other instruments. It is very earthy, with a real jungle sound. I guess the decision to paint a lion, is because it is the king of the jungle and has more impact. He originally wanted other animals, such as, snakes, cockatoo feathers etc, but because of time constraints and difficult nature of working with UV paint, I will add those at a later stage before his next tour.

The sheer size of the Milky Way artwork made the painting of it much easier. The Milky Way had to work with the UV lights off and on. This meant that we had to paint all the stars twice over, with and glow in dark paints.

Due to the sheer size of the artwork, and the Milky Way that forms the background to the backdrop, I chose to alter the lion image, making it more “fractal” more broken up. This also allowed the milky way background to still show through when lit up. The idea really worked well.

The backdrop is 12m x 6m and the design area is 4m x 3m. BIG ! I only had one evening to set up and do the artwork, as we had permission to hang it on stage at a venue and it had to be at a time when they had no performances going on ! That meant we had to do the entire project in one night. Thank you to Regan for all the help.

This was our photo reference for the Milky Way
Regan came in and did the glow-in-the-dark layer with paint brush on all the stars. This paint is as thick and mud and was never going to pass through an airbrush. You can faintly see the black UV paint that I was applying for the Lion.

Being 3 metres high, I had ladders set up all around. Ladders are not the safest of tools, but I am super careful with them. I used my Qumi digital projector to project the image on and chalked the image onto the backdrop material. 

This is where things got really interesting and challenging. I was using Wildfire UV paint to airbrush the design, so the paint is invisible until it is hit with UV light. What I hadn’t realised would happen, was that as soon as the UV light came on, all my tick up lines just literally disappeared and I had nothing to work from! So, I ended up having to turn the UV lights off, spray the paint invisibly along my main tick up lines to give me the outline and then turn the UV lights on to fill in the rest to see what I was doing !!

This photo shows me drawing up the Lion from projection. It was a bit tricky to draw something so out-of-focus. I just winged it. In the end it all worked out beautifully.

I had never worked with UV paint before. It was challenging on the eyes too, but I thoroughly loved the effect.

The backdrop material was a bit of a problem. It was quite thin and I suppose it had to be, as it was a massive amount of material to fly on stage. But this caused a few teething issues with the paint. I had to go over it a couple of times to make it really stand out, as the paint just got soaked into the material and almost disappeared with the first layer.

This is a great photo. It looked so weird having airbrush jars that are glowing in the dark – like it is radio-active. The Venturi airbrushes worked a treat.

I’m really quite proud of how this artwork turned out. I went to one of the shows to see it live and I have to say, it’s quite magical to see the milky way backdrop and then this lion suddenly appears out of nowhere when the UV comes on ! And to hear all the crowds reaction was quite exhilerating and humbling  and they had no idea I did it. haha!!!

I have had friends go to the concerts and they all have been completely wowed by it. In the words of the lighting operator who does the shows, he said people were just “frothing” over it – haha I think that’s supposed to be good !

I never really knew much about airbrushing 11 years ago. I have always just like to draw and doodle. A friend spotted the Airbrush Venturi roadside banner and took a photo of it and sent it to me, as they knew I liked my art and was looking for a hobby to do. But what a life changing thing that photo was.

I took the plunge by booking in a term. I still remember it like it was yesterday and on my first day, I’m looking at all the marvellous paintings being done and I’m thinking to myself “I’m never going to be able to do this”. I started off in the night classes and moved over into Tony’s monthly weekend classes and here I am 11 years later, so utterly grateful that I took that first step, because I don’t know where I would be without it now. The Airbrush Venturi community is like one big family and I couldn’t be any prouder or happier to be a part of it.

Stephanie Tranter teaches the airbrush courses in Ipswich Queensland with Airbrush Venturi. If you live in the region and would like to learn to airbrush with Stephanie, please contact us by the following:

Telephone – 1300-247-278

Website – www.airbrushventuri.com.au

Email – Click here

Written by Tony Vowles