When you have to say goodbye to your favourite airbrush and nothing else can take its place…
“And so it is with an airbrush; the weight and balance of the tool, the pull of the trigger, how and when the paint leaves the nozzle are all things that you become so used to, it almost becomes part of your hand”
I can’t remember the first time that I fell in love, but I know it was around 15 years of age. I’d been standing in the shadows for months looking on from afar, fearful that if I made my move and it all went wrong in my hands, my embarrassment would keep me from ever trying again. But then I plucked up the courage, entered the room and asked the question:
“Do you have an airbrush for sale? I also need some air”.
It was love at first sight, my first true love and one that has been an abiding part of my life for the last 35 years. It still is – along with my wife, my kids, my TAMA drums, my PlayStation, Assassin’s Creed, NCIS, peanut butter sandwiches, beer and football. Look, I’m a loving guy, okay?
Buying my first airbrush and learning how to get the best from it, was a truly liberating experience. My first ‘airbrush’ was a simple Badger 250 which is more of a spray gun than an airbrush, but it helped throw some enamels onto the model I was building at the time (an Airfix 1:72 F-105F) and that was enough to get started and then a telling off for making the house stink of paint! I remember the pleasure of applying the SEA camouflage and seeing those patterns appear and though it was all ragged edges and hamfisted control, the exercise was enough to convince me that this was the way to go. No longer would I need to use old, unloved brushes to paint my models, brushes that had sat in a jar of thinners for so long their bristles had curved into unusable arcs, I could now apply my paint with an airbrush! I’d arrived.
Except I hadn’t. Not by a long chalk.
The 250 was replaced with a 350 (which to be fair was not much of a leap, but it did its job), before moving on to the space-age Humbrol Studio 1 and then their Hobbycraft double-action brush that at the time, was being championed by Francois Verlinden (who poetically announced in one of his early books that it was so good, you could spray sand through it). That was enough for me – I had to have one. I mean come on, the Master used one, what more convincing did I need?! The fact that I managed to destroy it within months of having the little plastic pig and that it was nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be (to be honest it was easily the worst airbrush I’ve ever owned – sorry Francois!) were of no importance to me: Francois had used it; I had used it, we were brothers in airbrush arms. Well, in my own head, at least…
Over the years I used a number of other brushes to hone my skills, using an AZTEC for almost ten years, before moving on the IWATA HP-CH that I work with today and have used almost since the turn of the century. Though in that time I’ve tested many other brushes – including the much-vaunted Custom Micron – I have never really used anything else day to day and so this morning’s events were truly an emotional, shattering experience that I hoped I would never have to suffer: I had to send my much-loved IWATA away to be serviced.
Over the last few months my HP-CH has become poorly and though I’ve nursed it as best as I can, it has simply become less and less well, until a few weeks ago when I noticed that it had fluid on its trigger. That’s right, paint had entered its body. I was distraught and I knew that today would arrive and I would have to say goodbye…
So this morning, I carefully wrapped my brush in Plenty, dropped it into a plastic bag and then a polystyrene chip filled box and sent it on its way to be fixed. I hope.
It really is an odd thing to lose your favourite tool for a while. Though I have plenty of other brushes to use, I think that you become so comfortable with the nuances of a particular tool, that anything else seems odd. I’ve played in bands for years and it’s much the same with my guitarist friends who complain that they can’t play even the same make and model of guitar because it doesn’t feel the same as their own. As a drummer, I have the same issue if cymbals are not in the right place – it just feels odd. And so it is with an airbrush; the weight and balance of the tool, the pull of the trigger, how and when the paint leaves the nozzle etc., are all things that you become so used to it almost becomes part of your hand. With my HP-CH I can spray a 1 mm dot over another and never miss – with any other brush I will miss every time!
So my favourite tool is out of action and I have to make do with others that I know will do the same job, but I feel little inclination to use. My love affair with the airbrush has been 35 years in the making, but my real love is for my HP-CH oh and my wife, my kids, my TAMA drums, my PlayStation, Assassin’s Creed, NCIS, peanut butter sandwiches, beer and football…
What’s that? It’s only been gone three hours? Oh shut up – what the hell do you know..!