Sergej Voronko

Airbrush Art from Frank Gavere, MFA


Today I’m presenting to you an airbrush artist with not that usual airbrush painting techniques. Forget about skulls and fire for a moment, forget about getting realistic and dive into Contemporary Art. This is Frank Gavere, his airbrush art and also his story.

I was born in Minnesota. My father was a die toolmaker, inventor, designer, and process engineer.

I began to paint at age of 8 and just planned to be a lifelong artist. My first shows were in empty buildings my adult friends owned (I was in High School at that time).

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I had learned photographic processes, mostly by reading and hanging out. After graduating High School I studied in Chicago and then moved to NYC (1967). I studied at Art Students league, met some artists and continued to learn.

Two of my artist friends did airbrush in their works. I guess I got my first airbrush in the early 1970’s. Most of my work was post surrealist but I was experimental. One of the first airbrushes was Iwata HPBC. I used it mostly with handmade sumi ink, a Carbon Black. In the mid 70’s I began building small assemblages, which was a 3D sculptural activity. I married a fashion designer and decided I’d finish a degree to teach art and I did.

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Also I did a lot of film photography, some collages and more 3D assemblages. The airbrush was used outside; I had the compressor in the attic and an airline on the porch.

I taught for 23 years and eventually worked at a university school, where I did the arts programming for the 2nd grade for multiply handicapped students. My program had photography, woodworking, metals, and ceramics, as well as art projects. I enjoyed working with students and we had a great program. In the meantime, as part of my professional development, I studied metalworking and jewelry.

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But school became too restrictive environment as my assignment was changed to preschool students and 23 classes a week. I went to graduate again and got another degree. In that MFA program I started painting with air-guns because I could do larger works and explore my ideas efficiently.

I painted on paper. The usual student does 6 paintings a semester; I bought a 100 sheet package, which I thought would last me through the 2 year program. It lasted a month. I experimented with whatever I thought would make an interesting image.

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I made Modular pieces and works from half sheets to many sheets.

In 2009 I did my first website.

These days I work on my ideas in paint sessions which are 3 hours. I work at a steady rate, 1 or 2 sessions a day. It’s just about precision and quality and making my best work. I work outside very often; and the stray cats do visit me ;). Usually I paint 2 or 3 days a week. In a terrible weather I build assemblages but I’m always drawing.

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I have a studio at MANA Contemporary where I hang new my works. People can come to visit by appointment or at MANA openings which are every other month. Works are available for sale and I live to make deals.
You can find my works on many sites, just Google my name. I’m also in Google Images and White Columns (Frank Gavere, MFA.).

My Tools

I have many airbrushes and air-guns. Here is what I use: Iwata, Efbe, Paasche and others (whatever was interesting that I came across).

I have 3 compressors, 2 are nail-gun models, and the other I made up is a Paasche 1/4 piston, with a little tank. I have lots of media I paint with and use in imaging like stainless steel, brass or aluminum. I also use plastic, and paper.

My paint is Acrylic emulsion and I use Goldens, WN or Rowney, depends on the color. My carbon black is usually Fe2-O3. I understand archival processes and I know paper. Most paper is ALL cotton, sometimes I gesso it. It’s often size 22X30, or a bit smaller.

When I’m working I will change nozzles if they clog (that’s just 40 seconds). Paint time is too important to be limited by gear.

I have several igloo coolers where I keep the paints.

If I paint inside I use a 3M welder’s mask and also I use surgical gloves (usually on both hands). In 2.5 hours I will use less than 1.5 inches of paint in the cup. Clean up is about 30 minutes, average.

That’s it.

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If you like Franks art then spare a moment to click like or tweet. I will appreciate it. Cheers.


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  • Lisa

    Nice work. Have you ever used an Aztek airbrush? If so, what was your impression?
    Thanks, Lisa

    • Frank Gavere

      Well, I did have occasion to observe a test model spraying at a store. I would say, its possible to get it working well, with some fiddling.Its of course a complex set of parameters to achieve any real success. theres the ambient humidity, the absorbtive nuances of the substrate, the media & dryness of your compressed air which controls the actual paints mix thin or thick, then theres the dry down.Dry down affects everything. I use Acrylic emulsions, these are hydrophilic, while paper is hydrophobic in its reaction to aquamedia. Of course the effects desired>ie smooth, or grainy. The amount of paint & the application area,which has somthing to do with the nozzle size & paint container. The number of passes, to achieve the contrast.I like 5 or 6 passes for maximum contrast,this gives you great control, for building the tonal passages.
      I felt given the nature of the MFGR/process for the airbrush, which is primarily high precision PLASTIC injection molding; it would not be as durable over time; as precision cast & machined metal model, but given careful use , it has potential.I paint so much, & at many pressures,that I could only keep a allmetal, robust airbrush running in my painting practice.
      For lighter use,smaller spaces, more detail,it would have its best deployment.
      I use pressures starting at around 40 & on occasion end at 85 psi. a far cry from the nominal 18-45 working range.I hope thats helpful.

  • Todd Million

    I love Franks stuff a true original that for sure , we need more artists like Frank super crazy freaking awesome and another great article guys keep the faith eh!

    • Sergej Voronko

      Thanks Todd.

    • Frank Gavere

      Thanks Todd, your one in a million! When I started painting I just defined my goal to be a Modern Artist.I was 8,& Ive spent this cycle doing just that. I think IF you seriously work at improving your craft, it happens.Whatever that takes depends ON your desire,& ability.Of course life does interfere. Todd ,come visit,becouse at my studio, you can get up close & see ALL the detail;which BTW is absent from the pictures,& Its really there…FG

  • Jürek

    Frank, keep pushing superficial cliche of today’s “popular” airbrush scene. Never stop or settle.