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).


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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

  • 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!

    • 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

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

    • Frank Gavere

      HAH,JureK; well Im a dedicated nonconformist with some time left in this cycle, Of course Im going to make huge messes & LOTSA ART!!Im not really interested in realism, in fact on a recent painting , upside down & I realized oops,those marks worked better . Pretty funny.So theres awalys stuff to change & improve .If your painting subject is, in visual sight all the tones are apparent, when its out of your head, so to speak, you use what you figure out. And,you discover stuff .Isnt that what makes life exciting. New works end up in my living room where we study them for abit to see if theres somthing to note.
      . When I look at others works I often think what is this,wheres the discovery process. Of what good is it to do works which ,HAVE no JOY? Thats just not for me.As for Ideas, I do less then 10 % of them,If you dont have 5 great ideas before lunch,forget ART.An artist is a volcano of ideas,or dead.The amount of dead work is astounding., so, dont contribute….I also like to cook>!!
      Being Hyperactive, I see life in segments of uptime, Narcolepsy , diabetes & cardiovascular issues run in the genetic pool, as well as OCD & a penchant for the exotic,obsessive &.Adictive personality disorder, AdHd, all that good stuff,Im awalys amazed how much These things contribute to my process & ability. The difficult just takes abit more time.
      A couple of years ago I began to make some works in recycled boxes,its very fun, & the results are well worth the time.Now theres a lot of new area opening up. I also did some tests on Alkyd paints, discovering>the acrylics are a far better Binder system for my substrates ,just look at my Stainless steel stencils, I have to soak & scrape & pressure wash,& rarely get them completely cleaned off. Theres NO Painting, without some, PAIN. I also make sculpture models.
      Working Hard, on my projects IS what Art/life is. My students asked why did I work so HARD? Becouse I CAN is the answer !
      Frank Gavere , MFA 2016,