Friday, 31 July 2009 17:00

Evans - Custom Chevy Bel-Air Headliner Shows Both Sides of Marilyn

Written by Rich Evans
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At Huntington Beach Bodyworks, we recently began a new project: restoring a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air. In this article we will focus on the main ‘showpiece’ of this car, a custom airbrushed headliner. For this project I brought in airbrush artist Matt Van Wingerden after seeing some of his amazing mural and portrait work.

    After several meetings with the customer, a concept involving a fantasy-like rendition of Marilyn Monroe emerged. The goal was to attempt to capture the innate beauty of Marilyn while subtly depicting her darker virtues. To do this I came up with the idea of having Marilyn lying in water. Scattered rose petals on the water surface would help accentuate the idea of her outer or surface beauty, while images under the surface would tell of her more secret life.
    Before starting any of the design or artwork, the fiberglass headliner was primed, sealed, and base-coated white with the appropriate House of Kolor (HoK) products. After this Matt created a model of the headliner on the computer and began putting the ideas for the mural together in Photoshop to be used as a reference photo. The finalized image was then imported into a vector program so that certain ‘layers’ of the painting could be created with the assistance of a plotter.
    Matt started painting the underwater or background area first. The image of Marilyn’s body was plotted on paper and cut out, to be used as a backmask for where the body would later be painted. Matt prefers to use a paper mask in this type of circumstance because it leaves a very minimal edge while still protecting the area from overspray, which will save time in the long run and produce a much cleaner rendering. The paper is secured using magnets versus tape, allowing the mask to be easily moved into the desired position (for this application duel magnets were necessary because the piece was not metal). After the mask is secured Matt uses his Iwata Eclipse HP-CS to roughly sketch in the faces of some of Marilyn’s most notable ‘partners’ that will be hidden in the rocks. HoK Black basecoat is used to create the outlines or crevices between the rocks and to also texture and shade them. After this is done, a combination of Root Beer, Organic Green, Purple, and Oriental Blue Kandy Koncentrates mixed with SG100 are used to tint the rocks and give them an underwater feel.
    Another part of the underwater area includes a demon that will represent Marilyn’s dark side or inner demons that are pulling her down. This image is first loosely sketched in using HoK Blue Blood Red and then more intensely shadowed using black. To really make the image pop, a combination of erasing and over-reduced white is used for the highlights before brightening up the whole area with Apple Red and Tangerine Kandy Koncentrate.
    Now it is time to remove the paper mask. It is important to remember to save the outer parts of the cutout because they will be used to protect the underwater layer. After the outer mask is secured, some HoK Flesh Tone Base is mixed with white basecoat to achieve the desired shade and then sprayed over the entire area with an Iwata TH. Using straight Flesh Tone Base, Matt begins loosely shading the various contours and shadows of the body and continues to darken these areas with a mixture of Flesh Tone, black and red basecoat. After the basic shadowing of the body is complete Matt uses the same colors to shade and define Marilyn’s facial features with his Iwata Custom Micron CM-C Plus. It is very important to position all of the facial features proportionally, especially with a very recognizable portrait like Marilyn. By creating reference points that are plotted on the paper mask you can help eliminate errors and position features more effectively. After the shadowing is complete it is time for some Kandy Koncentrates to bring out the colors in Marilyn’s skin tone and further intensify the shadows. A combination of HoK Dark Flesh Shade Green, Flesh Shade Red, Root Beer, Gold Shade, and Apple Red are used for the skin tones. Kandy Apply Red and some Oriental Blue are also applied to add color to the lips and eyes. Additionally, Matt used some erasing techniques followed with airbrushing white to bring out the highlights.
    The outer mask is then removed so that the hair, which needs to flow naturally into the background, can be painted. Using a mixture of Flesh Base and yellow basecoat Matt begins to dust in the main shape of the hair. A darker mixture of black and red is airbrushed with a Custom Micron to further define the shadows, and white is used to bring out the highlighted strands of hair. A combination of Root Beer, Pagan Gold, and Lime Gold is also applied to add color and depth to the hair.
    For the next layers a low-tack vinyl mask will be used to create the clean, crisp edges desired. But first it is important to lock down the previously painted layers with a couple of coats of SG100 to help prevent any lifting or damage. The first layer to be painted, using the assistance of the vinyl, is the reflections that will appear on the surface of the water. After the mask is positioned, a mixture of white and SG100 is lightly sprayed on the revealed areas to give the surface ripples a transparent yet reflective look.
    After the vinyl is removed, another vinyl mask is plotted and positioned on the surface for the painting of the rose petals. Matt first applies an even coverage of HoK Blue Blood Red over the revealed areas. Using a Custom Micron, shadows and veins are then created with a mixture of Blue Blood Red, black and purple, and highlights with a mixture of Blue Blood Red and white. A light misting of Kandy Apple Red is also used to brighten up the petals and tone down some of the highlights. After removing the mask Matt comes back with some Dark Green and Dark Red Flesh Shade to shadow below the petals that are resting on the body.
    The mural would appear to be complete to most people at this time, but Matt takes it one step further. He lays down one more mask to create water droplets on the body and on the rose petals. A very light mist of white mixed with SG100 is used for the lightened side of the droplets and various Kandy Koncentrates are used to subtly darken the other side of the droplets depending on the contour which they are resting. It is important to save the positive areas of the droplet mask so that they can be used to help create a shadow behind some of the bigger droplets, without darkening the water droplet itself.
    The mural is finally complete and ready for a couple of wet coats of UC35 to protect it and give it that high-gloss shine.
About the artist: Matt Van Wingerden is a 26-year-old self-taught artist who grew up in southeastern Washington. He began drawing at a young age and discovered airbrushing at the age of 19. Airbrushing has allowed him to produce his art on a variety of surfaces, but some of his most recognizable work can be seen on the “rolling canvases” of cars and motorcycles. To view more of his work you can check out www.vanwingstudios.com.

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