June 2009's featured artist was airbrush painter, Jerry Gadamus. Jerry has been painting for over thirty years and loves capturing farm animals and wildlife in their natural environments. Jerry uses his airbrush completely "freehanded"; he uses no stencils or brushes to complete his work.
Why do you paint?
I enjoy it and find I need to do it to maintain sanity.
How did you get started?
I was 10 or 11 years old and painting on a piece of plywood. I didn’t have brushes so I used a 16 penny nail instead. The painting had a religious theme and it hung over my mom’s washing machine.
How do you decide what to paint?
Sometimes I paint what I want and sometimes it’s something the public or publisher wants. I don’t’ do commission work. Sometimes if I’ve had an experience lately with something or even if it’s been 30 years, but it’s been on my mind, I‘ll do it.
What is your technique?
I use freehand airbrush. The way I do it compared with other people is that others combine it with a hand brush. I use the airbrush freehand. I don’t use any masking, taping or hand brushing. Everything is freehand. Hard brushes or stencils can give a hard edge. I’m only a ¼ inch away from the board at all times with my airbrush. Everything you see on that painting is airbrushed.
Where did you learn your technique?
I was in the service for 3 years on the GI bill. When I got back, I went to college for fine arts. My roommate asked me if I wanted an airbrush to try while he was going to get one for himself. Most people my age can remember “Vargas”, and airbrush artist who always did work with a nice gradation of color. I started using an airbrush in 1969. I began with a combination of airbrush and hand brush and practiced to be all airbrush. The company I purchased my airbrush from commissioned me back in the 1970’s to do a piece for them. This was only the second time they had commissioned a piece. The first time was from Vargas himself!
How long does it take to get a painting done?
As little as 2 weeks for the more popular sizes (10” x 24”) and the major pieces (24” x 36”) take 2 months.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Nature! At one time I wanted to be involved with natural resources, but it involved too much math. Being an artist was my second choice. I’m outside with nature all the time.
How did you get started with the cow pieces?
My in laws, Margaret and Arnold, are dairy farmers. With my first cow piece I did, I always included the poem:
Margaret and Arnold are my in-laws you see
They own a dairy farm south of me
Where time is measured by what’s left to do
To provide a bounty for me and you
Do you ever make goof ups or work you don’t like?
It’s an ongoing thing! You’ll always struggle with composition. I used to finish a part before I moved to the next part. I’ve found that if you finish one part and move on to the next, it’s harder to change the entire image. I now work on the whole painting at the same time. I don’t finish anything until I know I like what I see. My wife is a big part in what I do. I’ll call her in to get her opinion. If she gives me the same idea that I’m thinking is a problem, then I usually know I have to change it. I’ll say that too for anyone looking at art. Somebody may not be able to paint something, but they can tell you when something is wrong.
What else do you do besides painting?
That seems to be about it
What would you like to do more of in the future?
I would like to do more bronzes. Being in the upper Midwest, there’s not much of a market for them. It’s a nice escape from the painting end.
Is there anything else about your art you want people to know?
Some colleges and high schools are now teaching airbrush. You can’t teach it per se, but you have to get used to it. Practice! I suggest watercolors first. You can take a dab of paint and put it on a palette and it comes to life even after it dries out. It’s a great way to start without the frustration of the airbrush clogging.
What advice would you give aspiring painters?
Take classes in school in disciplines you may not like or are interested in. It allows you to experience things in school instead of having to buy a bunch of equipment later. I took my 4 to 5 years of college like most normal people, but a friend and I would continue to take 1 credit classes to be able to use the facilities. We were there in the evening enjoying it. I learned you’ll never make a living at it if you don’t enjoy it. Even if you’re good at it, but consider it a job, you’ll never make a living at it.