Malcolm Stuart is at the forefront of the contemporary airbrush revolution, in which artists are breaking free the medium once reserved for boardwalks and bar mitzvahs into fresh works of fine art and bold fashion statements. When Malcolm isn’t flying all over the country to do live painting events, he’s busy in his studio working on one of a kind outfits that have been rocked by pop superstars like Katy Perry and Ke$ha at countless sold out concerts. And to top it all off with a cherry on top, not only is Malcolm Stuart an awesome artist, but he’s also a hula hoop master as well.
Daniel Rolnik: How did you learn how to airbrush?
Malcolm Stuart: Something neat about airbrush art is that it’s not taught in schools – the way it’s passed along is through the classic apprenticeship format. And I’m very fortunate and lucky because I learnt from Noel Degroff – a master of the medium.
DR: Isn’t airbrush complex because of how you have to mix the paints and everything?
MS: If you use water-based paint then it’s actually really easy because you don’t need to mix the colors at all – which is one of the things I miss about traditional painting. If you’re using urethanes [aka candies] it gets complicated because you have a lot more chemistry going on , but I don’t use that stuff because it’s really toxic.
Malcolm painting a commission for AOL
DR: What’s the hardest thing about airbrushing?
MS: The hardest thing about airbrushing is keeping control of your lines, since you have nothing to rest your arm on. You have to lock your muscles and learn how to be able to keep yourself from wobbling around while still being fluid. If you’re doing it right, you feel the lock take place all the way from your feet to the tip of your fingers. And in the beginning it feels like your hand is going to fall off, but after a while you develop an airbrush muscle.
DR: Whoa! Where is it?
MS: It’s this one strand on your forearm that connects to your pointer finger.
DR: Don’t you also have to control a bunch of variables with your finger on the airbrush?
MS: Only if you’re using what’s called a dual action airbrush – which everyone uses nowadays because you can alter the paint and the air flow. But back in the 80’s artists only had single action airbrushes that didn’t allow for any variations – making them very similar to a can of graffiti spray paint.
Malcolm painted this huge pair of boobs as a set piece for a performance by Narcissister
DR: How did you find the artist you apprenticed for?
MS: I was living in Brooklyn and my roommate said you should talk to my friend, he’s an airbrush artist and is always looking for people to train. So I did.
MS: There was some precedence in my life because my wife, Bec Stupak, was doing a video shoot where she wanted to have airbrush art. So, she got a few airbrushes meant for body paint and we were like whoa these things are crazy!
DR: What kind of airbrush do you use now?
MS: I use an Iwata Elcipse HP-BCS.
Collaboration w/ Gerlan Jeans‘ Spring/Summer 2012 Collection “Mall Witch”
DR: How do you usually work with textiles that are eventually turned into clothes?
MS: I hand paint them and then give them to designers.
DR: Which designers have you collaborated with?
MS: I’ve painted dresses for Katy Perry and Nikki Minaj through a collaboration I did with the New York designers The Blonds. I’ve also worked a lot with SpandexMan, who has a hilarious website that you have to check out, as well as Dee and Ricky, Gerlan Jeans, and Peggy Noland.
Collaboration w/ Dee and Ricky for their restaurant “Dee & Ricky’s Home Cooking” in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
DR: How long did it take you to get comfortable with an airbrush?
MS: It took me about 8 months to get competent and the first thing I did when I was, was to do t-shirts at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs – it was like my boot camp. It was hellacious and underpaid, but really awesome training.
DR: Was your style of art like before picking up the airbrush?
MS: One of the things that’s changed for me was that I ended up in this whole other market of doing airbrush art in the mall and using imagery that was cartoony and flat like SpongeBob, Elmo, and Mickey Mouse. All of a sudden I was really confronted with cartoon forms, whereas before I was more into rendering reality.
DR: What do you like most about cartoon imagery?
MS: Speed – because the animators have to work extremely fast to get through everything. And with the speed comes choices of simplification and having to leave information out. Also, cartoon hands are actually more complicated than most people think, because you still have to imagine a bone structure underneath everything – they’re not just balloons.
MALCOLM STUART: http://www.malcolmstuart.com/