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Piers Dowell - Airbrush Master

Enth Degree


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Moon Shot

A piece created by Piers to celebrate 40 years since landing on the Moon. As a child Piers was given an August 1969 issue of ‘Life’ magazine by his Grandmother. From then on his enthusiasm was fired about this great adventure. Fast forward forty years and Piers felt it was time to combine that enthusiasm with his 20 years of airbrush experience to create a truly unique commemoration of that epic adventure.Such a complex piece took an immense amount of planning, engineering drawing and research to create not only the images but also the piece onto which they are painted. Also the piece had to be completed by a certain time for shipping to the U.S for a signing at the 2009 SpaceFest in San Diego, California. This meant no slip ups as there simply wasn’t room in the schedule and once in a lifetime opportunity would be missed.The bespoke shape onto which all the images are affixed was custom made for this project and is designed to either floor stand or be displayed on a plinth at table height. The shape was constructed from MDF laminates and then sealed in a heavy primer. It’s finish is even highly specialized and uses a House of Kolor spay on mirror effect paint. This can only be applied over a polished surface. A good finish by polishing is only attainable by high skill and patience as the piece must sit and cure for 3 weeks before it can be sanded with 2000 grit and polished. But before all this the plinths for the artwork were pre heated and curved to the correct shape and bonded to the main body. Then the actual panels, albeit oversize, to which the artwork would be painted, were bonded onto the plinths. They were then trimmed to size and the whole lot primed in House of Kolor epoxy primer. After sanding and a coat of sealer a base white was applied for the images to be rendered on. At last the artwork could begin! The first image to be airbrushed on was the launch scene. The reference for this is actually Apollo 8. Getting the luminosity for the plume from the main engines was quite tricky and combined with the small scale of this image made it a challenge. This painting was signed by Michael Collins, the Command module pilot from the epic Apollo 11 mission. Michael is now a renowned water colour artist and did not realise that the image was a painting when he signed it. When realising some time later that it was he came back to congratulate Piers on his work. The 2nd image is at first glace a very iconic one but it doesn’t actually exist on celluloid. It’s a combination of several images taken by Neil Armstrong within a few seconds. Fistly, the main shot of Buzz is cut off at the top so his antenna cannot be seen. Also, the leg of the lunar lander in not in that shot either but it is in one taken a few seconds later. Hence a great deal of Photoshop work was done to comprise the best of the 3 images used. The transition from sharp focus to soft for the ground proved a challenge. Perhaps the most technically difficult thing to do was the subtle shades on Buzz Aldrins suit as they were only slightly off white and at that scale had to be done in a transparent paint which is more controllable but very easy to over cook! Next was a 3 image combination. The first 2 portraits of JFK and Werner Von Braun were in monochrome which simplifies things dramatically but were still complex non the less due to the small scale and the fact that the faces must be accurate. Even an out of focus LBJ looks correct in the background! The colour image of the interstage dropping away was extremely tricky as the webbing in the structure had to be rendered correctly whilst still attaining luminosity. This was done using a sequence with transparent paint utilizing the white base showing through for the effect. Cutting the mask for the webs was done by redrawing the shapes in Corel Draw and cutting them by machine. This was the only way accuracy could be achieved at this small scale. The 4th image was truly a test in patience and again does not exist on celluloid. It is a combination of a panorama taken by Charlie Duke of Apollo 16 and a photo of Charlie taken by John Young. The luna soil alone took 4 16 hour days to render using a combination od transparent black through the airbrush and an air eraser to highlight back to the white base. The nonsensical detail on the Lunar Rover together with all the detail for wires and even the map have been perfectly rendered. As if in reward for the immense effort that went into this image, Piers noticed that after he had signed the painting Charlie was then doing a salesman pitch for it and persuading onlookers that it really was a painting! The 5th image of Apollo 17s Gene Cernan was really meant to covey the worn out euphoria felt by the men who walked on the moon. Again technically difficult to render the soft focus on the control panel together with the contrasting lighting and blurred lettering all providing a challenge. After Gene had signed the painting Piers spent quite some time trying to convince him it really was a painting and not a photo! Gene said ‘ that is incredible’ at his own portrait, from a man who has walked on the Moon for over 21 hours and seen some incredible things, praise indeed. The montage for the 6th image consolidates the piece with an impression of the famous earth rise image taken by William Anders on Apollo 8. The image is made from several references and includes airbrushed images of the 12 men who walked on the Moon during the Apollo Missions. Accurate portraits at passport photo size are incredibly difficult to do and as a result Piers is one of only a handful of people capable of doing this. It is signed by Edgar Mitchell from the Apollo 14 mission and Dave Scott Commander of the Apollo 15 mission. The last image conveys the relief that must have been felt by the Apollo astronauts as the main ‘chutes opened after the blazing fireball of re entry. It seemed a logical way to conclude such a mammoth artistic project too. On top of the piece are all of the mission patched from the Apollo project including the ill fated Apollo 13. They have also been individually airbrushed together with a 3d old style Nasa logo. The deadline for shipping to Spacefest was met after approximately 500 hours work. In fact the last night before shipping Piers had 90 minutes sleep and only realised he’d over done it when he awoke face down in the keyboard of his computer! Piers has produced this piece with his usual eye for detail to the Enth Degree, even down to sourcing the proper gold heat shielding foil to back the artwork and a hand bound photo album, also covered in the foil, and containing the progress pictures together with the signature proof pictures. The piece is signed by one astronaut who walked on the moon from every mission that landed, 6 in all. It is also signed by Michael Collins. The others include: Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Edgar Mitchell, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke & Gene Cernan. The sheer level of workmanship on this piece is truly astonishing and this makes it, together with its signatures, a very very unique piece.

You won't find an airbrush painter like this...
PDP: High end bespoke paint for Helmets & Custom Bikes in Great Britain. A business started by Piers Dowell in 1991 that runs with the motto ”it costs what it costs to make the job as good as we can make it”. A passion run on quality first and foremost.

Enth Degree: Exquisite customised pieces and fine art airbrushed to a level not available anywhere else in the world. A development of the hyper real mural work on Bikes Piers has perfected over 20 years and has a world wide reputation for. These pieces are unsurpassed in their quality and are totally unique.
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Piers Dowell Little Grafton, Bockleton,
Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire,
WR15 8PT

Tel: 01568 750477
[email protected]