Interview with Steve Gathercole – 2016 International Airbrush Competition

In our next interview, we learn more about Steve Gathercole, 3rd place winner in the Fine Arts category of our 2016 competition. Steve only took up airbrushing a few years ago and has been mostly self taught, so he offers some very helpful advice for newcomers and people thinking about taking up airbrushing! Visit his website,, to see more of his work!

Sparmax (S): Please provide a brief background about yourself; including, when you started airbrushing and what the learning process was like?

Steve (SG): Although I had always been able to draw I had never tried painting but often wondered about the art of Airbrushing , then at the grand old age of  55 my wife bought me an ‘Airbrush Kit’ for Xmas. My first painting (a skull), was a mess I had no control, no idea about paints or reductions, didn’t realise the effect different media had and felt very confused over Opaque and transparent paints. I soon started searching the Internet for every free video or tutorial I could find, slowly but surely I started to get better.

Soon after I discovered and eagerly attempted the free tutorials. Now in my third year of Airbrushing I am still self-taught through Youtube videos and help/advice from the excellent airbrushtutor forum.

My main subjects are wildlife but also like to attempt the occasional portraits, I have also attempted T-Shirts and a little Automotive work. After trying several paint supplies I settled with ETAC Efx and ETAC Private Stock, (Private Stock for T-Shirts and Automotive work) all water based paints. Just lately I have been experimenting with different media such as Synthetic paper, MDF coated with Gesso, Canvas and Metal, I still however prefer Claybord or Schoellershammer G4 paper, for overall versatility with regard to erasing and scratching.


S: Can you tell us a bit more about your work? How / why did you choose it? How long did it take, and what inspired you?

SG: I made friends with an amateur photographer in my village and asked if I could use any of his photographs for references. He was more than happy to give me permission, this particular shot was taken at the wildlife sanctuary on the edge of my village, I chose it as a challenge due to the water effect and the different levels of focus, I wanted to try and reproduce the feeling of depth. It took me 20 hours to paint, in five, 4 hours sessions.


S: What inspires you to continue airbrushing?

SG: There is always something new to learn, a new paint to try, different media or a new technique. I am continually trying to achieve better detail, I can see improvements but then I look at fantastic artwork from one of the professionals and think ‘Wow I want to paint as good as that ‘.


S: What are your goals / targets for airbrushing? What do you want to achieve?

SG: My goals are to achieve greater detail and paint photorealistic paintings, whilst my main interest is wildlife I would like to progress further with colour portraits and attend a professional portrait class.


S: What does airbrushing mean to you?

SG: Airbrushing to me is an escape from the real world where I can focus my mind and body producing artwork for my own and other people’s pleasure. Airbrushing rewards me with a feeling of relaxation and pleasure.


S: Any advice to beginners looking to start airbrushing?

SG: I started with the no name Airbrush supplied with the kit, this was not ideal for learning, don’t make the same mistake, a poor airbrush will hinder your development without you realizisng it, buy the best you can afford form the start. I quickly upgraded to a Badger Krome and immediately had more control, then finally last year I was bought an Iwata Custom Micron SB, the micron paired with ETAC paint is a match made in heaven. Research all the free video tutorials you can find and join a good forum, where you will find plenty of advice and help, such as


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s