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I was very young when I first popped out of the lady who was later to become known to me as "Mum". This event happened in the little English town of Finchley in 1953. Looking back now it seems oddly coincidental as it also happened to be the year in which I was born. My father was male and Polish and he came to England during the Second World War. I, together with my older sister Elaine (who was born before me), did most of my growing up in the suburb of Enfield to the north of London where I grew up. When I reached the age of 11 in 1964 my family decided they would migrate to Australia and kindly asked if I would like to join them, I agreed.
A couple of months later the sailing ship the S.S. Aurelia steamed into the port of Melbourne carrying its hardy cargo of intrepid immigrants ready to forge a new life in the antipodes. The Salwowskis were onboard too. We settled first in Melbourne then moved out to Traralgon, a small town 160kms to the east. There my parents, who were like a mother and father to me, bought a service station and set up business. The business didn't last long though as, to increase custom, they sold the petrol for less than they paid for it and were soon run out of town by the other undercut service station owners who'd hadn't realised that they simply had to wait for them to go broke. We moved around the country living in a caravan for a year and our trail wound north up the map to Brisbane before sliding back down to stop in Sydney like a gob down a toilet bowl. Here I attended high school until in 1969 I finally achieved that goal of goals, that miraculously special piece of paper with letters on it, the Rosetta Stone to my future; a School Certificate. With that piece of paper proudly clutched in my adolescent nicotine-stained fingers I went on to art school aged 16 years and 9 months (I mean I was aged 16 and 9 months not the art school). It was the tail-end of the swinging sixties and through drug hazed (and inhaled) days and endless orgiastic Bacchanalic nights (hey, it's my biog, I can bullshit if I want!) I survived in the Fine Art Diploma course for two years before a motorcycle accident suddenly brought a slow demise to my college days.
Eventually, after a convalescence of some eighteen months, they took away my crutches and I was forced to set about finding myself a career. I went through the usual range of jobs from storeman and occasional tester in a pesticide factory to detail draughting cups of coffee in an architect's office. A short spell as a striped-paint delivery boy was followed by an even shorter period using my artistic skills to apply gold-leaf to fiberglass copies of Italian Renaissance statuary for the Mafiosa (or was it an Italian sweet company?). Finally, after Hanna-Barbera had had the good sense to turn down my offer to be an assistant animator for them I found myself a place at John Sands Pty Ltd as an office junior. I cunningly engineered this event to look accidental but really I knew all along that working in the southern hemisphere's largest printers with its own art studio, photography and marketing departments would give me a solid grounding in all aspects of the art, printing and publishing industries. It didn't take long for me to start working my way up the ladder, brown-nosing those ahead of me (it was a short ladder) and using my boyish good-looks to woo the big boys into giving me a hand up (hand up not job!). Soon I had reached the dizzying heights of Senior Product Coordinator and ruled over my empire of social stationery, everyday wrapping paper and gift cards with an iron fist. At the age of twenty-four I had at last become a child prodigy. But as Lord Dumfrey Bumfluff Toggerdick once said, "'Tis the sweet murnelling of the gadfly of fortune that turns one's head to the wind and dulls the will," and that's my excuse for totally losing interest in the job.
I spent more and more of my spare time painting with visions of creating the next big thing to hit the art world. I managed to exhibit a few pieces here and there and even outsold Pro Hart, one of Australia's biggest names at the time, in a charity exhibition at the Moses Of Montefiore home. I was painting something like a cross between a Jackson Pollock and a surreal packet of cornflakes back then. It was what you might call minimallistic conceptual post post modernist abstract expressionist... thingy stuff, all very deep and meaningful. Actually, I really just liked the way the paint marbled together when I dribbled it on the canvas.
(Notice, I'm starting to get serious now) Then in 1978 I met a bloke called Dennis Collins, he had an interest in science-fiction and fantasy art about which I knew very little. I had become acquainted with the work of Roger Dean through an association I had with a band called "Flowers" (they were later to become "Icehouse"). I loved the "Yes" covers and they had shown me Dean's book "Views" when they asked me to design a logo and paint a backdrop for them. Dennis introduced me to the work of many more artists working in the field and I became hooked. Myself, Dennis and a couple of other artists working in the genre put on a one day exhibition in a local hall, it was a success. Well, we managed to sell a few anyway. Dennis and I discussed the possibility of doing it fulltime and came to the ludicrous decision that we should open an art gallery and studio.
Carelessly throwing away my stable career in the no-end job at John Sands and sinking all my savings into the venture in 1979 we opened "TimeWinds Art Gallery and Studio" in Bondi Junction. It was the southern hemisphere's (and possibly the world's) first gallery and studio that specialised exclusively in fantasy and science-fiction art. That was the idea anyway, it didn't work out as planned though. To survive we had to take on any and all work that we could lay our hands on. Mine and Dennis' association with the music industry was a great help as a major part of our income in those days was from the band posters we did for the many bands in Icehouse's management company's books, Cold Chisel, The Angels, Mental As Anything to name but a few. The gallery was hugely popular but it had a major flaw; nobody bought the paintings. We had designed the gallery to be inviting and not at all austere as galleries tend to be. With comfortable furniture, soft lighting and subdued "spacey" music playing quietly in the background to suit the often weird and surreal images that lined the walls we created a mind-expanding environment. Consequently a major proportion of our clientele were unemployed dossers who just came to spend their zonked-out hours in a place that took their minds to places that the other galleries couldn't reach.

In 1981 we closed the gallery, changed our name to "TimeWarp Studio" and moved the business to North Sydney. One of our regular exhibiting artists, Frantz Kantor, came along with us and we started taking all kinds of work from advertising to magazine illustration through to animation, photography and photo-retouching (with photographer Nick Brokensha). Our major clients at that time were Australian Penthouse and Australian Playboy as well as numerous other magazines. The business itself sort of fizzled-out over the next couple of years as we all started doing more of our own work and getting agents.

Then in 1984 I packed my bags and headed back to the land of my roots, England. On the way I stopped by the Philippines and visited a girlfriend from Australia, Robynne, and her two daughters Lisa and Sharyn, and they all ended up going to the UK with me. When we got there I found myself an agent in London, Sarah Brown Agency that specialised in fantasy and science-fiction art for the publishing industry and I was soon doing bookcovers almost exclusively. In 1985 Robynne and I married and we settled down in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Stanford-in-the-Vale. In 1989 my son Nathan was born and in 1994 Robynne and I separated to be divorced in 1997.

During the nineties I exhibited rarely as I seldom found the time to work on my own pieces. Although I did manage to get a piece ready for the "Alice" touring exhibition that opened at Bearne's Rainbow Gallery in Torquay. Amongst other places the exhibition also visited the Christchurch Galleries in Oxford University and the Parko Gallery in Tokyo. The previous year I had taken part in the "Other Worlds" exhibition also held at Rainbow. There my bookcover illustrations hung beside the works of such modern day illustrating legends as Patrick Woodroffe, Brian Froud, Alan Lee, Chris Foss and John Howe, as well as such past giants as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Sir John Tenniel. In 1998 Robynne, my ex by then, organised a small exhibition locally for Danny Flynn and myself, he happened to live in Wantage a nearby town.
Around that time I became interested in amateur dramatics. My step-daughter Sharyn had joined the village drama group, when I went along to a production of a pantomime I came to the decision that I could help out with the sets. I soon ended up getting fully involved to the point of acting and directing as well. Many an enjoyable hour was spent with The Stanford-in-the-Vale Drama Group and if you live locally I can thoroughly recommend you check them out.
In 2000 I packed up my bags again and with my son Nathan headed back to Australia.
And that's where I am now, doing all sorts of work. As well as putting my own special book project together I've been working on a children's book on fantastic creatures for Koala Books which was just released in December 2009.
UPDATE (JANUARY 2010): It's official; I'm getting old!
Over the last few years I'd been slowing down mentally and physically and feeling tired and sluggish and depressed a lot of the time. I thought it was just symptoms of unhappy circumstances until in January 2009 I had a heart attack that resulted in triple bypass surgery. It took another six months before the doctors realised that the reason I had been lethargic, dull-headed and my arteries had clogged up with cholesterol was that I had hypothyroidism; a grossly under-active thyroid. So now I'm on the thyroxin tablets, given up the fags, eating properly and exercising regularly my life is at last starting to get back on course, -touch wood!!!



I've worked with so many different types of media over the years and they all have their uses and pros and cons. I regularly use acrylics when I want to achieve a more painterly quality but I haven't touched oils for donkey's years. I like working in oils but they're too slow drying for me. And I'm a "dry" worker, that is to say I work slowly and meticulously with everything planned out ahead, unlike "wet" workers who are more spontaneous. Same goes for watercolour. That's why me and an airbrush get along so well, you have to plan what you're going to do pretty thoroughly when one uses an airbrush. But I guess what really settled me on specialising in airbrushing was that I like the photographic quality with smooth gradations of tone and the "untouched-by-human-hand-look" you can achieve. Before the computer came along the airbrush was the only way. Whilst I greatly admire those masters of spontaneity who paint so that every brushstroke can be seen and analysed I personally find it distracting and "unfinished" looking. (Needless to say I'm not a fan of Van Gogh or the Impressionists)

If you've never seen an airbrush before, it's like a miniature, pen-sized spray gun. For a quick demonstration of the basic airbrush technique click HERE.

For the last few years I've been attempting to work on a book about airbrushing, but I just don't seem to be able to find the time to complete it. Rest assured that when I do find the time I'll create a free online version to download from this site.

Nowadays I work a lot on the computer too. There's lots of timesaving things you can do such as taking a pencil drawing, scanning it and then colouring and changing its appearance to look like a painting or even a photo. Cheap tricks I know, but "time is money" and anyway all commercial artwork is required in a digital form nowadays. However, I rarely do any art totally on the computer, I still prefer to feel the paper under my pencil in the real world. I use Adobe Illustrator for creating line-work, Corel Photopaint and Adobe Photoshop for manipulating images or creating things from scratch. I also use 3D Studio Max to create objects in 3D to add to my scanned artwork. 3D applications are good for some things but they can be terribly time-consuming. Simple objects are quick and easy to create but people and animals for instance require so much detail to render realistically that I prefer to draw and paint them by hand. It's okay if you're making a movie and need a hundred thousand different images of the same creature but if you've only got one to do, stick to paint and brush.
The airbrush is my favourite medium though, and I almost invariably use a high quality illustration board to paint on. The board I've used over the years has been "Frisk CS10", but now I believe that they are discontinuing the line or at least it's not being imported to Australia. So I'm searching for a new one. "Schoellershammer" was another good brand of hotpressed smooth finish art board but that's hard to get too. Cheap boards don't work, the surface is generally not smooth enough or too absorbent or won't survive erasing or the adhesive of masking film. Anyone got any suggestions?

I use two airbrushes; a Devilbiss Aerograph Super 63 and a Paasche AB. They're both as old as the hills but they'll probably see me out. I used to use a Thayer-Chandler as well but the parts got scarce so now it's been retired.

The Aerograph is a dual-action suction-delivered gravity-feed airbrush. For those unfamiliar with airbrushes, dual-action means that you push down on the trigger to start the air flow and pull back on the trigger to allow the ink to spray. The further back you pull the more ink is mixed with the air. Suction-delivered simply means that the ink is delivered to the nozzle by suction caused by the flow of air along the needle. Single-action airbrushes are generally only used for hobby painting and occasionally car body work.

The Paasche AB is also a dual-action airbrush but its ink delivery system is quite unique. The Paasche has miniature turbine that oscillates an arm that in turn reciprocates a needle approximately 15,000 times a minute through a feed of ink and then a nozzle blows the ink off the needle to produce an extremely fine spray. The Paasche is about as good as you can get for doing fine meticulous detail. It can easily produce an even spray the mere width of a pencil line. At the other extreme though its spray pattern will only reach to roughly 1 inch (25mm) across. Consequently I paint all the large areas of colour with the Aerograph and add the detail with the Paasche.
What powers an airbrush is an air compressor. A decent compressor will make your work a lot easier. Things to note are the litres per minute they can expel, the cleanness of running (i.e. no oil vapour in the air) and quietness. My SimAir compressor doesn't push out a lot of air but it's quite adequate to run one airbrush at a time. However, it doesn't make much more noise than the average refrigerator and it's been a reliable workhorse for the last twenty-five years. Sometimes when I'm working flat-out on a job it'll be on for twelve hours or more without overheating. On those occasions though I might start to notice oil vapour condensing on the inside of the hoses. To remedy that I'll flush them out with lighter fluid.

Here are the parts to your average compressor:
A -
Air Intake.
B -
Pressure Gauge/regulator.
C - Main air filter (50 micron for particlulates and water-vapour).
D - Oil filler.
E - Oil level guage.
F - Condensation chamber (for water-vapour).
G - Secondary air filter (5 micron for oil vapour).
- T-connection for two airbrushes.
- (I made a boo-boo with the letter) Foot switch.

The paint or ink one uses in an airbrush is vitally important not only to the finished look of the work but also on the operation of the airbrush. I prefer to work transparently allowing the full chromatic intensity of the dyes or pigments to be unsullied by the opaque base that you get in paints. I rarely if ever use white, preferring instead to remove the colour from the highlights with an eraser or scraping away with a scalpel. And anyway, airbrushes, particularly the standard fine art types, are very easily clogged. Using paint that's too thick or with too large pigment granules can quickly stuff up your airbrush.

Above is a typical worktop of mine with some of the inks and materials that I use.
A - Coloured pencils. Always good for adding quick touch-up details.
B - Ice-Cube Trays. They're perfect for mixing up small quantities of ink and you can store them overnight by simply sticking a strip of plastic packing tape across the top.
C - Eye-dropper. For loading the airbrush.
D - Water Container. For obvious reasons.
E - Clear Acrylic Liquid Medium. This I use mainly to prevent ink bleeding under the masking film when I'm about to spray a large area with a heavy coat of colour. I spray a coat of this on first so that it will bleed under in all the places that the ink is likely to. The medium is transparent so it won't be noticable but will fill all the crevices.
F - Lighter Fluid (or Art Cleaning Fluid). Amongst other things I use it to clean my illustration board of all possible fingermarks and blemishes before I begin.
G - Acetone. This I use for giving my airbrushes a thorough cleaning.
H - Colourless Art Masking Fluid. Comes in handy at times.
I - Broad Soft Bristle Brush. For keeping the work dust free.
K - Draughting Pen. Mainly for applying art masking fluid.
L - Staedtler or Rotring Drawing Inks. They work well through an airbrush, colours are strong (but few), relatively fade resistant.
M - Scalpel. For cutting masks.
N - Abrasive Typing Eraser. For rubbing out highlights etc.
O - Acrylic Paint. I use them for painting in acrylics (derrrrr!)
P - Dr Ph Martin's Liquid Watercolour. Brilliant colours and they work well through an airbrush but they're as fugitive as David Kimble (that is they fade quickly) so don't use them if you want to hang your work on the wall. Their surface is so delicate and water-soluble that a sneeze in the wrong direction will ruin a week's work.
Q - Magic Colour Liquid Acrylic by Royal Sovereign. My favourites but I can't get them in Australia. At the moment I'm using the last of the supply I brought from England. The colours are brilliant, they're transparent, they work perfectly in an airbrush as they're ultra-finely pigmented, their surface is pretty resilient and waterproof and they don't fade, -what more could you ask for! There are imitations but none are as good.
R - Rotring ACP Liquid Acrylic. They're the same sort of thing as Magic Colour but not quite as brilliant in colour, not quite as transparent and not quite as finely pigmented.
S - Windsor & Newton Inks. I love them for their brilliance of colour but they're not really recommended for airbrushes as they're shellac based. I use them anyway, just making sure that I repeatedly clean my airbrush with methylated spirit. They're quite durable and partially water-resistant. However, they're also very fugitive, so not to be used if you want to hang your work on the wall.


This is a very rough guide to how an airbrush is used.

Step 1: Draw or trace your drawing onto the art board or surface. For this example I'm just using the first thing that came to hand, a CD.
Step 2: Cut-off a suitable sized piece of masking film from the roll, peel off the backing paper and lay the film over the drawing. >KEEP THE BACKING PAPER< Masking film, sometimes called frisket film or paper, is a specially made product for use with art materials. It is a thin sheet of clear gloss or matt plastic film with a low-tack self-adhesive back on a "waxed" backing paper. It's available in rolls or sheets.
Step 3: Smooth down the film so there are no bubbles underneath then gently cut around the outline of your drawing with a scalpel. Don't burnish the film down too hard, if the surface that you're working on isn't hard enough it could adhere too strongly and damage it, particularly if you're masking over an area you've already painted. Also, only apply enough pressure to the scalpel to cut the film, you don't want to make cuts in the board surface that could be noticeable. It takes practice to get it right.
Step 4: Peel the film off the area you want to paint. Don't discard the cutting, keep it flat and place it onto the piece of "waxed" backing paper you kept. You'll be reapplying it later.
Step 5: The fun begins, start airbrushing. Remember; take it slowly and build up the colour with smooth strokes allowing the ink to dry between coats to avoid flooding the surface and ink bleeding under the mask. Use many coats of well diluted ink to get a smooth gradation of tone. Don't move the airbrush too close to the surface until you're ready to tackle the finer details. And remember..., practice, practice, practice.
Step 5: Try using soft masks. Soft masks are masks that aren't sitting directly on the surface and will therefore produce a softer edge. All sorts of things can be used and here I'm using the CD to produce a soft yet definite curved band of tone.
Step 6: Replace the masking film over the area you have just painted. Get it smooth but don't press it down too firmly in case when you come to peel it off again it takes the ink with it. Again, experience will show how firmly you can burnish it. Too soft and the spray will bleed under, too hard and you risk adhesion. It is better to re-use the cut-out mask rather than cut a new one for two very good reasons. Firstly, you will have a perfect fit over the area you want, far more accurate than you could get by cutting a new one. Secondly, masking film can be expensive and I'm a stingey sod!
Step 7: Peel off the the mask from the background.
Step 8: Airbrush the background.
Step 9: Using another hand-held soft mask. Here I'm using the edge of a piece of paper to create a straight edge such as for an horizon.
Step 10: Another hand-held soft mask. Here I'm using the ragged edge of a torn piece of paper to create something like mountains in the background. Things you can use for masks are limited only by your imagination and what you want to acheive.
Step 11: Peel off the film and add finishing touches. You may want to add highlights by erasing with an abrasive typing eraser or or scraping the ink off with the back edge of a scalpel or you can add details with a paint brush.
Step 12: Viola! The finished art. You could give it a coat of a quality fixative or lacquer to protect it. Getting the right one though is a matter of trial and error. I can't recommend a brand as the manufacturers seem to change their formulas so regularly and as soon as I find one that I like they go and change it. Many years ago I used to use Letracoat Matt but its quality became so inconsistent that I gave it a miss. I don't even know if it's still in production.



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