The airbrush is a small, highly precise spray gun for applying paint. It was invented in 1879 by Abner Peeler, in Iowa, USA. This first airbrush used a hand-operated compressor, and the inventor patented it "for the painting of watercolors and other artistic purposes". However this first device was rather crude, being based on a number of spare parts in a jeweller's workshop such as old screwdrivers and welding torches. It took 4 years of further development before a practical device was developed. This was marketed by Liberty Walkup, who taught airbrush technique to American Impressionist master Wilson Irvine. The first modern type airbrush came along in 1893, presented by Thayer and Chandler art materials company at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, invented by Charles Burdick. This device looked like a pen and worked in a different manner to Peeler's device, being essentially the same as a modern airbrush. The most highly refined airbrushes today are manufactured in Japan, one of the most popular brands is Iwata. Aerograph, Burdick's original company, still makes and sells airbrushes in England.
The technique allows for the blending of two or more colors in a seamless way, with one color slowly becoming another color. Freehand airbrushed images, without the aid of stencils or friskets, have a floating quality, with softly defined edges between colors, and between foreground and background colors. A well skilled airbrush artist can produce paintings of photographic realism or can simulate almost any painting medium. Painting at this skill level involves supplementary tools, such as masks and friskets, and very careful planning.
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