From Looney Tunes t-shirts at the fair to a portrait of the Virgin Mary on the hood of a lowrider, the wonderful world of airbrushed art has always been one of my favorite things ever. Sadly, long gone are the days when you could get your man’s name easily airbrushed on a pillowcase at the Glendale Galleria. I was about to give up hope in finding my own magical airbrushing wizard until I stumbled across Diane Burrier’s website. Once I saw the portrait she did of Lady Gaga, I knew she was The One! Needless to say, I placed an order immediately! She was also nice enough to answer some questions about her work.
+ How did you get your start in airbrushing?
In 1983 I was doing caricatures and portraits while people posed. I saw someone airbrushing at a show and decided to give it a try. It was difficult at first, but I made a go of it.
+ What is the most fun part of your work?
Painting in public for tourists, shoppers and onlookers. Unfortunately this rarely occurs anymore since I now work in graphic design during the week and airbrush in my basement on weekends as a mail order business from my website.
+ What is the most challenging?
Finding time to update the web site since so much weekend time is spent airbrushing.
+ What are your thoughts on being a female artist in a male-dominated scene?
I worked in Virginia Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Daytona Beach. Those places had lots of airbrushers, all male. Although some had large egos, I’m fairly certain I earned respect from of all of them as an artist. I’ve lost touch with most of them, but occasionally get e-mails or calls from long-lost airbrush friends. I’ve known some of the original masters of airbrushing and a few who’ve passed away. I’ve met a few newer and younger artists too. The biggest problem is actually with public perception. I once wrote an article for Airbrush Action Magazine called “Where’s The Airbrush Guy?” It was a long time ago, but this commentary still stands true. If I don’t have that brush in my hand painting, the nearest male standing around is who people assume the artist to be. I’m a “one-hander” which could be a woman thing since I’ve never seen anyone else paint that way. I don’t try to talk people into ordering a shirt like the guys do. I try to let my work do the talking. I’m the same way in my cyber airbrush business. I always try not to discredit anyone else’s work to a customer, even if I personally think their work sucks. Art is always in the eye of the beholder, who am I to say?
+ What was the weirdest thing you have been asked to airbrush?
There have been many so weird things. I guess I have to say the one bike week I worked in Daytona Beach in the 80’s. I’m a lady and won’t describe, but it was embarrassing. I’ll never paint those things again and won’t own up to them if any still exist.
+ Favorite airbrushing you have done?
Live airbrush portraits and I still love doing those loose quick beach scenes.
+ Who are some artists that you admire?
Classical artists of the Renaissance and French Impressionists. I love Maxfield Parrish’s work. The man was a genius on so many levels.
+ The celebrity signed shirts from your collection are quite impressive! Andy Warhol to Madonna! What are some of the stories behind those?
The first signed shirt I got was at a Cars concert in Norfolk, VA. I wore a giant portrait of Rik Ocasek, he saw it from the stage and sent someone to bring my friend and I backstage. I was surprised and nervous but he was very nice and the next time they played there, I made another shirt with the whole band and they all signed it.
My most cherished celebrity moment was meeting Andy Warhol in his NYC studio. I made him a gift shirt with his portrait and he loved it. I wore a shirt with a portrait of him on front and another on the back. He was fluffing and straightening it, turning me around and asked why I didn’t paint one on the back of his gift shirt. He signed mine and invited my friends and I back, but I wasn’t in NYC again before he died 2 years later.
I was airbrushing in Virginia Beach making good money so I rarely took off to go to a concert. I knew concert producers and they would place the shirts in the stars’ dressing rooms and ask them to sign one for me. I heard Madonna put hers on during a sound check but no one had a camera. We thought Rod Stewart or someone on his staff took both his shirts and kept them, but the next day his signed shirt came Fed Ex from Chicago.
Two guys from Warrant came into a mall where I was airbrushing in Hampton VA across from a venue where they were opening for Motley Crue. They wanted 2 leather jackets airbrushed and told me I could come backstage for the concert but I had to be there within 2 hours. I knew I couldn’t paint their album covers on those jackets that fast. At least I got a photo of the one guitarist (oops forgot his name but love the photo) posing in it when he picked them up.
I met Robert Plant on a Honeydrippers tour. He signed a shirt at the concert and we were invited to a party with them afterward. I was completely star struck and he was sooo gorgeous in person. I could barely get any words out of my mouth. My girlfriend kicked me and told me to thank him for signing my shirt. The rest of the party I chatted with a band member from Spain and felt more comfortable.
I don’t have time to make celebrity gift shirts anymore, or even any shirts for myself these days.
+ Do you dabble in any other forms of art besides airbrushing?
Before airbrush it was pencil, pastel, charcoal, Sharpies and oils. Now it’s digital. I love the program Corel Painter. You can “paint” with a Wacom stylus pen like you’re actually using real media instead of pulling Bezier curves in Illustrator or tricking out in Photoshop. It’s the closest thing to real painting without the mess. I’m a graphics and multimedia software junkie. I work in dozens of programs and can hard code web sites. Digital or tangible, they’re all just tools for the art I do.
I have been a graphic, web and multimedia designer for the U.S. Army full time since 2000. That’s when airbrushing became part time. I was married with a young child and traveling around airbrushing long hours was a lifestyle that no longer fit. Although I had a bachelor’s degree in art, it was outdated without computer skills. I went to school at night while still airbrushing full time until I picked up what I needed to start a new career. I recently went to graduate school for Interactive Media Design. I’ve done some high profile design work for the Army. I don’t get personal credit for this kind of work and anything released is public domain. I’ve done exhibits, murals, posters, books, presentations, animations, official seals and web sites. I’ve gained tremendous appreciation for our military and feel privileged to do this work for them. But when I get home, there are always people waiting for their airbrush shirts to be painted and sent.
Would you like to be immortalized in airbrush like yours truly? Perhaps you might even want to get an “In Memory of Michael Jackson” jacket or a pillowcase of Mariah Carey to add to your collection? Email Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at Burrart Design!