The Art of the Economic Draftsman: Spray Fixative
by Michael Zabel
Howdy folks, and welcome to another installment of the Art of the Economic Draftsman. This week we take a quick look at workable spray fixative and ultimately, of course, saving some precious dollars and cents to roll into other areas of your illustration business.
Spray fixatives range in price like most art supplies and the price you pay really depends on how much you rely on it for your own personal process. I should also point out that there are some fixatives that are specifically better for certain mediums (see Sennelier Delacroix fixative for oil pastels). It’s always a good idea to try out some different brands and take note of which product works best for your style and what helps to produce professional quality artwork.
The spray fixative I normally use is the Utrecht® Workable Fixative. This 11 oz. can has a list price of $7.69 but it is more often than not on sale for around 5 dollars on the Utrecht website (my normal supplier). This fixative is one that I trust and it gets the job done for what I use it for – usually to hold down a charcoal or graphite drawing in which I plan to apply a wet media over top of. This fixative is also great for an “onion skinning” drafting style in which an image is edited and re-edited with layers of neutral acrylic washes over each drawing layer (hence, “onion skinning”). The acrylic paint, being plastic, can get a little tough to draw on with a plain old Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, so a light application of spray fixative will generally go a long way, creating a nice toothed layer to work on. A comparable product, in regards to performance, is the Krylon® 1306 workable fixative which retails at about 7 bucks online for an 11 oz. can. While one can see that these are two reasonably priced items, there is still a way that money can be saved…especially if your artistic process, like mine, requires a minimal use of spray fixative.
Last week I was waking up from a relatively good night of sleep while my fiancée, Marji, was getting ready for work. I shuffled past the bathroom, said good morning to Marj (as always), and carefully descended down the shadowy stairs to the kitchen where I would brew up some fresh beans. As the coffee pot gurgled into its own waking life, I slumped back up the stairs to turn on my computer and effectively start my work day when I heard a curious sound. Curious…yes…but only because I have heard it almost every weekday for years upon years. The brief escape of compressed air and hair product resonated down the hall in the early morning calm; Marji, applying a quick spritz of Suave® Extreme Hold Hairspray in an effort to tame her misbehaving curls. Awaiting the invitation of my computer’s desktop, the clean slate of my morning brain made a connection of audio signals between the application of hairspray and the application of spray fixative. Genuinely interested, and ignorant, my questions about hairspray were seemingly endless.
Does that stuff hold pretty well?
Yep! As long as it’s not humid.
How big is that bottle?
Ummm…(looks at the bottle)…11 ounces.
What’s the biggest bottle I can get?
Costco sells huge ones.
Is there an unscented version?
How much does that cost?
The last question had the most surprising of answers: “Oh…about two bucks at Walgreens.”
So, $2.00 and some change later (you didn’t think I would actually use up Marji’s hairspray when she went to work did you?), I was experimenting with the integrity of Suave® Unscented Extreme Hold Hairspray as an artistic medium. For my own personal process, the hairspray does a great job and thanks to my lovely fiancée, I now have a cheap option for art supplies and a hair dryer to speed up my painting process!