If you looked at print consumer culture in the Seventies and Eighties you must have seen some of the wonderful airbrush art in these pages. These guys (Dave Willardson, Charlie White III, Peter Lloyd and Peter Palombi) were everywhere back then. Dozens of LPs, greeting cards, movie posters, magazine covers and especially inside pages sort of saturated the market with airbrush art. As Mike Salisbury says in his essay (while he was Art Director of West magazine) the text of an article became secondary to the airbrush illustrations.
The book's seventy-two main images are most likely the best of what the four produced from the mid-sixties to the start of the eighties. My favorite was Charlie White III. I always liked the background textures he created in many of his works and his masterpiece was probably the poster he did for the Screaming Yellow Zonkers (I've got a copy somewhere, but it's still unframed) partly inspired by a Maxfield Parrish mural he saw in a New York hotel. Peter Palombi got inspiration from JC Leyendecker; other artists mentioned by the four include Bob Peak, Doug Johnson, Bernie Fuchs, Milton Glaser and Bob Grossman (who also did airbrush work).
Airbrush art requires exacting initial draftsmanship and I thought it was rather unfortunate that missing from the book are any examples of roughs that would show the preliminary work to these paintings though the front and back of the book cover does have part of a Palombi drawing for an Eddie Harris LP. Each color requires a mask to cover everything else and looking at these paintings you'll just have to wonder at the intricate shapes that were cut out and the patience involved.
The book is in an almost square format, printed on gloss paper with a 200 screen, with each artist's portfolio printed on black or nearly black pages (which will show up finger marks). The book is, though, rather over designed, I thought. The seventeen page essay by Mike Salisbury is set in an italic script and printed in orange type, while the interviews with the four artists are printed in grey type making it difficult to read but perhaps the most annoying thing are the thumbnail pictures on these text pages. There is plenty of page space throughout and it wouldn't have spoilt the presentation to make these pictures a reasonable size; captions might have helped the reader, too. There are no page numbers on the left-hand pages and on the right the number is spelt out. All these visual elements are no more than designer whimsy to my mind and rather spoil the overall feel of the book, so four stars.
Overspray is an interesting look at the LA commercial art market at a time when airbrush was king, though by focusing on just four key artists it leaves out plenty of others. A book I've always enjoyed is Air Powered which covers the history of the machine and has portfolios for ten main artists (including the Overspray four) and seventeen others plus chapters relating other types of airbrush art. It's a 224-page coffee-table book which can be bought quite cheaply on the net if you look around.
***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.