Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Brush Up On Brush Care

Okay folks, I’m getting up on my soapbox here. I’m not going to rant and rave (not much anyway) but I’ve seen some badly abused brushes lately. If you have sad, stiff, scruffy brushes in your paint box, shame on you. You might as well use Popsicle sticks to paint with if all you have are hard brushes with paint dried in them. You could paint better with your fingers. We all know that good tools make great paintings so lets take care of our brushes.
Unless you’re using watercolors or Genesis paints, the most important thing you can do to extend brush life is to wash those brushes. Now, not later, wash them as soon as you’re done painting. If you’re using acrylics keep your brushes wet the whole time because those acrylics do dry fast. You should thoroughly clean your acrylic brushes before you take a break if you’ll be gone more than a few minutes. Wash those oil brushes as soon as you finish for the day. Yes, clean those brushes before you leave class. Too many times we mean to do it when we get home and then we get distracted and find our brushes ruined a few days later.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Wipe off the excess paint on a paper towel or cloth.
2. Swish that brush around in your solvent if you’re using oil. Use water if you’re painting with water miscible oils, acrylics or watercolors. No, no, no you’re not done yet!
3. Now take those brushes to the sink, put some liquid soap in your palm and scrub that brush. Soap up a good lather and work the suds into the ferrule and all through the hair.
4. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse & repeat. Continue until all paint is gone and the soap bubbles are clean. This may take 5 or more times. You can wash several small brushes at once but it’s easier to do large brushes one at a time.
5. Squeeze out the water and dry your brushes on a towel.
6. Now put a dollop of hair styling gel (yes, the kind you put on your head) in your hand. Rub it through the hairs of the brush.
7. You want to shape the brush as you do this, pressing the hair between your fingers. Shape flats and brights to a chisel point by flattening them between your thumb and forefinger. Spread fans out to (you guessed it!) a fan shape. Rounds are pointed by using your thumb and 1st two fingers pressed together and stroking the brush through the tunnel between. Pull the hair out to a sharp point. The styling gel will stiffen the brushes to protect their shape yet easily rinses out when you’re ready to paint.
8. Let your brushes dry before rolling them up in a canvas or bamboo brush keeper. I lay mine in the top tray of my paint box and roll them up when they are dry.

That’s all there is to it. Next time I’ll tell you how to save those dry hard brushes that you forgot to wash. Until then keep those brushes clean!!!

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