In my last letter Pre-Raphaelite painter John Collier recommended cleaning brushes in the palm of the hand. It turns out lots of folks do this. Lyn Lasneski wrote, “I teach workshops and one of the big problems my students have is taking good care of their brushes. So, what do you do to clean and care for your brushes? Do you use a micro-spot of Vaseline on your brushes after washing them to keep the hairs soft? Do you use Pink Soap? What do you do with your emerald green?”
Thanks, Lyn. These are questions I’ve always feared. I’m no poster boy for brush health. I go through a lot of them and like them best of all when they’re crisp and new. I work in acrylics and I never really clean my hog-hairs or synthetics. I keep them in water — generally a large, frequently replenished bucket that sits by my right foot. I put a little Mr. Clean in there, and the brushes, while vertical, almost float. A quick swizzling brings them up clean every time. I rag them off — wet handles are unpleasant. It’s all in the name of efficiency and speed. With the help of gravity I drop them back into the bucket and even sables seem none the worse for it.
Now I have to tell you that when I worked in oil I did the same thing, only less frequently. I dropped my brushes into turps or another thinner, then at night dried them off and laid them on a rag. I don’t give my acrylic brushes that benefit. Right now I can hear the groans going up all over art-cyberspace. But my bad habit goes back to an experience I had in art school. There was this chap — I won’t mention his name — who spent all of his time cleaning and getting ready. He’d even clean stuff before he was going to paint — and then he wouldn’t paint. He never really did. After a semester or two he got kicked out and went into dentistry. He sold me a lot of his stuff before he vacated his apartment — it was like a well-equipped art store, labels facing out and everything. I used his wonderful big sables, goat-hairs and quills for about five years. I still have two or three.
I’m sorry — brush cleaning can be just another avoidance activity. I figure the sooner I get the brush in my hand, the better. Coming and going from my easel, I pick one up and drop it down hundreds of times a day. It’s a sacrifice, I know, but I feel I’m a painter, not a cleaner. I failed cleaning. I don’t use emerald green, either.
PS: “Although a painter should never be in a hurry, he should always wish to do his work in the shortest possible time.” (John Collier)
Esoterica: Watercolour is more forgiving of brushes than most media, but in some ways it’s the watercolourist who must really take care. Even a small amount of matted colour near the ferrule can spoil the fun and take the life and point out of the brush. Mild soaps like Ivory seem the best. Never use soaps with pumice or other abrasives. Every watercolour brush needs to be reformed after cleaning. I’ve found damage is done to sables when they are loose and sit against their hair in boxes. Use brush-holders or wrap them in rags when transporting. When painting, the “brush-slap” is okay if you need to look smart, but a little private blot or drag on a handy rag is more discreet, does not aggravate the neighbors, and sets the brush up just as well.
Toxic air in the studio
by Susan Avishai, Toronto, ON, Canada
Into the corner with you! I’m sure I’ll be one of hundreds who write back in horror at your method of cleaning your brushes of oil paint. An open container of turps in the studio with a wide enough neck to accommodate your brushes “in progress” means that fumes (even odourless) are present in the air you breathe, capable of causing all manner of illness from allergy to brain damage over the long term. We aren’t mad painters for no reason.
(RG note) Thanks, Susan. You’re right, it’s been hazardous to look into this inbox for three days. This also accounts for why I have been getting my shoes reversed and why I recently mistook my wife for a hat.
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Avoiding skin absorption
by Deborah McLaren, Mystic, CT, USA
I was groaning and cringing when I read about your brushes. Here’s what I do when I work in oils: wipe off all excess paint, clean them in mineral spirits, then clean them in baby oil. I never, NEVER clean brushes in the palm of my hand, for safety reasons. Anything you put on your skin gets absorbed immediately, and eventually WILL cause health problems if you make this a habit. I can store my brushes with the baby oil on them, but swish them around in mineral spirits before I use them again to get rid of the baby oil. Baby oil will also clean off your skin safely, instead of turps or mineral spirits. For my acrylic brushes, soap and water does the trick.
I don’t quite understand the aversion to cleaning brushes. They are my main tools, and I like to take care of my tools. If you can afford to use and discard, hey, that’s great, but I like to use my brushes until they die. Therefore, they must be maintained. Brushes get enough abuse in the painting process.
Another painting avoidance technique
by Lynn Arbor, Pleasant Ridge, MI, USA
I used to clean my watercolor brushes in my hand. But then I got into reading paint tube labels (another painting avoidance technique). Even water-based paint can be toxic. Cadmiums, cobalts, all those wonderful colors, those toxins rubbed into the palm. Yikes. I mainly paint in oil. At the end of a session I wrap the brushes in plastic wrap. If I’m not going to paint for a day I clean the brushes with Murphy’s oil soap. Put it in a plastic throw-away cup straight and swish the brushes, then rinse well.
(RG note) Thanks, Lynn. And thanks to everybody. The volume of responses to my letter was once again boggling. We have tried to balance this clickback to maintain representative percentages of opinion and info. We came to the conclusion that the world is made up of two main kinds of people — Cleaners, and Non-Cleaners. Statistically, as in the real world, there are more Cleaning Women than Cleaning Men. Both male and female Cleaners, when they mentioned a product, favored Murphy’s Oil Soap above others.
Toxins are toxins
by Susan Blackwood, Bozeman, MT, USA
The last thing that you want to do is rub them into your hands, which then soak into the skin and into the body. We have enough toxins swimming around us as we paint, that we shouldn’t add to the problem by cleaning our brushes in the palm of our hands. Years ago watercolorists were taught that at the end of the day, wash off your brush, then stick it into your mouth to make a nice point for the brush the next day. Needless to say, most of us now know better!
Methodology for different media
by Elizabeth Briel, Hong Kong
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve ruined a piece of trousers by accidentally wiping my brush on them! For cleaning solutions, I stick to oil-based soaps for oil paints: a French friend recommended any kind of Savon de Marseille‘s olive oil base, and it’s perfect. Coconut oil soaps are nice, too. These condition the brushes at the same time. A Russian friend would use dish soap — I only use that as a last resort or when I don’t care about those brushes. Shampoo as a second-to-last resort for natural-hair oil brushes.
As for water-based paints, I usually just swirl them around in water, unless paint’s half-dried on them. Then they’re tossed into the bin.
Encaustic brushes are the simplest — yet most complicated — ones to clean: swirl around the hot metal palette. Wipe quickly on paper towel. Repeat, grinding brush into towel. Repeat again, a half-dozen times.
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Unable to change habits
by Dan DuBois, Toronto, ON, Canada
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I abuse my brushes and am given to bouts of shame and despair about it, but short of a twelve-step program, am unable to change. When painting, my attention gets so focused on other processes that the brushes — usually oils — get thrown into a pickle jar of turps when I’ve got them well kludged, and I have to remind myself to pull the things out or risk deforming the bristles. I know painters who keep their brushes in special cases and in other ways treat like old friends, disciplined people who wear gloves when painting in oils ( I don’t, know I should) and somehow never get anything on themselves. I’d like to think they produce constipated, pretty works but they’re usually damn fine painters into the bargain. I just know that I’m not one of them. I figure there’s only so much self-policing I can personally do around the mechanics of working with brushes, pallet knives, pallets, easels, brush soap, paints, turps, thinners, media, aprons, gloves, mirrors, view-finders, rags, colour wheels, before it overwhelms the messy, unpredictable animal side, which I’m guessing is the side I paint out of.
by Jamie Lavin, Gardner, KS, USA
Taking care of my brushes is a lot like how I take care of my teeth! I go through the ritual of cleaning when I get to go to bed — helps me to “call it a day” when I clean them. I tell myself I’ve done the best that I could do in the shift I worked at the easel. All about allowing myself to go to sleep. I am more superstitious about my routine at the easel than a rookie baseball player is with his bats! I did retire a brush once — it had done such a fabulous job on a painting of the Niobrara Buttes near Valentine, NE, that I sold it with the painting!
I was visiting a well known local painter and I noticed he had a rather eccentric habit of throwing away his brushes after just one shift at his easel! Or just one blending! There was an enormous, wide-mouthed glass jar of them on his rather beautiful taboret, and I KNEW how much those brushes cost! They were Winsor and Newton hogs-hair filberts, but I just kept my mouth shut and marveled. I concluded that when you get that good, you can pretty much do whatever you want to, as long as the dog and your wife don’t mind. When I’m that successful I’ll probably sneak upstairs and clean them anyway!
Perils of owning brushes
by Carolyn Edlund, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA
Letting brushes sit in the solvent (water/turps/other) can cause deterioration of the glue that keeps the brushes in the ferrule and causes shrinkage in the wood handle to which the ferrule attaches resulting in a wobbly tip.
Sables, left to sit, develop a curl that is difficult, if not impossible to correct. Chemicals (oil solvents) are harsh and have long-term damaging effects — especially on synthetic bristles.
Before the advent of commercial, dedicated cleaners, I’d wash the oil brushes with liquid dish detergent and rinse thoroughly, allow to dry overnight. Acrylic brushes just got a good swish in clean water. Now, I use The Masters Brush Cleaner/Preserver. It does a fabulous job of cleaning and nourishing natural bristles, as well as rejuvenating the odd damaged brush.
Oil brushes: if there is sufficient quantity of fresh solvent, they don’t need cleaning everyday. I use a barrier cream on my hands. At the end of the day’s painting session, I take the used brushes with me, down to either bathroom or kitchen, where I keep the pot of cleaner by the sink, and clean the brushes just before washing my hands. Give the brushes a shake in the sink and lay them aside for drying. Next morning, I scoop them up and carry them back to the studio ready for use.
Watercolor brushes don’t really need any special care if sufficient quantities of water are at hand during the work session. Again, and especially with watercolor sables — even the synthetics — don’t let them sit in the water unless you don’t care that they curl up — causing the loss of the point on round brushes. (Care should be taken to prevent moth damage to sables left to sit for any length of time.)
UV light kills brush hair
by Lynn Allison Starun, Summit, NJ, USA
Your discussion of brush cleaning reminded me of my heart breaking brush tragedy. Five years ago I finally got a studio shared with a bunch of other artists in a warehouse space with big windows. I put my brushes in mustard jars along the window sill and they looked so right there — all romantic and beautiful. Since I work in pastel a lot and have a separate set of brushes for plein air work, a year or so passed without my using them much. I picked a nice sable up to use it and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was bleached and brittle and looked like hair that has been fried by too many chemical treatments. The bristles were not quite as bad but they were all in sad shape. UV radiation comes through window glass!
Art table dust
by Vishwarupa (Edie Wu), Los Angeles, CA, USA
As a student of calligraphy and found over the many years taking classes and learning techniques, gathering nice quality supplies, paper, and dusting off my art table in readiness to work, that I too, ended up not doing anything creative, and would have to dust the art table off once again from the last time I dusted, prepping to sit down and work. Just this morning, as I was zealously in the flow cutting paper and actually quite creative, I noticed the art table had it’s layer of dust from the last time I worked and I found I didn’t want to actually stop and dust, but did so the paper I was working with wouldn’t gather dust. But WOW, perhaps I’m a real artist after all, disheveled, cluttered art space and don’t want to clean… just work! There’s really something to what you also said about being an “avoidance activity” and it resonated with a shout this morning, that the sooner I get my hands on the paper/pen/ink or whatever, the better! Thanks for sharing your experiences and the humor it provoked in me is priceless.
Valuable brush basin
by Lynda Pogue, Georgetown, ON, Canada
I’m in love with Royal & Langnickel Square Brush Basin. It has three brush rests which suspends your brush bristles in solvent/water, so they do not bend. Grooves in the bottom aid in cleaning the brushes. It has room to store 22 brushes of different sizes, and has two interior compartments for wash water. Features an anti-stick surface accepts virtually any solvent. The basin comes with an air-tight lid. I have 4 of these…. and you CAN leave a brush (just the hair) suspended in water for a short time… the paint just falls off into the water… it’s VERY cool!
Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner and restorer is great if, after you’ve washed and a brush has dried and you find it’s still stiff with paint (acrylic or watercolour), this stuff really works.
Soaps for watercolour brushes
by Laurie Sain, Lander, WY, USA
I clean my watercolor brushes regularly. I use one of those small brush cleaning soaps from Dick Blick (my favorite supplier, for both price and quality), and use it after every session. It only takes a minute, but I “paint” the soap back and forth, especially with my more expensive brushes, rinse often and repeat, until the suds are pure white. Of course, I only do that at the end of the session — in between I use the watercolorist’s two pots of water: one to swish clean initially, and one of relatively clean water (change it often) to do a final “clean” and actually paint with. And change often.
I do reform the brushes, however — again, especially the expensive ones, which I learned too late do not respond well to rough handling (e.g., mixing colors — I use an old El Cheapo for that) or not being reformed.
Solutions for allergy to cleaners
by Manuela Valenti, MI, USA
Being allergic and asthmatic to turpentine and almost all solvents I had to find a way to clean my brushes without the use of any of these products over 20 years ago. My secret? Warm water, laundry detergent and circular motion on the palm of my hand have being working just perfect for me and my brushes and I still have a few brushes from when I started painting with oils years and years ago. I don’t condition any of them, I don’t see the point in doing it if I’m going to paint again 8 hours later.
I clean them everyday and if for any reason I can’t, I just put hot water in my cup with some detergent and let them sit there until next day when is time to clean them again. I do say that I don’t put both acrylic and oil brushes on the same cup, I keep them separate and clean them separately.
Old brushes in great shape
by Cathi Isza, IN, USA
I have all of my original brushes from school, so all my brushes are about seven years old. I learned to use Fels Naptha bar soap: clean your brush with turp first and wipe with a paper towel, then go to the sink and soap up your brush carefully (not to scrub into the ferrule) and rub into the palm of your hand and keep doing so until all the color is gone. When I’m finished I swipe the brush to keep the hairs in place with more soap. My brushes are in great shape and I do this after every painting session. I’m not a cleaner either but brush health is just my way of doing it!
Motor oil system
by Cristina Acosta, Bend, OR, USA
During 1989-1991 I had a stint as a mural and lettering artist for a billboard company. Being forced to paint forty hours a week without any “contemplation” breaks was a good thing. I’d just graduated from art school and been stuffed full of concepts and contemplation. Through the synchronicity of preparation meeting timing and luck I became the lead painter at the sign shop and spent the next years painting boards that were always 11 feet by 24 feet and larger. I honed my skills painting lots of things, including three foot tall golf balls and 10 foot tall cowboys wrestling beer bottles. During that time I worked with oil based paints — alkyd enamels, artists oils and sign painters “bulletin” colors. My brushes cost near $100 each and could carry a stroke up to 6 feet. I never once cleaned them with water. A quick rinse in paint thinner and then I’d lay them flat on a slanted paint tray (the type of tray you use with paint rollers). At the downhill side of the tray the bristles of the brushes rested in 10/30 weight motor oil. Water and soap never touched the brushes — something that completely surprised me. This method of brush care was routine in the sign industry. I called a few experts with various fine art brush manufacturers and they’d never heard of this. I still use this method. You barely have to clean them — just a quick rinse in thinner and a soak in motor oil. They stay flexible and keep their shape beautifully. When a stray bristle begins to stick out from the brush, trim it with a razor.
In praise of Goop
by Andries Veerman
The best I have found for efficient Oil painting and keeping life in your Hog hair brushes is to work with about five to ten brushes at a time, so you’re not constantly cleaning and abusing your hogs with killer solvents/turps. Days end: clean your brushes with solvent/turps first and then clean them with an excellent product called Goop (water-soluble) for about $6 per liter. You can literally watch the Goop take out the oils!!! Goop will give your brushes about ten times more life and you can reshape them like new after a water rinse. Goop is also an excellent product for cleaning off oil paint on your clothes. Long live your hogs… and Goop!
‘Great’ brush cleaner
by Belinda Morris, Perth, Australia
Down here, there is a great product that has doubled the life of my brushes and halved the time of cleaning. It’s American, and it’s called The Masters Brush Cleaner/Preserver by the General Pencil Co. I hate cleaning and that’s probably why I avoid oils and acrylics and stick to gouache and watercolours. Even so, when I have to use the heavy duty paints, after having let them sit in the appropriate liquids and rinsed in the same, I’ll then get out this beige coloured container housing my precious soap, swivel the wet brushes, then rinse under running water using the palm of my hand. It’s the best way to get the brushes clean as possible without being overly narky about it.
Oil that baby!
by Sally Chupick, Kingston, ON, Canada
Clean your oil paint brushes with baby oil! You can use baby oil to remove ALL paint from the brushes, just wipe off excess paint on a paper towel or rag, and rinse in a little baby oil in a jar. It works like a charm, the paint is pulled right out of the brush and it leaves it soft and supple as well! You do go through a lot of baby oil… but the generic stuff is quite cheap and it smells better and is way easier on your hands than turps.
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Problems with non-drying oils
by Doug Purdon, Canada
I have run across the idea of using “a micro spot of Vaseline” when teaching my oil painting workshops. It is one of the worse things you can do. Vaseline is a non-drying petroleum product. Hence why it works so well on damp babies bottoms! To add a non-drying oil even in a minute amount into the paint film is asking for trouble later on. There is also another version where you mix baby oil and Vaseline and use this to clean the brushes and never use water. I had one student turn up in class with brushes prepared this way. The handles were so slippery that if you held them tightly they would shoot across the studio!
Paintings just won’t dry
by Stuart Rapeport
I have a couple of oil paintings on which I must have used too much linseed oil. The paintings are nearly ten years old and are still sticky. Do you have any ideas on what I can do get the paint to dry?
(RG note) Thanks, Stuart. If they were painted only with linseed oil they would likely be dry by now. I’m thinking that there must have been some baby oil, Vaseline or other non-drying oil in the mix. That’ll do it every time. Retards the drying of the linseed oil too. You can paint with Penn State Motor Oil, or Castrol (car oil is a terrific medium — very smooth) and I can pretty much guarantee the painting won’t dry for decades. To solve your problem, though, you might try spraying a few times with retouch varnish with about six months between applications.
Almost became a dentist
by Treza Bordinat, Encinitas, CA, USA
Everyone else may be groaning about your brush habits, but OH! I am with you! Life is so damn short. No one ever became famous for their tidiness.
I hate to even imagine the time we spend cleaning, organizing, plotting, planning… If we let it, it will fill each and every one of our days.
I sincerely believe that — to this very day — this is the largest drawback for the (especially female) artist. It is a huge part of the reason most artists need so much “alone time.” There is so much to do, to see, to learn and to worry about out there in the big bad world. It has become increasingly difficult to get away from it. To tune out. So hard to give up one’s heart, mind, ears and hands to that barely audible, barely even possible call of “The Muse.” We twiddle away our lives cleaning brushes or the like, in the vague vain hope one day we will somehow happen to hear it.
Most of us never do. In large part because, only when we are already in a listening state, at work with a detached and willing mind, can that miraculous state called “Flow” hope to occur. The work itself demands our attention. All of our attention. Until that “flow” chooses to come, all we can do is continue to work away and learn from it and trust that it will arrive. But the work itself is the caveat. We must work. The only thing we really know for sure is that it will never arrive whilst we are expending all our work with the cleaning fluid!
“Leave me be and let me work.” This prayer of the artist is not a complete lack of sociability, it is a real need, not just a cavalier desire. The ability to go inside oneself; the ability to plumb the mystery of the ideas deep inside one’s self, is simply a talent the human consciousness does not hand out willy nilly to the average paint brush owner! To have the ability to avail oneself of that miracle; that inner mystery — which in fact becomes a concrete manifestation somehow in the making of one’s art — that is, in fact a miracle!
It has taken me a long time to realize only the making is important. It is all we really have control over. If you’ve been given The Gift, only making the art is important. It is difficult to let it be the most important thing in the world to you, but it must be. It has to be. If you love an artist, you must find it in your heart to understand, and to help your artist go within. You are then a part of what lies within. Understand, life is simply too short to let all the work out! There is really no choice. It is the artist’s only true job, and only true hope of fulfillment.
If it’s not the actual making of art; one must finally realize, one should really make do without or hand off its doing to someone else. Cleaning the brushes does not get the Masterpiece made. Having labeled the drawers today does not make your piece any better. Get away from all the avoidance activity however you must. Find an assistant somehow to cover the busywork, be it cleaning, canvas stretching or web design. Trade. One human life is terribly limited. You don’t have to do it all. Only the Art. You must find a way to do the Art. Remember, Michelangelo had assistants. Leonardo had assistants. Even dentists have assistants.
It’s taken a terribly long time for me to figure this out. To finally become an “emerging” artist in the middle of my life. Long enough to get my “useful” degrees and to be a commercial success at them. Long enough to furnish my studio, and long enough to label it all. Long enough to take the classes and learn the science behind the strange physical results I desired, and long enough to learn everything I could from everyone I could. It’s been a very long road to writing this letter. To know that I am ready and that this constitutes what is worthwhile to me. To finally know it’s enough to simply make my Art. To work and work and work and trust the masterpiece will come. That there is only time in life to make Art.
Funny, I almost became a dentist.
Colours of the mind
by Prem Sing, Kala Kutir Garhi, New Delhi, India
What we are talking on the Colour Palette used mostly prior to the advent of Modern Art. Every artist invented his or her own colour palette. Academicians look at the colour palette from a specific angle to accomplish desired objectives of a portrait painting or composition. Where as Professionals have no such pre-set-objectives and are more free to explore colour for colour’s sake. One of India’s well known contemporary artists Bhupen Khakhar never painted figures or objects as they appear but instead coloured them in his creative and imaginative manner. Even in my present series on Sea I am not painting the sea but instead colouring the Sea using the space as a wide spread canvas. Colour in the present context is purely an individualistic sojourn that each artist discovers for himself according to his sensitivity and sensibility. Colours are born in the mind of an artist. Sounds of colour is the most eloquent sound I have ever heard. It makes me sink below myself into a place far deep where I can hear what my colours are thinking.
How true once Pablo Picasso said, “They’ll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like, but that particular green, never.”
Southern primer for the primaries
by Scharolette Chappell, Auburn Hills, MI, USA
Red, pronounced (ray’-id) Now rayid is just that, no fancy names and such, like alizarin crimson, er cadmium red. Ya’ll add any of the colurs and ya’ll still gets the rayid.
Blue, (ba-loo) same idear fallers. Ceralean baloo, ultramarine baloo? Still baloo, just gets some of it and putid o’er yonder own(on) yer patcher.
Yellow, (yeller) is just yeller ’till ya’ll add the baloo, then thar ye gots ta ga-reen, taint yeller namore, add the rayid and ya’ll gots ta arnge. Yeller pert’n ner ta weaness of all ta colurs, yet packs a wallop, like the meanest stripe’id ass snake, hen it stands ther all alone, mor’n I er seen in my born days.
So, thar ya’ll has it, taint no other colurs lest ta rayid, baloo, and ta yeller. Less’ns ya’ll adds ta balack ‘n ta what (white) tin ta garay, so what’s all this fuss’n o’re colurs?
Enjoy the past comments below for Cleaning paint brushes…
It looks like you really had a nice time. notem671
Fabric Softener – the stuff you put in the washing machine – is also
good for cleaning brushes. You can soak them overnight then use
hand soap and rinse well with lukewarm water.
How do most artists feel about sharing their brushes? I find it disturbing- but my husband, also an artist, thinks I’m selfish. He has his own supplies and suddenly, after I bought some new brushes, wants mine to be ‘ours’… am I just being selfish?
Setting Sun, Westcliffa
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Ted Pankowski of Woodinville, WA, USA who wrote, “My idea of brush cleaning would be to wind the clock back to an earlier age before marriage, hire a model/studio apprentice (a good looking one), and let her clean my brushes as she can. Or, if she doesn’t want to, that would be OK too!”
And also Denise Bezanson of Vancouver, BC, Canada who wrote, “My partner gets me to do them for him. Yes, I am a great brush cleaner. He works in oils, so I use turpentine and paper towel first to get the most off, then I wash them with Sunlight dish detergent until they run clean and I also use Old Master’s Soap to get the final soft finish. Then I use a little Vaseline to keep the bristles in shape.”
And also Kim Rody of Stuart, FL, USA who wrote, “My art interns clean my brushes for me about once a week. They scrape off my painting table, and fill up my water jars, too.”
And also Earnest Hobbs who wrote, “Let that hardened brush sit in Murphy’s Oil Soap and you will be pleasantly surprised.”
And also Joe Jahn of Denmark who wrote, “My cleaning process involves dropping the brush in turps, wiping off and then dropping in the fire as a sacrifice to the gods. The brushes cost an average of 20 cents. I use emerald green.”
And also Faith Puleston of Wetter, Germany who wrote, “My thicker brushes very often get wrapped in tin foil or pushed down the fingers of plastic gloves to keep them moist for next time and I try to keep them to one color one brush; quite easy really unless one’s palette gets out of hand.”
And also Edward Vincent of Australia who wrote, “Have you ever used Heat-Set oils? You never need to even wipe your brushes… nor clean your palette! I’ve just ordered my first batch. Have you any experience with them?”
(RG note) Thanks, Edward. Sorry, no. But I bet there’s someone who has, and will write to you.
And also Jennifer Bellinger of Ketchum, ID, USA who wrote, “Here’s a neat brush holder idea I have used for years. A container 10″ or so in diameter 4″-6″ deep, filled with small dried beans makes a wonderful brush holder for standing brushes in while you paint. No brushes rolling around and takes up less counter space than horizontal brush-rests. Of course this is for oils, not watercolor or acrylic as the water would run down into the ferrules.”
And also Mark Hope of Wasaga Beach, ON, Canada who wrote, “A good brush is one that started out as a flat, has been worn into a left leaning filbert, stained with every colour in creation and so much paint on the handle you can’t tell what size it is.”
And also Tap M Silverstein of Houston, TX, USA who wrote, “Thank-you — thank-you — thank-you! I, too, leave my brushes soaking for periods of time, and I felt sooooooooo guilty now I do not have to. I do, however, dip the handles of brushes in ‘plastic dip.’ ”
And also David Lacey of Hall’s Harbour, NS, Canada who wrote, “I like my brushes more than a little stiff and so just don’t clean them. I paint in acrylic and the hog bristle brushes I get at the hardware store for a few cents become my most valued tools after they get properly stiffened.”
And also Ruth Addinall of the UK who wrote, “Here in the UK we have a product called ‘Zest It’ which is a lemon-based turps substitute. I use it both for thinning and for cleaning, and there’s no fumes. I leave my brushes sitting in Zest It for weeks on end sometimes (guilt, guilt!) till the jar is too full.”
And also Dianne Mize of Sautee-Nacoochee, GA, USA who wrote, “I use a Smucker’s peanut butter jar filled about half way up with 100% pure mineral spirits with a dollar plastic pot scrubber in the bottom. The mineral spirits is a wonderful solvent, doesn’t gum up the brushes like turps, isn’t too stinky, and when the brushes are swept back and forth over the pot scrubber, all the oil paint falls out and eventually settles to the bottom of the jar.”
And also Gary Hoff who wrote, “An old teacher of mine used to exhort us to ‘start to commence to begin’ doing productive rather than nonproductive work.”
And also Valerie Quinn of Charlottetown, PE, Canada who wrote: “I failed cleaning as well but I’m afraid I’ve got a zillion avoidance activities that are making me a failure as an artist as well!”
And also Lawrence C. Miller of Newport, PA, USA who wrote: “Have you gone fishing with guys who do nothing but mess around with their tackle, or hunt with guys that obsess with clothes and accessories?”
And also Sandra Butler who wrote, “When I’m not painting, I’m reading. So what do I want too read about? Painting. I look for novels about artists. My latest find was a book on CD by Iain Pears, The Portrait. I also loved My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk and Erdag Goknar. I was wondering if you or some of your readers could recommend good books about painters.” (RG note) Thanks, Sandra. We’ll add those two to our Books on Artist’s Shelves.
I saw a commercial on tv where they used dawn dishwasher detergent on cleaning wildlife from our recent oil spill in the gulf of mexico and thought if it was safe enough for wildlife it was good enough for my brushes as well as my health