Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A little more about brushes

With all the comments from the last post explaining excellent ways to care for brushes that would work for most people, I suppose I should explain about my brushes some more.

My brushes are worn out, not neglected. At the end of their lives they are dull and becoming ragged. Almost never do I have a brush ruined because it has dried in paint in it. I have only about four. A #1, a #4, a#12 and a rigger which lasts a long time as I do maintain those carefully and use them very little. You have seen painters with great handfuls of brushes and they keep a separate one for every color. I clean mine in between colors on a paper towel and that wears them. I also scrub, jab and mash them into the paint.

Rinsing them out in thinner works for me because I paint every day, they really don't have time to dry out. I could probably stretch their lives a little, but I don't have the patience to wash them. When I teach workshops virtually every students brushes are ruined. I like em new and sharp.

If you are gently stroking with your brushes I suppose they will last longer and if you have many you will spread the wear over the entire assemblage. If you paint every day using two or three you go through them.

I was taught in the Gammell studios how to rub the brush in bar soap and clean it on my palm. I used to spend perhaps 15 minutes every night cleaning brushes, but over the years I have abandoned that. I think the Masters brush cleaner is a good product if you want to clean them incidentally. But as I said I beat them and wear them out, so cleaned or not they rapidly become dull. I am the same way with shoes incidentally.


billspaintingmn said...

Stape! I suppose if you wanted to be a really good brush washer, you could be the best!
Race car drivers have a pit crew to take care of details, so they can focus on winning the race.. if
a $20 brush pukes out to create a work of art (worth thousands), so be it. Nature of the beast!
Although I have some favorite brushes, I stop short of giving them names, like dabby, or slash.
My nocturnal comments stem from an
insomnia, partly because I'm not quite sure where to navigate my next approach to the canvas.
I want to be 'original' and paint
my own scenes.
I want to compose them, instead of painting what's in front of me.
Yet I hesitate to wonder,should I
be loosing sleep over all this?
I don't want to paint baby animals, or things from the fridge
I want to reflect things I've picked up here and else where that interest the viewer.
Bla-bla-bla, no I haven't been drinking, I'm just thinking out loud.
(I have a zebra carcus ass in the freezer to feed the hungry lion...
so the lion sleeps tonight :)

Robert J. Simone said...

You've got to be kidding, you don't clean and polish your shoes everyday? I am so disappointed. My image of you is completely shot now.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Pour yourself another Moxie Stape,
You've earned it. Thanks for all the info on brushes. I guess I'm not using mine (brushes) enough.
As they last awhile. I too use Masters brush soap and the palm of my hand. However my paint of choice is acrylic. So there is no wait awhile to clean....or your favorite brush becomes a stiff toothpick!! I do use the plastic bag method for keeping them soft while painting.

I hope you are rested as I see another workshop is coming up.
Tell your students not to be so hard on you this time....We need your input on painting.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

I am way too anal retentive to not wash my brushes everyday, but maybe I should try it once. Imagine all the things I could do with that time.
I think it was Daniel Parkhurst that suggested washing in Kerosene and then not using soap. The oils keep the brush more supple.
If you do use soap, I want to suggest Fels Naptha. It is very cheap, does the trick as well as any expensive brush soap and if you read their site it practically curse cancer.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...


I almost never clean my brushes either, if I am in a painting mode and expect to be working daily.

But I also keep an open jar of safflower oil around on my taboret, and if needed, I'll work some of it into the hairs to get out most, if not all, of the residual paint out before shutting down for the day. Then I'll press the excess out onto a paper towel and lay them down on the taboret. The next day (or week) I will swish the brushes in some odorless thinner to remove the safflower oil and before starting to paint again. The S.O. keeps the natural bristle flexible, and since it is such a slow drying oil I rarely encounter a crusty brush.

Other folks use the more expensive walnut oil but I buy cheap store-bought cooking oil. Since I rinse the brushes free of the S.O. none ends up in the final paint film.

Surprisingly, I can even tip the bristle brushes on end in the container for weeks and not see bent flags or swelling of the ferrule. But I don't do that with sable or nylons. Those I lay flat.

Thomas Kitts

Unknown said...


okay, you are off the hook for brush cleaning. We mere mortals must
learn the jedi way I guess.

But, I am glad that you only have 4.
I sometimes find I paint a whole painting with one brush.. just forget to change them I guess. That one size does get lots of wear and tear.

Bill, I do name my brushes. Dave,
Red, Furball, Elliot......

ps. Our house has sold. We are soon off to the Land of Enchantment. Stape, want to teach a painting workshop in the mountains outside Santa Fe?

Katherine Kean said...

I must agree - I think washing brushes is a huge waste of time and resources. I use safflower oil too, just leaving the brushes in an inch or two of oil in a brush holder.

Edward said...

Stape, One has to stay on the razors edge with fresh brushes hammering that hard it seems..... I'm guessing there are some of us here in the audience with burnt up/scorched brush envy. Many of us just don't paint 24 hrs a day and can only compete amongst ourselves with our clean and pretty bruhses. Is that a duck billed platypus?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't have any 20 dollar brushes. That's for watercolor guys. Those sound like admirable goals. Having goals is essential to achieving them. I enjoyed my trip to Minnesota, I am now on my way to the East Coast again.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I at least have shoes. When I was young I use to fix them with duct tape.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think that acrylic drying in brushes is one of the reasons that oil is easier to deal with.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have never tried fels naptha on brushes. When I was a kid it was recommended when we had walked through poison ivy.Will it wash away shame?

Stapleton Kearns said...

That sounds like my kind of thing. I think I will try that.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Congratulations on the sale, but I am sorry ton hear you are moving away. Santa Fe sounds like a great idea, lets talk.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will try that. But I like NEW brushes. I like that sharp edge and the shiny ferrule.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That is a duck billed platypus, he was the only sort of platypus that seemed appropriate for this post on brush cleaning.