Tag Archives: Art Supplies

Brush Work

I’ve been doing more studying about art than actually making art. One thing I learned is that most of my brushes aren’t meant for oil painting. Since I’m transitioning into oils from acrylics, I thought I ought to transition to the appropriate brushes too. Everybody seemed to be telling me that there are important differences between oil painting brushes and water media brushes. Water media includes acrylics, which was my primary media until recently.

One of my Youtube mentors instructed that sable brushes (real or synthetic) are no good for oil paints because the abrasiveness of the paint will grind away the soft hairs. (Poor, sad brushes). He said, “A brush with no hair is a stick, and you can’t paint with a stick.” He also said that I shouldn’t be using short handled brushes, because those are for watercolorists who work close to their work at a table. For oil painting at an easel, he said I should be using long-handled brushes. He recommended buying the expensive brushes and the cheapest paint. His rationale was that all paint is basically the same, but that the quality of your tools affects the quality of your work.

Then I watched another artist’s video and she used short-handled brushes of all types for both oils and acrylics. She recommended buying the cheapest brushes (though not so cheap that the bristles fall out), and the best quality paint. Her rationale was that the brushes are going to wear out regardless of how well you care for them (faster if you aren’t fastidious with cleaning) and they’ll get tossed and replaced frequently, but the paint becomes a part of the art you create, so you want it to be the best you can buy.

Both sounded like reasonable conclusions. Before I came to any conclusions of my own, I wanted to try out the boar bristle brushes that the arts & crafts stores sell as “oil painting brushes,” because I had little personal experience with those. The experience I did have with them was generally bad. Taking a look at the brushes for sale at a local shop, I determined that my issue with boar bristle brushes was because I had only ever used extremely cheap ones that are about the poorest quality you can get.

Looking at the photo above, a difference in the quality of these brushes — both new — is obvious. The brush on the right is the type I had tried in the past, and I only own it because it came in a large set of miscellaneous brushes. I probably paid around $5 for more than a dozen brushes in that package. The one on the left was a mid-range quality that sells for about $15 per brush, but I got it on clearance for around $4. The nicer looking brush is also more flexible, yet stiff enough to move the paint where it needs to go. The straighter, more even bristles allow it to hold paint and let it flow onto the canvas evenly. There is no way I could control the application of paint with that splayed mess of bristles on the cheap brush.

Now that I’ve tried the better quality boar bristle brushes, I’ve formed some opinions of my own:

  • Price matters much more with boar bristle brushes meant for oils than with soft hair brushes meant for water media.
  • Boar bristles are definitely the better way to go for oil paints, which are much thicker and stickier. Trying to paint with with oils using a soft synthetic sable brush is like trying to push a paperweight around with a peacock feather — it ain’t goin’ nowhere.
  • Oil paint is much, much easier to wash out of brushes — whatever the quality of the brush. Score one for oils over acrylics. (Watercolors are still the easiest to wash out though.)
  • Short handles work fine for me, even when I’m working at a canvas on an easel, because I have to stand pretty close to it anyway. Darn progressive lenses!
  • Walking around the room looking for your glasses while holding a loaded brush in one’s teeth is a very bad idea.

Finished At Last!

Still LIfe With Hydrangea No. 1 and No. 2

The oil on canvas version of Still Life with Hydrangea (on the right) that I started back in mid-summer is finally finished.  It just needs some drying time and a coat of varnish.  The acrylic version on the left was finished last month, but I thought I’d wait until both were done to “unveil” them.

I started with oil paints that are water-miscible (water-mixable or water soluble — all three mean the same).  I determined that they weren’t all they were marketed to be.  Some colors/brands mix with water better than others.  Some mix better with turpentine substitute (mineral spirits).  Some don’t mix very well with either.  Most colors got gummy at some point and resisted spreading.   I ended up giving in and buying a bottle of Turpenoid® and a set of inexpensive conventional oil paints — the supposedly noxious chemicals that I’d been avoiding all my life for fear that they were dangerous to work with.

I found that I had been silly to wait so long to try oils.  I had always assumed that oil painting required a big bucket of solvent. For that I blame Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting… also my unpleasant experiences with oil-based house paint.  I bought a nifty little stainless steel cup with a spill-proof lid and a grate inside for rubbing the brushes against to clean them.  It only needs a few ounces of solvent and it can be reused over and over again before needing to clean the cup and change the solvent, because the paint solids sink to the bottom under the grate. I can’t believe in all my years of making art, I never learned about this.

I’m sure you knew all about this and you’re shaking your head at my ignorance.  Anyway, I’m very happy with how both paintings turned out and I will be posting them for sale shortly — the oil version will need to dry first.  And I’ll need to keep my fingers out of the paint while it does.  I seem to be getting better at that.

Yes, those are art supplies.

PowerToolsAreArtSupplies

I’m stalling on starting my next painting because I ordered a drawing tool from Amazon (more on that later), and I’m waiting for it to arrive so I can use it.  It’s somewhere between here and Salt Lake City at the moment — we obsessive types really like online tracking.  It’s the packages that we don’t need in hurry that arrive with surprising speed.  Seriously…I order toothpaste and it’s here in flash.  The fun stuff takes forever.

While I wait for my package, I’ve been adding extra layers of gesso to the canvas, and I’ve been making myself some nifty new palettes out of leftover building materials from our past home renovations.  So instead of canvas and paint, my art supplies of the day were scraps of white wall panel, a leftover sheet of window glass, Sparkle™ glass cleaner, and white duct tape.  Instead of brushes and palette knives, my tools were an ultra-fine Sharpie® marker, a power saw and a glass cutter.

GlassPalettes

Except for slightly sharp corners (I should have sandpapered before taping), I am very happy with the results.  I’ve got two small ones I can hold while painting, and one really big one that can sit on the table next to my easel with my rinse bucket.

Credit goes to Robin Sealark’s YouTube video for the idea.  I’m SO glad to finally have that big piece of glass out of my garage.  It’s been eight years since somebody (not me) bought a piece of glass the size of the hole, and not the window frame.  I tried to unload during three or four garage sales, but no takers.  Maybe my guardian angel hid it from garage sale shoppers because the Lord knew I would need it for making palettes.

I’m also glad to have learned how to use a glass cutter.  A new skill is always a good thing.  I don’t recall where I got that tool, it was probably among the junk that was in the house when we bought it.  I’m extra glad I didn’t sell that in the garage sale.