Tag Archives: dogs

The Weirdest of Art Supplies

So, I was walking down the sidewalk recently, getting my exercise for that day, when I noticed this sitting on the sidewalk:

In case you can’t make it out from the photo, it’s a tennis ball. Or rather, it WAS a tennis ball. Obviously the dogs who play inside the nearby fence had done it in. I thought to myself, “Ewww. Gross,” and I kept on walking. Then a few blocks down the road I suddenly halted when I remembered something I had seen on another artist’s social media post. This other artist (whose name I can’t recall, so sorry — can’t give credit) was using half of a tennis ball to wash paint brushes.

Many of us who paint clean our brushes by rubbing them in soap or brush cleaner in the palm of our hand. This works fine, except for the small danger of heavy metals. Genuine pigments are minerals that are ground up extremely fine and mixed with a binder to make paint. (Basically, pigment is dirt.) A few of those mineral pigments are toxic, such as cadmium read, lead white, or cobalt blue. [Many paint manufacturers avoid these toxins by substituting safer pigments that have been dyed, though the colors aren’t always a true match to the real thing.]

The risk of absorbing these toxic metals through the skin while painting is not extreme, but it’s not zero either. Some artists go so far as to paint wearing rubber gloves. I haven’t gone that far, but I did think putting the stuff in the palm of my hand and rubbing it around was probably not the healthiest practice. And if I have a lot of brushes to clean, just the friction can be irritating. So when I read that this artist’s husband sawed a tennis ball in two for her to use as the washboard for her brushes instead of the cupped palm of her hand, I thought that was brilliant.

There were two problems with implementing this practice myself: (1) I didn’t have any tennis balls, and didn’t want to buy a whole can just for that. (Yeah, I’m a cheapskate.) And (2) I didn’t have any way to safely cut one in half if I did spend the $4.99 plus tax. That’s why, on the way back from getting in my steps for the day, I stopped and (very gingerly) picked up the remains of that sad former doggy toy, which was already neatly split in two for me. It didn’t take much to remove the remains of the felt covering and clean it up for artsy use.

Now don’t feel bad for those two dogs that lost their toy. It was no longer useful to them, and it had to have been one of their humans who flung it that far outside the fence onto the sidewalk. Besided, those doggos are mean, and they owe me a used ball for all the times they’ve jumped at the fence barking their heads off and scared the breath out of me.