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Friday, October 28, 2011

Brush Cleaning Tips from the Pros

"Pair of Reds"
Oil on Linen - 6x8"

If I was an independently wealthy being, my studio would be equipped with an assistant who's number one job would be cleaning brushes. One of my least favourite painting tasks, I sometimes put it off as long as possible before doing a thorough clean.

That said, your brushes are your tools, and caring for them well will go a long way toward getting the most out of them, both in longevity and function.

I recently stumbled across a great article with cleaning tips from several artists, you can view it here.

How I tackle mine:
  • Wipe off all the excess paint with paper towel.
  • Give it a good swish or two in thinner (I use Gamblin Gamsol), followed by another good wipe with paper towel
  • I then use Master's Brush Cleaner (the big tub), but dish soap or bar soap will also do.
  • Get some soap on the brush and then using the palm of your hand, the inside of half a tennis ball, or the bottom of the sink - swirl it around to loosen up the paint and give it a good rinse - repeat this step until no more color comes out of the brush.
  • Finally I dry it, dip it in Turpenoid Natural, and give it a quick wipe leaving some of the turpenoid in to condition the hairs.
If I have 10-15 brushes in various sizes, this job takes 20-30 minutes, so I usually only do it about once a week. I don't use a quick dry medium or alkyd paints, so the paint in the brushes is still soft enough to be easily removed by this process as long as I wipe the excess paint out and give them a swish in Gamsol at the end of each painting session.

Great music is a definite asset. Choose your mood and get down. :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to See in Value

Still life value study - 6x6" (demo)

A couple of months ago I put out a challenge to anyone who wanted to take on doing 50 value studies in 30 days, ideally from life. We also set up a challenge over on the Daily Paintworks site for those who wanted to simply take one crack at it. (This challenge is still on if you want to join in.)

The idea is to use only 4 values (white and black included) to portray your subject. What this forces you to do is make decisions about where values must be pushed darker or lighter to stay within the limited range, which has the serendipitous outcome of shapes naturally being linked together into interesting patterns. Result: strong design sneaks in the back door while you're busy thinking about reducing values. Kinda like magic.

Is working from a B&W reference cheating?

One of the painters over at DPW, Gloria Zucaro, wrote to ask: "As I am preparing to do the challenge of the week I am wondering if it is "cheating" to see the values in your color photo by turning them to grayscale?"

A key skill you are working on developing with this kind of exercise is honing your ability to see color as value, one of the most difficult things to learn in our artistic journey.  The more you develop this skill, the stronger your paintings will become as you learn to design great patterns of light and shadow while looking at a subject in color. Printing a B&W photo is not so much cheating as it is taking a short cut that bypasses a valuable learning opportunity.

50 in 30 - the learning:

Jason Gundby was one of the few artists who took my 50 in 30 challenge all the way to the end (super proud of you Jason!) One of his efforts is shown above. I absolutely love the abstract quality of this study. There is a strong, balanced variety of shape size and he has used form and line in a dynamic way to pull the viewer in.

Here's the wisdom Jason reported back after completing the challenge:

"Once I did a few studies I found that my attempts were pretty weak.  At that point (like you said on your blog) I realized that this could be an important opportunity for growth.  In the process of painting these value studies, helped by sheer repetition of the challenge, I rediscovered the value of relaxing and accepting the struggle and whatever my best efforts created.  In doing so I began to enjoy the process of painting more--as in this quote 'artwork is more of a verb than a noun'. "

Great work Jason!