Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saving Ruined brushes and a few other things

The Corner of 47th and..... 47th

I don't have any new work to show, but thought I would post a few helpful tips that have proven useful to me in the past.

Restoring Ruined Brushes:
If you have some old brushes that have gotten stiff  or gummed up with dried paint, before you throw them out, try this:
Take a bar of plain ol' Ivory Soap.  Break it into a few chunks and put it in a jar or glass.  Add enough water to barely cover, and let it sit until the soap melts and you can stir it into mush.   Then, take those old brushes and set them bristles down in the goo, just make sure that the wood handle part stays out of the liquid.. you can go up as high as the metal ferrule.
Leave them for 24 hours.  
Scrub them in the palm of your hand, rinse, add some more soap, scrub some more.. Do this until there is no more color coming out of the brush. They will look and feel like new, really!!!  In some severe cases, leave them another 24 hours and wash again.
I swear this works like a charm. So far, it has not failed to restore any brush. I don't know where I first learned of this trick.. it was someone's blog but I can't remember.  I have always used Fels Naptha soap to clean my brushes,and that still works well, but Ivory is cheap and easy to find, and for those badly neglected brushes, this is a great way to rescue them.

A Cheap Way to Do Practice Paintings
If you want to do a number of smaller practice paintings, but hate to buy canvases or panels and spend big bucks on them, here's a couple of cheaper surfaces that are easy and quick and still archival if you end up with a gem that you want to keep and frame.
1. Make your own panels from masonite.  Here's a blog post about how to do that. You can get a whole heap of small panels from one sheet of masonite and a can of primer,  This is probably the cheapest way to get a good quality painting surface, but it is, admittedly, a little labor intensive.
2. If cutting and priming isn't your thing, then try buying canvas or linen pads.  These are just sheets of canvas or linen, bound like a drawing pad.  You can paint right on the pad,using the stiff cardboard back as a support then tear off a sheet and start the next one.  I use large sizes of these for the weekly portrait painting group. I tear off a sheet,and clip it to a drawing board just because it's lighter weight to carry than the whole pad.
These are pretty cheap per each sheet, way, way cheaper than buying either stretched canvas or pre-made panels of any sort.  Plus, if you end up with a keeper, it is quite easy to then adhere this canvas sheet to the support of your choice: masonite, plywood, birch panel, or even gatorboard.  Another positive is that you can buy good quality canvas or linen, which is better to paint on, and still spend less than the real cheapie stretched canvas or panels.  My personal favorite is Centurion Oil Primed Linen.  A 6x8 pad, with ten sheets, is only $5.62 right now at Here's the link.  I'm sure Jerry's or Dick Blick, or Cheap Joe's has something similar.  Even cheaper than the linen, but still a good painting surface, is Fredrick's Canvas pads... these are insanely cheap.  A 9x12 pad is only $4.94!  With ten sheets, that's less than 50 cents apiece! These aren't oil primed, but whatever priming they use has a good slick non-absorbent surface that is a pleasure to paint on.
You can also buy larger sized pads, and do several studies on one big sheet, or cut them to fit your needs.

Good Full Spectrum Lightbulbs to Simulate Natural Light.
My studio back in New Hampshire was the attic of our old Civil War era barn.. with a great big north window for beautiful natural light.  Now, I have a cramped basement room with NO windows.
Problem:  I have to create good light that simulates the cool north light.
Solution.  BlueMax full spectrum florescents.  These are the closest thing I've found so far to natural light.
They are cheaper than several other brands out there, like Ott Lite, which is great, but a little pricier.
What you want to find, no matter what brand you buy, is something that is 5500 Kelvin units, which is a measure of the color of the light.  5500K is a cool light, very similar to north light or the light of an overcast day.  These are compact fluorescents, so they fit in any standard light fixture that you have.  I bought a few cheapie clip-on spot lights at the hardware store, and can use these bulbs for an easy source of light.
And if you don't know why you should NOT be using regular incandescent light bulbs to paint by,  then that's a whole 'nuther discussion!  Just trust me on this one.. if you can't paint by natural light, then invest in some good full spectrum lighting for you to work by.

That's it.  In other news,  I found out I'm going to be in Southwest Art Magazine, I think the April edition.
More on that in another post.

Oh, and Thor and Wanda, my canaries, are nesting. Stay tuned for developments!


Judy P. said...

All good tips that I have been using since you first posted them!
About the full-spectrum light though; I have an Ott-Lite that I paint with at night(on the still life and on my painting). So when I'm painting I see all these lovely blues, but when I turn off the light and look at the painting the next day the blues pretty much disappear, or don't show up nearly as vividly. Would that mean the Ott-Lite light veers 'too blue', and why would I want to paint under a light that the painting would hardly ever be seen in, unlike the typical kitchen or living room?
Sorry if I'm a pest.

Deb said...

Hi Judy!
I can only give you my opinion. I have an Ott Lite also... and I do think it tends slightly more blue than these full spectrum bulbs. I like these because they really do seem to simulate natural light, and they are easy to fit in any fixture, and they have a life of 12,000 hours.
If you paint under incandescent lights, what typically happens is that the yellowish color of this light influences your color mixing, making you compensate by painting colors a little cooler than they really are. Under the natural light, color mixes are a little more true. Most of us have a mix of natural light(from windows) and incandescent and florescent light in our homes, so I would guess it all rounds out to being pretty close to daylight. So if you paint in "daylight" with color correct bulbs, then your paintings should look about the same no matter where they are.
I don't know why your blues disappear.. but my guess is that you are painting the blues slightly warmer than they actually are because the Ott Lite gives off a slight blue cast, and when you take the painting out of that light, then what seemed to be a cool blue isn't quite so cool.
Whatever light you choose, though, be sure to have the same light on both your painting AND your palette, and best to have the set up, the painting and the palette all match.

I better go paint now....if only I could go outside and do it, but alas, I am stuck inside working on a still life that has to get finished asap.....
4 inches of new snow yesterday, and beautiful bright sunshine today...

Judy P. said...

Thanks Deb- you've convinced me to check out the Bluemax- don't let me keep you from painting!