Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tips and Tricks

  Conte sketch of two young cowboys

I had to add some image, (can't have a post without SOME kind of picture!) so just threw in one of my quick sketches.  

Today's post is just a random selection of stuff that I've found useful in one way or another.  Some are ideas and some are practical tips.

 Tip #1 (from artist Larry Seiler).  Use an old phone book to wipe your brushes as you paint. We all have those used phone books, right? And in many places, they can't be recycled. I just tore off the cover, and put the phone book down on my working surface.   As I paint, I wipe the brushes and palette knife  (I use paper towels too, but this works well for a first 'wipe down").  when the page is dirty, I just rip if off and use the next one....

 Tip #2.  To  help brush tips to re-gain a sharp edge, try this. Once the brush is clean, take a piece of pressboard, like  a cereal box, pasta box, or the like. Mine is an old small calendar I got from my optometrist. Cut out a square of the pressboard on a fold - in other words, you want a small square piece of it that is already folded in the middle so it has a nice sharp crease to work with. Take the offending brush, and place it so that the tip is right inside that fold.  Fold the card over the brush and use a clothespin to pinch the end.. adjusting it so the tight part of the clothespin is crimping the end of your brush between the pieces of cardboard.  Leave it overnight.  If you do this right, the brush will come out with a nice, clean, crisp edge again.

Tip #3.  Have the same light on your palette as you do on what you're painting.  If you use, say, an Ott Lite on your palette, but your still life is lit by an incandescent bulb, then you are in for a world of hurt.  Just sayin'.

Tip #4.  Before you throw away a painting, take a look and see if any part of it, even just a small part, is successful.   Consider cropping it down and making a smaller painting o ut of it.  If its on a canvas, use a razor knife to cut out your selection, then glue the piece of canvas to a backing of masonite or foam core.
If it's a panel, use whatever means y ou have to in order to cut it down to size.  I use "table saw editing" all the time.

 Tip#5.  Keep  3 jars with lids for your solvent. A "working jar", a "sludge jar", and an "overflow" jar. The working jar contains clean solvent that you're using to paint with right now.   When that gets dirty, or you're done painting for the day, pour that thinner into the sludge jar..   Clean out your working jar after pouring out its contents by wiping it out with a  paper towel.  The next morning,the sediment will have settled to the bottom, leaving clear solvent again.   Carefully pour out the  now clear solution from the sludge jar back into your working jar, leaving the sludge in the bottom..-.  Eventually, this jar will get full of sludge and you will have to appropriately discard it.
The third jar is useful if, like me, you paint pretty much all the time.  My working jar gets dirty, and don't have time to wait overnight for the sediment to settle in the sludge jar. So I keep a second "clean" jar.  I can take my regular working jar, pour it into the sludge container, and then have a jar of clean solvent to start working with.    Peanut butter jars work well for this, as they have wide openings that make them  easy to  clean.

Tip#6.  When painting  plein air,  secure your canvas or panel to the easel( in case of wind - there's always wind isn't there?) by using the 'wet canvas straps" sold at many online art supply stores. These are stretchy bands hooked together in an "X" shape, with little loops on the end. They are intended to carry wet paintings by wrapping the loops around the corners of the canvas and then holding the middle of the "X" to carry it by.
I didn't find them very useful for THAT, but they come in mighty handy when painting.  I set the panel or canvas on my easel, and then, from the back, attach the loops on the corners...I can adjust for smaller canvases by tying a knot in the strap till it's the right size.  this holds the canvas or panel to the easel like a nifty bungie cord.  

This is what the straps look like.  I believe they come in a pkg. of 3 different sizes.

Here's how I attach them to my canvas or panel.(shown from the back, as it would be sitting on my plein air easel).  I can tie a knot in the middle to adjust the size.

Tip #7.  Baby wipes work great for cleaning hands while painting.   when I'm outside working en plein air, these are especially handy.   

That's it for today.. just a few simple things that work for me.. and maybe y ou'll find them useful too. If you have some favorite tricks, I'd love to hear about them.... I'll add them here!