Friday, January 29, 2016

Brushes: Tips for easy care

As many of you know from the painting workshops I teach, I often provide brushes for the class.  These brushes get abused from all of the use and I do a couple of easy things to keep them in pretty good shape.  

For Acrylic and Oils
1.        For Bristle or natural hair brushes I clean them with a brush cleaner, squeeze most of the water out of them, then use a bit of hair conditioner to shape them. (Yep, plain old hair conditioner.)   I leave the conditioner in the brush.   If you don’t have a brush cleaner, you can use your dish washing soap (like Dawn or Joy) to clean them, and again use the hair conditioner.  **If you have dried on paint…soak the brush in alcohol (the 91% kind) then clean with the soap.  Repeat until you get the paint out and again, use the conditioner.  You may be able to save the brush.

2.       For nylon and synthetic brushes I also clean them with a brush cleaner (or your dish washing soap), but instead of the hair conditioner I use an oily or silicone type brush cleaner (like Bob Ross) and again, use it like the conditioner…I dip it in the solution, wipe it off and shape and leave it on the hairs.  You can also use a bit of fabric softener.   Mostly for the nylons I do this to keep them in shape.  Now, before I use these brushes I dip them in water for acrylics or thinner/mineral spirits to rinse the residue out. 

For Watercolor
3.       My watercolor brushes I clean with my brush cleaner also, but I don’t use the same brush cleaner that I use on my oil brushes.  I don’t want to risk any residue getting on my watercolor brushes.  I also use a bit of conditioner on them, but I rinse out the conditioner before I allow it to dry.  A watercolor brush will last you a long time if you take good care of it.

Also, lay your brushes flat to dry.  Those cups/brush holders are great once your brushes are dry, but don’t let them dry in the upright position.  The liquids can seep into the brush handle and cause swelling in the wood, sometimes loosening the bristles from the handle. 

One more VERY important note.  DON’T leave your brushes standing in thinner or water.  I see this all the time in class and try to mention it to students.  Your bristles will bend and may not go back (even with the conditioning treatment) and the liquids will also soak into your handle.  There’s nothing more upsetting than seeing an expensive sable brush just sitting in a cup of water.  

Happy painting!  

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Sketchbook is ugly.....

In school we had to do small thumbnail sketches as prelim work for larger paintings.  Consistently, I was "encouraged" to put a bit more detail in those drawings.  I still don't.  
Much like my handwriting, my thumbnails are "rough".  However, my sketchbook is an extremely valuable tool to me.  
I use it to work out formats and compositions, paintings for classes I teach, & to help me decide if I even want to do a larger painting.  

I'm always in awe of artists who show their sketchbooks & they truly look like works of art.  
That works for them.  My crazy sketchbook works for me.  :-)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Gridding out tough subjects....

I use a grid method to get tough subjects, specifically portraits of people & wildlife looking right.  If you're painting someone you want them to look like them...just like if I'm painting a finch...I want it to look like a finch, not a warbler.  
I just make a grid on both my sketchbook or canvas and on the reference I'm using.  
Then I draw a line drawing, each square at a time.  When I'm done, I remove or paint over the grid lines.  This little guy was featured in one of the classes I teach. (Those of you in KY who took this class will remember this little guy.)
Are there other ways to do this?  Yep.  Are there better ways to do this?  Maybe, probably.  But when I don't have the option of "taking liberties" with a subject, I use photo references.  In art school, this was not allowed in my initial drawing classes....for good reason.  I needed to do the work so I could get better as an artist.  Now that I'm teaching and selling my work.  If I have a reference, I use it.  
Happy Painting!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Blocking In....

I block in very roughly on most paintings.  Usually I go dull, then brighten up.  Sometimes though I put in colors that are brighter than the local color of a subject.  Case in point is this little portrait of a desert flower from Bryce Canyon.  The rocks there are amazing and this painting is about the ledge and the flower.  In the foreground, I put the pinks a little brighter and deeper than they read to me.  Then when I completed the painting, some of that brightness comes through.  Just enough to bring out the wonderful shades in the formations.
You can see the bright red of the rock underneath the plant.  It's more understated in reality, but when I put in my final darks and lights, enough of it shines though to intensify those cracks.
I knew I wanted that red banding and to ensure I didn't wash it out too much in the final painting, I push it in the block in.
Happy Painting!!!

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Friday, January 1, 2016

The blog is back!

Well, I took a year or so off from the blog, but thought I would get it going again.  Thanks to those of you who've let me know what you would like to see on the blog site.  Where to start?  How about a finished painting from a previous post of a work in progress.
Here's my Hollyhock.  I'm crazy about my flowers.  Oil on canvas, large format 54" x 42" inches.  

I started out on the wall and after I blocked in, stretched the canvas and completed the painting.  I love working on these large formats when I'm living in Kentucky.  (And have the space.)  I used several photos of this beauty while working.  Plus, I had the luxury that first season to walk outside and get some closeups.  I've been working on some smaller works un-stretched then mounting them on masonite.  Helps with traveling so I can just roll them up after painting outside. 
Happy Painting!!!