Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Secret Art of Cleaning Paint Brushes

R. Mutt's 'masterpiece'
I like to think that miniature painting is art. Perhaps this sounds a little deluded, but if Duchamp could put a urinal on a gallery wall then a well painted model can be called a work of art. That's not to say that all painted miniatures are art, or even artistic, or for that matter, actually very good at all. What is true though, is that painting is an artistic craft, even though it can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog.

Following this line of reasoning (and as part of a *secret christmas project*- all very hush, hush...) I've been reading up on artistic techniques and tips that go beyond what you might usually expect to find in miniatures painting guides. Probably the most instructive so far has been a check list of how to clean paint brushes. I suspect it's fair to say that most people use the 'twiddle it around in some water and give it a bit of a wipe' technique. In contrast, what follows is a digested version of general advice given to artists (you know, the proper ones with paper and canvas and porcelain and such)...

1. Wipe off any excess paint using a cloth or soft tissue. Gently squeezing the bristles from the ferrule edge outwards with your fingers, or with a cloth, will help remove paint from the brush. But be careful to avoid pulling on the bristles.

Not R. Mutt's 'masterpiece' 
2. Rinse the brush in lukewarm water. Never use hot water as it can expand the ferrule, causing the hairs to fall out.

3. Wipe it on the cloth again to remove the last of the excess paint.

4. Wash gently using a little bit of mild soap (or a gentle dishwashing liquid). Dab the brush gently onto the piece of soap, then work up a lather in a small container or the palm of your hand.

5. Rinse and repeat until there's no trace of any color coming out. Over time a brush may become stained, but don't stop rinsing until you're sure there's no paint left.

6. Rinse once more in clean, lukewarm water to remove any traces of soap. Shake off the water.

7. Use your fingers to gently shape the brush head into its correct shape.

8. If necessary, wrap the bristles in a piece of tissue or toilet paper while the brush is still wet. When the paper dries it'll contract, pulling the bristles into shape.

9. Leave the brush to dry at room temperature. 

10. Don't let acrylic paint dry on a brush as its water-resistant when dry. But also never leave a brush standing in water.

11. Never use excess pressure to force paint out of a brush. Be patient and rinse it several times.

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