Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Paintbrush. Part III

On Paintbrushes part III
Some artists simply use a paintbrush, don’t clean it, and the oil-color harden and ruining the brush.  If you can afford to do that, bravo, you are a wasteful consumer and probably not a very good painter.  Taking care of paint brushes to keep them supple, resilient, and like-new is essential to increase their longevity and to extend their usefulness.  This is the single most important part of paintbrushes.  
It is unwise to leave a paint brush sitting bristle-side down in a solvent for days on end.  This will cause the brush to lose its original shape as the bristles will splay out from time spent soaking and softening, making them weaker and more susceptible to the weight of the handle.  Ideally the oil painter will want to clean paint and solvent residue off his brushes immediately after each use; that is fairly unrealistic.  I have left my brushes in solvent for a few days if I am feeling lazy or really busy.  It has never destroyed my brushes.  

Most artists will simply use soap and water to get their brushes clean.  I prefer using liquid dish-soap.  I tried many brush cleaners, and found that simple is best.   I have used Dawn liquid dish soap to clean oil and pigment out of my paintbrushes for over ten years.  It’s true, Dawn does cut through grease, and it doesn't damage the bristles at all where most brush cleaners can cause split ends in the bristles of your brush from the harsh chemical clean.    
It is important not to use the same paint brush for different mediums, or even different colors.  Different kinds of paint and the solvents used to clean them affect the bristles differently.  Using the same paint brush with different kinds of paint will rapidly destroy the brush.  An oil brush should never be used for acrylic or water based paints.  The bristles of a paintbrush become slightly coated with the medium and oddly accustomed to the original medium used.  Going back and forth between oil based and water based paints with the same brush will literally clog the ferrel with pigment and quickly destroy the brush.  
There have been many questions as to what kinds of brushes I use. 
I use a wide variety of brushes including: brights, flats, filberts, and selected rounds.  I own (and use regularly) 6 brushes of each size and type for the basic color wheel.  I can work with no less.  
I purchased a complete set of brushes in 1998 and now they are finally wearing out and will become unusable in the next year.  Those brushes lasted over 1000 paintings and twelve years only because I took care of them.  I intend to still use the set I have now in the future, but as first layer brushes, scrubbers and varnishers.  When my brushes wear from use, I simply find another use for them.  I keep my brushes in use until they fall apart.  They can still last another three to five years for those purposes. 
I have six classifications of each brush type and size, based on color usage because I am picky.  Separating brush use by violets, blues, greens, reds, oranges, yellows, whites and blacks (but I rarely use black, I substitute a very dark violet or blue for black) is important to me for many reasons.  Even though the painter will always mix and blend colors of different hues together, each brush should almost exclusively be used with one color hue.  There will always be a small amount of paint left inside the ferrel of the brush, and using a freshly cleaned brush that was first used with a different color causes unintentional mixing and color changes within a painting.  Even after the cleaned brush is dry a trace of the previously used color can and will show its face when you use it again.  Sometimes the result is disastrous when the paint color turns to a grey green mud as a result of poor cleaning.  By keeping brushes separated by color use, the oil painter extends the lasting usefulness of his paint brushes.    
As brushes naturally degrade from use, they can be downgraded to other uses, again extending their life by years.  Turn scrubbers into old worn-out brushes, varnishers and glazers into old brushes with spring left to it, but the hairs have all split.  Under-painters become fairly good brushes, and over-painters become the best and newest brushes.  Other artists buy special brushes for each task; I just use what I have and keep a brush in use until the hairs have almost totally fallen out and are split beyond repair.  I also repair my brushes by trimming them with a scissors or a razor-blade.  Brushes are so expensive that I have never had the luxury of wasting them. 
I use Princeton Art & Brush Company brand brushes.  They are not the best (according to other artists), but I feel they are of the highest quality, and last the longest.  I have used many different brush types.  I take great care of my brushes because of their expense. 

Well there you have it...
...some of my opinions about the paintbrush.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On the Paintbrush. Part II

On the Paintbrush part II

In the hope that I won’t bore you to death I am going to try and keep this interesting; as technical works always seem dry when we read them.  All paint brushes can be used for any purpose that you see fit.  Be it fine detail, soft transitions of color, or painterly brushstrokes, paintbrushes are the tool for you to decide what use they have.  Albeit, All brushes have an intended use, and when used with that intent in mind, the paintbrush can work magik.  
There are a number of paint brush types varying from size, shape, and body for many different purposes in working with oil paints.  The most common brush types are: flat, bright, fan, filbert, egbert, liner, round, flat wash, mop, and the angular.  They are named for both their appearance and use with paints. 
The flat brush, with its flat rectangular body and square chisel edge is the perfect brush for applying large amounts of color both quickly and evenly.  It's width is typically half its length.  It holds plenty of paint for applying thick amounts, and it creates long straight brush strokes.  The flat brush is excellent for softly defining compositional elements that have a straight edge to them.  I find the flat brush most useful in applying the underpainting when clarity and precision are not too important, but applying a large amount of paint is.  
The bright brush has the same chisel edge as a flat brush, but with shorter bristle length and comes to a fine chisel edge when loaded with paint.  Its width is typically the same distance as its length, giving it a relationship with the flat brush.  The short, square head of the bright brush makes it ideally suited for straight lines, applying broad strokes with a controlled edge, and well-defined brush strokes.  The bright brush is capable of finely detailed forms, making it perfect for overpainting and finial editing.  I use the bright brush for all geometric forms and the overpainting of large areas of negative space to redefine positive spaces. The bright brush is my personal favorite, my paintbrush of choice.  I tend to use it for most everything.  The bright gives me more control over oil-paint than any other of the brushes.  
The fan brush is shaped into a flat profile with a curved edge spread out like a hand-held fan.  The fan brush is designed for delicately blending color and softening edges, creating dusty-like strokes when painting objects such as clouds, and distant foliage.  I consider the fan brush a gimmick, and believe it should not be used by the professional oil painter.  The professional can reproduce the brushstrokes the fan brush creates with a filbert brush.  I say do not buy a fan brush; save your money and buy filberts instead.  The filbert brush has some real purpose to it.
The filbert brush has the body of a flat brush with a slightly rounded edge point.  The filbert is extremely versatile and is used to create long painterly brush strokes.  Just as a flat brush can make broad strokes or more delicate and tapered strokes, the filbert excels in both of these purposes.  I use the filbert brush for softening the edges of forms and fading small areas of change in color value.  The filbert brush is the macro lens of oil painting with its dual ability to focus a finely detailed stroke and fade oil color, softly blurring its appearance. 
The egbert brush is similar to a filbert brush in that it has the same rounded edge, only with much longer bristles.  Its flat ferrule and long bristles can carry more color than a filbert brush.  It is as long as the liner brush and is most commonly used for thick, long tapered lines, and blending value changes.  I have no personal use for the egbert, and I find it lacking in self-control as a result of its unnecessary and excessive length.
The liner brush has a slender round head with very long bristles that comes to a thin tip that makes it ideal for working with tiny details.  The length of its body holds a lot of oil color allowing it to deliver color continuously in a single stroke when painting long lines.  The thin tip creates fine lines like no other brush type.  This brush is commonly called a "rigger" for its common use in painting the thin lines of rope rigging on ships.  I have used the liner brush previously with well worked oil color to achieve the immediate effects of small detail.  I simply do not like this brush type.  Although it has its uses, none of them coincide with what I do.  
The round brush has a thick round head with bristles that taper to a fine point at the end. It is used for precise strokes of fine detail work.  Like the liner brush, the round brush holds a good deal of paint and is best used with slightly thinned paints; however, thinned oil paints fade away, crack, and slowly become transparent with time.  I have taken to beating down my oil paint on the pallet prior to use with the round brush, so as to make the paint more malleable.  I use the round brush for detailed lines.  It is better to simply work the oil color on the pallet until it is soft enough to achieve the desired consistency so it can flow from the bristles evenly.

The flat wash, flat shader, and stroke brush types are extra-large, extra soft, blending brushes intended for watercolors.  Even though they are primarily used for  painting with watercolors, they are useful to the oil painter as a dry brush to remove all trace of brushstroke after the establishment of oil color has been finished.  I use the flat wash brush with oils as a dry-brush for soft surface color blending and smoothing.  The flat wash brush is ideal for blending surface area and applying a smooth transition between color and value changes without disturbing the wet underpainting.  
The mop brush has a large, flappy, fat body and is shaped into an oval or rounded thick edge.  The mop brush is used for delicately glazing, so as to not disturb the underpainting.  It is also useful as a dry-brush for blending large amounts of surface color.  I personally find the mop brush useless,  Albeit, I have used the mop brush for applying glazes over large surface areas.
The angular brush is similar to the build and body of the flat brush, but with the edge angled at a tapered slant.  The angular brush has a flat edge and a pointed tip, allowing for both wide and thin strokes.  The tip is its most valued feature, as it can easily reach areas within a painting that are between sections you do not wish to disturb.  The tight details the angular brush can reach are virtually impossible to work with a larger brush.  I use the angular brush for precise details in color forms where a mistake, or “coloring outside the lines,” would be nearly irreversible.  I also use the angular brush when I need the flat chisel edge of a bright brush but must fit into a tight compositional element.

Thanks for checking this out...
...part III on the paintbrush coming soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On the Paintbrush. Part I

On the Paintbrush.  Part  I

     The paintbrush is my best friend.  Over the last 15 years I have built an industrious relationship where we both know each other’s capabilities and use each other accordingly.  Over the course of 4 posts we are going to talk about the paintbrush.  To begin, we will go over the basics of brush type, use, and care.  Then we will go over each type of brush individually and what I use them for.  There are many brushes available to the oil painter these days, and the type the artist uses is not just a personal choice, it is a commitment. 
Regardless of the tools the oil painter comes to use in his discipline, the oil painter must first learn to control the paint brush.  The paint brush is the single most recognized tool used to create works of art, but the artist must never be limited to its use solely for the application of oil paint.  Although it is the classic tool of the oil painter, it must not be considered the most important.  All tools as a matter of personal choice are simply a discipline to learn.  The artist will simply know what tool is best used to achieve each intended concept.  Within compositional oil painting, the intended concept of an oil painting supersedes personality and inevitably decides what tools should be used.  Only the indented concept and communication of the work of art dictates what tools to use in its creation, as the artist and their work both know this and listen to their work’s whispers.  Through the path of both self and external discovery, the oil painter will use other tools to create works of art.  Later, as the oil painter matures, he will return to the use of the brush.
  Lets address the basics of the paint brush first.  Paint brushes are made up of three basic parts: the head, the ferrule, and the handle.  The head consists of the hairs or bristles of the brush.  The head has three parts: the toe, the belly, and the heel.  The shape and bristle quality of the head determines the nature of the stroke that it will make.  

  The ferrule is the metal cylinder, preferably seamless, that attaches the head to the handle.  Ferrules with seams immediately should tell the artist that it is a poorly constructed brush as seam type construction are used to cut corners and save on production costs.  I say a ferrule with a seam will fall apart quickly as its strength is in its wrap around of the handle and not in its crimp connecting the handle and bristles.  Also a ferrule with a seam has way too much glue on the bristles to hold them together, and if they used a seam, you know they used cheap glue too!  The use with oil solvents will quickly dissolve the cheap glue and your brush hairs will fall out.  A ferrule holds the bristles in place, keeping their intended shape and keeping them connected to the brush.  A seamless ferrule really is only maintaining the shape of the brush.  

  The handle, typically made of wood, is self explanatory in its purpose and use.  The professional oil painter should only use a long wooden handle, as the oil painter has more control over the paint.  The short handled or plastic brush is for the hobbyist.

  When it comes to bristle choice, neither natural hair or synthetic bristle paint brushes are better than the other, as there are benefits to using both bristle types.  The outer casing of natural hair, the cuticle, is covered with tiny scales that help the bristles retain moisture.  Natural hair brushes also have a hollow tube within each filament, called the medulla, that allows the hair to absorb moisture.  These features make natural hair vastly more absorbent than synthetic hair, and therefore will always hold more color than its man-made counterpart.  Natural hair paint brushes work with any medium and become more attuned to a single medium’s use.  Synthetic bristle paint brushes are far more durable, making them longer-lasting, resistant to wearing out, and to being damaged by use with solvents and harsh paint.  Synthetic hair bristles are easier to clean because they lack the ultra-absorbent qualities of natural bristles.  As a result, synthetic brushes are better suited than natural brushes to use with oils due to their resiliency to the paint's caustic effects.

  As a preference to which bristle type is best to use, I say natural hair brushes.  The professional oil painter should use the finest grade of natural hair paint brushes.  Keep them clean and care for them, and the will outlast a synthetic brush.  Also, natural hair is simply better because it is natural.  There is a physical and metaphysical connection between the painter and his materials and tools.  That connection is somehow stronger if the materials and tools are natural rather than synthetic.  

  There is a company that makes synthetic bristle brushes that are the closest thing to natural hair bristles that I have ever used.  Princeton Art and Brush Company.  They are so good that I have used their brushes for the last 10+ years.  Princeton brushes are not the cheapest on the market, but they are very affordable. 

  The question of the expense of a paint brush is always in debate.  I tell you now, cheap tools equal cheap results, and the oil painter that cannot tell the difference between a cheaply constructed paint brush and an expensive one, is not a professional and subsequently their opinion on the matter is without merit.

Thanks or checking out my blog...
...more on the paintbrush coming soon.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Current oil palette

Recently I have become fascinated with the use of triadic harmonies of color.  I tend to use them muted down and simplified with base colors remaining the same throughout the entire palette as I keep one color as a constant. 

I enjoy how a triadic harmony used with their complements set a tone of dissidence and equality within color-forms.  The disagreement between the colors evens out and a balanced harmony appears to take the forefront.   

In this palette you can see these colors...

cadmium yellow light
cadmium yellow medium
cadmium yellow deep
cadmium orange
cadmium red light
cadmium red deep
provence violet reddish
radiant violet
dioxazine violet
violet grey
radiant turquoise
kings blue deep
kings blue light
cadmium green light

and titanium white + zinc white as a toner