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Typical selection of brushes used in a session.

If I was to write a book about the techniques of painting, it would be about brushes as much as anything else. but like most things in my career it would be contain some useless and misinformed information and advice. Like most artists I have an intense relationship with the things I use which is not always based on rationality or good practice. In my defence, however, I do stick to general principles for the most part.

One of them is, softer brushes give more control when building thicker layers of paint. If you use a stiff brush like a trowel, shovelling paint on in great dollops, you are not using the brush to it’s best effect. Stiff brushes are at their best pushing paint around once it’s on the surface.

Another is that the bigger the brush you use the better.  Not only is the work quicker and more direct, it’s surprising how much detail can be made with the corner or the tip of a big brush.

If I need a bit of retail therapy, I go and buy some brushes, usually buying some useless new type to try out. The result is rather a lot of brushes, with several drawers like this;

IMG_0210

I used to spend the last 20 minutes of my working day cleaning brushes with sacramental fervour with soap and water and putting them in the same place every evening so that they were dry and ready for the next day. Now, however, I clean them with white spirit and wrap them in an airtight plastic carrier bag only using soap and water every 3 or 4 days. The only drawback is the little bit of spirit in the brush at the start of the session, but that soon evaporates.