Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The True Story of How to Clean Your Acrylic Paint Brushes

There's a lot of information out there on the Internet highway, some good, some bad, some so-so. But I don't recall ever seeing The True Story of How to Clean Your Acrylic Paint Brushes. I thought I'd relay it here and put to rest some of the rumors around this ancient myth.

First my pet peeve is the rumor that you should clean your paintbrushes in the palm of your hand. What?  NEVER CLEAN YOUR BRUSHES IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND! Why? Because you are embedding pigment into your skin. Duh.  I see this over and over again. Please don't do this. I believe there was an entire tribe of Ancient Artists who lost the ability to sing falsetto because they intentionally cleaned their paintbrushes in the palm of their hands. But this could be another false rumor.

It is a well known fact that cleaning your paintbrushes under running water will send the Muse screaming from your studio for at least two weeks.  She's really fussy about this one. So beware! NEVER CLEAN YOUR BRUSHES UNDER RUNNING WATER! Why again? Because you are sending paint solids down the drain. Bad for the fishies, bad for your plumbing.

So, how should you clean your brushes? Read on my darlings. This is ancient knowledge, handed down over the generations.  Guard it carefully!

First of all, regard your paintbrushes as the friends and helpers that they are. They are kind and willing to work for you, don't abuse them! Don't beat them up! What did they ever do to you except help you make fabulous art?  Love them and they will serve you well. Until you leave the studio and then they use up all of your cell data and order pizza. But I digress....

Okay, but really....

Number one: Don't let acrylic paint dry on your brush. If you do, kiss the brush goodbye and make a sculpture with it. And feel really, really guilty about killing a paintbrush. They scream you know.

Next, put aside the time to clean your brushes when you paint. Don't just stand them in the water and haul ass out of the door to meet someone at Starbuck's. When you come back your paintbrushes will be a limp, soggy shadow of their former selves and perhaps will be going bald (losing bristles). The bristles of the brush will wick up the water into the ferrule (that metal thingie that holds the bristles in place) and loosen the glue that is also holding the bristles.  Then the paintbrush will lose its hair. Really embarrassing for a paintbrush. Don't put them through this. Their paintbrush friends will point and laugh.

Proper cleaning of your paintbrush:
1. Wipe off all of the paint solids possible from the brush. Use old telephone books (do they still make those?) paper towels, old rags, whatever.  Don't be lazy, really get all of the paint off of the brush. No, that's not enough, do it again.

2. Next, rinse the brush in a BUCKET of water. We will refer to this as Bucket #2. You may want to write this down. You have to keep track of your buckets, you know.  You will have two to three buckets of water so get prepared.

3. Now get a bar of artist's soap like The Masters Hand Soap-4.5 Ounces and rub the brush across that a couple of times. The brush really loves this! If you listen closely you can hear the brush giggle when you do this.

4. Now swish the brush back in the water (Bucket #2) a few times. LOL, swish.

5. Back across the soap. Swish again. Brushes love to swish. They're natural born swishers. It comes from being bunched up in that old peanut butter jar on the studio table. Once they get outta there they swish like crazy!

6. The brush should be fairly clean now. You can examine it with your fingers, but be polite!

7. Now gently lay your brush down on a clean paper towel or bath towel. Perhaps one with the brush's name embroidered on it. Never leave your damp brushes standing upright to dry. It really wrecks their hair! And again, they could lose bristles from the water going down into the ferrule and loosening the glue. It's a lotta work being a paintbrush!

8. Put aside Bucket #2. It may be slightly soapy. That's okay. Use it the next time you clean your brushes.  Once it gets all gunky with paint, pour it off into Bucket #3  that will be reserved for "dirty water". Let this water evaporate. Yes it will take days to evaporate, maybe weeks. But you don't have to stand there and watch it! Go paint something! When the water is all gone, wipe up the sludge that is left behind and put it in the trash.

9. No paint down the sink and no fishies turning Quinacridone Magenta!

10. Keep a bucket of clean water as your first brush "dunking" station. This is Bucket #1.

11. Once Bucket #1 gets too dirty, pour it into Bucket #3 the dreaded "dirty water" bucket. Don't wash your brushes in there! It's for pouroff only! Stories abound among the older brushes about young brushes that mistakenly fell into Bucket #3, never to be seen again. Then came  time to clean out the sludge. And there, laying in the bottom of Bucket #3, the young, foolish, brush -  bristles all gunky, paint chipped off the handle, name no longer readable. Oh the horror!

So Bucket #1 becomes Bucket #2 and Bucket #2 goes into Bucket #3. And then Bucket #2 becomes Bucket #1 - follow? No? Well find an old paintbrush that knows the ropes and have it show you the way.

That's the story the way I heard it. But granted, it was an Ancient Paintbrush that related this tale to me. She had a bit of Matte Medium stuck to her so her memory could have been cloudy. That paintbrush has passed on into the other world, where paintbrushes are always young and clean.

Sometimes, when I'm leaving the studio, after I turn out the lights, I stop at the door and listen. I can hear the brushes singing their Ancient song, summoning the Muse to my studio for the next day.

They can only sing when they're clean you know.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bridget Riley at John Berggruen

One of my favorite artists. I can't wait to see this show!

"Bridget Riley (b. 1931) is one of the foremost exponents of Op Art, a style that plays with human perception to produce optically illusionistic works of art. The English painter studied art at Goldsmiths College (1949-1952) and at the Royal College of Art (1952-1955). Her early work was executed in a semi-Impressionist manner, in the late 1950s, she adopted a pointillist technique. A 1958 exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s work at Whitechapel Gallery had a major impact on the young artist, but  it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Riley began to develop her signature Op Art style consisting of black and white illusionistic patterns. She explored the dynamism of sight through her art, often producing a disorienting perceptual effect and deceiving the viewer’s eye. Riley began incorporating her characteristic bold, vivid colors in her work from the late 1960s onwards. The celebrated artist has been honored with the Sikkens Prize (2012), Rubens Prize (2012), Praeminum Imperiale for Painting (2003), and the International Prize at the 1969 Venice Biennale, among numerous others. Riley’s works have been highlighted in solo exhibitions around the world, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2014); Stadtische Galerie, Schwenningen (2013); and National Gallery, London (2010).

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chuck Close is my hero.

Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, like I've had a hard day, or I'm tired but I can't stop working yet, I think of Chuck Close. He's an amazing artist that has been through a very challenging event in this life.

In 1988 at the so-called height of his career, Close suffered a spinal cord aneurysm that has left him wheelchair bound, a paraplegic. Add to that the fact that he suffers from prosopagnosia. Sometimes known as “face blindness”, prosopagnosia is a disorder where the ability to recognize faces is impaired. The pre-eminent portrait artist in America, or perhaps the world, cannot recognize people's faces.

Ironic isn't it?

So whenever I start to feel sorry for myself. I think of Chuck Close. Working hard, every day, staying true to his own vision and creating art while surmounting not tremendous obstacles.

Here's a documentary worth watching.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Here's a short video on using Google Image Search. I think it's a spectacular tool that all artists should take advantage of!

Monday, April 4, 2016

The 20 Minute Artist and Tracey Emin

I came across a video the other day on Youtube entitled "What Do Artists Do All Day?" It's fascinating because it gives a glimpse inside a high profile artist's typical day. And, as I've known for some time, it's not all about painting.

So we see Tracey in her four story studio in London, painting, meeting with studio assistants, accountants and so on. We see her putting up a show, eating lunch, and a myriad of other activities. What we don't see is several hours of her painting or drawing.  Of course not. It takes a lot more than painting and drawing to run a studio.

My point here is that the creative part of making art is not one long, uninterrupted span of several hours.  It happens in the spaces in between.

You can have a meaningful relationship to making art in twenty minutes a day.

I want to show you how.

Oh..and my master plan? Turn everyone into an artist and take over the world.

Are you with me?

Sign up for information at The 20 Minute Artist.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Taking a break is okay

Tesia Blackburn and Soxx the Wonder Dog
Me and my best pal, Soxx the Wonder Dog
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON November 23, 2015 and never posted. I could not bring myself to make it public. But time has passed and I can read it now without tears. 

If you follow me on social media, you will know that about seven or eight weeks ago my beloved dog, Soxx, died.  After 15 years of fuzzy warm companionship, there is a huge, gaping void.  Where once there was a wet nose and furry ears, there is emptiness.

I can't paint. I don't even want to go to the studio.

It's true, Soxx wasn't with me much the last year at the studio because he couldn't get up the stairs.  But his water dish and bed are still at the studio. His furry little puff balls of hair are still peeking out from under the tables now and then.

Every time I get in the car, I inadvertently look for him laying on his big dog bed, waiting for me to start the car so we can go on another adventure.

I can't bear to take his traveling dog bed out of my car.
It's okay for me to take a break from the studio.  No matter what the muse is asking me to do, no matter what I am "supposed" to do as an artist.  I'm taking a break. I'm mourning the loss of my dear friend and companion.

I'm writing this post as much to myself as to you.  Allow yourself the time you need, when you need it.

Maybe there's a new baby in the family and you want to go for a visit - every day for a week. Go ahead!

Or perhaps you want to catch up on your reading and spend the next week in a big comfy chair with a good book.  Fine by me!

My point here is that taking a break is okay. Get back to work when you're ready - but do get back to work eventually.

The flow of creativity has no beginning and no end.

I don't believe in artists' blocks.

I just believe in taking breaks to honor my friend.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Permission To Be Passionate - Teaching in The Atelier Method

"The virtue of an atelier school is its complete authenticity, its appropriateness to the purpose it serves. There is no compromise. For the study of art, it provides an artist’s domain and involves the focus on work which is an artist’s way of life. "  I recently ran across this article on Frank Hobb's blog and found it amazingly readable and worthy.

I'm sure my thoughts will be a pale comparison to what Mercedes said but here goes.

Tesia Blackburn's Painting Group at Ghost Ranch
One of my painting trips with students to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico
Teaching for me, as an artist, is about learning.  I learn from my students as much as I impart to them, maybe more.  It also keeps me on my game in my own work.  After all, how can I blather on about composition in front of my students if I'm not thinking about it in my own work?

Secondly, or maybe firstly, many of my students are people who are coming to art after another career or in conjunction with another career.  There is a certain stigma attached to being "of a certain age" and starting an art career, especially at an art school.  If you are amongst a group of 20-30 year olds, it can start to feel like you're out of the loop and can hamper your joy with making art.  Let's face it, we all want to belong to the group, right?

 But what if you are really passionate, longing, craving to make art?  You have a full time job or maybe some kids still at home. Where will you find the time? How can you make "real" art if you don't have an art degree?

You just start. Twenty minutes here, thirty minutes there. I wrote an entire book about it. 

Many of my students, most in fact, don't have art degrees and make beautiful, moving, authentic work.  They have shows and sell their paintings.  They take classes with me, either in the studio or online.  They come every week, sometimes for years.  They want to know color, shape, texture, paint chemistry and much more. 

And I can help them.  Do you have any idea how good that feels? It's the highest high. It literally makes my eyes fill up with emotion.  When a student sees the painting come together and gets that immense feeling of satisfaction, I get to witness it! That's my job!?!

In small studio classes, in the old "atelier" method - outside of the mainstream of academia, I teach people to paint.

But what I'm really doing is giving them permission to be passionate.