Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Surprise - I need better supplies

Yesterday afternoon at work, there was a knock on the “door” to my cubicle – Elsa, a long term temp in the legal department, had stopped by to get a signature from my boss. It was a nice surprise to see her, since she’s always pleasant and upbeat, but her temp status means I’m never sure whether I’m seeing her for the last time. She’s been with the company practically as long as I have, but whereas I decided to push for a permanent position, Elsa seems to prefer to stay on a temporary basis while she devotes most of her energy outside the office to her painting career.

This morning she came by again to pick up the signed document and it occurred to me that fate might be doing me a favor in reminding me I know a genuine working oil paint artist who I can ask about the proper materials. So I asked her what she uses to clean her brushes and sure enough she had a list of provisions and stores to get them.

Over the past few nights as I’ve been working on my painting, it’s becoming increasingly clear that I haven’t chosen the best options for cleaning my brushes. I have a little glass jar of turpenoid with a kind of rough spongy thing in the bottom for rubbing excess paint onto. The sponge has two parts, which I’d hoped meant the bottom part would absorb the paint particles and clean the turpenoid solution for the next use. Where did I ever get this crazy idea? Instead, the first paint I brushed onto the sponge clung to it, and now any time I dip my brush in the jar the mixture gets a little darker and my brush stays dirty. Instead of cleaning my brush, I feel like I’m very slowly painting the inside of a jar.

It seems to me that the problem is the jar and sponge – I need something a little rougher to rub the brush on, but something that won’t hang onto the paint. In high school we had these big plastic tubs with built in ridges, which would be perfect, except that one of those tubs would take up too much real estate on my work space (nee coffee table), and increase the likelihood of things getting knocked over and ruined. As Quick and Simple would say – What to do?

Elsa’s first point of advice – before I can even finish explaining my situation actually – is don’t use turpentine.

Oops. Not for anything?

Not for anything. Painters today don’t use turpentine for anything except stripping paint off a canvas. I need to clean my brushes with a substance specifically created for that, and should use a separate oil thinner for thinning my paint.

Elsa was kind (and thorough) enough to make me a full list of cleaners, thinners, and a quality comparison of the different brands of oil paints (she recommends Winsor-Newton professional for value --I have Winton which I think is made by them. She says Old Holland is the best of the best for quality, but twice as expensive as others). Plus, a description of the process she follows for keeping her workspace clean (after cleaning brushes she wipes them onto a paper towel, which goes into a plastic bag in a clean, empty paint can).

I guess I’ll be stopping by another art store on my way home tonight. But what to do with all this foul smelling turpenoid…?

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