Paintings from Sunset Series by Spence Munsinger, Color Field + Blank White Canvas + Realism + Contemporary Abstract Art, original paintings for sale

"Things are beautiful if you love them."
― Jean Anouilh

cleaning artist brushes…


About seven years ago I lucked into finding what has been an outstanding artist’s brush cleaner/preservative. I have a routine I follow which keeps the bristles clean, straight, supple. I’ve worn brushes down. I broke the ferrule off the handle on one, by accident, not in frustration. But I’ve not yet lost one to paint build up. Synthetic brushes, bristle and sable brushes, using both oil and acrylic paints.

brushes on palette table

That’s important. I just made a rough count – I have 28 synthetic brushes and 26 bristle and sable brushes – mostly master and studio professional flats and brights, with a couple of very small #0 #1 and #2 synthetics for signing. A couple of fan brushes. Their costs range from about $9 to as much as $28 for some of the larger sizes. Perhaps $720.00 in brushes, at a rough guess. Kept correctly they last years.

more brush shapes

As a student I think I maintained a set of like four flats. Might have been two flats, a filbert and a sable round…

Perhaps half of the 50-odd brushes are duplicate size and quality – one newer, one more worn, with both getting rotated into use. When the older gets close to end-of-life, a third, new brush is added.

masters image

The small tubs last for months, I’ve had the large one three years now, and have used maybe 20% of the cake. The cheap plastic lid cracked, it lives in a rubbermaid container to keep it protected from drying out. I don’t know that that would make a difference, just my preference.

During a painting session I keep the brushes rinsed of paint and moist, either with thinner or water, depending on the paint in use. I don’t leave them standing in the basin holding the cleaner, they lay flat with no weight on the bristles, nothing to deform or damage them when when they aren’t putting paint on canvas.

Process – clean the brush. If oil, clean with oderless mineral spirits. If acrylic, run under water. Once the brush is clean – I’m talking about as clean as you would have the brush for changing colors in your palette – when the brush is basically clean of paint, move on to making it ready to put away. With both oil and acrylic paint, Master’s cleans with water. Run water over the bristles of the brush. Run the bristles over the soap cake, until there is an amount of soap worked into the brush. It’ll be sudsy. Rub between your fingers, massaging the soap through the bristles. Rinse. Repeat – minimum is three times, more if the bristles still feel coarse or bunched or of you are getting any color at all out on the soap cake. Then work soap in one more time, shape the head of the brush with your fingers as close to its original shape, as it was when it was new, as possible. Set to dry handle down in a jar, leaving the soap in the bristles.

I’ve also removed oil paint from sweaters and good clothes, when I forgot to change and got caught up in the motion of painting.

One note – I never use natural bristles of any kind with acrylic. Acrylic seems to settle into the natural hair and over time coarsen the feel of the brush, even when they are well cared for.


— munsinger

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