Monday, October 25, 2010

Dirty Brushes, How I Hate You

I have never served as a studio assistant to another artist, neither have I had a studio assistant. However, there is one part of my job that I hate more than probably any other:

Washing my brushes.

I cannot explain the disdain I have for this most mundane of chores. Maybe it's that it is the most mundane of chores. After a long day of painting, the last thing I ever want to do is clean up brushes. So I often don't. And that's bad. Oils dry slowly, so the next morning I can often swish them in mineral spirits and get back to work. But brushes start to pile up as the week goes on. If on day 3 I don't use a brush I used on day 1 or 2, by day 4 that brush may be toast. Sometimes, I have the good sense to at least rub some Walnut Oil into them each night, which generally keeps them soft for a day or two extra. But inevitably, I'll paint until the last moment before having to do something on a Friday, be busy all weekend, and wake up Monday with a taboret full of stiff brushes.

That's when I break out the brush cleaner whether I like it or not:


It may be that this stuff is so good that I get so lazy. Time and again I've seen this soap revive brushes from rigor mortis, so I must subconsciously count on it to save my butt. But one way or another the dreaded day comes. Usually Saturday night, or perhaps at the completion of a painting, I have to gather them all up and clean them.

It took 25 minutes to wash these

I may be a whiner, but I'm not the only one. Note the following, from the opening of the opera "Tosca" by Puccini, wherein the Sexton of the church where Cavaradossi is painting complains:
"E sempre lava!... Ogni pennello รจ sozzo
peggio d'un collarin d'uno scagnozzo."
("Always washing!...Each brush is dirtier than a workman's collar!")