An Artist’s Diary – Page 6

Studio housekeeping is a mundane topic, but important. When I started painting Ezy Boy, I  could not remove the tops from some of my tubes of oil paint. The paint had dried and hardened. There are several ways to open them. You can draw the flame of a match or cigarette lighter over the tops to melt the oil (though your fingers may get burned if you have tubes very resistant which require many passes). You can soak the tubes in solvent for a day or so (though this can also dissolve some of the lettering on the tubes). Instead, I held each tube (with long metal tongs) over the stove burners for a few seconds each, constantly moving them around a little. This loosened the tube tops fast, easy and painlessly. But it melted the outside of some of the plastic tops. The tops are still usable, but I dare not put them through this process twice. Instead, I must do what I should have done to start with. I must wipe the rims every so often with a paper towel and clean thick paint out of the tops.

Also, some of the paints had hardened inside the tubes. I believe in “waste not, want not” so I cut the tubes open with the scissors and removed the paint, putting it into separate containers with a little solvent inside to soften it and placed the top on tight. Any container will do, of course, but I like the “Tupperware Classic Sheer Midget” set. If I want to mix a special color to use in several painting sessions, this is ideal.

I pour out a very small amount of solvent to clean my brushes in each painting session and often dispose of it when I am through. I don’t want to discolor a large amount of solvent in one session. A small amount of the pigment may remain in the brush even after cleaning with solvent and can discolor the next pigment you dip the brush into (especially if the old color it is dark or strong, or is a dye). For this reason, it is sometimes useful to have two or more little cups of solvent (one for delicate, light colors, one for reddish colors, one for bluish, etc).

Cleaning brushes in solvent, then washing them in warm water and soap before the next day’s session is good. However, I have occasionally had a brush that still emits color onto the cloth even after all this. How long it would take to remove every trace of pigment I do not know. Be cautious, even to the point of using different brushes for different color categories if needed. Always re-shape your brushes if needed so that they will dry that way. Once dry they are ready to re-use. – Now I can return to the fun part of painting!

At last Ezy Boy is finished. I am happy with this painting and hope my friend will be. It is hard to let go of Ezy Boy. We have been through a lot together and I look forward to seeing him every morning as I return to my studio, but it is time to start another painting. I will let him dry thouroughly before sending him off. Oils may me dry on the surface, but not underneath. It is mid-April. He will go out in May just to be sure.