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Old 08-06-03, 12:31 PM
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PhilS PhilS is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Sargentville, Maine
Posts: 222
Default The secret lives of brushes

I'm curious about how long other tempera painters are able to maintain their brushes. I find that mine last for two paintings at best, sometimes only one. They seem to just get worn down from all the brush strokes. I admit I could take better care of them (I rinse them out, but don't actually thoroughly clean them each day). Buying new brushes is probably my biggest expense, since pigments cost very little and I gesso my own panels. Synthetic brushes might last longer, but I don't like the way they handle. I'm pretty much hooked on Kolinsky sable.

Any suggestions? Phil.
Old 08-06-03, 03:31 PM
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RobM RobM is offline
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Location: Nottingham, England
Posts: 352

I use Kolinsky sable and like yourself my brushes wear down rapidly duing the course of about two paintings. I use ABS brushes and find that they do not loose their point as they wear. A No. 3 brush will gradually convert itself into a 00 and still have quite a bit of life left in them.
All I do is keep replacing the No 3!!

I think the real problem is that as tempera painters we are regularly squeezing out the paint between our fingers or whatever method and at the same time removing a hair or two.
ABS do give some hints on brush care on their web site.

Old 10-06-03, 12:10 PM
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PhilS PhilS is offline
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Location: Sargentville, Maine
Posts: 222

Thanks Rob,

A friend of mine says she keeps brushes going for years. She's a watercolor painter. I can't convince her that ET is different...

I'll try out the ABS brushes.

Old 10-06-03, 08:47 PM
LaurieO LaurieO is offline
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Location: Cape Cod
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Default The secret lives of brushes

Hi all- I'm glad you both mentioned this. I did quite a gasp when I read two paintings for a brush, and ran to hug my Kolinsky brushes - only kidding - but I was surprised. I too have had most of my Kolinskys for several years, but now will know not to expect long life with egg tempera.

The ABS site looks like a great one, thanks for posting the link Rob.

Old 11-06-03, 01:06 AM
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jason_maranto jason_maranto is offline
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Location: Tampa, FL USA
Posts: 31

The reason for your rapidly deteriorating brushes is the gesso... while it may feel smooth to the touch it is actually like a fine grit sandpaper -- synthetics may hold out longer but not by much.

Try doing a painting on paper and see the difference in the life of your brush.

Old 11-06-03, 01:31 AM
David McKay David McKay is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Posts: 77
Default the secret lives of brushes

Very interesting! I have a drawer with dozens of worn out kolinsky brushes, mostly #'s 2 and 3. I always laugh when I hear an art supply company say that a well made brush will last for years! I have found that the synthetics will last much longer and I use them during the early stages of a painting. However, for the final glazes near the end of a work.....nothing can be as sensitive as a Kolinsky.

Old 20-07-03, 06:23 AM
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Have you tried dipping the brushes in leave-in hair conditioner and then shaping it? I haven't tried using egg tempera yet, but from a guache perspective (which can also be rough in texture) I always wash my brush out with a mild soap and then dip it in a little bottle of Infusium-23 leave-in hair conditioner and then shape the brush. Natural hair brushes need more than just soap or they will frizz out just like our hair does if we wash it frequently without conditioning.
My first watercolor teacher taught me this and it has really saved me a bundle on brushes over the years.

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