Using Oils/Cleaning Brushes

Artyczar

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I am posting this, I guess as a tutorial for anyone who might be interested in how to use oils. I am completely self-taught, so take it for what that's worth to you. This is my system and my viewpoint on oil painting. I am not a teacher by any stretch of the imagination. But I have been working in oils for over 30 years, so at least that's something.

This is all reworded from something I posted on my blog some time ago which was meant to help anyone who has felt intimidated by oil painting in general. A lot of people that want to start in this medium can get easily discouraged, like it’s some kind of ominous medium that they won’t be able to conquer. I, for one, don’t know how people work in acrylic because it dries so fast. Acrylics are not my bag at all.

Oils stay wet forever practically--some colors more than others. But I think the number one barrier as to why people don’t try, and/or fail, is because they don’t know how to care for the materials. I really believe that is the reason. Working with the actual paint is usually not the reason. All painting is trial and error. You get to know how to manipulate the stuff by pushing it out of the tube onto the palette, and brushing it on a canvas. It’s not all that different from acrylics in that regard.

It’s the cleaning up afterward and taking care of your brushes that stops a lot of people, and many are afraid of the smell. The "toxicity." It’s not all that horrible really. You can wear gloves and a mask if it really freaks you out that much. I personally don’t think all that’s needed. Use a fan and open a window is you’re that paranoid. I don't do any of that.

First of all, I use a nontoxic cleaner called Turpenoid Natural:

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I keep it contained inside of a Silicoil jar:

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You fill the jar until it just covers over the coil. You won't need to put much more into the jar for quite a long time. You can also keep that same Silicoil jar for over a year before correctly disposing of it. (Don’t pour it down the sink, ever.) Once you clean your brush off on the coil, the color will settle to the bottom of the jar. The clearer part of the solution will rise to the top over time. It's a great little system.

This is all part of taking care of your brushes, which is most important. And I have owned most of my brushes for more than 25+ years.

While I'm painting, I use disinfectant wipes between colors on the same brush before dipping it into the Silicoil jar and brushing it against the coil. Those disinfectant wipes are incredibly helpful, but paper towels or rags work well too. (I might make more trash than I should, but I use all three for what it's worth.) For a smaller brush, I find that a disinfecting wipe is good enough to use (between colors) and I don’t even have to dip the thing into the turp at all.

I also use disposable paper palette pads. I used to have a glass palette, but I found that I actually wasted paint that way. I'll use two pads at once, and I'm also able to easily transfer mixed colors to a new pad with a palette knife if needed. It's all much much faster. By the way, I don't use the ones with the thumb holes in them even though they are pictured here.

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As far as mediums, I only really use two different kinds. I mostly use this Gamblin gel that makes oils a smooth dream to paint with. It's also non-toxic and you only need a tiny bit.

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The other stuff I use is Liquin, which has a a bit of a toxic smell to it. I don't use it that often, but I will when I need to. It helps getting oils to dry much faster. It thins out the oil paint and makes it somewhat transparent. You can even make oils look almost like watercolors. It's the secret for building flat layers upon layers, especially if you’re playing with light.

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After the painting session is over, you'd think there'd be a whole rigmarole to cleaning up. Nope. I basically do the same thing as when I'm trading colors on the same brush. Use a rag or a disinfectant wipe to get most of the color off the brush first, then wipe it on the coil in the jar until all the color disappears. I'll give it a couple gentle swipes on a rag and set it down. I'll let it sit there until I'm ready to paint again.

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I can leave the brush there forever practically before soap-cleaning it, as long as it’s free of color. I have left my brushes sitting this way for a year before. So long as they have a slight coat of the Turpenoid on them, they will actually be fine.

Then, when I want to give the brushes a good washing, I actually use LAVA soap with warm water until all the color is gone from the brush. It must wash out clear. THEN, here's the stuff to give it the last washing and a good conditioning (this is important):

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I'll dry the brushes off with a soft, clean cloth, making sure that wood handle never sits wet. Then, I will shape the brush bristles with my fingers and spit. Yes, I said spit. Don't ever put brushes into your mouth. I spit into the palm of my hand and do it that way. I always store my brushes with the bristles facing up.

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I hope this was somewhat helpful.
 
Good one.
I used almost the same way.
I used to have reusable palette but turn to those pads.
bought Galkyd Gamblin gel with solvent and to be honest it is not different from LIquin and does the same job or even better, Liquin is a bit transparency although W&N claim it keeps it constinancy.
I clean the brushes with linseed oil and soap.
 
Thanks very much for this, Arty! I need to get one of those Silicoil jars. I thought I could make do with a regular jar but all the old paint gets disturbed every time the brush goes in. I didn’t know about disinfectant wipes so that was also a helpful tip.
 
Before there was silicoil jars, I bent a small square of 1/4" wire mesh into the appropriate size and shape for jars that were frequently bought--peanut butter, for instance. It does the same work, the mesh is removable and cleanable--wipe with a rag--, a new (used) jar gets recycled.:) To wipe paint off brushes, I recycle books like voter info, some catalogues, telephone type, "newsprint" type books. When a page is used up. I tear it off and put it into a plastic bag in a bucket, cover with water, and add to it till garbage day, when it goes into the trash.
 
Thank you very much for this advice, Artyczar. 😎 I tried oils for the first time a while back, just before Covid hit, and had a second go this year, attending workshops for beginners in oils. I’ve not heard of the coil jars, so have learned something new. I have been thinking of getting water-based oils.
 
I love oils as well! I hope you don’t mind me sharing my methods?
I use a glass palette which is easy to clean and wipe off with a bit of cooking oil at the end of a session. I cover unused paint with plastic wrap overnight. If I won’t be back for a few days then I transfer unused paint to a white tile and put it into a plastic container and into the freezer. I use Archival brand lean medium (sparingly) as I paint, which thins slightly and makes the oil paint flexible when dry and it is odourless. I use Odourless Mineral Spirit rarely for an initial first stage of brushing on colour as it dries quickly and I can wipe it back with a cotton cloth. Really great to “draw” with the brush or give the surface a neutral colour to start a painting.
As for brushes. I keep them bristles-down in a glass jar half filled with vegetable oil. I just wipe off the oil on a cotton rag and get painting. I just wipe the brush on the rag when changing colours. Then back into the oil jar at the end of the session.. I clean them with liquid dish soap at the end of a painting or every few weeks.
My method suits me and when I had limited space there were no odours of turps (which actually make me nauseous)
Great discussion!
 
Thanks for posting your methods bethany. We all have our ways. :) I like how you asked if it was okay to post them on my thread and then did it anyway. :ROFLMAO:
 
Interesting.
I keep them bristles-down in a glass jar half filled with vegetable oil. I just wipe off the oil on a cotton rag and get painting. I just wipe the brush on the rag when changing colours. Then back into the oil jar at the end of the session.. I clean them with liquid dish soap at the end of a painting or every few weeks.
My method suits me and when I had limited space there were no odours of turps (which actually make me nauseous)
Great discussion!

I do it similar to you. I have a square plastic can (I don't know the right English word here). It is rectangular and not so high.
I have a kitchen sponge taped under on side of it, so it tilts. In it I have vegetable oil. I lay the brushes in the box with the bristles down in the corner where the oil is collected. Since they don't stand up, they don't get misshaped.

For palette I use a piece of glass with a piece of grey paper under it.

These are ideas I've taken from others, so it is always good to hear how other people do it :)

For mediums I use odorless mineral spirits from a Swedish brand that also makes oil paint. And also linseed and poppy oil. Gamblin is a bit hard to find here, although there is one online store that has their oil paint. The European brands are more common here of course.

By the way, I'm thinking of borrowing this is idea of making a Rembrandt mayonnaise :D
 
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Thank you all for sharing your setup. it gives wide prespective and knowladge. much appreciated.
Me too, it's good to share stuff like this. I used to learn and get ideas from teachers, classmates, painting friends. Now a days I paint alone (well my is in the same studio, but almost never at the same time... and she uses acrylics), so it's gold to have posts like this.

But my many misspelled words in my previous post bugs me, and now I can't correct them, arrrgghh (I understand why you cant edit posts after a period, but it still bugs me ;) )
 
Me too, it's good to share stuff like this. I used to learn and get ideas from teachers, classmates, painting friends. Now a days I paint alone (well my is in the same studio, but almost never at the same time... and she uses acrylics), so it's gold to have posts like this.

But my many misspelled words in my previous post bugs me, and now I can't correct them, arrrgghh (I understand why you cant edit posts after a period, but it still bugs me ;) )
I agree with you about sharing tips—that is one of the reasons I became a member.

Regarding misspelling words: it happens in the best of families! Anyway, many Europeans put us native English speakers to shame with your language skills.
 
Yikes! Why would he let his dog lick that mixture? Looks like it had some red pigment. Not to mention, what kind of linseed oil was in it? linseed oil for paint is not for consumption.
 
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Thanks for sharing Ayin! I started oil painting cleaning my brushes at the end of each session. But then I read about using Walnut Oil to dip the bristles of the brushes and just leaving them there at a horizontal position... oh, that was a life saver for me. Cleaning is hard work!

Of course this dip method works to about 4 to 7 days, before the Walnut oil start to dry, depending on the temperature and all. But since I paint once a week, i just need to redip them if I didn't use them before that. And if I need to travel, then I clean them all with soap+water. Works well for me! And Walnut Oil is also a medium, so double usage for it.
But It's really good advice to know how to properly clean and care for brushes , ty!
 
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I'm not sure of your question, but the Turpenoid is for cleaning. The solvent is a gel in a tube.
 
Thank you. I understand that you use the "solvent free gel medium".
I read that it is frequent (legacy technique) to use turpentine, linseed oil or mixtures of those to make the color lean or fat, for the earlier or later layers.
 
I do not use that technique and don't know much about it. I will use Liquin to layer or thin. Sometimes stand oil or wax medium to thicken. But it's not my usual to thicken.
 
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