How to Care for Brushes

oil painting brushes

  1. Turpentine Trouble?
  2. Storing Brushes
  3. Cleaning Brushes
  4. Shaping Brushes
  5. Transporting Brushes

I have been doing pretty well with my New Year’s resolutions: to draw, paint, sculpt and photograph each day. Part of the key is to make the energy barrier for each activity as low as possible. With painting in oil, an important consideration is, how to clean my brushes?

Here is what Cennino Cennini wrote (probably in the 14th century):

. . . have a plate of tin or lead which is one finger deep all around, like a lamp; and keep it half full of oil, and keep your brushes in it when idle, so that they will not dry up.

In Cennino Cennini’s time, artists did not use organic solvents for oil painting. To keep their oil painting brushes from drying up, they stored them in linseed oil. A slight improvement on Cennini’s method is to have the hair of the brush in oil, while the handle remains oil free.

The advantage of storing brushes in linseed oil is that it is easier and faster to clean them. The painter does not need to remove the oil, only the pigment.

How do you clean your brushes?