“I watched the clean your brushes video and wanted to know if that formula is ONLY for the final cleaning or can it be used while cleaning the brush WHILE painting a picture? Do I still use mineral spirits to clean my brush during the painting process?
Thank you” — K.
We get this question a lot. There is a short answer and a longer answer that addresses a lot of misconceptions about brush cleaning. You’re going to get both.
The Old Masters
Tom Anderson, the instructor of Master Class, developed our environmentally safe cleaning solution over a decade ago. We’ve mentioned before that Tom is a student of the Old Masters. He discovered this formula by reading some of their old texts.
The formula we use is dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil, and plain old water. Of course, the Old Masters didn’t have dishwashing liquid, so they used lye.
One more thing
There is one more bit of background information we have to cover before we get to the answer.
Managing your palette is an overlooked skill and one we deal with in Master Class.
We’ve noticed that a lot of painters put too way too much paint on their palette. This wasteful practice also encourages you to put too much paint in your brush. Too much paint in your brush means you have to clean it more often.
Tom teaches laying out dime-sized dollops of paint. He also uses Bill’s technique of putting no more paint into the brush than necessary.
If you watch Bill’s videos, you’ll see, even with the Big Brush, he put very little paint in the brush. One of the fundamental principles of the Alexander Method™ is to keep your paint layers thin, thin, thin!
The short answer is “Yes, you can use the solution to clean your brushes WHILE you are painting.”
If you are managing your palette, though, you’ll find you don’t need a solution at all.
Don’t forget these
In Master Class, Tom introduces you to using art wipes to clean your brushes while painting. Art wipes contain a similar formulation as our solution. They will clean your brushes just as fast as thinner if you haven’t overloaded your brush with paint.
We also use paper towels to clean the brush.
Here’s another thing Tom teaches. You don’t always have to remove ALL the paint from your brush. The reason is you want some of the colors to carry throughout the entire painting.
The colors in the sky
Bill says in many of his videos, “The colors in the sky will be in the mountains and the foreground.” How do you get the colors to work like that? By leaving some paint in the brush.
Even in Bill’s videos, he only used thinner to clean his Big Brush after he applied paint and wanted to, say, “hypnotize” the sky. He would also clean his brush with thinner after he “conditioned” his canvas and wanted to add details to it. Even when he “conditioned,” though, he kept that paint layer thin. He didn’t have a lot of paint in the brush.
Once he finished those tasks, he rarely went to the thinner to clean his brush. He would either grab a new brush or use the paper towel roll on his easel.
We’ve used the solution while we were painting but, frankly, we prefer using art wipes and paper towels. If you use the solution while painting, make sure you dry the brush thoroughly. Paper towels will do the trick.
We always use the solution to clean brushes after a painting session. In fact, we’ve had people tell us that they used the solution to clean brushes they were going to throw away. The solution will take the worst brushes you have and turn them into like-new brushes.
- Learn to manage your palette
- Put out less paint
- Don’t overload your brush
- Don’t worry about getting ALL the paint out of your brush
- Use Art Wipes
- Use paper towels
- KEEP PAINTING!
Don’t forget to check out Master Class. We have a lot of great techniques and tips that will make you a better painter. Click here for more information.