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Brush care for Plein Air

Like the brush dip technique.  Any suggestions on how to manage brushes for plein air painting?  What would you put the brushes in for transporting to and from painting site?


  • MissFortune

    Welcome to the Forum.

    Yes. Use two capped PVC tubes, one for clean brushes the other for dirty or oily brushes rolled up in separate zip lock bags with a little brush dip.

    If l’m outside or at friends studios the PVC is for brush storage, containment and protection. I have several largish pochade boxes, the PVC keeps them free of oil and pigment stains. Useful also for containment of graphite, pastels and charcoal. Attaches to easel with rubber bands or zip ties.
  • They look like pipe bombs 

  • Yikes, you might want to use clear plastic tubing if you're traveling by plane....
    The TSA has no sense of humor these days.
  • Plastic kitchen wrap does the trick. Dip in walnut oil and wrap. They'll never dry out.
  • Good tips.  One thing I learned early on in my PE experience is a lot of top artists I was watching videos from, used really cheap, I mean massively cheap brushes.  Particularly if they were working small.

    I once bought a set of expensive brushes James Gurney recommended, only to hear him say about them, literally one of the next videos that I watched after getting them, that the main brush he was using out of the set, was actually a brush he had subbed in from a bag of the cheapest brushes Michaels was selling. 

    Minor point, but I can go on a trip and take brushes for a few bucks that I can then leave with some friends, and not even worry about what happens, or how they will get packed for the trip home.  The bigger I work, the less I like this approach, but I work mostly small boards.  I am planing on moving to larger sized pieces, so I will worry about that when it happens.
  • @TamDeal did you buy the richeson travel set? I bought the Michaels brushes with a coupon, cost me $6 for about five brushes and they’re great :D only thing is you have to superglue the ferrules on as they tend to fall off haha.
  • thanks for thanks for these helpful suggestions 
  • I clean plein air brushes in the hotel room using cold water and ordinary soap. Use cold water to stop the glue in the ferrule softening. I take my good brushes.

    I leave the dirty brushes in the PVC tube until the end of the day, they don't dry that quickly. I don't use fast drying mediums or slow for that matter.
  • I take mine in a canvas roll. I just wipe them so there is not much paint and roll them up.  I clean them when I get back to running water and soap.  I travel with them the same way and the are in my carry-on bag.  
  • @TamDeal did you buy the richeson travel set? I bought the Michaels brushes with a coupon, cost me $6 for about five brushes and they’re great :D only thing is you have to superglue the ferrules on as they tend to fall off haha. 
    You ruined the Travel Brush take down-feature with your use of glue!  ;)

    Guilty, I bought the Richeson set.  They smell funny.  I don't use them, I'm saving them for when I get accepted into the pantheon of professional Plein Air artists, and am worthy. 

    Seriously though, there are so many quality brushes out there that I find in stacks, remaindered, at art stores, I made a newbie mistake.  This was  before I realized you can paint an oil or acrylic masterpiece with a 5 dollar W&N brush off Amazon.  I think maybe I panicked when I saw some of the prices for those watercolour brushes

  • Can't think of his name but he's in the UK  and lots of YT videos of him painting with double-ought or smaller brushes doing crazy real landscapes. any way, he buys his brushes by the bag full, 50-100 at a time very very cheap. I don't know what he means by "Very, Very Cheap" he's in the UK  and I'm American.    Also...
    My Dad told me that if I'm serious about something and need an item or materials to buy the best that I could afford. That was long before consumer reports and customer ratings on internet store sites or blogs and forums. I can't afford to buy Rosie's brushes so I have brushes on par with W&N. I know from previous discussions here, many members intended to try Rosemary brushes, Maybe we could revive that thread and see what they say now about longevity. 
  • I just use a wide rubber band around a half dozen or so brushes and throw them in the pochade box or a special wooden box for brushes that I made that fits inside my pochade. But, I make sure to include a small wooden dowel or skewer in the bundle so that it protrudes beyond the bristles and anchors the bundle against a corner of either box. The proud skewer protects the bristles from contacting the box and I can also use it while oil painting to scratch fine lines in the painting. The wide rubber bands help keep the brushes from rolling around and they are just the right size to wrap around the pochade box auxiliary shelves and slip brush handles underneath to keep them in place while painting.

    @BOB73 - is the YT UK painter you are thinking of Michael James Smith? ( I have heard him remark about using small Rosemary brushes and cheaper synthetics in the videos I've seen. One of his videos also shows how he makes his own very thin, long riggers using bristles from an old 1 1/2" house painting brush stuck into a piece of plastic brush sleeve for the ferrule on an expired flat.
  • I wash my plein air brushes with soap and normal water. Keeps them nice and clean. This is less complicated method. I do the same for my studio brushes as in India paints dry within a 2-3 hours.
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