Save the Brushes!

by Michael Zabel

We’ve all had one…the paintbrush that has been a part of the crew for years; the brush that fell into the role of the versatile “go-to” for most situations; the brush that was apathetically set aside time after time, neglected during routine cleanings until the bristles became randomly stuck together by mediums and paints – and sometimes coffee.  More often than not, this is a good indication of when to file this particular paintbrush in the garbage can (or give it a viking funeral) but it may still have a purpose…a renaissance, if one will.

Wilson!  I’m sorry Wilson…Wilson…I’m…sorry…

Today I will be talking briefly on making some unique textures with the exciting random patterns of your very own mutilated paintbrushes.  Above is a picture of a couple of mine that I continue to use – notice the paint remnants on the tip.  This was not the original fate I had in mind for these two, but I forgot to wash once…and then again…and the more I used them, the more I began to get some unique artifacts popping up in my backgrounds.  Just as a side note, by no means do I suggest deliberately ruining your brushes to manufacture textures, but if you want to buy some cheap ones to give it a try, go for it.  However,the true spirit of this technique is meant to be purely incidental so if you don’t have a brush like this yet, just wait a while because it will happen eventually.

Basically after the brush is “destroyed”, either use it to paint with directly or dry brush.  Just push the paint around with it and see what happens.  After the layer is dried you can sand down the texture to accentuate some of the artifacts that occur. 

This process really hits its stride when you start building layers, sanding down the previous one before applying a fresh random coat.  Not only will the paint become richer in appearance, the random control of the exaggerated brush strokes will begin to “battle” with each other, resulting in organic, painterly, and idiosyncratic backgrounds.    

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