The last time I took a painting class, in my twenties, I hadn’t given much thought to the tools I was using. Everything was disposable to me then: I lived in a rental house, drove a hand-me-down car with a plastic-covered window, left my clothes on the floor and walked all over them. It would’t have occurred to me to thoroughly clean my brushes; I didn’t always remember to brush my own teeth. From what I can recall, I’d just swish those brushes in a jar of turpentine, pat them with a rag and throw them in my tackle box. Boom zoom.
I’m careful now. I like my things. I like my things, and I have a mortgage and a kid in private school, and it’s no fun to buy the same dang thing over and over again because it’s gotten too frustrating to use the one I crapped all over. So when Jim told us he would show us the 27-step method (or thereabouts) of keeping our brushes nice FOR LIFE, I paid attention.
In the little washroom off the back, Jim held up a brush muddied with toner. “You start by wiping with your paper towel from the end of the brush all the way up and over the ferrule,” he said. causing me to once again marvel at how many words our language must contain. “Pull your towel over the bristles and try to get as much paint off as you can.”
He demonstrated. After running the brush under water, he rolled the tip (and belly! Who knew brushes had such detailed anatomy?) in the brush cleaner. Putting a little water into the lid, he then painted inside it with the soapy brush. The paint started lifting, and he wiped off the excess with a paper towel. Then he repeated the process. And again. And again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again.
(He might still be cleaning it. I left.)
Then Jim showed us the icky part. Breathing deep from some swampy part of his interior, he spat a glistening wad into the lid and swished it around with his brush. “Spit is excellent for bristles,” he told us. “But what you really want to do is create a little cover for the brush, like this.” He took a small piece of paper towel and ….put it… in his mouth….
Anyway, he wet it. Is it just me, or does that give everyone the nails-on-a-blackboard chills?
Then he rolled the tip of the brush in the towel to create a damp little turban. This will dry stiff and keep the bristles from fraying when not in use.
Finally, he handed the brush and cleaner back to Classmate B.
“Wait, was that your stuff?” I asked. She nodded, still looking at her brush.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the paper-towel-mouth thing. Maybe when I buy my $400 sable-hair brush (though that I might take to the spa!). But I like the idea of giving myself a fighting chance of getting this painting thing right and not working against myself with crappy, worn-out materials.
Maybe I’m finally a grown-up!