Recently I visited one Chinese artist and found that he has so many brushes which are exactly the same. I thought once you buy one brush, the brush can last for years if it is a high quality one. However, he told me that he replaces brushes almost every week. I was really surprised! If I need to replace brushes so frequently, what should I do with the old brushes? They seem too good to be thrown away.
Only professionals are so strict on their materials? Or should I also change my brushes so often? What do you think?
I personally think that for everyday use the brushes are damaged every 15/20 days. It is true, however, that in Italy I do not find high quality brushes and for a beginner use it would be useless to spend important sum to damage them so often.
This artist shares the same opinion as you. The reason for changing brush so frequently is that the brush tip becomes ‘blunt’ quickly. According to his experience, he said this take 7 days on average since he paints almost 6 hours each day. Foe less used brushes, he changes in around 30 days. He also prepared a very small comb to take care of the brush hair. He combs the hair often so that the hair does not get mixed up, which happens quite often after you have used the brush for a while.
When the brush tip is ‘blunt’, you can still keep it for other painting purposes. 🙂 Do not throw them away because they are still useful. In Chinese, we say ‘if you treat your tools well, they will treat you well. :)’.
I read that when you use a brush you have to let it rest, you don´t have to use the same brush every day.
I think when you use the inkston brushes right you can use them for along time. Clean after use, with cold water, gentle put the hairs in shape with your vingers or paper towl. Then let the brush hang to drye.
Do high quality expensive brushes last longer than cheap ones?
Although all brushes have their own lifespans, high quality brushes are always much endurable than lower quality ones. you will find high quality brushes will lose almost no or very little hair if you use them properly. Also high quality brushes also mean the brush hairs have higher grades, purer, etc. After you have used different quality brushes, you will notice the big difference no only in terms of brush’s lifespan but also in terms of how ‘cooperative’ you brush is for you painting.
To extend the life of the brushes, wash them with natural olive soap or glycerin soap, which do not contain chemical detergents.
Brushes become brittle when losing their natural fat, so it is recommended to use gum arabic or other similar substance, to maintain shape, flexibility and durability. I’ve heard of people who wet them in milk because casein can help.
If the brush is really damaged it is recommended to apply a “Brush Recover”, and wrap the body of the brush on silk paper for a week, in a warm place (but not very hot, never near a heater or stove).
The main western brush factories (I think also in the eastern ones), market the Restorers for daily use, and the Recuperators for extreme cases.
The state of your brushes depends a lot on how you treat them. For example, I never let my brushes dry after only rinsing them with tap water. When they are cleaned, I rinse them quickly with demineralized water to prevent the limestone from hardening them by drying. How to smooth the hair before drying is also essential. And, of course, they have to dry the tip down.
When I started teaching, I noticed that some of my students’ brushes died after a few days, while some of my students were over 30 years old and looked almost new. Since then, I try to teach them how to correctly treat their material …
But especially, the brush ages badly if the ink is bad, the ink stone too rough and especially if the movements of the brush lack of fluidity and constantly grip the paper. When one has to “slightly” torture the brush to obtain certain effects (rocks, tree bark, etc.), it is better to use old brushes (either “bad brushes” or, preferably, good brushes that are degraded over time).
All this reminds me of Prince Wen’s cook, of whom Zhuangzi speaks.
You can read a translation here:
L’état de vos pinceaux dépend énormément de la façon dont vous les traitez. Par exemple, je ne laisse jamais sècher mes pinceaux après les avoir seulement rincés à l’eau du robinet. Lorsqu’ils sont nettoyés, je les rince rapidement à l’eau déminéralisée pour éviter que le calcaire ne les durcisse en sèchant. La façon de lisser les poils avant de les mettre à sécher est également essentielle. Et, bien sûr, il faut qu’ils sèchent la pointe en bas.
Lorsque j’ai commencé à enseigner, j’ai observé que les pinceaux de certains de mes étudiants étaient morts au bout de quelques jours, alors que certains des miens avaient plus de 30 ans et paraissaient presque neufs. Depuis, j’essaie de leur apprendre à correctement traiter leur matériel…
Mais surtout, le pinceau vieillit mal si l’encre est mauvaise, la pierre à encre trop rugueuse et surtout si les mouvements du pinceau manquent de fluidité et acrochent en permanence le papier. Lorsqu’on doit un peu “torturer” le pinceau pour obtenir certains effets (rochers, écorce d’arbre, etc), il vaut mieux utiliser de vieux pinceaux (soit de “mauvais pinceaux” soit, de préférence, de bons pinceaux qui se sont dégradés avec le temps).
Tout ceci me fait penser au cuisinier du prince Wen, dont parle Zhuangzi.
Vous pouvez en lire une traduction ici:
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