A short post on brushes.

My arsenal.

Cornelissen in London makes the best bristle brushes I’ve ever owned. They finally have an online store which is great, as getting to central London is a pain and their staff aren’t particularly friendly (I got in trouble there once for checking unfamiliar turpentine brands for mineral spirits and the clerk thought I was getting high). The series 44 are the ones I use. They are more expensive than other brands but they are built like tanks and last forever. Mine usually get worn down to a triangle shape after years of use.

For sables, Zecchi has the best quality brushes I’ve found. The red-handled ‘cat-tongue’ sables are very useful for drawing with your paint. They are also pricey (though cheaper than much of the competition), but will last a long time if properly looked after.

I get asked a lot about brush care. I clean mine about once a week with soap and cold water*. In the meantime I keep them in the freezer at night so they wont dry out.

Bristle brushes I wrap individually with a little piece of paper towel to pull out the water and keep the shape. Sables I leave a bit of soap in and make a point with the hairs so they dry with a sharp tip.

*It’s important to use cold water as warm water can expand the ferrule of the brush and the hairs will come out.


    • @Daniel, I guess so. Like sniffing glue I imagine.

      @Harold, wet (with paint) brushes dry out much slower in the freezer, so I don’t have to clean them everyday. Many painters keep their palette (with fresh colors on it) in the fridge/freezer for the same reason.

  1. Thanks Marc,

    It is always nice to know a little bit about the tools that produce such beautiful work! Speaking about tools I was wondering about your wet canvass box. There seem to be a lot of different formats in your boards.

    • Hi Bruce, I need to make a wet-painting box. Until then, I usually only use three sizes for the panels and just clip the wet panels to the easel to carry them home (I can clip them to the legs while working). In my car I have a wooden wet-panel rack with room for 40 or so wet panels, as well as a metal rack for larger wet canvases.

  2. Hi Marc,
    Those are useful points on brush care. I treat my brushes periodically with one of those ‘2 in 1’ shampoos, particularly sables/softhair brushes. Apparently the washing should be done twice and the second wash lathers more and the conditioner kicks in (there’s some scientific explanation for this, I heard a scientist explaining about the ‘clever molecules’)

  3. I suspend all my brushes in linseed or safflower oil. I never use turps or wash them or use soap or whatever. I found that they last forever or until they get worn down from painting. I was thinking of some method for storing plein air brushes when on the road but so far no solutions.
    You have the super talents with landscape painting, they are a pleasure to view.

  4. I also use cornelissen kolinsky, as well as other brands like Borciani-Bonazzi, Royal & Langnickel majestic series for the shape. I try to take care of them but they start to fray quite soon no matter what I do. Wash them with soap, then wrap them in tissue over night… perhaps I’m applying too much pressure (I paint in very thinned down layers on panel). Generally, I replace brushes that I use regularly every couple months. Is that normal?

    • That seems pretty quick to me. You wash them with cold water, right? Mine last a year or two at least with intense daily use.

  5. i use quite warm water generally… bad idea? often there is a build up of oil paint at the base of the larger brushes so they lose shape and then are difficult to reshape….not so much the ends curling. Though that used to happen often (but I think thats due to harsh techniques). I will try to be more gentle with them and see what happens.

  6. Final post, I promise… someone recommended using vegetable oil to keep brushes soaked in while they aren’t being used then just wiping them clean. Have you heard of this method?

    • Hi Maciej. For bristles the sizes are 5 to 8s (mostly) and for sables 000 to 5. I have some bigger sables I sometimes use in portraits, and I use bigger bristle brushes for larger paintings and large areas like skies on sketches. Smaller bristle brushes can be useful too, I just don’t have many in my kit at the moment.

  7. Can Zecchi brushes be purchased online? I looked at their site but could not find a compatable USA site. If not which brand of sable brushes would you recommend that can be purchased here?

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