Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Oil Jar

time to take a close-up look at my oil jar! this set-up has saved me a lot of time & trouble & is really worth doing when you're working with just walnut oil as your brush cleaner.

i kept reading in a number of books about setting one of these jars up - you put a can with holes pierced in it in a jar, the point being that when you clean the brush, the paint will drop to the bottom & the cleaner above the can will become free of paint. great idea, but i thought it would only work with turpentine & other more liquidy cleaners.

clean-up was taking me a long time, though, and i was using a lot of brushes as i was painting (to be sure of keeping the colors going down on the canvas clean), so i decided to try it, using my walnut oil - and it works! saves huge amounts of time doing the final clean-up, and makes cleaning the brushes while painting fast & easy! it even saves on oil, which is mightily expensive! i'll go over the steps briefly here, as you've probably seen them elsewhere.

first - start with a pint Ball jar (or other jar that will seal really well) & a can of cat food.

this is a 3oz can, which fits perfectly into the jar. you may have to experiment, depending on the size jar you use, with other cans (tuna, canned chicken, etc). (and thank you, mitch & jim, for the kitty can!)

feed the cat food to your cat. or dog. or if it's tuna - you! remove the label, wash & dry the can, then poke holes in the bottom of it from the outside going in. slip it into the Ball jar so the bottom is facing up. then fill the jar with walnut oil to about a quarter-inch over the top of the can - like this:

you can see how clear the oil becomes after the paint has settled to the bottom (the white-ish layer under the can). i was amazed it really works with the oil!

here's a view of the can, bottom-side up with the piercings (i used a nut pick - do be careful not to perforate yourself!):

to use it while i'm painting, i wipe the paint off the brush onto a paper towel or paper napkin, then rub the brush across the can a few times (being careful not to smush the bristles). i then rub it again on a clean spot on the towel, check that it left no color, and it's ready for using again. this has really helped cut down on the number of brushes i use when i do a painting, and makes me more careful to be sure my colors are really clean.

for clean-up when you're done, just do the above to all the brushes, then wash 'em with a mild liquid soap (i use lifeline) & warm water. after that i give them one wash with a commercial brush soap, then rinse, dry with a paper towel & that's that! so much easier & faster!

till next time - take care - and thank you for stopping by!



  1. Thanks for sharing. I use walnut oil for brush cleaning and then use gamsol at the end of the day.

  2. i have to admit i wish i could use chemicals sometimes - clean-up especially! when i first started painting, i felt at a loss to figure out how to use my colors w/out the mediums virtually all instruction books suggest using. but it's been going along fine w/out them - as far as i can tell!

  3. Thank you! I've been using safflower oil. I'm gonna try this!

  4. I sometimes grumble because it takes so much time to wash the brushes out thoroughly... But you're quite right it is well worth it to do it so that you get nice clean and true color in your paintings...
    I've never tried the walnut oil... It doesn't gum up the brush??? Does it clean as well as the gamsol or turpinoid?

    I have been using a palette knife for the last couple of paintings... Now THAT is easy to clean up!!!

  5. suzanne- i'd be interested to hear how it works for you! this method really saves a whole lotta time - the walnut oil (i use m. graham's) seems to clean the best: thoroughly, quickly, & easily. i tried canola oil for a while but it wasn't as effective.

    m- the only time it gets sticky is if i leave some in an open container, but i do wash the brushes with soap when i'm done with a painting...don't know how it compares to the chemicals since i've never been able to use 'em. i tried a knife for one painting - really liked it - it's on my list of things to keep trying!

    thanks for stopping by!


Thank you for your comments! (you can comment even if you don't have a blogger account!) i appreciate all feedback & i'll try to respond here asap!