Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Matt's Questions

Blog reader Matt Jungmann had a few questions:

What are the biggest mistakes that novice artists make when starting out?
• Everyone makes mistakes. That's OK. The only mistake is not recognizing them.

What technical aspects of creating art do you still struggle with?
• Cleaning brushes. I run a death camp for brushes and they always end up stiff and dead.

Do you have a favorite instructional book or resource?
• The Andrew Loomis books. He delivered trainloads of gold from the Golden Age.

If you could offer a young artist only one book or resource to take them as far as it could, what would that be?
• The Famous Artists Course (mid-1950s). If you go through that and put it to practice, you'll go far.

What’s the one thing you wish you would have spent more time developing as a young artist/student?
• I don't worry about that. I got a good mix of experience early on, and I'm still always learning.

Who was your most impressive teacher?
Ted Youngkin, perspective teacher at Art Center, gave good info and set high standards.

Are there common mistakes you still see among artists at the highest level?
• I'm not looking for mistakes from my fellow artists. If anything, I'm amazed by the quality that's out there.

If you had only four weeks to train a young artist to win an art competition, and $1,000 of your own money was on the line for them to win, what would the training process look like? Would the training process look any different if you had eight weeks?
• Just alternate between 1. Sketching from life, 2. Working from imagination, and 3. Copying from masters.

Previously: How to Clean Out a Brush


Bob said...

Matt asked some really thoughtful questions and you provided some equally thoughtful answers -- your blog is always entertaining even for non-artists. I couldn't help but laugh with your "death camp for brushes." My brushes are backed up in the cloud somewhere... Dinotopia lives!

Daroo said...

For oil paints I have started using safflower oil as a brush dip -- keeps them from drying out for weeks if necessary.

"Safflower Oil -- for the Absentminded Artist."

Paul Sullivan said...

James—this post was priceless. The questions were great and your answers were even better. It would be good to see another series of brief, pointed questions and answers in the near future.

About your “death camp for brushes”: You work with such professional discipline, I’m confident that you’ve come up with several solutions for keeping brushes clean. What ever they happen to be and details of your other work habits would make a very good post. You are an excellent teacher and inspiration and I wish you were around when I was a young artist.

Patricia Lamas said...


I'm currently reading Imaginative Realism and am becoming very enthusiastic about the idea of combining my love of art with that of history and nature. What's discouraging is that it seems like this kind of art has all but disappeared in publications like National Geographic, instead being replaced with simpler, more stylized drawings and photo manipulations. I see the same trend in books. There appears to be a total abandonment of descriptive world-building in favor of conceptual editorial-style work. Have you noticed the same trend? Do you think that historical and scientific illustration has completely lost its relevance, or am I just looking in the wrong places?

Steve said...

Great post. As to brushes...I’ve gone to buying Murphy’s Oil Soap in gallon jugs. A small amount gets just about everything out of the brush. I follow that up with a German-made curd soap. That really gets all the paint out. Brushes have been brought back from the dead...

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...


Do you have the name of that German curd soap?

Steve said...

Timothy: it was available from Natural Pigments, currently out of stock. They simply refer to it as Curd Soap (Reine Kernseife) . Don't know if it's available elsewhere. Good luck -- it is effective.

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...


My gratitude!

Steve said...

Timothy, your question led me to unearth the box for the soap. It's made by Kolibri. ( A quick search found it in the UK: ( Perhaps you can find it stateside. All for now, good luck.

evanbowman said...

As for cleaning brushes, lavender spike oil is a really strong solvent that also does a good job of getting dried oil paint out of brushes. I've had it bring brushes back to life that the standard turpenoid cleaner couldn't fix.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody for these helpful tips on brush cleaning. I'll give them a try, and maybe bring some of those dead brushes back to life. BTW, here's a previous post about cleaning brushes from someone who is good at it.

Vladimir Venkov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vladimir Venkov said...

Thanks for the wisdom James!!!