5 (Surprising!) Ways Denise Got her Groove Back…with Brushes

The Space Shuttle Endeavor passed over Pasadena on its way to L.A., during our workshop. Classmate Sue Feldmeth snapped this amazing photo of it!

If you haven’t read my previous post on how I lost my groove, it might help to read it first, because it explains why these things I’m about to tell you helped me.

Alright, so I have been to many painting workshops over the years, but this one proved to be transformative. When I tell you the reasons, they sound so silly; they’re all so simple! How could these simple little things make such a huge difference in me and my art?!

Well, that’s why I’m calling them “surprises.” The workshop consisted of 2 days of Dreama painting with a brush and 2 days of Leslie painting with a knife. I’m talking only about the brush part of the workshop here. These are the 5 BRUSH surprises I took home from the Leslie/Dreama painting workshop.:

1.  Dreama had specified using the Winsor & Newton “Monarch” flat brushes for the workshop. I didn’t have any small flat brushes (most of mine were the “filbert” shape), so I ordered them. BIG SURPRISE: they’re actually amazing to use! They keep a perfect, chiseled edge (so they behave much like using a knife!), and they have a nice “spring” to them – not too soft, not too floppy, and not too stiff. Baby Bear would proclaim them to be “just right…”

Winsor & Newton flat "Monarch" brushes

Perfect, sharp chiseled edges

2. Dreama’s technique of “pinching” the brush with a paper towel, almost constantly, to squeegee out paint during painting. This was a foreign concept for me and eliminated the need to keep swishing my brushes in odorless mineral spirits (nothing odorless about them!) as I painted.

3. Viva paper towels. When I saw that Viva paper towels were mentioned as “the best” on the workshop supply list, I figured, “Geesh, I’m just going to be wiping off paint and throwing it in the trash. I’ll just use my usual Costco-bought, jumbo-size roll of Bounty paper towels.” Big mistake! It turns out that the Vivas are so absorbent that they actually wick the paint out of the brush every time I pinch. With the Bounties, I would pinch, but the paint was just squeezed off the brush, as opposed to being “wicked out.” When I got home I immediately bought a 6-roll package. I knew I was in the Zone, because they were on sale for ½ off!

4. Dreama uses walnut oil as her medium (which thins the paint for the first layer). I have always used linseed oil (which is flammable…and stinks) or Liquin (a quick-drying agent, which gives the paint a sheen…and stinks). Walnut oil was used by the Masters and has no odor whatsoever; and, as you might guess, is non-toxic. The timing for switching mediums could not have been more perfect. My linseed oil had totally dried up, and I have never found my Liquin after our move. Again, proving that I was in the Zone.

5. Dreama repeatedly made the point: “Paint what is near and dear to your heart – paint what is in your soul.” She does this, and her love for her subjects exudes from every painting – see them here. (This is why people can copy the paintings of the Masters, but the copies will never have the same FEELING. They can’t copy the “soul” or the passion that was painted into the original. You’ll just have to trust me on this; it is there. I have stood in front of famous paintings – like some by Van Gogh and Renoir – and been moved to tears. That would never happen with a copy.)

Me and Vincent


So, stay tuned for Part 2 – The KNIFE Part – of getting my groove back.

Meanwhile, have you used any of these ideas? What things have changed your art experience? It’s easy to leave a comment, so please do!


2 comments to 5 (Surprising!) Ways Denise Got her Groove Back…with Brushes

  • This is great Denise, thank you so much for sharing all of Dreama’s tips… and I always used Bounty- at least for printmaking. What do you mean by “wicking”? Thanks again. I like simple, too!

  • Thanks for checking in, Nanci. The Vivas are so soft and thick that they actually “suck” the paint out of your brushes (or soak up the spills from your counters) like magic! The Bounties are not thick and plush, so the thing you are wiping up has nowhere to go. There’s nowhere to be “drawn into.” Get it? Buy a roll and you will instantly see and feel the difference!