Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

I have solved a small problem and was so pleased with the solution that I thought I would share it, in case anybody else is struggling with it.

I use a lot of Heavy Structure Gel in my paintings.  I use it because it allows me to make a thick, textured background that I can actually carve and scrape away to reveal the subject.  I can cover the entire canvas in seconds and block in the major areas of colour in a few minutes.  The gel holds peaks, so any marks you make have a visceral, raw look to them.  They look like a Van Gogh canvas, with its impasto mark making.  I like that.  The gel also gives a glossy finish to the work and it makes paint go a very long way.  Because it’s clear, it allows you to blend transparent colours with new freedom and to adjust the tone of the colour just by how thick or thin you make the gel.  It’s amazing stuff.  I love using it.

You roll your sleeves up, get messy and start slathering coloured gel all over the place (I mix gel and colours partially on the palette, but let the colours move and work around, while the gel is being applied to canvas).  While the gel is partially set (it stays open for about 30 minutes or so after application), you can work and rework it.  It dries like plastic.  Once touch dry, you can happily scumble over it with smaller palette knives and thinner paint, making incredible broken colour effects.  If you like, you can paint over it, with brushes, or use the brushes to smooth and smoosh the goo about.  It’s a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, I can never get the stuff out of the plastic jar.  It doesn’t run.  Its viscosity is such that, if you wanted to pour it out, you would be waiting a very long time.  Possibly the age of the universe.  I struggled for a long time with digging the stuff out of the jar and gradually accumulated lots of partly empty jars, that still had lots of usable gel in them, but which I couldn’t get out of the jar, no matter how hard I tried.

Look at the picture.  You can see my largest flat palette knife, which proved to be the best tool for the job from standard art equipment, but it wasn’t able to reach the corners of the bottom of the jar (because the knife has a rounded end) and it was just hopeless at getting the gel out of the top shoulder of the jar.

Bottle Scraper

I abhor waste, especially of art materials (they aren’t cheap), but so, apparently do the Dutch.  They have a funny little kitchen gadget called a bottle scraper, which you can use to get the very last of the jam or peanut butter out of a jar.  Waste not, want not.  Sounded like just the ticket.

I wondered if I could use a bottle scraper (called a “flessenschraper”, in Dutch) to get my heavy structure gel out of the container.

Finding one of these babies wasn’t exactly straight forward.  They’re not commonly sold in kitchenware stores near me and even Amazon wasn’t much help.  I found some US sites that stocked versions of these (but they were out of stock) and some sites from Holland, in Dutch (I don’t speak Dutch, so that was going to be a hard road, even though I really like shopping in Hema, when I am actually in the Netherlands and Belgium).

Finally, I found an online vendor in the UK that would sell me one.  It cost about a fiver and took about a week to arrive (maybe less – I wasn’t counting).  You can see my bottle scraper in the picture.

As a backup, I also bought some of those long handled parfait, or latte, spoons on Amazon.  I got a pair of these, online, in stainless steel, for about seventy five pence each (but I had to buy two).

So how did they work out?  Well, the bottle scraper is exactly the right tool for the job.  I found that I could delve and dive into the jar and get every last bit of usable gel out of it.  The bottle scraper is made of some kind of flexible plastic, so washing the gel off, at the sink, was a simple matter.  You can also use the bottle scraper to dump dollops of the gel onto your palette (and canvas, if you are so inclined).  I didn’t have to use the long handled spoons at all, though I suspect those will come into their own when getting paint out of jars and when I have a new jar of Heavy Structure Gel and want to get dollops out quickly and simply.  Much better than with a palette knife!

So there you have it: a relatively uncommon kitchen gadget with an artistic use.  I also bought myself a cheap set of pliers, for opening those recalcitrant, dried-on, acrylic paint tube lids, without hurting your hands.  No more messy hot running water, swearing and injury to your digits!

I hope you find this little solution useful.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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