The most important lesson that I learned in art school was buy the very best brushes that you can afford, and the second most important was to clean them carefully, thoroughly and regularly.
I preferred the relatively new acrylic paints over traditional alternatives such as watercolour, gouache, tempera and oil paints, and applied my acrylics with hog bristle, sable and synthetic fibre brushes as well as palette and painting knives for more vigorous effects.
Synthetic fibre brushes were somewhat primitive in those days and so I reserved them for less exacting tasks, hoping that they would improve and perhaps someday surpass in quality the pricey and often fragile brushes made from natural fibres.
Besides being cruelty-free, those synthetic fibre brushes handled acrylic paint better than natural fibre alternatives though synthetic fibre brushes lacked the handling finesse of so-called natural fibre brushes.
Some Real Techniques brush sets and accessories from which to build your collection
Start at the upper leftmost image and click rightwards to see how thorough the Chapman sisters and the Real Techniques product developers have been in creating a rational cosmetics application system, filling every gap in a way I have not seen in any other brand.
A while back I was preparing for a personal portrait photography project aimed at depicting female creatives in their workspaces.
During my Australian magazine editorial portrait career, photographers rarely had the time or the budgets for assistants, hair and makeup artists or high-end lighting equipment.
I had experienced something very different in my time working on the other side of the fence at magazines and in advertising agencies in the United Kingdom, and the necessity for a creative team and adequate time was proven again and again.
It helped that the photographers I was commissioning and production-managing were often at the top of the profession, were accustomed to being treated well and I was paying them ample fees and costs to do their job to the very best of their and their teams’ abilities.
In other words, the very opposite to what I and my fellow magazine photographers had experienced over the years in our own country.
I was determined to do it differently in my personal portrait photography projects and, with the help of a little knowledge gleaned from watching my former partner at work as a UK-based MAC makeup artist, decided to build a collection of cosmetics and makeup brushes and accessories to carry with me.
I am no makeup artist, have no high-end training in the profession like my ex-partner, but quickly learned the necessity of providing for skilled hair and makeup professionals when commissioning photographs of female and male subjects for magazine and advertising shoots.
Now I would have to stand in as one for my own projects or at the very least provide a well-rounded kit for my subjects to use as needed.
Discovering Real Techniques
When I came across several Real Techniques brushes in a Sydney city Priceline store, I was gobsmacked.
Here were synthetic fibre brushes miles ahead of the early ones I had used and found so frustrating during my art school days and beyond.
I bought one and found it was made to a standard I had not seen in the synthetic fibre brushes I often perused in the high end art supply stores I sometimes dropped into while working on urban documentary projects in the city.
The late photographer and fashion stylist Karl Lagerfeld apparently used top quality makeup brushes when creating his fashion designs, fashion illustrations and caricatures, and I could see myself using Real Techniques brushes for applications in photography and design as well as in applying makeup.
As more Real Techniques brushes began showing up in a couple of CBD Priceline stores, I added more to my collection and hoped that the Real Techniques might organize their brushes into sets for specific tasks.
Watching my former partner doing makeup at model test shoots confirmed that line of work was as skilled and as creative as any other creative profession and as reliant on possessing the best tools and consumables money could buy.
My project is set aside
Ill health and other factors over which I had no control meant I had to put off my documentary portrait photography project, but recently I began assembling the kit needed to resume it when health and other conditions improve.
My Real Techniques brush collection, still not as complete as I would have liked, had been carefully stored in a dedicated closet well away from each other and any volatile substances or fluids, and went unused for several years.
Then moving day came and I discovered to my horror that my Real Techniques brush collection had succumbed to the same fate as some other treasured objects.
All of my Real Techniques brushes have black rubberized lower handles, all the better for good grip in the same way as our collection of full-size Esprit umbrellas, LensPen screen and sensor cleaning tools and even some control buttons and dials on our Mercedes sports car (secondhand but well-loved and cared-for by previous owner).
All these items have succumbed to their black rubber coating deplasticizing often to the point of liquidizing, becoming sticky and unusable to various degrees, picking up detritus that becomes embedded in their surfaces and then transfers to the fingers and other items of equipment.
I dropped into a couple of Priceline pharmacy stores not far from where I live to see if Real Techniques products were still being sold here, and found that the company’s product range had expanded considerably since I bought my brushes.
Going online to the Real Techniques website revealed even more new and more specialized products than appeared in-store.
Although some of the brushes on sale appear to be made with a rubber-looking black coating on their lower handles, many others looked as if they were made with plastic down there rather than rubber.
Has Real Techniques replaced the deplasticizing black rubber of its earlier generation brushes with a material less prone to the same break-down?
So far my enquiries have not drawn definitive conclusions but I certainly hope they will soon.
My initial tests with the brushes several years ago were so encouraging that I was prepared to invest hard-earned readies in a collection of them.
The black rubber’s liquefaction on all brushes in my collection is disappointing, to say the least, just as the same degradation in my LensPen items, Esprit umbrellas and Mercedes control surfaces was disappointing.
Have these coatings not been tested properly before applying them to product runs?
Were they simply a fashionable gimmick at the time and were they withdrawn when purchasers began complaining?
The makers of those other items did not have any useful advice as to what could be done to render them usable again, but I am hoping for something better with my Real Techniques brushes.
Meanwhile I have been looking at those brush and accessories sets in the photo gallery further up this page, pondering how they might help contribute to a well-rounded hair and makeup location kit like the rather larger one my ex used to carry around all over the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
I need something I can transport around Sydney in a backpack, containing enough tools and cosmetics to at least subtly groom my subjects if not do a full hair and makeup job if needed before photographing them.
Time to get into practise on myself?
Meanwhile, I have provided a number of links below if you wish to read up on Real Techniques and the inspirational sisters who front the brand and teach makeup techniques on their online channels, one sister being a former MAC professional makeup artist.
I am still in dialogue with the customer support representatives at the Real Techniques brand’s parent company Paris Presents Incorporated but so far there has been no useful resolution nor any suggestions from them as to how to make my Real Techniques brushes usable or whether the company will take responsibility for its products and replace them.
The latest email from Real Techniques appears to be a deflection, in fact.
Here is the first reply:
Thanks so much for your email, we really appreciate the feedback. Many customers have found that sometimes brush cleaner can make the rubber handle peel or bubble. Try not to put any wet brushes next to the handles of other brushes, or get them wet in any way. This often happens when customers clean on the go and then throw the brushes in a case to transport them.
Here is the second:
Thanks for reaching out. Can you please give us an approximate purchase date, the name of the retailer, and the name printed on the side of the brush?
And here is the latest:
Were so sorry to hear what happened! Please contact the retailer where your product was purchased for a solution according to their return policy. Unfortunately, we cant accept returns for products purchased from retailers, but we trust that all our retailers have fair return policies.
Australian retailers often have a seven or sometimes fourteen day returns policy on products that are clearly defective when purchased, and I seem to recall that under Australian law the return and replacement period may be longer, possibly thirty days.
Retailers always ask for the cash register receipts as proof of purchase but the ink on cash register receipts rapidly fades to the point of invisibility, so keeping old and ancient cash register receipts just in case a product later proves unfit for purpose is a pointless exercise.
I do not have the receipts from when I purchased all my Real Techniques brushes, so fronting up to the various Priceline stores in the city from whence they came may well also prove to be a pointless exercise.
Some manufacturers take full responsibility for their products whether they prove defective at purchase or unfit for purpose over time, and offer full replacements.
For example, LensPen replaced one of their lens cleaning pens after the cleaning surface suddenly popped off of its own volition while sitting in a storage box.
I have followed up my initial enquiry about the defective LensPen Lap Top-Pro screen and keyboard cleaners and LensPen SensorKlear Loupe Kit with the LensPen folks and am hoping for a similarly positive outcome.
The Esprit umbrella situation is unresolved as the company closed its stores here and I have yet to make contact with the company’s head office.
Again, I no longer have the faded-to-blank cash register receipts from the long-closed Esprit store Pitt Street Mall store.
I would love to know the true story behind this black rubber coating that seems to have been popular amongst product manufacturers but that turned out to be such an abject failure.
Hopefully it is no longer in use.
I wish to see the original developer of this coating take full responsibility for it as well as the manufacturers that were duped into using it.
Whatever you do, do not ask anyone who has never had this problem for suggestions and solutions as they can be widely off the mark.
A friend just came by, looked at the computer stand that I currently have soaking in a bowl of methylated spirits and told me I would be better off spraying it in layers of epoxy resin to seal in the liquified rubber compound.
Stick with soaking in and rubbing with methylated spirits and you will be okay.
Avoid vicious solvents like full strength acetone, lacquer thinners, petrol, kerosene and anything else helpful friends suggest.
Especially avoid making the problem exponentially worse by spraying or dipping thew affected object with paints, lacquers, resins and all sorts of nasties.
After discovering the problem with my Real Techniques brushes, I did a thorough search throughout all my possessions and found that this nasty black substance has been used on all manner of items including automobile interiors and control surfaces, mirrors, photographic equipment, television sets, radios, hi-fi equipment, computer accessories, pens, and plenty of other items whether cheap or expensive, old or new.
- Chemcorp International – Australian distributor of Real Techniques and other beauty product brands.
- EcoTools – website – “Armed with a mission to make women look beautiful on the outside and feel just as good on the inside, sisters Jen and Stacey set out to create a brush collection that was not only environmentally friendly, but chic, high-quality, and affordable too. After sourcing recycled materials, renewable bamboo and better manufacturing processes, in 2007, EcoTools® was born.”
- Glauca Rossi School of Makeup
- Kryolan – “There is only one real professional make-up maker. There is only one Kryolan. Kryolan have been supplying the film, theater and television industries for over 70 years, which makes us one of the world’s first professional make-up brands. We’re still the number one choice for make-up artists today, thanks to our extensive range of over 16,000 high-quality make-up products and accessories.”
- M·A·C – “Make-Up Art Cosmetics started life in Toronto, Canada. Makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and salon owner Frank Angelo became frustrated by the lack of makeup that photographed well, so they decided to create their own.”
- marie claire – ‘He said he’d kill us all’ Pixiwoo’s Sam and Nic open up to Marie Claire about their violent Dad
- nicolachapman – Instagram account of Real Techniques’ Nicola Chapman Haste.
- Paris Presents Incorporated – Real Techniques by Sam & Nic is a brand of Paris Presets along with Eco Tools and others.
- pixiwoo – Youtube makeup tutorial channel of Nicola and Sam Chapman of Real Techniques.
- Pixiwoo – Facebook page
- Real Techniques – website
- realtechniques – Instagram account
- realtechniques – Youtube channel
- Sam Chapman – Twitter account
- samchapman – Instagram account of Real Techniques’ Sam Chapman.
- smashbox – Professional cosmetics products made by Smashbox photography studio, founded by Davis Factor, grandson of cosmetic legend Max Factor.
- The Sun – BEAUTY & THE BEAST: How £6 million Pixiwoo sisters’ family escaped abusive father who called them fat, doused them in ketchup and throttled them
- The Sun – PIXI-WHO? Who are Pixiwoo aka Samantha Chapman and Nicola Haste and what are their YouTube channel make-up tutorials?
- Wikipedia – Karl Lagerfeld
- Wikipedia – MAC Cosmetics
- Wikipedia – Samantha Chapman
- Wikipedia – Taklon