What is an artist without her brushes?
Someone recently asked me what size brush I use for my paintings. He was looking right at my paintings when he asked. I thought that was funny. Isn’t it obvious? I make a brushstroke, and there it is. There’s no trickery. The size of the brushstroke is the size of the brush. Easy!
But hey, I should be fair. Not everyone uses paintbrushes on a daily basis. Maybe it isn’t as obvious to other people as it is to me.
In fact, I’ve been asked what tool I paint with. My brushstrokes look so regular, I guess people expect some truly strange implement. A foam stenciling brush? The end of a large stick? A big eyedropper? My fingers? Nope, sorry, nothing so exotic. I just use good old-fashioned artists’ brushes.
So here’s a picture of my brushes (above). The center jar contains my “workhorse” brushes. These are the brushes I use to lay color on my paintings, that leave the visible brushstrokes. The brushes in the lefthand jar are specialty brushes for sketching, signing, touchups, etc. I use the two housepainting brushes in the right jar for putting a protective topcoat on a finished painting.
Of my main workhorse brushes, the largest is nearly an inch wide. That size is for my largest paintings (40 inches and up). For painting 14×11″ or smaller paintings I usually use one that’s just under 1/2 inch across. I’ll usually grab a 3/4″ brush for intermediate size paintings, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. (See the picture below for a closeup of these brushes, my workhorses.)
The brushes I prefer are made from natural bristles. Acrylic painters are told to use synthetic brushes because they stand up to acrylic paint better, but all the synthetic brushes I’ve ever used felt way too flimsy to use with the stiff paint I use. I like the firmness of the natural bristles. But admittedly acrylic paint is hard on natural bristles, and they do wear out with use. So then I have to buy more. At any given time, my collection will include older and newer brushes as I cycle through them.
I mostly use brushes of a certain shape: flat, with a rounded end. This shape is called “filbert”. Here’s a picture of some of them:
The oldest brush in this group is the one with red-tinted bristles. It no longer makes clean brushstrokes (the bristles splay out and leave ragged streaks). I use it to tone my canvases red, which it still does just fine. The two that show a blue tinge are in current use. They’ve been stained by an intense blue color I added to my palette when I moved back to California, phthalo blue. It’s a great color, but it stains pretty intensely, as you can see. The white one hasn’t been used yet… or else it wouldn’t be so white!
What is an artist without her brushes? A fingerpainter, I guess!
Entry filed under: Painting.