Brushing up!

A selection of brushes for general use

Tools of the trade … in order to create something artistic it is necessary* to have a few brushes.

* necessary but not essential … how paint gets onto a surface is not critical. Think about those cave paintings from aeons ago, or acrylic pouring techniques.

The funny thing is that when I began painting it was with just a few brushes, building up slowly as saw other brushes I might want to try out till I had spent a lot of money on what I thought I needed before finally sticking to just a few favourites that I feel comfortable with.

For my watercolour work, I have about 40 brushes including 2 decorating brushes (1 1/2″ and 2″), a toothbrush (for splattering, and a couple of ladies’ makeup brushes. I have a lot more brushes for oil and acrylic work.

Brushes for fine detail

For specialist work, I have a set of sable brushes are for painting fine detail. The sizes are 3, 1, 2/0, 3/0 and 5/0 – the “/0” denoting sizes smaller than 1 where 2/0 is 00, 3/0 is 000 etc. where more 000s implies a smaller brush. I use these only when doing special projects using my best watercolour paints and papers.

Brushes that get used most

My favourite brushes, the ones I use most, are a synthetic angle shader which is great for controlled painting into square areas, a small (3/0) squirrel mop brush which holds water nicely (though too small for doing large washes) and a small round (1) that I use for detail work in loose paintings. I use these in conjunction with any of the larger brushes for landscapes or with a 10 round brush for bird and flower paintings.

Getting decent brushes is a bit difficult for me unless I pay excessive delivery costs on mail-order items since there are not many fine art painters or stores where I live. My shopping list includes a couple of larger mop brushes and not much else other than paints and paper.

There is a lot to be said for getting good natural hair brushes eg sable, but I have been disappointed with one “pro” level sable brush while being very pleased with several synthetic brushes. It pays to go in person to a decent art store to try and buy what suits the artist.

Happy painting!

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