Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back To Art Stuff: I Love Brushes!

Since I posted about my dogs I can't seem to get rid of the google ads about the recalls and safer alternatives and while I feel that's important, it's time google moved on! Especially since I don't seem to be getting paid for any click throughs, but it's probably mostly bogus as far as any income ever being generated anyway unless one owns a huge site.

So I thought I'd do a post on my favorite brushes. The world has moved forward in that area since I was last painting professionally in a serious way years ago. Synthetics have become more varied and in some cases actually fairly superior to natural fibers. I'm finding I now have definite favorites, even among the standard oil paint brush which is the bristle or "hog", as it's made from the bristly hair of hogs. Hog hair has a curve to it which can be used to shape a brush in a specific way for a desired effect, say to get a filbert (gently rounded inward corners on a flat brush), and has "flags" on the ends, which is sort of like a split end in our hair, the advantage of which is it holds onto more paint, so one can really load up a brush for a juicy, expressive stroke. Today pretty much all bristle brushes are Chinese made. (I will not get started on the long time standard Chinese mindset of profit over ethics, as it just incenses me).

The natural bristle brushes coming out of China range from abysmal craft brushes that shed hair like a cat to fairly well made and long lasting. I prefer Dick Blick Masterstroke brushes for my hogs, others prefer Grand Prix Silver Brush. Except for the handle colors they look identical, and are probably made by the same maker, or one copies the other, but the Masterstrokes seem to me to have the edge as far as holding their shape longer without splaying, and being just a bit fuller and softer. Prices are quite reasonable and comparable on both. Another recent favorite which I use for alla prima after I have laid paint down more broadly with a bristle is the Winsor & Newton Monarch Mongoose brush, which is a synthetic mongoose. It is a lovely brush, and being softer and finer than a bristle lays down a smoother stroke and has more finesse, while still having a slight stiffness. It has a nice edge and is a versatile brush in all its forms; flat, bright, filbert and round. I prefer filberts in most brushes, but I used to use mostly brights and some flats. Now it's mostly filberts and flats. Filberts seem more versatile to me. In synthetic mongoose I also love the Escoda Tadami Short Handle brush, but it is a bit pricier, so I only have two, which I waited until I got a 30% off coupon to buy (you'll note that most of my links are to Dick Blick, that's because the prices are very good online. Retail brick and mortar Blick is mostly ridiculous pricewise however, unless you have a coupon, which the website offers regularly, so go sign up!). The Escoda has a more unusual, cat's tongue type point to it, which is useful and intriguing. Another brush I love using is the Princeton Artist Brush 6300 Series synthetic bristle. (Blick is having a sale on Princeton, 50% off, check it out!). It's a bit softer than natural bristle and thus more responsive, and holds its shape really well. It's also more expensive than most natural bristle, but should be worth the extra cash. There is also a synthetic sable that I adore, and I have seen it referenced as others' absolute favorite, but it escapes me at the moment, and as all my brushes are downstairs in the dungeon and it's late, I'm calling it a night and will post about that one later. Can't give all my secrets away in one post...

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