I’m often asked interesting questions by students and collectors. The questions range from, “Do you have a magic brush?” to…. “Are you married?”
The answer to the first is, “No, not really…” and the answer to the second is, “Yes, most definitely!”
While I don’t possess a magic brush, or even a special group of visiting elves that do my work for me while I sleep (I wish!), I do have some favourite brands of brushes that seem to work well for me.
For large brushwork and blending, I’ve found an awesome resource at my local Home Hardware in the Styletto brand of brushes. The ones they carry are 1.5 and 2 inch but I note that they have other sizes on the manufacturer’s website. They are synthetic, last forever if you treat them right, serve as a longtime multipurpose painting tool. From covering large areas of the canvas when they hold a good amount of paint through to drybrush blending, they have a light touch, are responsive and never seem to shed. I use them straight up and on the side. They go well both ways. I’d rate them as something I can’t do without, and I’d consider that I’m married to them.
I’ve really come to love the Heinz-Jordan line of oil brushes, which, like the Styletto brushes, have lasted me a VERY long time. I treat them right and wash them well with Murphy’s Oil Soap after using them. The ones I use are the Natural Hog Bristle brushes which, according to the company are “flagged” or split at the tip, providing the ability to hold and move heavy paint. The bristles curve in naturally keeping the bristles together, allowing for clean control of each stroke.
I find my H-J brushes great for plain-air painting and direct painting. They have a nice stiffness to them, and I prefer to use the filberts, in all sizes. They also make an excellent fan brush and I love them. The laquer-blue handles seem to be exactly the right length and weight, providing a great balance in my hand for expressive strokes and more detailed painting.
For a softer touch, beautiful edges and some detailed work, I use the Princeton Artist Brush Co. Umbria 6200/6250 series. These brushes can be used for watercolour and acrylic as well, and are a synthetic brush. I don’t use anything much larger than a #4 in the round, filberts and flats. They’re lovely, but don’t have as much longevity under the same care as the HJ’s and Stylettos. I seem to go through them more but they serve an entirely different purpose for me, (glazes and details) and are ones that I use the least amount, especially when working with large format linens.
Brushes are an extension of the artist’s touch, and need to follow the mood and intention of the work. For me, these work well…..you may find your own preferences. I’m interested in knowing, do you have a favourite line of brushes? Tell me about it here on the blog.