Saturday, February 23, 2019

Flat, Round, Funny and Small Brushes

I've returned to painting in gouache, for the most part, recently. After playing with and learning about transparent watercolor for about eight months, I feel comfortable merging it with gouache. I can incorporate the transparency and fluidity of watercolor in effective ways with the opacity and lovely painterly strokes of gouache in the same painting.

So, recently I decided I needed a couple new brushes. I work small. If you follow me here or on Facebook (, you know that. Most of my work is ATC size, which is always 2.5" x 3.5", the same size as a playing card or sports trading card. So my brushes are small--but not tiny!

Let me show you my home team, along with the newbies I just added:

At the top right you'll see my three "funny" brushes. They've been badly abused over the years, resulting in some messed-up bristles that work well to make a lot of the little marks that suggest things like tree leaves, bushes, grasses, or whatever needs a messy little stroke.

The middle three are my go-to brushes, a Chinese wolf hair brush that makes the nicest long, fluid lines, my trusty half-inch flat brush that is used to paint easily three-quarters of every painting, and a round brush that creates lovely, lush strokes.

The bottom three are the newest members of the tribe. The two small round ones are proving useful for dots, lines, and other small touches, while the chisel blender is running a close second to my half-inch in usefulness, but for smaller flat strokes.

I'm not an "every hair" painter, of course. I like to suggest detail more than actually painting it. I try to work with the largest brush I can for as long as I can, which means my workhorse half-inch brush is key. Consider the scale of a half-inch to 3.5"--it's HUGE, relatively speaking. I can't even figure out what width brush you'd use in a 9' x 12" painting, if it was of the same proportion, but I expect it would be the size of a house painting brush! That large size keeps the strokes fresh and painterly.

Maybe this series of shots will help you see what that looks like:

Half-inch flat brush strokes.

Large round brush strokes added. 

More flat strokes, with some funny brush strokes. 

More funny brush strokes, large and small.

Details suggested. 
Hope this makes you think about your brushes and brushwork. If you have thoughts or questions, let's discuss things.

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