A Brush With Detail

One of the comments I hear most often – and frequently this weekend at Open Studios – about my watercolours is “You must use a really small brush.” Actually – no!

I’ve tried the really thin brushes and they just don’t hold enough paint. Why use a brush that runs out of paint mid-stroke? (For the non-arty folks amongst you: there are two ways a paint brush can hold paint – it either needs a reasonable number of long hairs or lots of shorter hairs. A really thin brush probably has neither.) The answer is to buy a bigger, good quality brush which has a very fine point.

When I began painting I fell in to the trap of buying lots of brushes – all inexpensive and small – size 2 or less, even down to size 00000. Pointless, if you’ll forgive the pun! These days I know that it’s much better to buy fewer but better quality. Come to think of it, that adage holds true for most purchases. A bigger but fine-pointed brush costing £15 might sound expensive, but if it lasts for ages, makes a thick or a very thin line and is a joy to use, isn’t it better value than buying than three lesser brushes (that don’t do what you want) at £5 each?

I never advise unnecessarily spending huge sums on materials, but cheap brushes are false economy. I well remember lending a student a brush, just so she could see the difference between that and her habitual choice of the cheapest. “Ooh, it goes where you want it to”, she exclaimed, betraying the fact that mostly her own brushes didn’t.

So next time you’re contemplating a new brush, take it from me: detail is better achieved with a big brush with a fine point than with numerous small brushes. I hope you get the point!

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About Jackie Garner

Wildlife artist.
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