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Art Masterclass - 61


October 2011 

 From The Artist, the monthly magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters, giving practical instruction in painting and drawing in watercolour, pastels and oils, as well as news of art events, exhibitions and competitions open to leisure artists;



Brushes for watercolour artists

By Tony Paul


1. Round The main workhorse brush of the watercolourist, available in a good range of sizes from No. 2/0 to 20, with a round metal ferrule and usually a head that swells slightly from the ferrule before tapering to a fine point. They hold a good amount of colour and will deliver anything from broad to pencil-thin strokes.

2. Filbert or cat’s tongue These have flattened ferrules and the hair is aligned to provide a rounded, rather than a square-shaped end. The rounded, or sometimes pointed, tip allows small touches of detail to be applied. This type is more often used in oil and acrylic painting. Filberts are available in a good range of sizes.

. Flats also long flats, short flats or brights Flat brushes are made in a variety of widths from No. 00 to around 1¼in. (3cm) with a flattened round ferrule and handle. Beyond this width they are bound on to a beaver tail flat handle. Long flats have longer hair, they are softer in use and hold more colour, but may lose their shape earlier. Short flats, or brights, have shorter heads, giving a stiffer brushstroke that will hold less colour, but they keep their shape well.

Angle or chisel is made in a similar way to flat brushes, but the hair is aligned to give an angle. Originally made for signwriters, they are favoured by some watercolourists.

Fan Initially made as a blending brush for use with oils, it has been hi-jacked by the watercolourist to create tree and foliage effects. The end of the ferrule has been flattened and shaped to fan the hair out, giving a thin, even crescent of hair, which when wetted clots into several mini brushes.

6. Sword or dagger An extreme version of the angle brush (No. 4, left). Usually made in softer hair, the taper can be quite extreme. The watercolourist enjoys the paint holding capacity for big, free washes with the fine tip for detail. Made in limited sizes.

Mop was taken up by the watercolourist simply because it holds prodigious amounts of colour and has a fine point. The head is fixed to the handle with polythene (originally quill) bound with brass wire. Polythene is used, because it doesn’t harden with age. The standard mop head is of squirrel hair, but, nowadays, versions with synthetic or sable heads are available. I like squirrel mops in the larger sizes for creating big washes, but smaller sizes are limp and unresponsive. The brushes are made in a moderate range of sizes.

Rigger This round long-haired small brush was designed for the marine artist to paint a line of rigging in one stroke. It is still useful for this and for other fine work, having a longer paint reservoir than the standard small round brush. The brushes are made in a limited range of sizes with sable or synthetic heads.

9. Spotter is made for photo-retouching and miniature painting, with sable or synthetic heads. Whereas most brushes are engineered to hold as much paint as possible, the miniaturist needs only tiny amounts of colour, but a very fine point on the brush. The head of a spotter is short, but with enough of a reservoir to give a controlled flow to the point. Spotter brushes are made in a limited range of small sizes.

10. Hake is an inexpensive flat brush. Its goat hair head is stitched in the oriental way into a split wooden handle. This kind of brush was popular in the 1980s.

Read about natural and synthetic hair types, how to care for your brushes, as well as seeing examples of the types of brushstrokes the different brushes produce, in the full article by Tony Paul which can be found in the
Summer 2011 issue of Leisure Painter

 LP Summer 2011


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