Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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02/01/2005: "A Word on Brushes"

Here is something you may not believe, but up until a few weeks ago I'd never painted with a sable brush (except for water coloring). I've always painted with bristle brushes and knives (sorry Dio) to created textured area, such as in the landscapes or backgrounds...and for the smooth bodies of the figures, I use cheap white synthetic brushes, like Dick Blick's "Wonder White" series.

When I started reading that book on the techniques and materials of oil painting they would show samples and tell you exactly how to recreate them, including all the brushes they used. I noticed that this particular artist always used a small round or filbert sable brush for the faces and other areas where fine details were needed.

I decided that on top of experimenting with new painting mediums I also wanted to try some new brushes. I bought several red sable brushes and I used them for this past Eros painting (Which I've named "En Plein Air") and I *love* the way they handle! Every time I fork out a little extra money to try a higher grade oil paint or nicer brush etc. I notice a marked improvement in my ability to achieve the results I want.

Not that I can afford nice materials, but they do seem to make a difference, at least for me. And speaking of costs, my city sales taxes were due today, as well as a thing for the assessor's office, where I inventory all my business assets so they can tax those too. Guess what counts as "business assets"? Well, my easle, and my cheap brushes, and computer including software, etc. It was a real joy. I make so little for my art considering all the hours I put in; I swear, with all the taxes and the extra $150.00 for my business license this year, it makes me glad I'm not in it for the money or I'd be about to cry right now.

Replies: 6 Comments

on Tuesday, February 1st, Dio said

Hehe - well - there you go, I didn't realise you used a knife - and that's when they are a good tool to use. I hate them when they are obviously being used and you get that horrid regimental knifey streak - totally not a part of your work. :)

As for sable, I can dream... I do have some nice brushes for detail, and it makes a hell of a difference, but they are synthetics - the trick with sable is keeping them in good nick.

Many years ago I was at a sign painters workshop on work experience. One of the tricks they used to keep their finest brsuhes tip top was once cleaned to smear Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly through the bristles. I don't know if that's recommended though.

on Tuesday, February 1st, Elise said

I know Dio, I was only giving you a hard time about the knives! I find much less desire to use them now that I've started painting on panel, because it's such a joy to paint on the smooth surface.

Also, I've been using a cake of that "Master's Brush Cleaner" that everyone reccommended and it works really well (so far) though the vaseline idea is kinda cool.

The thing is, with these bruses I actually clean them out *right* after I'm finished using them, unlike my cheap brushes that I just dip in dish soap and leave lying around for months until they turn into back scratchers, cat toys and fireplace kindling.

on Tuesday, February 1st, Stacy said

Hee hee, love what your old brushes turn into!

I'm still a faithful reader of your blog, just don't have much time to comment anymore.

on Tuesday, February 1st, Elise said

Hi Stacy,
haven't heard from you in awhile, how's your semester going?

on Tuesday, February 1st, Stacy said

The semester is going good. I have all distance classes so I don't have to drive out to the university anymore (since getting a new place in S. Douglas)!! Hate driving in this snow! (I'm recalling the entry you wrote about when it was extremely snowy...)

I'm currently looking at graduate schools right now. Can't decide to go on with acct/business or to an art/music school if I were to continue. I'm quite interested in NYAA or Pratt but I can't imagine living on the east coast... but some of those schools sound amazing. I feel like such a small town girl :) (Can you even enter the MFA programs without a BFA??)

Anyways, I enjoy reading about your progress with all the different art projects, ideas and shows you've got going on!

on Wednesday, February 2nd,">Sammy B said

I'm the same way, I read your blog a couple times a week but I don't have much time for leaving comments. I love hearing about all your goings on too, what is that called again? Lurking maybe. That's me, a lurker.