The Process (As Promised)
The Artist, Globalisation, and the Cultural Creatives
The ABC of Watercolor Brushes
The Sun, Part 3
The ABC of Watercolor BrushesBehind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
This month, we are continuing to cover the materials we need for watercolor painting. Let's see how to choose the right brushes, how to use them, and how to care for them.
Choosing a Brush
My # 1 rule before starting any art endeavor: Buy the right material. I'm not talking about putting all your money in your brushes! But I do not recommend buying the cheapest set in the store. While the brushes do not make the painter, choosing the right brush can make the difference between a nice clean stroke and a rough, undefined one. For my watercolor work, I have come across a nice set of brushes that isn't too pricy: the Black Gold brand. It's a nice nylon hair brush that is usually used for crafting, but I find them wonderful with watercolor paint! (Since it's a synthetic hair, all those of you who do not like animal-hair brushes will like this brand too!)
Rule #2: Buy a brush you feel comfortable with. You feel the hair isn't soft enough even though someone strongly recommended this brush? Don't buy it! It can already be annoying that you don't always manage to put your ideas on paper; you don't need the extra stress of struggling with a brush you do not like! (This also applies to paper, paints, pencils, tables and chairs. Anything you work with!)
Rule #3 (or I should say fact): Your brushes might die on you one day. So yes, even though you take good care of them, you might have to replace them. From experience, I've noticed that the smaller the brush, the shorter the lifespan. (I guess that's a good thing considering they are the cheapest!) So please, don't feel bad about throwing a brush in the garbage, I've done it too. It's perfectly okay!
Caring for your Brushes
I used to neglect my brushes a lot, but I have learned with time that taking good care of your tools is a requirement if you take art seriously. Here are a few good habits when taking care of your brushes:
1) Buy a casing for them. Leaving brushes on a table is a sure way to lose them or have someone breaking them while you aren't looking. When I leave my brushes on my art desk, my little kitty makes sure to hide it in a safe place. And she likes to chew on things too…
2) Keep the plastic cap that the art store gives you with the brush and put it back on the brush when you are done. If they didn't give you one, ask for it. The last time I asked, they gave me a full bag of them for free!!!
3) Make sure you rinse and wash your brushes when you are finished. Sometimes, paint gets stuck in the root of the brush. To make sure that even that part is well washed, you only need to put a little bit of soap and water in the palm of your hand and gently rub the brush until it is clean. Rinse and dry. Your brush should be clean!
4) Do not mix the paint with your small brushes! When we mix the paint, we tend to push too hard on our brush and it causes the hair to separate. This is even truer for small brushes. They are not made to mix. Use big brushes. (Or use a brush that is only for mixing if you can!)
Types of Brushes
I'd like to cover some of the brushes I use when I do watercolor. Hopefully, this small introduction will be helpful to some of you. There are tons of other brushes available in art stores, but the reason why I am not all covering them here is because I haven't figured out a way to use them in my own work. This does not mean that I don't suggest trying them: By all means, if you have found a way to create an original texture with a special brush, please do continue to use it! Art is all about experimenting after all!
a) The Large Square Brush: The perfect brush for large washes! It can hold a decent amount of paint and water. You can cover your canvas quickly and evenly with it, too. (When doing large washes, I strongly suggest to cover your canvas with a large wash of clear water and before it dries, layer the paint. It will give better results. ) I also use this brush to create linear textures that look like uneven stripes.
b) The Flat Round Brush: There are several other sizes for this particular shape of brush, but I like the smaller version of it. A great tool for smaller washes, especially for round shapes that are hard to paint with a square and round brush.
c) The Round Watercolor Brush: My favourite brush. Once my big washes are layered and dried on my canvas, I switch to this brush. The greatest asset of this brush is the fact that it can hold a lot of water. Some of you might notice how similar this brush is to Chinese brushes. They have the same advantages. If you already have Chinese brushes, I suggest using them instead of buying new round watercolor brushes. I have 2 different sizes: the bigger one I use for larger surfaces (it could be used for washes also); the smaller one, for details. What is great about these brushes is that you can start with a large stroke and finish with a tiny line. So it can do both large and small details in your work. A very versatile tool.
I made sure to take a picture of this brush when it is wet and when it's dry. Don't be fooled by its messy look when looking at them in the art store. Once they are wet, they have this very nice tip! If you want to make sure that the tip is good before buying it, ask for water at the counter. Any good art store will let you test the tip!
d) The Detail Brushes: Again, I have two of them depending on how small I want to work. I do not suggest using details brushes for any type of washes. They don't hold much water so the watercolor is almost dried up before you can continue your wash which makes it look uneven and textured. Detail brushes should be used to do line art and small strokes.
Just a reminder - any art tools should be chosen carefully before buying them. Make sure they suit you and your art. You will save yourself a lot of stress and trouble. While I know a lot of artists today do buy a lot of supplies on the Web, brushes might not be the kind of tool to buy online. Unless you are a hundred percent sure that you trust the brand you are buying online, choosing the brush in an art store and testing it before buying it should be the way to go.
Love and care for your brushes! They will return the favor!
Colors. This will be the first part of a 2-part column where I will cover color theories. In the second part we will see how to use these theories while shading your work.
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