Brushes & mark-making tools – Behind the Scenes

Expertise comes with time and a lot of practice. One of the aspects of painting that distinguishes an artist is their particular style of mark-making. For most artists this is one element of their work that develops over a period of working with different materials, and a range of tools.

Over the short years I’ve been painting, I’ve managed to accumulate a slightly embarrassing collection of brushes. I’m less addicted to buying new brushes than I am to to acquiring new tubes of colour – but only just. And I’ve recently discovered a couple of new mark-making tools that are quite unusual. But first I’ll show you the traditional tools I have in my studio.

Brushes and tools in my studio:

Watercolour is my favourite medium at this stage. I’m still enthralled by the surprises this medium brings.  I’ve been working mainly in watercolours so it accounts for the bulk of my tools for it. Every artist has a favourite blush. My favourite brush has changed over time. For a long time a size 10 kolinsky sable round brush was my go-to tool. Since then I’ve tried some great synthetic brushes which have good points and are quite robust and hold a good point. I’ve recently discovered a sable filbert which is fast moving into my small group of ‘most favoured’ brushes. My all time ‘can’t live without it’ brush is a size zero rigger. It’s just perfect for adding those last little details.

Watercolour brushes
Watercolour brushes

Other watercolour tools include old credit cards, toothbrushes, sponges (not visible in this painting) bamboo sticks, eye droppers and ballpoint pen outer sleeves. There are probably a few others in this photo, but those are the ones I use most often.

Last year I had a dabble with mixed media and acrylic paint. As you can see from the state of my collection of brushes for acrylics, I’ve not done very much of with them. This is a limitation of time rather than anything else. I’ve managed to prepare some canvasses so ‘watch this space’. The brushes are at the ready.

Acrylic Brushes
Acrylic Brushes

I’ve done a little more with oils, but still consider myself a rank beginner in this medium. As with acrylics, my main limitation here is time. But these brushes have been used once or twice and will be again.

Oil Brushes
Oil Brushes

My two main suppliers of brushes are Rosemary’s brushes and for the acrylic brushes, Escoda.

I’m always up for a experimenting with watercolour. On my recent trip to South Africa, I was looking for some hand and body lotion and wandered into Rain. While I was browsing I noticed these two items: which looked ideal for a bit of watercolour application. So I bought them both.

Alternative painting tools - Sponge and Porcupine Quills
Loofah and Porcupine Quills

Here’s what happens when you play with the loofah. The red in the middle of the page was paint applied to the loofah which was then rolled across the paper. The blue and green marks were made by dragging the loofah across the paper using quite wet paint, and the quin gold was applied very thickly and then dragged. I can see all sorts of interesting marks in this. Sadly, when I unpacked back in the UK I discovered that the loofah had been left behind somewhere on my travels. But now that I’ve tried it, I’ll be looking out for a new one.

Watercolour painting - Sponge Marks
Loofah Marks

The porcupine quills are interesting. They have very, very sharp points so you have to be quite careful using them. The other (white) end has a little bend in it – each one slightly different. Although the beautiful sharp points are great for sratching out and making very fine lines, it’s the other end that is the most interesting to work with.

Watercolour painting - Quill Marks
Quill Marks

I’m enjoying this new tool. My next post will be a painting I did using the quills as one of my main mark-making tools.

2 thoughts on “Brushes & mark-making tools – Behind the Scenes

  1. Vandy – loved the marks you got with the loofah…think I can find one of those in the U.S. but the porcupine quills may be more rare. Thanks for sharing your tools of the trade. Have a wonderful day.

  2. It’s fun to experiment with textures. I love using textures in my watercolors and my favorite artist who comes up with the most creative ways to create texture is Ann Blockley. Can’t wait to get her new book.

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