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.

Five by Five: Fathers and sons

The obligatory paint brush sketch
The obligatory paint brush sketch

My friend Karin Panaino Petersen posted a challenge of Facebook yesterday: State five things you are grateful for.

I’ve decided to tweak that slightly. For the next five days I am going to try to post about five things that make me smile, and if I can manage it, do a quick sketch of one of the five to post. This may be setting the bar a bit high, given my time constraints. But since 4 of these days are holidays here, I’m hopeful that I can make it work (if I paint the fifth ahead of time).

Here we go – in no particular order:

– Fathers. Sometimes, we don’t really focus on our parents as much as we should. They’re quietly there in the background, and if they’re not particularly high maintenance, life just trundles along. Today my Dad stepped into the breach for my sister in the most amazing way. He was my hero today, and it reminded me how many times he’s just quietly been there for all of us.

– Sons. Both of my sons made me smile today. Christopher sent messages from Vietnam where he’s on holiday. Lovely to know he’s having a great time. And Nic is coming home for the weekend.  Yes!

– Sunshine – it came back for a fleeting few moments a couple of times today. After such a long winter, even a tiny but of sunshine is fabulous.

– Four days to indulge in painting. (And I’ve decided that painting paint brushes is possibly a rite of passage for every artist. Here’s mine. Now it’s done.)

– Chocolate. I know, I know. Such a cliché. But hey, it’s Easter. It’s allowed.

If you fancy sharing your five, or playing along on your blog if you have one, pile in and join the party.

Hope you have a fabulous Easter weekend.

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