Artist Brushes : There are currently tens, if not hundreds, of varieties of artist brushes on the market, each is made for a specific application. Some of these brushes are made with natural hair; others are synthetic brushes. The materials used in a brush, the shape and size of its head, and the length of its bristles all affect the way the brush is applied and the kind of effects you can create with it. It takes years to master the art of choosing the right brush for the right purpose. Over time you will intuitively know what brush to use and how to apply it.
A brush is for an artist as hammer is for a carpenter. This is not to say that no painting can be created without a brush. Artists have used a variety of tools to create stunning paintings. These include palette knives, wood sticks, rags, sponges or even fingers. However, brushes have always been the preferred tool for most artists. Successful artists use good brushes and are skilled in using them in effective ways.
The anatomy of painting brushes
Every brush is made of a handle, ferrule, and a brush head.
New artists with little experience usually only pay attention to the shape and size of the brush head, as this is the part of a brush that spreads the paint on the canvas. As you get you more experienced, you will realize that all parts of your brush are critically important.
Artist brushes come with either short or long handles. If you paint for long hours every day or every week, it is important that you use a brush that feels comfortable in your hand. Depending on your habits and style, you have to determine whether you need to use a brush with a long or short handle. Generally, a brush with a short handle is easier to control, if you are new to painting. As you gain more experience, you might decide to switch to a long handle or keep the short one. Personally, I prefer brushes with long handles. By holding the end of the handle and stepping further back from the canvas, I can wiggle the brush more loosely and freely than if I’d used a short handled brush. If I want to do precision work, I hold the middle of the handle and let the weight of the rest of the handle and the brush head balance each other out. This allows me to maneuver more comfortably, as if the brush is dancing on the canvas. How comfortable the brush feels in your hand adds to your inspiration for painting.
The ferrule is the component of the brush that attaches the head to the handle. On a good quality artist grade brush the ferrule is secured properly, so the head will not come off over time. On some cheaper brushes, the ferrules may loosen the grip over time so the heads either falls off or start wiggling inside it, which is aggravating when you do detailed work.
The brush head is the constituent you use to paint with, hence the most significant part of your brush. Brushes are made of hard or soft hairs for different applications. Soft brushes are suitable for thinner paints, such watercolor. These brushes make it easy to spread fluid paint. They are great on smooth surfaces such as, wood panels, glass, paper, or metal. They also hold substantial amount of moisture, so you don’t have to constantly go back to your palette to reload. Harder brush heads are stronger and more resilient, which are ideal for oil paint or thicker application of acrylic paints. Most art stores maintain distinct areas or shelf space for brushes based on the type of the medium used. Watercolor, acrylic, and oil paint brushes are clearly separated and market. Watercolor brushes are usually the softest, and oil paint brushes have either harder or rougher bristles. Acrylic brushes are somewhat in between. As an artist you can use all types of brushes for all mediums, including the softest and most fragile ones for oil painting to create special effects, such as adding fine finishes, as long as you know how to use the brush.
Brush heads are made from natural hair, such as hog, squirrel or goat hair, or synthetic fibers like nylon. Brushes formed of natural hair have proven to be of superb quality, but synthetic brushes provide an affordable option.
Synthetic brush heads tend to retain their form during application. Natural hair behaves very differently. For instance, goat hairs tend to stick together as you load your brush and separate as you push your brush onto your canvas. If the hairs are separated or bended, they remain so until you reload your brush. You need to experiment with your brushes in order to learn how to control them individually. Once you know how they behave, you can use them to your advantage to create special effects in your painting.
Technically, you can create most paintings using a single brush, but it is recommended to use a variety of brushes. Different types of brushes help you achieve different kinds of effects much easier, for instance, liner brushes are good for sketching and wide flat brushes for blocking large areas with color.
You may also want to use 2 or 3 different brushes of exactly the same type. This way you do not need to keep cleaning your brush every time you switch colors forward and back. For example, if your brush head is contaminated with blue paint and you need to use red color in one area before going back to blue again, you can leave your brush with blue paint on the side while using a different brush for working in your red. This strategy is particularly helpful for oil painters. It saves them cleaning time and minimizes exposure to harmful cleaning agents such as, paint thinners. If you work with acrylics, you have to make sure that your brush head remains wet while switches to a different brush.
Buying different units of the same type of brush will cost you a little more, but it is well worth the investment if you paint a lot. The caveat in applying several different brushes of the same type is that you accidentally pick the wrong one and mess up your painting. Organize your brushes in an order that helps you prevent such accidents. For instance, always leave the brush with red paint to the left of your palette and the brush with blue paint to the right. You should do the same thing on your palette when you spread your paint. If everything is in the same place every time or most of the time, you automatically go right to it when you need it.
Artist Brushes , The hairs on some brushes tend to fall off sometimes. If you get a brush hair in your painting, do not panic or agonize over it. Simply remove it gently, if you can or wait till the canvas is dry before removing it. A little hair in a painting usually bothers the artist more than it would bother an observer. It is believed that the average viewing distance from a painting is about 6 feet. A small strain of hair is usually not visible from this distance.