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November 11, 2008






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Connie asking questions - Jan 6th,03

Guess what this years Xmas bonus was, the largest ever given to me from Blackwell and Foster.

Do you think it could be that lingering court case that was finally settled.  There I go rambling off.                Tell me what is the difference if between Watermedia and Watercolor Brushes.  I see both in the store.  The clerk said just a name difference that's all.

Sally chimes in - I just bought a flat and a #12 Round, both listed as Watermedia, they were on sale, have not used them yet.

Mrs.Busybody tries to interrupt, I cut her off, did not want the class to  another 30 minutes with her thoughts.   I go on to explain.

A Watermedia Brush is different from a Watercolor Brush.

There is a big difference.

Firstly, Watermedia refers to any medium that is dissolvable in water, i.e. Watercolors, Acrylics, Gouche, Egg Tempera Casien, even water soluble Oil Paints.

Brushes made for Watercolor have dispersion qualities the Watermedia do not.

Watermedia brushes do not have a sharp point with the spring back action we Watercolorists look for.

Sally -  check your flat brush, wet it, does it come to a sharp razor edge, or is it chopped off like a Watermedia would.  "It has a blunt end, no sharp edge," she replied.

So,   Sally what you may have is a nice looking brush, at a good price, but the hairs or nylon filaments are not suitable for Watercolor Painting.

Mrs. Busybody, quickly got in her little story, remember Jeff who sat on the back of the class last summer complaining his colors did not flow across the paper.  At this point, I knew her true story would be interesting.  Jim told him to wet the paper more and add more water to the pigment.

After a further plea, Jim went back to him on his approach the large size of the tube riveted Jim's attention.  There it was 37 ML. tube of Winsor Newton Water Mixable, but Jeff never read the next line - Oil Color.

Didn't we give him a hard time, poor guy, always in a hurry wasn't he.

Connie, if your bonus needs to be spent on brushes, try buying one extra good one.

A good pure Kolinsky sable, will have these features, flick the hairs back and forth, they bounce right back to the natural position.

The body is full, right about the hip line, tip has a naturally sharp point (not chiseled or cut to shape).

The Kolinsky hairs  become thick in the middle, then thin down again at the base.  This natural shaping of each hair occurs only on the tail of the winter coat of the male Kolinsky sable.

So you can see when many of these hairs are gathered together, the resulting brush forms a thick full body and a natural thin point.    They have a great amount of spring and are the easiest to control  By varying the pressure on the brush as you paint you can move from a thick line to a very fine line  Will not dump all the color in one spot. But a poorly made synthetic may well do just that.   Expensive the number one problem.

Expensive, yes,  but, most students in this class have about ten or more brushes, where as money spent on those, could have purchased on good one.

As you know most if not all my paintings are with #14 Round,  1" Flat, and a Liner.  The trio is pushing 10 years plus in age.

Wanda started to discuss her brushes acted like wet mops with no spring, but did not want to spend more money buying "Expensive Brushes".I explained to Wanda, You have squirrel, Goat or Camel hair brushes that don't snap back to a point.  Hold the brush vertical and run a finger across the hairs, it should snap back.

Debra threw in a few comments about brushes.

Jim, I tried out a few synthetic brushes in the local art store, they did not hold the color or water, they just dripped very fast when held vertically, run out of color very quickly.  Could find tons around $5.00 to $10.00.

What is happening Debra, is that the nylon hair is perfectly round and straight, so the color just rushes down the hair, some what like water going down a drain pipe.  Does that make sense to you all (class).

Very hard to control, leaves a blob at the point where brush first touches the paper, then very quickly runs out of color

It is made of a special Polymine Filament each strand is tapered to a precise tip, much like a natural hair.

Da Vinci Cosmotop spin Series 5580 - holds more water than any other synthetic.  Large belly tapers to a fine point.  The blend and placement of five different diameters of fine synthetic filaments make this brush perform like natural hair.  The long-lasting. high quality synthetic has an energetic spring.  Made by hand, so there may be a variation with the handles.

They must have heard you talking about dripping brush, what they have done is to put a combination of multiple diameters and lengths allowing for this formation of color carrying pockets within the brush.

The tapered tips make this the best pointing synthetic available.  Cost for Round #10 is about $15.00 Dick Blick stocks this brush, See his money saving ideas on this web site under Painting Supplies

So, are you going to buy lunch next time, with money saved?

Bt the way, Camel hairs have never seen a Camel in their life.  Just a name made up.

Try buying a good synthetic brush.  Some makers have brushes that work extremely well.


It might be a good time to remind you about the plastic sleeve that the manufacturers place around the hairs of your new brush, take it off and throw it away.  Do not attempt to re-sleeve the brush.  You might catch a few hairs  and bend them back causing damage to the brush.


Well if you have a "Natural Hair" do not use soap cleaners on them, soap cleaners for synthetics only.

Rinse all brushes by working against the side of the water container, do not touch the bottom.  Now pinch the tip of the hairs, holding brush with handle up, move the brush in small circles.

This will draw the water up into the ferrule , tap the brush again and squeeze the hair dry.

Your brush will be free of all pigment right up to the ferrule.  If you do this every time you finish painting. you will never need to brush soap or cleaner, both of which damage natural hairs.

Store the brush with hairs hanging down.  Second best choice - lay flat.    Worst choice - hairs pointing up.

                          Different Brushes  Make Different  Marks


Since the 18th century, the round, pointed, soft-hair brush has been a standard part of watercolorists' equipment.

Brushes made of Kolinsky sable (or sabelline) have the greatest amount of spring and are easiest to control.  They're particularly well-suited for making organic forms.  By varying the pressure on the brush as you paint, you can move from a hair-thin line to a thick, snake-like shape.


Examples from the past:  -  Winslow Homer........John Sargent.



The flat, soft, wash brush didn't become a primary painting tool until the middle of this century.  Since then the 1" aquarelle type brush has been a part of practically every watercolorist's kit.

Although it can be manipulated to make a variety of marks, it is best suited to painting flat, geometric shapes characteristic of the "California School.


 Examples:   -   Rex Brandt   -   Marsden Hartley  -  Frank Web  -   Robert E. Wood.



Although not usually associated with watercolor, flat, stiff bristle brushes of the oil painting, sash brush or "Bulletin Cutter" variety are essential tools in some painter's kits.  Some of the painters in the "California School" used such brushes to attain large geometric shapes and varied, broken line quality in their work.

More contemporary painters employ stiff brushes to create highly expressive gestured marks.


Examples:  -  Barse Miller  -  Alex Powers  -  Katherin Liu



If you are tired of producing tight and tedious watercolors and would like to try for something more personal and "painterly." here are some suggestions:

Start your painting with the biggest brush  you've got (I don't mean a #6 round but something in the 1.1/2" category) and paint the biggest shapes possible.

Don't worry about staying between the lines of your drawing.  Stand up and use your arm.  Try for rhythmic movements rather than accuracy when painting the smaller elements in your design, continue to use the largest brush possible and try to describe them with a few strokes.

Your first attempts may appear a little sloppy, but with practice you'll begin to develop a more natural and painterly way to apply paint.


There are probably some things in life you feel you can't control  -  speed of rush hour traffic , price of gasoline and your daughter's choice in boyfriends - but watercolor shouldn't be one of them

Learning to control watercolor is no more difficult than learning to ride a bicycle.  To control watercolor, to avoid the backwashes and disastrous accidents we all dread, you have to be aware of 4 factors:


You should always (or almost always) start with a clean, slightly moist brush.  If you have just washed your brush in your water pail, you should dry it on a piece of absorbent cotton rag.

To get water out of your brush,  you can also wipe it on your pants or apron. Or, if you're outside, you can flick it to remove excess water.  However, flicking your brush when painting indoors can create some problems.


You should always (or almost always) start with fresh moist pigment in your palette.

You can revive some less frequently used pigments with a few drops of water, but don't get in the habit of using that method of soften every ancient, diamond-hard color you've saved.

Put out new paint. The purpose of painting is not to conserve your pigments or keep your palette immaculate; it is to produce a meaningful and satisfying work of art . That's tough enough without being cheap or compulsively neat.

CAUTION:  -  If you are in the habit of always going to your palette with a wet brush in order to revive your hardened pigments, you'll discover your paint wells will be filled with water.  You will have little or no control of how the paint will act on the surface of your painting.


This is critical to control in painting.  You must be aware of how much water is on (or in) the paper to determine how much water you add to the paint you've mixed on your palette.

If the area you're working into is wet and you add wet paint, it will rapidly spread.  If the area is just moist and you add wet paint, it will push the moist paint to an edge where it will collect and form a dark rind (or "backwash" or "bloom", if you wish).

To maintain control you must work into wet or moist areas with paint that has little or no water added to it.  Hence the need for fresh, soft pigment.

When you work into wet or moist areas with undiluted pigment, the shapes you paint will have a soft edge, but will hold their place.

Light areas are painted with wet, highly diluted pigment; dark areas are painted with dryer, undiluted pigment.  So, if you're systematic in  how you proceed through the painting process - working always from light to dark  -  you won't have trouble controlling your paint.

CAUTION:  -   Most accidents occur when you try to paint light (wet) areas into or next to darker (and dryer) areas.

If you try to proceed through a painting completing objects one at a time (for example, "first I'll paint the boathouse then I'll paint the boats, and finally I'll paint the water and sky"). you're sure to lose control.

Your procedure should be based on value relationships - beginning with the lightest (wettest) areas and finishing with the darkest (driest) areas.  If you do that, you won't lose control.

It must be you ,to tell me exactly what you want me to teach you in the coming weeks .   I am willing to share my methods techniques with YOU .  Please ask      Tell a friend about us . See you next week.  Warmest Regards  Jim and Dorothy

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