Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Watercolour brushes

1. Da Vinci Maestro, dry

2. Da Vinci, wet, showing spring

3. Da Vinci, wet, showing point

4. Talens, wet, with worn tip

These are two great watercolour brushes that I've had for many years. The bigger one (1, 2 and 3) is a Da Vinci Maestro No. 12 Series 10, Kolinsky sable, which I use only for transparent watercolour (e.g. Ballinspittle, below). The smaller one (4) is a Talens No. 10 Series 110 pure red sable which I use mostly for gouache (e.g. the Dog study for an OCA course, below).

In fact I use the Talens brush a good deal more than the Da Vinci because I use gouache very often, and pure watercolour quite rarely. I bought the Talens at Deltex in Trinidad at least ten years ago for about US$20 and use it so much that the point has become somewhat worn. I bought the Da Vinci in London in 2002 for about US $100. They were both expensive but they've both earned their keep.

I did the testing routine with water in both cases when I was buying them. That is, I asked the assistant in the store for water to test the spring and the point. To test the point, wet the brush in the water, then take it out and give it a quick shake with a flick of the wrist. A first-rate brush will come to an extremely fine point, as in photo 3. To test the spring, draw the wet brush across the back of the hand to bend the hairs (photo 2). When you remove it the body of the brush should spring back in line with the handle. The photo shows that the spring in this brush is not perfect, but it's pretty good and has performed well.

These are the only brushes I need for watercolour and gouache. I wouldn't ever use either of them for acrylic which is very hard on brushes.


Near Ballinspittle, watercolour, 9 x 12", 2002

Dog study No. 6, gouache, 2007, about 12 x 16" (A3)

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