The other day someone asked me about the brushes I use for “The Big Brush Exercise”…what kind, what size, and do I switch to a smaller one for small-format work. Questions like that are welcome, mainly because to answer them really well you have to think about your own convictions. In this case the first thing that popped up was the nature of watercolor itself. The second thing that came up is that I like to see the hand of the artist at work.
The nature of watercolor is that it is a fluid, active medium. Couple that fluid nature with the temperament of a painter like me, naturally a bit impatient, and it becomes clear that bigger brushes mean broader, speedier paint passages, and the widest possible window of opportunity to work in those passages while they are workable.
As for liking to see the mark of the tool, the hand of the artist at work, that is a personal esthetic preference that many people, both artists and viewers, share. And of course many others prefer highly-finished sharp focus paintings. I have a chance to get the rough, spontaneous tool marks I like when I use a brush a bit too big to render the detail in my piece…but I render those details anyway.
“Taurus Wagon,” (watercolor on Strathnore Sketch, 9” X 12”) was painted with my trusty 1” nylon wash brush from Cheap Joe’s. With that brush I could have covered the whole page with nine strokes an inch wide. So I had to go bold, I had to work broadly, and I had to trust the medium.
Above, right, are some of my brushes: from left to right, 1.25” and 1” aquarelle, 1.5” wash brush, 2” wash brush (Langnickel), and a 1.25” and a 1” nylon flat from Cheap Joe’s.