Tuesday, March 28, 2006

One Brush does it all

When I started painting again, I met one veteran artist who graduated from St Martin's back in the 60s.

He was then giving painting workshops at the National Art Gallery. I enrolled in that workshop just to rekindle my interest in watercolour after such a long break.

I could never forget the first day I met my mentor in the class. I had brought a whole bagful of expensive brushes and painting papers.

During the first lesson, we were asked to draw still life. As we struggled with our expensive brushes, the mentor also did his piece. As we flitted back and forth changing brushes, he quietly put the strokes onto paper - a piece from a cheap art block.

I noticed that he was using a brush as thick as an adult's thumb - a Chinese calligraphy wolf-hair brush. And using that one brush, my mentor showed full control of his strokes, from painting washes to fine hairline streaks. When I asked him why did he use only one brush? He replied: "Too lazy to change brushes." How did he master the one brush technique? He said: "Make a habit out of it and you can."

Since then, I have used not more than one brush whenever I paint each piece. And the same advice I have given to my children and have painted and won prizes at school levels.

Here is the brush I use. It has been with me for over three years and cost less than USD10. The head holds lots of water for good and even washes and there is a small hanging thread for me to hang up the brush for drying when not in use.

It measures slightly over 9 inches (see picture) and has a head of about 1.5 inches long. It is about half an inch in diameter and the hair is very resilient, almost sable-like, but only at a fraction of the cost.

How do you paint? How many brushes do you use? Maybe you can share with me.

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