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Carey Griffel 09-06-2004 02:34 PM

Small or large brushes?
 
This is a question born of curiosity, as I think that it's really just up to the individual artist and there's certainly no right or wrong... I got to thinking (highly dangerous, I know)...I've heard so many artists suggest the use of large brushes, the larger the better, in order to not get bogged down with details (among other reasons, I'm sure). But I find that I hate large brushes. In order for my work to look like I want it, I constantly find myself using a) my number 4 filbert and b) my number two round (except for blocking things in, of course). I hardly *ever* use anything bigger than a half inch for anything at all.

So, what do y'all use?

~!Carey

P.S. And option four is for people like Larry S. :D

Keith Russell 09-06-2004 03:12 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I start with large brushes, then work smaller and smaller.

Ignoring details is as bad (IMO) as obsessing over them.

K

artbabe21 09-06-2004 03:19 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Depending on the size canvas & what I am painting brush size changes of course, but I find myself more comfortable with smaller brushes & that's exactly why I get too much detail! One of these days I'll figure it out but may use a small brush to do less detail...LOL...I'm not sure why I don't care for larger brushes, maybe I haven't enough practive controlling them... :wink2:

A #8 filbert is about as large as I care for.

fiannah 09-06-2004 03:23 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I find myself using smaller brushes most of the time.

Squib 09-06-2004 04:08 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I use large and small, depending on what I'm working on. I'd advise any newcomer to oils to use large though. I painted with one of the best Landscape Artists in Southern Africa for a few years. He used the largest round brush ever. It tapered to a fine point with which he managed to paint the most amazing detail. I was always amazed watching him. I've tried to do the same myself, but always end up reaching for a smaller brush. :)

Jaysen 09-06-2004 04:09 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
My favourite brushes:

#3 Holbein filbert bristle
#6 Grumbacher 626b filbert
#8 davinci russian red sable
#3 and 5 Artbridge kolinsky sable rounds

I have a bunch of large bristle and hair brushes, but rarely use them. They tend to soak up too much paint and won't let go of it.

shrinkinviolet 09-06-2004 06:02 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
My brush size is mainly in proportion to the size of the canvas among other things. I do find the smaller the brush the "tighter" my painting.
Judy

gunzorro 09-08-2004 01:53 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
That's a huge open-ended question! It depends on the canvas size, painting style and detail needed.
Personally, the smallest brush I normally use is a 6R in hog bristle, going up to my most recent purchase: 20FB in hog bristle -- that's a big brush!
I am preparing to buy Gainsborough flats between #14-20. I have Brights in 14-18 and use them pretty often in undercoats.
I use #8-12 the most, in all brush styles (hog). Favorite, most versatile brush? Maybe a #8R. Jim

Miss Vicky 09-08-2004 07:22 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Greetings and Blessings All :D
I use both big and small. I like to experiment with the brush to see what type of stroke. I sometimes let the brush stroke dictate instead of drawing with the brush. Depending on the area, the subject, if there is detail, I vary my brushes. I try not to be confined to any one brush, even thou I have my favourites.
Blessings to all
and a special hello to Miss Cathleen (artbabe) :wave: "I'm back" I hope
Miss Vicky

artbabe21 09-08-2004 07:28 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Hello Vicky!! :wave: it's certainly good to see you back at WC! :wink2:

IAmLeavingEbay4Ever 09-08-2004 08:05 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I read a book by a student of Bouguereau. He said to use the largest brush that is small enough to do the job. A photo of Bouguereau showed him with a lot of brushes that looked like about 1/2" wide and smaller.

I think the idea of using huge brushes, huge canvases, and loose painting is more of a modern art thing, and I utterly reject anything coming from them.

gunzorro 09-09-2004 12:02 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Well, my, my! And pshaw!
Speaking as one of "them" I utterly reject whatever your are purporting.
Duh.
Onward with large canvases and bold brushwork.
There is always tatting for those with faint hearts!
Jim

dcorc 09-09-2004 05:45 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by IAmLeavingEbay4Ever
I read a book by a student of Bouguereau. He said to use the largest brush that is small enough to do the job. A photo of Bouguereau showed him with a lot of brushes that looked like about 1/2" wide and smaller.

I think the idea of using huge brushes, huge canvases, and loose painting is more of a modern art thing, and I utterly reject anything coming from them.


You need to visit more art galleries, see more pre-20thC paintings in real life, and look at the brushwork!

Dave

gunzorro 09-09-2004 03:27 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Thanks Dave! As I recall, many Old Masters were quite bold and loose in their approach. Quite exciting to see that change from the flat iconic styles that preceded them. Jim

piper2 09-09-2004 04:12 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Aw, come on people, it's not the size, it's how you use it!

I personally only have one brush, since I'm still working out of my cheesy oil gift set that I got for Christmas, which came with one brush. It's about 1/3", stained, a little crispy, and on death's doorstep. I'm thinking of replacing it with something exactly like it. I, like my neurotic Jack Russell, am very reluctant to try something new.

IAmLeavingEbay4Ever 09-09-2004 05:15 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I've been to the Getty and Norton Simon museums. I saw a lot of fine craftsmanship on the pre-twentieth century paintings. I saw some examples of extreme accuracy and control in how they handled the paint brush. I even saw one very small painting with extremely fine detailing that was done with a single hair brush. I recall seeing some brush strokes about 5/8" wide, but that was only on a few really huge paintings.

I had a HORRIBLE painting "teacher" who favored german expressionism. She couldn't paint or draw as far as I could see from anything she did. She told us to use very large brushes and canvases. I'm not taking any advice from someone who makes hideous, childlike paintings.

I only use large brushes to paint large areas, because it would take too long with a smaller brush.

dcorc 09-09-2004 05:51 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by IAmLeavingEbay4Ever
I've been to the Getty and Norton Simon museums. I saw a lot of fine craftsmanship on the pre-twentieth century paintings. I saw some examples of extreme accuracy and control in how they handled the paint brush. I even saw one very small painting with extremely fine detailing that was done with a single hair brush. I recall seeing some brush strokes about 5/8" wide, but that was only on a few really huge paintings.

I had a HORRIBLE painting "teacher" who favored german expressionism. She couldn't paint or draw as far as I could see from anything she did. She told us to use very large brushes and canvases. I'm not taking any advice from someone who makes hideous, childlike paintings.

I only use large brushes to paint large areas, because it would take too long with a smaller brush.


So if your horrible teacher had told you to use small brushes, you would be opposed to those? :p

Effective painting is done by using the right sized brushes for the job at hand. The advice you quoted previously to use the largest brush which is small enough for the job is correct - painting is about covering areas in colour - in general, use the largest brush you can comfortably use to cover a given area as efficiently as possible.

In general, block-in initially in larger brushes, and as the painting progresses, move to smaller brushes for increasingly fine detail.

If you look at paintings by Turner, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Sargent, Hals, Titian, Constable, Waterhouse.... there's plenty of broad brushwork on display.

Dave

IAmLeavingEbay4Ever 09-09-2004 07:07 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I don't like the broad brushwork on many of Sargent's paintings. I like Sargent's finely rendered paintings much better.

Little-brush 09-09-2004 08:33 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I found some of Rembrandt's fine pieces are really small, anyone has idea what size he used and what was his favorite?

WFMartin 09-17-2004 02:28 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I use larger brushes for the blocking in layer, such as Dave mentioned. Then as my layers progress, and I get to the more detailed passages, I go to smaller and smaller brushes.

But, more important than the brush size, I'm finding that during the roughing in stage, especially, it seems more important to use long-handled brushes. I've noticed lately that this has been the most helpful when doing portrait and animal portrait work. I'm finding that being able to view my work at a greater distance as I'm working on it is becoming quite important to me.

Also, quite recently I have determined through experience that except for the finest of details, that I have been favoring filbert brushes over flats or brights. So, lately I'd have to say that long-handled filberts have been getting a real workout in my studio. The interesting thing is that I was discovering that my older flats were getting more use as the corners were becoming worn down, thus creating a sort of filbert in their shape. So, I decided that a buying filberts new was the next logical step, and I enjoy using the new filberts very much.

Bill

Dallen 09-17-2004 05:21 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
There is an excellent piece about John Singer Sargeant's painting techniques with a Link to it posted on the Classical Art Board.

Sargeant favored large brushes.

I think it would be helpgul yo know how we all define "large" and "small"
Is a large brush 2 -3 inches wide, or is it 6 inches wide, to you?
Is a small brush 5 hairs, 1/4' wide or what, to you?

Dallen

jdadson 09-17-2004 08:12 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I'm only a beginner, but I have it on pretty good authority that it's best to use the largest brush that will do the job. That makes sense to me for a couple of reasons: One is that you can paint the area with fewer strokes. Less is more, and all that. The other is that you will not be tempted to press the brush so it paints a wider line. Paint that's applied deftly to the surface always looks better than paint that's mashed into the surface.

habondia 09-18-2004 05:44 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I agree with using long-handled brushes...and I use all sizes depending what I'm working on! It never occured to me that one would only use small or large... :confused: If you need a lot of texture for something, you need a big happy bold brush. If you need minute detail, a tiny brush (or a huge one that tapers to a fine point if you know how to use it which I don't :) ). I guess it just depends on style, but most of my favorite work in the art world combines bold with detail. Rembrandt is a perfect example.

Actually this is something I have been meaning to ask here: does anyone recommend a certain make for 0 or 00 brushes in oil? (Yes, I get minute sometimes.) The ones I buy get destroyed pretty quickly, since they're not really made for oil. Maybe such small ones don't exist? I've never found them anyway.

nick-50 10-02-2004 03:27 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
surely the best brushes are those which allow for the most controll over your painting , as soemone here has implied. if the brush is huge and it gives great controll it is right for you. i use small, no more than ten asa rule, in isabey, for instance, for most of my glaze work. i find that keeping them small and manageable, one has total control over the work one does. i am curious about those mongoose brushes, would love to try them, they are a synthetic of course, and would love to try sable, black and red. The trouble is, one can spend until the money runs out, painting is addictive, as is buying.

bobcue 10-02-2004 07:02 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
well I use all sizes and other things like...toothbrushes.fingers,and anything to give me the effect I want in my painting :p

JamieWG 10-10-2004 11:38 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I use sizes ranging from 24 to 15/0. It goes without saying that a 24x36" painting requires different size brushes than a 2x3" painting. :rolleyes:

I agree with Bill that filberts are king when it comes to portraiture and figures. For most other subjects, I prefer flats and rounds. I start with the largest bristles possible for the size of the painting and subject matter, and switch to smaller sables or Monarchs once the first layer is down.

Jamie

xkarolx 10-10-2004 05:02 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I only use filberts, mostly small, + the very small rounds (00-08) for details.
The rest just didn't work for me...but I guess it depends on what you're painting.

also, I use the cheapest brushes, I find that the real hair tends to break much easier than the synthetic ones.

Sketchpad 10-10-2004 06:46 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
As a beginner in oils the best instruction I have received, regarding brush sizes, came from William Whitaker's web site (www.williamwhitaker.com) where one of his demonstrations includes the advice to decide the biggest brush you think you can use for the job in hand - and then use the next size up. Obviously the job in hand will change umpteen times during the course of a painting. When my paintings are anywhere near as wonderful as Mr Whitaker's, then I might start to question his advice! Meanwhile it is working well for me and preventing me from becoming too "fussy".

Mario 10-10-2004 08:03 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
:wink2: :angel: :cat: I use 004 to begin with then I move down to smaller sizes.. it's detail that counts .... the more the better.. don't listen to these guys that preach the bigger brushes..they are just jealous of the fine detail that us obsessive types can render. :evil:

DLGardner 10-11-2004 03:19 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
I love my filberts too Bill!

I think variety is best. And it depends on what you like and how you express yourself.

Lots of variety here for sure.

My big brushes put on the paint and make my figures move. I couldn't get the motion in my paintings that I want without them. Its kind of like the difference between a charcoal drawing and a tight pencil drawing. What do you want to relate to your viewer? Do you want to spell out every detail to them or do you want to let them fill in the blanks?

I use little brushes too.

Its good to know when to quit though.

Dianne

Mario 10-11-2004 08:58 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Of course, I was only kidding about my use of small brushes.. I never use small brushes except to sign my name.. Ive been painting with mostly knife, lately... now, there is a painting instrument that will bring out, in spades, all of the good lessons that a large brush will provide. small brushes are particulary BAD for beginners to paint with. They really encourage all the wrong ways to paint. :envy: :evil:

WFMartin 10-12-2004 12:07 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Mario,

I knew you were kidding, of course, and the most appropriate suggestions offered here seem to be those ideas of using the proper brush for the required use, with which I firmly agree.

But, those who often suggest that details may not have been important to many of the old masters would have quite a surprise if they had had the opportunity that I had to see the "Paintings On Copper" exhibit that I attended at the Phoenix Art Museum a couple of years ago.

The details were painstakingly and intricately painted. There was one painting of a portrait of an old woman, as I recall. Upon viewing it up close, one could see the veins in the whites of her eyeballs!

Now, while I'm not saying that's a goal for which every artist should strive, I also need to state that contrary to the beliefs of some, not all great old masters relied upon those huge, coarse, broad, painterly brush strokes which seems so revered by many artists and viewers today, to create their astounding works of art. Many old masters worked in extreme, nearly microscopic detail. I don't paint that way, but I certainly admire those who successfully do so. The way I truly feel is that if a painting can appear attractive and eye-catching (in terms of proportion, composition, contrast, color, etc.) from 6 feet away, why should it be considered improper to create it in such a way that it appears increasingly interesting, attractive, and fascinating from, say, a 12 inch distance?

Before I left the art museum that day, after viewing the paintings on copper, I stopped at the gift shop to buy a book about the exhibit. I told the clerk that I had just seen the exhibit, and that after seeing it, I had made a major decision, regarding my own art. She asked what that decision was, and I told her (with tongue-in-cheek, of course, "I've decided I need a much smaller brush!"

Bill

Mario 10-12-2004 12:17 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Yes, that's cool Bill..I think of the Florentine portraits, from the 15th century, that are in our Philadelphia Museum of Art... beautiful stuff and done with smaller brushes..
The problem is that the beginner has the tendency to choke up on a brush, to hold it like a pencil, to get real close to the canvas, to poke and peck, over and over again, at some obsessive spot on the canvas..etc..etc.. all the worst things that one could do when learning to dance with oils.. :rolleyes: :crying: The small brush and the small detail accent these mistakes... once learned they are difficult to move away from..to capture a freeing stroke, to learn that there is more control, not less, in holding the brush like a wand, to stand back and see/paint the big picture and most of all, to enjoy the process. :cool: :angel:

WFMartin 10-12-2004 01:23 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mario
Yes, that's cool Bill..I think of the Florentine portraits, from the 15th century, that are in our Philadelphia Museum of Art... beautiful stuff and done with smaller brushes..
The problem is that the beginner has the tendency to choke up on a brush, to hold it like a pencil, to get real close to the canvas, to poke and peck, over and over again, at some obsessive spot on the canvas..etc..etc.. all the worst things that one could do when learning to dance with oils.. :rolleyes: :crying: The small brush and the small detail accent these mistakes... once learned they are difficult to move away from..to capture a freeing stroke, to learn that there is more control, not less, in holding the brush like a wand, to stand back and see/paint the big picture and most of all, to enjoy the process. :cool: :angel:


Mario,

Of course you are correct in what you've said. Especially in regards to the "beginner" in oil painting. And, simple common sense would suggest that for large, flat areas, and blocking in of an inderpainting, the large brush is, indeed, the wise choice, for nearly any artist. That's what I do, and as I've already indicated, I am tending to favor my long-handled filberts for doing just that.

I was just pointing out that some old masters did actually paint in extreme detail, and with great success, in my opinion. As I often mention, the artists whom I admire the most are those who seem able to effectively use loose, painterly brush strokes where the are most appropriate, and tighter, more detailed strokes where they, too, are most appropriate.

Bill

ckdexterhaven 10-12-2004 02:00 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mario
to capture a freeing stroke, to learn that there is more control, not less, in holding the brush like a wand, to stand back and see/paint the big picture and most of all, to enjoy the process.


Mario you and I are on the same page here. Since your tagline mentions Philly I wonder if you studied at Incaminati. Anyway, your eloquent sense of holding a brush the right way clearly comes from your experience, not just jawing art school rhetoric.

Yes, holding a long-haired filbert or well-worn egbert with two fingers and thumb at the end of the brush with arm fully extended is the best way to create both broad shapes and fine detail. As you mention, an added benefit is the greater distance of your eyes from the canvas. I now only use a mahlstick for the final glint in the eye and other final touches.

The key to steadying the hand is to relax. I sometimes let the tippy-tip-tip-tip of the brush just rest on the canvas before stroking on the paint. If my touch is light and there is no paintglob at the brushtip, I can use this 'resting touch' to gather myself and check my aim for the impending stroke. Then I place it like Sorolla -at least that's how it feels. When I miss, I do it again until its right. Because I build in masses I'm not worried about preserving underdrawing. The drawing emerges stroke by stroke, from whittling big shapes down to little shapes and then to details.

There is no way for me to do this with little brushes. I seem to come back to Grand-Prix Extra long filberts size 6-8, Simmons Egberts 4-8, and any decent brand of flats and filberts size 6-12. I also like cutting in with big cheap flats like undersized house painting brushes. Hate to sound like a fanatic, but I was once a constipated little sable brush fiddler staring crosseyed at my canvas in a draftsmen’s chair holding my brush like tweezers picking out a sliver. No more. A week at Shank's Incaminati blew the walls down in my mind and now I paint like 'Toscanini conducts after three martinis,' to qoute the man. Or at least I'll die trying. The change is liberating and rejuvenated my paintinge. Hope this reads as helpful instead of insulting to little brush people.

bjs0704 10-12-2004 05:26 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
There are those of us who are moving toward these “small brush” fine detailed paintings. Do you having any recommendations about the sort of brushes we should be getting. I have definitely had to rethink my choices when it comes to choosing brushes.

Barb Solomon :cat:

ckdexterhaven 10-13-2004 04:28 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
bjs0704 -I assume you are not glazing over a dried under painting. If you are painting in opaque tones with thick paint you need brushes that can push the stuff around. I dare say the majority of artists move toward larger and larger bristle brushes as they become more experienced. They learn how to make the shoulder swing the brush causing the brushtip to do more work, and the fingers, wrist, and elbow to do less. This type of painting requires long-handled long-haired bristle brushes, preferably interlocked: i.e. constructed with natural bristles curved inward to keep brush from splaying during the stroke. Extra-long filberts are becoming popular because they allow greater finesse with light touch details, hold more paint for bigger strokes, and wear longer than regular filberts. Everybody needs a few little sables for certain fine touch details, but if that's all you paint with you may be missing out on some of the joy of painting with power.

bjs0704 10-14-2004 02:18 AM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Thanks for the great info on brushes. There is a balance to everything and most good advice can be overdone. While going to school, I got in the habit of never using anything less than a #10 or#12. I suspect that I was going to the opposite extreme and not scaling back when needed.

When I left school, I was doing a lot of smaller work, so I have had to scale back the brushes. I have also had to start using the sables for the first time.

Thanks again!

Barb Solomon

Paul Corfield 11-07-2004 04:02 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
As a photorealist I tend to work with very small brushes and my brush strokes are totally hidden. My latest 30" x 40" canvas has all been done with a No.6 sable and a very fine liner brush. I can spend all day working on a section of painting just a couple of inches square and I find it totally relaxing and well worth the effort. :)

Paul.

ckdexterhaven 11-07-2004 04:45 PM

Re: Small or large brushes?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Paul Corfield
As a photorealist I tend to work with very small brushes and my brush strokes are totally hidden. My latest 30" x 40" canvas has all been done with a No.6 sable and a very fine liner brush. I can spend all day working on a section of painting just a couple of inches square and I find it totally relaxing and well worth the effort. :)

Paul.

Nice work on your site. Before one buys brushes they have to know what type of painter they aim to become. You need sables to accomplish your type of work. Direct painters from life need stiffer brushes that will quickly move lots of paint and add new paint onto wet paint below. Sables are no good for this type of manipulation. As for relaxing, I paint against the clock -my model is getting tired or the light is changing. I am always whooped after I paint. All a matter of perspective.


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