Do you really need all those brushes? by Dan Schultz

Nov 2014

Do you really need all those brushes?  by Dan Schultz

How does one go about choosing brushes for oil painting? Perhaps you’ve noticed that the search can be daunting. One visit to an art supply store or online retailer reveals the almost endless brushes from which to choose. 

I discovered a few things early in my painting journey that have helped me keep my brush choices simple. Perhaps they can help you too. (It should be noted that I prefer to paint wet-into-wet whenever possible, so that has influenced my brush decisions.)

Stiff vs. Soft: One thing I learned is the difference between stiff bristle brushes and softer sable or mongoose brushes. Bristle brushes offer more durability and can put up with a bit of abuse. They’re great for filling in large areas quickly and for scrubbing, scribbling and scumbling. Softer brushes tend to be more fragile and must be treated with more care. They excel in smooth paint application, glazing and softening effects.  

Brush Shapes: I also discovered some things about different brush shapes. And my experience revealed that flat brushes offer a full range of application possibilities without the need for other brush shapes. Using just a flat brush, a painter can make a surprising number of different marks including:

  • filling in large areas with the wide flat side
  • making thin lines with the long narrow side
  • sharply dividing shapes with the narrow flat tip
  • making small detail marks with the corners

You may ask, “Don’t you need other brushes like rounds, filberts and brights?” In my opinion, the detail marks that can be made with the corners of a flat brush eliminate the need for a round brush. I don’t need to buy filberts because my flats eventually turn into filberts as they wear down. And brights simply don’t hold enough paint for me and also lack the bounce of longer flat brushes.

My Brush of Choice: As a result of these discoveries, the flat has become my brush of choice and the majority of my paintings are completed with just two types of flat brushes: the flat hog bristle and the flat mongoose.

The Flat Hog Bristle

The flat hog bristle is quite versatile. It can hold a lot of paint for thick impasto work or be used to paint thin washes. It has a nice springy quality. For years I used this brush exclusively, but at this point I do about 80% of each of my paintings with flat hog bristle brushes. I mainly use sizes 2 – 12 but occasionally use larger sizes for larger paintings (my largest is a size 35!). I’m currently using Creative Mark Pro Stroke Series 77F, but the brand doesn’t really matter as long as the bristles don’t fall out too easily.

 The Flat Mongoose

I’ve since added a flat brush made with mongoose hair by Royal & Langnickel. However, these brushes have been discontinued due to the endangered status of Indian Mongoose. Happily, Rosemary & Co. offers a high-quality replacement made with a blend of badger hair. The softness of these brushes offers the ability to lay down thick paint on top of an already thick stroke without digging into the lower thick stroke the way the stiffer hog bristle would. They’re also great for softening edges and for detail work. I mainly use these for finishing effects as I approach a painting’s completion. I use sizes 2 – 12 in these brushes as well. The remaining 20% of each of my paintings are done with these brushes, as well as a few other tools for special effects.

Special Effects: Occasionally, I employ a brush called an egbert. It’s an extra long filbert that can hold a lot of paint and has an extra measure of bounce. After a lot of use, egberts also develop a ragged character that makes for some fantastic brushwork. I mainly use them for a few final, strategically-placed strokes of thick impasto.

I’ll also occasionally use a palette knife or paper towel for certain effects, but I’m admittedly mostly a brush painter. (Although you’ll often catch me at plein air painting shows touching up paintings with my fingers after I’ve put my brushes away. But I usually end up just getting them out again because I haven’t figured out how to make convincing brush strokes with my fingers.)

THE COLOR BLACK: IS IT ON YOUR PALETTE? By Dan Schultz/ Edited By John DeFrancesco

Aug 2014

THE COLOR BLACK:
IS IT ON YOUR PALETTE?
By Dan Schultz/ Edited By John DeFrancesco

(NOTE: The following edited article is a post by artist Dan Schultz. See the full article and photos at his web site at www.danschultzfineart.com).

When I teach painting workshops, students are often surprised to discover that I use black as one of my usual palette colors. It seems that some art books have discouraged against using black, but I’ve found it to be a great addition to my palette.

After graduating from college with a degree in commercial art, I still had a lot to learn about fine art painting. Around that time, I bought the brand new book Alla Prima by Richard Schmid. In the book, Schmid lists the palette colors he most often uses. I adopted most of his list and set out to learn how they all worked together. Black wasn’t a color he listed, so I learned to make it by mixing other tube colors together — a valuable lesson.

A few years later, I had the opportunity to watch a live painting demonstration by Scott Burdick. He masterfully painted a portrait from a model outdoors using a limited palette. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone paint with a four-color palette. You may have heard of the four-color “Zorn palette” named for Swedish artist Anders Zorn. Scott used a similar palette that day: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red and Ivory Black.

Scott’s painting blew me away. I had no idea of the range that could be achieved with so few colors, especially with one being black. Afterwards, I set out to experiment with the Zorn palette and other limited palettes myself. I soon added Ivory Black to my regular palette after seeing the range of colors I could make with it. I continue to use it for studio painting as well as plein air painting.

The only danger to be aware of is that any color can become a “crutch” if not used properly. An artist could easily use black as a lazy choice for darkening colors in every situation rather than simply using it as a dark color that is cool in color temperature. (An early crutch of mine was Sap Green. Since it’s such a normal-looking green, I used it to make all the greens in my paintings and didn’t really analyze and mix the exact green I needed. So I replaced it on my palette with Viridian — a much more unusual green which usually requires mixing with other colors to make the exact green I need.)

MORE PAINTING TIPS By John DeFrancesco

March 2014

MORE PAINTING TIPS  By John DeFrancesco
The following painting tips are from a DVD by well-known artist Richard Schmid. The title is, “Richard Schmid Paints the Landscape – June.” 
 
Brushes and Brush Work:

  • To manipulate paint, a brush with very stiff bristles is harder to control than a slightly softer brush.A brush that is too soft can’t control the paint either because it doesn’t have the strength to hold paint and make it go where you want it to go.
  • Use less brush-work, but apply the strokes deliberately, using as few strokes as possible. Overworking takes the life out of a painting.
  • Schmid targets for a styling that is loose but not sloppy.John Singer Sargent achieved looseness, but very carefully to be in complete control.
  • Schmid keeps a ragged, old worn out Langnickle with splayed bristles that he uses to get touches of colors on trees.

Color:

  • When working in the studio, color will look deeper and richer than it will outdoors because of the brightness of the sun outdoors on  the paint. So inside, he mixes tones slightly darker and more saturated.
  • For small areas of color highlights in finish-work, such as on leaves, don’t mix the paint too thoroughly; leave it in a variegated state. Broken color is pure impressionism.
  • The bottom of an object, such as a door, foundation, flower pot, tree, post, etc., picks up color reflected from the ground (i.e., grass, gravel, etc.). Place that color into the object.
  • Schmid tends to use more lemon yellow and cadmium yellow outdoors than he would indoors under north light. He sees yellow-green outdoors. Viridian and two blues (cobalt and ultra) and a variety of yellows can make any greens he wants.
  • In this DVD, he showed his color charts and how important they can be to determining the colors being looked at in the scene to be painted. They also help confirm the color harmonies to be set in the painting. He emphasized how important it is to be able to see colors in nature.