Make Your Own Paint Brush
January 20, 2010
I’ve always wanted to make my own paintbrushes. It comes from having taken Chinese painting at the University when I was in high school. It was a very disciplined program: first you must get the blades of grass properly, then the water iris bobbing above those graceful curving blades of grass, then the bamboo and bamboo joints… It was an interesting thing to experience when I was 16 or 17 because we don’t learn painting this way in our country.
Later when I actually went to China, I found out from a most esteemed painter that this isn’t how they learn to paint in China in either! What a surprise that was.
Anyway, because we were painting with a watery ink that we made ourselves on newsprint paper – yeah, one of the most absorbent papers around – our first task was to learn all about how paper absorbs water, how a light or heavy touch with the brush will look, how fast the paper absorbs the ink and so on. All of this observation taught me to also look at how the brush behaves with different pressures, angles and strokes. Before this, I had always been focused on the end result: what marks the brush made, not how the brush hairs bent or didn’t bend, not how the brush dispensed the medium. Ever since I learned the character of several brushes I have wanted to make my own. So here are the first the steps:
Get your materials together –
Sporting goods shops that carry fishing supplies also carry fly tying stuff. Go there and procure some animal hair. They often have bucktail deer fur, ostrich feathers and elk hair among other choices. The pieces you get don’t cost much so no worries. Check out http://www.artsnflies.com/pages/bucktail.shtml for some samples of stuff to use to make your brushes from.
Find a handle: a branch from the yard, an old pencil, anything will work. I learned from artist Susan Russell, a calligrapher, to use a cheap kids, wooden, flute. It worked very well and it still played! How many people have a brush that plays music? =)