I'll present Speed's main points in boldface type either verbatim or paraphrased, followed by my comments. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.
In this section of the chapter, Speed discusses the brushes for oil painters.
I totally agree with Speed on this one. He says "A cheap brush is useless from the start and has, luckily, a very short life as they wear very badly. The best brushes last much longer."
2. Cleaning brushes. "Soap and water cleans them most thoroughly and is the best way of cleaning them. But it is a most tedious process after a hard day's work."
Here's a previous post on "How to Clean out a Brush"
3. After washing them out, the brushes "should be lovingly sucked to bring the hairs together."
Never heard that one before. One would want to make sure to remove all the lead, cobalt, barium, and cadmium first. Or maybe pass on that idea.
4. "When thoroughly dry they have plenty of spring in them, whereas the slightest dampness gives them a flabbiness."
He's talking about bristle brushes here. It's really true. Damp brushes are flabbier.
5. Flats and Rounds: Flats are better for "laying a perfectly even tone, but give a nasty thin sharp edge...For figure work and form expression generally, one wants a brush that will lay the paint in even, flat tones without thin sharp edges."
He's referring to flat brushes with rounded corners, alternately the modern filbert option, which has a flat cross section but a rounded tip. The image above shows a set of Simmons filberts.
6. Fashion for soft haired brushes used for flowing strokes (in the 1920s).
Speed notes that some of the inspiration came from studying Frans Hals, who apparently used such brushes. Speed generally prefers stiffer hogs' hair bristles.
7. "Always work with the biggest brush that will do what you want."
Then choose the next size bigger. Speed notes that a big flat brush is really several brushes in one, because you can use the corner and the edge for very different strokes.
8. "The brush makers have an absurd habit of making the size of the handle fit the size of the brush, instead of the size of the hand that will have to hold it."
He continues, "Very small brushes need a very firm grip to control them as they are only used for very delicate work. And yet they are often given a handle no thicker than a match."
I totally agree, and I've always wondered about this, too. Pencils, pens, knives, and golf clubs have constant sized handles. Why don't brushes?
9. Only German brushes have an indented ring round the metal holder (ferrule) to prevent the tip falling off the handle.
Now crimped ferrules are pretty standard even on cheap brushes.
10. Cheap brushes "appear to have been sharpened off to make them a good shape, after being roughly put together; instead of the good shape being the result of a careful placing of the individual hairs."
Here's a video about how they make Escoda brushes
(Link to video)
More on brushes at:
MacPherson Arts / "Brush Basics"
Next week— Painting Grounds
In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (with a Sargent cover)," and there's also a Kindle edition.----
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