Friday, July 10, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Every trade has its tools, and visual arts is no exception. For drawing I have used a variety of pens, though for more than a decade I favored the Rapid-o-graph with its even lines and uninterrupted ink flow. If I had more time I would do more with pencils, but they are currently not my strongest suit. Instead, I favor brushes. I simply love the process of applying paint, ink or pigment by means of brushes.

Some of my brushes have been with me since my Ohio University days in the early 7o's. A few have been used so passionately for so long that they are practically nubs.

To the uninitiated a brush is a brush is a brush. But the reality is that brushes vary in type and style because they have different functions. Each applies color or pigment in a different manner, and the brush makes a difference in the outcome. Not only are the styles, sizes and shapes different, but the bristles themselves are made of different materials, from synthetic to camel's hair.

Many brushes are designed for special effects, such as the fan brush or the liner brush. Certain brushes are useful for scrubbing the paint into the canvas and some for laying it on thick, such as the mop brush. (I suppose if you had a really large canvas you might enjoy trying to use a mop itself.)

Some artists are adept at painting with a palette knife, which lays down paints in a thick coat or scrapes off areas for alternative effects.

And occasionally, the fingertips make a good tool for applying color. I have used my fingertips in many paintings, sometimes to apply the pigment as a woman would apply mascara. And sometimes to spray the paint across the surface for special effects.

Speaking of spraying, I have even used a toothbrush for a few pieces. The stiff bristles make an excellent mechanism for spattering, and even for rubbing it in. I am referring to discarded toothbrushes, not the one I am about to brush my teeth with.

You probably didn't know, though you might have guessed, that the various parts of a brush each have names, from toe, bristles and belly to heel, ferrule (the metal part that holds everything together) and handle. The heel, the portion of the fibers underneath the ferrule) is not visible. Many of my brushes have had their toes worn off. And a couple have no belly left either. I still love what they can do.

For the record, I love my large paint brushes, too, from my days painting houses and apartments. Maybe some other time I can talk about those dear old friends as well. For the record there is one rule especially important whether working with art brushes or large paint brushes: clean them. You can't ignore this important need. Take the time it takes, don't shortcut this basic maintenance reality. It's like friendship. You just have to give it the time it needs or you will ruin a good thing. Then you'll have to start all over...

The two images here are ink on paper. I have fallen in love with the way ink works, whether for wet applications or dry brush techniques. And both of these are on the wall at my show this month at The Venue @ Mohaupt, at 2024 West Superior Street here in Duluth. Hope you can make it.

5 comments:

LEWagner said...

Could I go and display my art in Duluth, too, or would I need a permit?
Do you feel insulted by the fact that your event does NOT require a permit?
From the research I've been doing, only "special events" require permits in Duluth. Though I see that the Hells Angels aren't being asking for, or being required to have a permit for their event .......
Go figure, eh?

LEWagner said...

>>>>>>>For the record there is one rule especially important whether working with art brushes or large paint brushes: clean them. You can't ignore this important need. Take the time it takes, don't shortcut this basic maintenance reality. It's like friendship. You just have to give it the time it needs or you will ruin a good thing. Then you'll have to start all over...

Well, in this new China-rules day and age, I can buy a new 3-inch brush for 30 cents, and it costs me 10 cents to wash out the old one in gas. I wash out the old ones about 2-3 times, and then I just don't care anymore.

ENNYMAN said...

I have different thoughts about the permits but not insulted.

As for the brushes... I have used throwaway brushes, but there is a much deeper relationship with brushes that stay with you for several decades. It's emotional, like a favorite pair of slippers or a favorite chair....

Actually, I did buy some cheap brushes recently and the very first one I used kept leaving bristles in my painting, which made me bristle with annoyance. So... it depends on what one is seeking to accomplish. I have had it both ways.

e.

LEWagner said...

>>>>>>I have different thoughts about the permits but not insulted.

I guess my thoughts are kind of different, too.
My thoughts were: "Why should the Hells Angels, supposedly a 'notorious criminal gang', be able to assemble in Carlton and Duluth without a permit, when my son was listed in the Crime Section of the Duluth News Tribune for holding an alcohol-prohibited music event? His only 'criminal' record is a couple of minor traffic offenses."
................
The above were some of my different thoughts. Could I ask for yours, or perhaps if you'd rather not express them .....?
Not to intrude on your art show. Just delete this, and I'll understand that you'd rather not express your thoughts on why a "notorious criminal gang" should be given better treatment in Duluth than my son.

ENNYMAN said...

That does seem like a good point (Hell's Angels) and I did call the editor of the Tribune to vouch for Rob's character and point out that the article seemed slanted in a manner that put the police in a good light and him in a bad one. He seemed very open to my thoughts and suggested I call the chief of police, whose number is on my desk at the office.

I do not see anything to delete here (in your comments), so I will leave it stand.