My Brush Collection

 The Select Few 'On Station'

The Gift from Nick

As a professional artist, I am often asked during painting demonstrations, “What color is that?” or, “What paper do you use?,” or “What kind of brush is that?”  Usually, these sort of questions elicit a tone of sarcasm from my inner self because the answers to those questions are not the meat of what makes a painting, much less a “Good” painting.   Most all of the time, these sort of questions come from the very beginning painters who really do not know the difference between papers, brushes and the names of the myriad of colors that are available on the market.  (So, the sarcasm does not leak out to where it would be audible.)

But there IS something that is quite evident in my studio . . . .and which is commented upon by the visitors who come through:   That is the number of brushes that sit on my countertop.   I have never counted them, but you can get an idea from the photos above.  It is, obviously, an enormous collection.   That is because there has been no person to point to the right place to go for brushes or to suggest what I would find most satisfactory.   It has been 20 plus years of trial after trial after trial and learning the behavior of every 'arrow in my quiver.'   Thus, a huge collection, which is also quite dear to me because many came at great expense.

I remember my horrified reaction to the cost of some of the ‘famous brand’ brushes from England . . . . .that is the kolinsky sable round brushes slightly smaller in fatness than a man’s pinkie finger . . . . .that sell for $300 or more.   Gee-Yikes !!!    That is just NUTZ!   Who, in their right mind, would fall for that sort of price for a paint brush?????  

My collection has a few of those brushes (purchased with award money or the proceeds of sold paintings) in the cans and vases.   I wore the points off of them from over use.   Then I wised up and started shopping for the brushes I could buy at a reasonable price, which would deliver the results I wanted (yes, there is definitely a difference in the performance and the results!).   I would buy a few brushes every year and would be rabidly watching every art store for sales and good deals on good quality brushes.   Hundreds of brushes passed through my hands and live in the various containers in my studio . . . . . .most of which rarely get used.

As you can see from the photo of my watercolor table and the vase of brushes next to it, roughly 10% of what I own get to live near my reach.    Moreover, there are a mere few within that container that are continuously wet with paint.

We artists who paint and teach for a livelihood get to know each other over time.   The internet has afforded us the opportunity to learn of each other’s preferences in painting supplies and why.   That holds true with a Mr. Nicholas Simmons, who is, in my opinion, a painter who is on the leading edge of change in the watercolor world.   Nick has a style and an flavor in his paintings that, simply stated, turn heads the world over.   What’s more, he is young, eager, enthusiastic and bombastic.   Those characteristics are the sort of traits that change our world, not just the world of art.  

The Escoda brush company, in Barcelona, Spain, has recognized Nicks’ standing in the painting world and asked Nick to partner with them by developing a ‘signature line’ of brushes with his name on them.  (What an honor, Nick!!) 
I recently had a rare opportunity to spend some time with Nick at the National Watercolor Society  (NWS) opening reception of their national exhibition in late September.   Being the exceptional person that he is, and one who shares himself openly, Nick presented me with a set of Escoda Brushes.   The set contained a squirrel hair mop, a kolinsky sable round detail brush, and a synthetic ‘stitching’ brush, which Nick uses to enhance edges in his paintings.   My comment when receiving them?   Wooo Hoooo!!!!!   This set was no lightweight, cheap sample set, I can assure you of that.  

Incidentally, I had just been at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff in North Carolina, teaching, where I also purchased some very nice brushes, a few of which were Escoda brushes (kolinsky sable, of course!) and a few others.   One of which was a very expensive black squirrel mop made by Isabey . . . .a really big one.

Upon my arrival home from NWS, I ordered MORE brushes . . . .I have been on the hunt for the brushes used by famous artist Joseph Zbukvic (pronounced Zoo-Buke-vich).   I had just learned that Joseph uses Escoda brushes and has a signature line, as does Nick.  I dropped Nick an email asking where I could buy such brushes.  He pointed me to a supplier, from whom I immediately ordered Joseph’s brushes.

You must think I am wacked out crazy to spend money so freely on little sticks with fur coming out one end.  I may be!   (I won’t even make an excuse.   Okay, you think I am crazy.)   Joseph’s brushes came and I couldn’t wait to get to the studio to put them to the test.   I was not disappointed!   In fact, I became quite excited with this new group of brushes.  The effects I can get with them is astounding!

Then, one day this last week, UPS showed up at my door with a mystery box sent from the Midwest.   I opened it, wondering what this was.   OMG !!!   More brushes!!   I didn’t order them.   They were a GIFT from my homeboy, Nick Simmons:  a complete set of his signature brushes !!!

This morning, I raced to the studio to soak the sizing from the bristles then set about using them.   At once, they took up a favored spot right next to my easel in the most useful container.   I took the size 18 round and began slobbering a big wash across the painting you see in the photo.   And found that the washes came out perfect, but more . . . . with that tiny sharp point on that big, thumb sized, brush I was able to get into some very confining (dangerous) detail laden places on a nearly completed painting.

As most of the readers of my blog know, I am not just a studio painter.  I love painting outdoors, too.   What brushes do I use out there?   My Escoda collection, of course.   I now have a full range of sizes of sables, mops, and synthetic rounds and a few flats by this company.  You can see, again, the wide selection of brushes that I have to choose from (hundreds!).   Why do I pick the ones that I use all the time?   The answer is quite simple:   I trust them to deliver the results I seek.   There it is.   It is blunt but simple.   It boils down to trust.   I have depended upon Escoda Brushes for years to act perfectly under very punishing conditions and have never, ever, been disappointed.  Performance under stress and trial trumps everything else.  Hands down, I have arrived at the place where I will not paint with anything else.

One day, I will knock on Escoda’s door in Barcelona.   And I will get to shake hands with the extraordinary craftspeople that make these marvelous little rascals.

Thanks, Joseph!   And, Nick, take a bow!   This is one gift that I won’t long forget!

(P.S.  This article is not commercially encouraged or paid for.   These are my own thoughts and opinions as well as my  endorsements)