Jan 1, 2011

Studio Talk

Starting the New Year off on the right foot……………..
By Sharon Teal-Coray

I have been an artist and teacher for many years. This new year I am finding I need to buy some new supplies however, things have changed so much that I find I have to step back and look at all the new products that have been introduced in the last several years before I part with my hard earned money.

Teaching for over 30 years, I have seen lots of interesting brushes come into my studio. During the Bob Ross and Alexander years I had students come to class with “house painting” brushes. Now I see a lot of very odd looking brushes that in all honesty simply have no real advantage for the fine artist. I am a seasoned artist and I can imagine how confusing this must be to a new student or one that wants to advance from decorative painting to fine art.

So here is the question; what brushes does an artist really need?

The first suggestion I have here is to ignore anyone who says you cannot paint a tree, or a flower with out a certain brush. That is pure baloney. If you have the basic brushes you can paint anything, well that is if you have a teacher who does not use the quirky brushes and knows how to use a standard art brush.

So what do I mean by standard? The standard brushes are ones that have been around for many years; they include Flats, Brights, Rounds, Fans, and Liners, remember we are talking “fine” art brushes not Tole or Decorative brushes.

For the canvas painter it is easy to choose a few basic brushes to paint with. It is when you get into the “decorative” painting area that you see so many “specialty” brushes and here again I have to wonder at their usefulness. Is it possible that the brush companies just want to make a buck off you?

 Painting is a skill, and when you learn how to use the basic brushes then you can paint a tree with a flat, bright or a filbert.

Here is what I call a “basic” set of brushes that every student of mine needed to get painting and what I basically use today.


I prefer to use “Brights” they have a flat ferrule, short-length hairs and are usually set in a long handle but not always. The width and length of brush head is about equal giving me much more control. A bristle Bright can create beautiful texture. I find these useful for all aspects of painting.


I love filberts because they are actually a mix of a flat and a round brush. The curved top gives me a lot of control for soft tapered strokes. I think they are one of the most useful brushes an artist can own. Their shape allows the paint to be applied smoothly with very little brush strokes.

I use these for trees, trunks, flowers, and skies and for softening edges. I also use these for the initial under painting, blocking, impasto and for scumbling and glazing you name it, they can be used for just about anything!


This is one brush that I have found to be one I cannot paint without. The script brush is a brush with very long narrow hair. This long hair gives me the power to paint long steady lines without re-loading. It is necessary for this brush to hold a lot of color. With this brush I can create tree branches and twigs, grass, vines, curlicues, and fine details. My favorite here is the “Supreme Script” made by Scharff Brushes.

Round Bristle

These are made of Hog bristles and they are wonderful for creating texture, stippling and scumbling. I use these for foliage, sea foam and for blending edges with acrylics.

Deerfoot Stippler

I love this brush and prefer it to be made of natural Fitch. I can create beautiful foliage and clouds with this brush.

Shining Feather Soft Stroke

This is the only exception to the rule here, this is not a basic brush it is my hand-cut brush, which I use for fur, hair, grass and basket weave. When I invented my brush there were no brushes on the market that were designed for this. I used to paint fur with a Script Liner, and that was a slow process!  I needed one that would let me work faster and perform to my qualifications.  The most important element for me when painting fur was to have complete control of the amount of paint distributed in each stroke. After I had been cutting my brush many companies came out with their interpretations.  I tired all with the brushes on the market like the fan, rake, comb, and the Wisp, only to never find one that could perform like my brush.
 My students used this brush for many years after I created it, in the late 80’s, from a standard brush that was on the market at the time. I now have Scharff Brush Company supplying me with the basic brush with my name on it and I still hand-cut each and every one because even now it is the only one that works this well! It lets me build the fur up slowly and holds a lot of paint. The filaments in the other brushes I tried would stick together and create an uneven stroke, usually a too fat ugly stroke. With mine I have delicate, separated strokes that I can build on, having much more control over each stroke creates a softer realistic looking fur.

So there you have it my brush list. We all need to watch our pennies now days, why spend good money on gimmicky brushes when you don’t need them? If you want to paint on canvas and become a fine artist then go to your local store or to a reputable brush company online, buy a few brushes buy the best quality you can afford. Stay away for off-brands or student grades, they only last a short time. Invest in a few to begin with and then be sure to take care of them. I have some brushes that are over 20 years old. They are expensive sable brushes, but with proper care they are still in great condition. I have some that I have only had a few years that were of lesser quality; I have found that with the cheaper brushes the ferrules often get loose and fall off leaving me with only a wood handle, the filaments don’t hold their shape after a few cleanings and the paint on the handles crack and peals off. The better quality brushes never have these problems.

They may cost more to begin with but in the long run they will serve you well and save you money.

The company that I highly recommend not only for the quality of their products but also for their integrity is Scharff Brushes. You can visit their site at: http://artbrush.com/shop/home.php?cat=

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