As I was looking at the dozens of paintbrushes on my art table and deciding which to write about next, the angular bristle caught my eye. However, before I begin I want to thank Sharon for continually coming up with great ideas and informative articles that inspire and encourage. Also for her generous invitation to painters of all levels and interests to contribute to Purple Palette Artists Magazine.
When I started out, I quickly went from practicing tole strokes for painting flowers to folk art landscapes. I’d always admired the works of Grandma Moses, an artist without formal training and who painted with house paint. I liked how her paintings all seemed to tell a story and record her own personal history. It’s amazing how many paintings she was able to create just from her region.
With my newfound interest in landscapes, I was also using techniques that were new to me and, along with it, adding different styles of brushes to a growing collection. I went from worn scruffy brushes for stippling to using brushes created specifically for this purpose.
The first was a deerfoot and through the years others have been introduced in different shapes. I’ve recently started using the angular bristle. The shape of it easily defines evergreens due to a flat edge, whereas, the deerfoot is broad and round. I begin by using only the corner toe of this brush for the top small boughs and increase both pressure and amount of bristles while forming the larger part of the tree.I keep the stippling slightly irregular for a more natural look and often use a very slight pull of the tip for variety in texture. Boughs can be turned up, down or cropped close together as for arbor vitae or the slim trees in Tuscan paintings. Placing the edge of the bristle lightly over boughs is another option when it comes to painting evergreens that have large gapping open areas.
When highlighting snow, I generally only load the brush with paint on the toe bristles if an evergreen is small. For larger ones, I double load keeping white on the toe and green on the heel, so that when the color is stippled in, it will automatically blend into the tree. This brush also pulls grasses nicely so it works well for pine needles on large boughs, too.
What I find really neat about stipplers is that they are not a single purpose brush.
Pouncing is only the beginning of what they do; there is much more to these brush styles. I’ve used them for blending strokes in skies and water, pulling grass, sketching bold leaves and flowers and scrubbing pathways with them. The pressed image of the bristle angel creates the instant shape of a pussy willow bloom; can’t get much simpler than that.
The bristle angel can be used wet, damp or dry. Using thicker paint loads or a more wet brush offers heavier and more solid results while a dry or damp brush with less paint will offer airiness to foliage or fine grassy effects. The amount of bristle being used also gives more variety to this brush. It can be used on the brush toe, heel, flush or on the side.
Scrubbing can be done keeping the brush tight to the surface with more pressure and less paint. Loads can be single or double, or one color can be layered over another for highlights and shading. I’ve pulled the brush on its heel (shorter bristles) to give softer blends to clouds with pressure basically applied to the heel. Free form sketching can create ruffled leaves or petals and the brush works best if bristles are wet (not drippy) as paint needs to move smoothly.
As for how I hold the brush, it’s generally where ferrule meets handle as I would hold a pen or pencil. Pressure plays an important part in results as well. More pressure will push and blend paints where a lighter application will create an airy look or blush of color.
As for bristle angel sizes, I have a 1”, ½” and ¼”, and it often depends on how large my surface or subject is as to which one I will choose to use. And one thing about brush sizes is that it’s easy to paint something bigger with a small brush than try to paint something small with a big brush.