Through Concentrated Breath

the making of images from memory

The Eternal Brush

11 July 2017 by Rey Armenteros

I have never had a brush betray me, but then that would depend on how you would define such a thing. Brushes get ruined, but I hardly ever retire them. And this goes to show that they not only work their magic when shaping the finest and most voluptuous lines. When brushes are splayed, I can twist striations more easily, and when their bristles curl out, I can stamp patterns with the lightest of touches. A ruined brush, when you conclude it can no longer give you control, has entered its second life.

Here is a good example of the results of hatching and stippling from deformed brushes:

Today, I used a fan brush. But then I went to a thin liner that gave me finer lines than a pen. And then I finalized the thick contours with something called a dagger brush, a new concoction for the age that is part round and part flat, giving both broad and sharp swings of color.

In my work, I use brushes almost exclusively; there are very few moments when I need anything else, such as a spatula for buttering on color or an eye dropper for extruding semi-fluid paint. A brush can do almost as much as a pen or graphite stick, and it can also do so very much more.

Basking in the wet black strokes that pool on the surface of my image, I find myself falling in love all over again with this ancient tool. And this is silly; I learned a long time ago that if you focus on the tool, your work will suffer for it. A red sable brush with a tapered point and a solid and graceful handle is a work of art in itself, which for me was always difficult to employ effectively since it would divert my attention away from the work at hand to marvel at the slender utensil at my fingertips. Rather than sables or expensive hog’s hair brushes, my brushes today are just plastic things with nylon hairs, but as cheap as they are, they still hold a line as well as the best of them, and they keep the spirit of every brush since the first shattered twig was made to move red earth.

A man sharing his art with the world at large.

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