Skip to main content

On my favourite brush

This is my favourite brush. It may not be the best brush that I have, but I have had it for ten years, and no matter how often I've used it, or what I've drowned it in, it's always cleaned up and been usable. I bought it in London in 2000, so it's come with me across the Atlantic to the USA. It's been with me in three studios. I've used it for watercolours, acrylics, even oil paints. I've whisked it around in jars of pigment to mix up paints. I may even have used it for printmaking, so it's had all kinds of chemicals and inks on it. But every time that I used it, I washed it with warm water and a little detergent, then left it overnight in cold water, and every time the bristles sprang back into their original shape, like a cartoon animal that's flattened by an anvil and then - SPROING! - it's as good as new.

I have a set of beautiful Chinese brushes, but they are very delicate, they need a lot of care, and they can only be used for one thing. I have a few 12 inch round point brushes that can make broad, gestural marks with thick paint. I have small angled brushes, long-handled brushes with fine points, house-painter's brushes from 3 to 6 inches wide. Most of them lose their shape after a few months. Many of them end up being discarded (sorry, environment!). But this ten year old brush just keeps on going.

There's very little in my life that I have from ten years ago. Just a few books, several hundred CDs, and some canvases still in their packing material that came with me from London to Chicago in 2002.

And this brush. If I were a general, and this brush were a soldier I would have to promote it to a higher rank, or at the very least give it an important award.

Arise, Sir Brush! Truly you have given excellent service! May your bristles never wilt, but continue standing stiff and straight (if a little discoloured) for another decade.
 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Popular posts from this blog

On my 300th blog post


It's my 300th blog post. And I seem to remember that in my 200th blog post I said that I would start quoting from John Ruskin's "Praeterita", after which this blog was named. Well, better late then never, so quotation number 2 is below.

First, though, some thoughts on this blog and blogging in general. I started Praeterita at the end of last year after reading a book by an art-marketing guru called Alyson Stansfield that recommended it as a means for artists to publicise their work better. But from the start I thought it would be more interesting to talk in a discursive way about my wider interest in art, and artists, and the history of art. After a desultory beginning where I only posted once a week, my blogging habit has now grown to the point where I am posting sometimes twice a day, and more than 45 times per month (helped enormously by the Blogger feature that lets you save blog posts with a post-dated timestamp, so that you can put posts in the bank to …

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…