Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A worn out brush
I wrote last about the importance of clean, sharp brushes. Someday when I am rich and famous I will just throw my brushes away, with my rags, every evening. I would buy my brushes by the gross, in three different sizes.
The brush ( a #4 flat) pictured above is ruined, worn out ( not good anymore). The pro's are rolling their eyes reading this, for they maintain a collection of fine tools. But a lot of people read this blog and most of them are in the earlier stages of their march to artistic greatness.
Now your brushes may wear more evenly than this abraded specimen but the wear happens the same way on a finer scale. The hairs have broken or been worn off in gradated lengths back to the ferrule ( the shiny part). Why its almost like a Mesopotamian ziggurat, or a layered haircut from the David Cassidy period! The same sort of unattractive wear and fragmented deterioration you would expect to find in a broom.
It makes a stroke or line with a chopped up edge, or drag marks at its side. Next to a sharp brush stroke it looks raggedy assed. Rather than acting as a flexible blade, different units of the brush operate in splayed and stiff independent scales or groups. Like a burr that sticks to your woolen sweater in the autumn ( under fading light at fields edge on a hillside in Northern Vermont, with big maples and a 19th century barn and the whole landscape woven into a tapestry of ochers, grays and violet. There's thistles there and sumac) Or imagine an anesthetized porcupine or large hedge hog, gently, kindly, but firmly, attached at its stomach area to a mop handle.
This is a worn brush, an evil thing, but there is something darker still. There are among us men and women (well, I think there are men) who carry with them a collection of brushes in which the paint has been allowed to dry. These brushes are a solid mass from ferrule to tip. They are like a tongue depressor or small pry bar. Obviously these people have to know that the brushes in this condition could never be used, Certainly there is no way they are going to resuscitate one out on location and work with it. But they still carry them, sometimes a dozen or more. They have brushes that once were an inch and a half long worn down to half an inch and totally rigid all the way to its heel. You could hammer one into a phone pole. But they have em, why?
They are not really being honest with themselves, they are engaged in "magical thinking". Or at best a low level simmering resentment, and yes, regret over the lost value of once useful brushes bought at high retail in some big box craft store. I'm not sorry for them, I just can't be.I don't have the time, I have my painting and my commitments. I don't really think about them that much.