This may sound like the beginnings of a fairy-tale but it’s a quick and easy way to think about brushes. Most traditional brushes are made from animal hair and the quality of the brush – its bounce and feel, is dependent on the quality of the hair used.
Mink hair makes ‘Sable’ brushes and pig hair makes ‘Hog’ brushes…
“A great artist can paint a great picture on a small canvas.” Charles Dudley Warner
Getting your Absorbency Right
Your choice of what to paint on can alter the working properties of the paint and give you a different painting experience but it needn’t be a mystery if you follow a few simple rules.
1. Acrylics straight from the tube are the most flexible medium, so can be painted on anything – paper, canvas, cardboard, metal…literally anything.
2. Oils are more tricky, so have to be painted onto a properly prepared surface (see: The Trouble with Oil) I recommend a prepared canvas or prepared board.
3. Watercolours work best on paper, I recommend Cold Pressed paper (confusingly also referred to as NOT paper meaning ‘Not’ Hot Pressed). It’s ideal for less experienced painters as it’s more forgiving. (There is a huge range of Watercolour papers see: How to choose Watercolour Paper).
Off the peg or bespoke? The dilemmas of a modern man. Choosing a canvas is much like deciding between Savile Row, the high street or knitting your own!
With Bespoke, you get:
Neat edges on the back, staple-free sides, a choice of fabric, a choice of finish (unprimed, sized, oil-primed) an exact choice of size, a choice of stretcher bar thickness and a skilled craftsman making it for you, all coming with a premium price tag.
High street, you get:
Neat edges on the back, less robust stretcher bars, not as heavyweight canvas, machine-made but a very reasonable bill.
Knitting your own:
It can be a bit of a headache! But you do get a choice of fabric, choice of size, choice of the stretcher bar, and it’s a very economical way to achieve what you want if working on a lot of canvases the same size. Huge flexibility in finish mixed with the glow of satisfaction when stretching your own canvas…
Oil paint can be an amazing substance to work with, from creating quick sketches outside to photo-realistic portraits. Because oil paints take a long time to dry, they give you the flexibility to tweak, alter, soften and blend, resulting in lovely muted, smokey subtle paintings.
If you decide that you’d like to give oils a go, then my recommendation would be to start with a pre-sized, pre-primed ready-made canvas to paint on.
The “oil” in the paint can create a few issues over time you should be aware of.
We’ve all heard of “fat over lean” and paintings cracking but don’t be scared…