A Story About The Paintbrush

I’ve been delving into paintbrushes trying to figure out if it really is essential to make brushes out of animal hair!
See what you think and let me know, won’t you?

Until the end of the 17th century, each artist had to make their own painting tools.  They were all handmade and quite a slow process. It was essential that the artists were also excellent brush makers as the better the brush maker, the better the artist could paint.

This is how a brush is made:
A brush consists of three parts: the tuft, the ferrule and the handle.

  • The tuft is a bundle of animal hairs or synthetic fibers tied tightly together at the base;
  • The ferrule is a metal sleeve that surrounds the tuft, providing mechanical support under pressure, and protecting the flat base of the tuft from the handle.
  • The handle which is usually lacquered wood and shorter for a watercolour brush than an oil painting brush.

A natural hair brush is thought to typically have an excellent colour holding capacity, a lively elasticity and ability to quickly regain it’s original shape.

So – Everything begins with the end: the animal tail:

  • Kolinsky sable-hair,
  • Red Sable,
  • Mongoose,
  • Squirrel, Badger,
  • Sabeline,
  • Ox,
  • Pony,  or
  • Goat.

All this can be quite confusing too for the beginner! For example, a ‘Camel Hair’ brush may be made of Pony hair and/or any hair but Camel, ‘Sabeline’ brushes are made of dyed Ox hair, while
‘Erminette’, ‘White Sable’ and ‘Taklon’, brushes are made of synthetic (polymer) filaments.

The most favoured and revered and expensive are the Kolinsky sable-hair brushes (also known as red sable or sable hair brush).  which is not actually  a sable but a species of weasel. It is pale red in colour with darker tips. Those who use the Kolinsky sable brush claim it has superior strength, slenderness, and resiliency when compared to other hair brushes.
The hair for the tuft is obtained from the tail of the kolinsky or Siberian Weasel (Mustela sibirica).

Unfortunately we need many more brushes nowadays than previously plus we don’t have to make our own. We get someone else to do that and happily hand over our money for ready made brushes with no real thought to their making or impact on the animal populations!

So what do you think? Do you agree that an animal hair paintbrush produces such superior quality painting that it makes it okay to use real hair rather than synthetic filaments even if it means diminishing the weasel population?

Go vote here Now Let’s see



One response to “A Story About The Paintbrush

  1. Pingback: Bookmarks about Brush

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