Watercolour brushes D.I.Y

Written by Paul, September 25, 2020

Mark Making

I am using a horse hair bristle brush with bamboo handle.

For me the brush is all. I am able to buy many types of brushes that are able to satisfy most requirements. However, I am always on the hunt for more options. It is about making marks. I need variety to express all the subtleties I see in nature. The option therefore is to make my own something I have done for some time.

Brush making materials.

Surprisingly I have found many types of materials for brush making very local to where I live. the most exotic being horse tail hair from a friend’s horse that needed trimming. I have also used all manner of twigs, grasses, straw and split bamboo. I also use string rags sponges and feathers. It seems that if I can dip it in paint I can use it. 

An extensive group of hand made brushes made from a variety of materials.

Brush assembly

I put the brushes together using various types of handles. The easiest is to wrap the brush material around a stick of wood or bamboo with twine. A more sophisticated method is to insert the bristles twigs hair into a tube. I can easily obtain this with a piece of hollow bamboo. Alternatively I use a piece of copper pipe over the end of a stick to form a ferrule.

How to handle

With my home-made brushes I expect the unexpected. The whole point in making them is to discover a whole new range of media. I want haphazard, random, undisciplined uninhibited, inimitable. I expect the unusual as a result of spontaneity. I want ineffable and the indescribable you know what I mean. The results are invariably unexpected; for example the brush made from twigs paints the best branches ever!

My twig brush showing it’s capability of forming branch like marks.

The empathetic brush

One of the most sensual aspects of painting in watercolour is the interaction between the paper and the brush. I can literally feel the empathy between my fingers if it is there. When trying to understand how a new brush will behave, I will take it for a walk trying as many different strokes as possible in order to see into its soul!

Abstract showing the kind of special marks created with home made brushes.