I remember the paint brushes I used as an elementary school student. They were cheap dollar store things with different colored handles to perhaps help you remember each brush’s size. I wore those brushes down quickly, and it was never long before bristles would begin to fall from them, and I would spend a fair amount of time picking them off a painting.
That was of course long ago, and I have gone through countless brushes since. Each time moving up a level or two as I pursued better and better materials and tools. I love days when I purchase new paint, or brushes, or some new tool with which to play. It invites a new round of experiments and often suggests a new approach or manner towards the familiar challenge of creating an image.
In college, and immediately following graduation, this was often a process driven by a lack of funds, and I would work with whatever I could get my hands on. That process was and continues to be about seeing what is available to me and what I like and don’t like.
Previously, this experimentation often completed with thoughts that I loved a particular brand, or characteristic in a very general way. I preferred a given softness of pencil lead, a particular length of brush handle, a texture of paper, or a certain painting medium. It was always a sense or a feeling calculated in generalized experience.
More recently, my wife and I have taken to the process of documenting and describing what we like about certain tools. Why a certain paper is right for drawing, and why this or that brand of brush, notebook, or pen really suits us. Its a fun game since our likes and dislikes, like our styles and approaches, are so different. In our writing and conversations, we learn even more about what we prefer. This is the luxury of having done something for a long time, you see your own preferences and you have the experience to see them in a larger context.
The pursuit of great tools and materials seems fundamental to gaining a greater understanding of yourself and your processes. Tools are the interface between your mind and the physical world, and as such are a wonderful thing to spend time thinking and learning about.
I will be adding some thoughts about specific materials on my blog beginning later this year.