I’ve decided to start a new feature on this blog, I’ll call it “Tuesday Tips”, in which I will post tips for fellow artists. I also welcome guest posts from readers who have tips to share, just message me or ask about it in the comments if you are interested.
Today’s Tuesday Tip will be on Hacking Your Tools, specifically the fan brush. For those unfamiliar with a fan brush, it looks like this:
|dry fan brush|
|wet fan brush|
So, why would one want to use a fan brush? And why on earth would one need to “hack” the fan brush? Well, lets say you are painting some grass, or fur, or feathers. You could take a round brush and use it to paint individual blades of grass, like in this painting:
That works fine for this style of painting, where the blades of grass are thick and somewhat “out of focus” in appearance, but what if you wanted to make thin blades of grass, or fur, or very fine hair like feathers like in this close up of an owls face? Note that this is a crop of a much larger painting that shows the owls entire head and part of his body, thos feather lines around the eyes and overlapping the beak are hair thin.
|Fan brush strokes with a light load of paint,
with various pressures applied.
|Fan brush strokes with heavy paint, but light pressure.|
As you can see, the results can be very inconsistent. Now, if you are careful, the fan brush CAN and DOES work for fine hairlike individual strokes, I have used it that way myself, around the owl’s beak above and in several other paintings, but it is nerve wracking knowing that if I slip even the slightest, and apply more pressure than I meant to, my painting will be messed up.
So, one time recently while painting a large area of grass on a big painting, I got fed up. I took one of my three fan brushes, and a pair of scissors, and came up with this:
Here are some random brush strokes using my “hacked” fan brush, as you can see, with more paint, less paint, light pressure or heavier pressure, I got much more consistent, grasslike results, there were still differences according to the amount of pressure I used, or how much paint I loaded the brush with, but the differences were not so severe, and were easier to control:
So there’s my tip on hacking your fan brush. Now, I’m aware that they make a fan brush with shorter sections of bristles like this, but the brushes manufactured like this have each tip of precisely the same thickness, and for something like grass, I think having some variety of thicknesses looks more natural, not every blade of grass is exactly the same size as the one next to it.