My Oil Painting Art Materials
My Oil Painting Brushes
In addition to the information below, you will also find at the bottom of this page is a video which gives further insight into the reasons for my choice of oil painting brushes.
I am often asked which brushes I use for my oil painting.
Choosing the best oil painting brushes for the job is a little like guess-work when faced with the enormous selection of brushes available. Instead of that huge variety being helpful, the choice becomes very difficult if we don’t know what to look for.
Here is a comprehensive page dedicated to help you with your selection.
The brushes I have chosen to use for my oil painting are from an English company called Rosemary & Co. I want to share with you the shape and sizes of the brushes I couldn’t be without and give you some tips on the uses of each brush, while also commenting on the quality and versatility of the brushes I love to use.
You will find the quality and the pricing of Rosemary & Co brushes is excellent. They are a top quality product that give excellent longevity and great service – but at a reasonable price.
As many of you probably know already, when I first started painting it was in oils. Then in the early 1990’s I decided to try my hand at watercolor – and before long my book ‘Glorious Garden Flowers in Watercolor’ was published in the USA.
Now I choose to paint in both mediums, and most recently I have been painting with oils on precious metal (24 carat gold and palladium) leaf. Most of my tuition, at in-person workshops, in online workshops and on my DVDs & Video Downloads, has related to watercolor, although I do have an oil painting DVD/Download in the pipeline and I’m currently mentoring online in both oil painting and watercolor painting.
Those familiar with my watercolor painting and teaching will know how much I love my da Vinci watercolor brushes. I now also love my Rosemary & Co brushes when I am painting in oils.
When I experimented with various brands of oil painting brushes, those from Rosemary & Co stood out from the rest for my methods, techniques and painting style. They are an absolute joy to use and add greatly to the pleasure I have from painting. The quality and handling of each of the series I have chosen as my favourite brushes are exceptional and suit my purpose and needs beautifully. I’m sure the wide range and selection of Rosemary & Co oil painting brushes will suit the needs of all artists, from beginners to professionals.
As with my watercolor painting, when I paint in oils I paint in layers. Let me tell you about each of those layers and the brushes I use.
Layer One – ‘Imprimatura’ layer
Beginning with my first (Imprimatura) layer where I use the Rosemary & Co Evergreen Synthetic Short Flat Size 12 brush.
This is my favourite brush for many other purposes too. I can quickly lay in the amount of colour I need to tint my canvas (linen) or wood panel. I then smooth this out with a rag to give the exact amount of colour and marks I wish to form the base my subsequent painting. The rag generally leaves a light to mid tint of paint – rather than thick dark colour. I often lift paint out the very lightest areas of my composition with the rag.
I then allow my paint to dry.
Layer 2 – ‘Grisaille’ layer
My Grisaille layer is where I establish a tonal value under-painting. This layer allows me to establish a tonal value map of my composition. This tonal value map has too many benefits to list here – but suffice to say this layer is a game-changer as it facilitates all of my future layers.
The word ‘Grisaille’ comes from the French for ‘grey’ and specifically refers to a painting executed in shades of grey. Imagine a black and white photograph, where the image is created from shades of grey. I’m using the term ‘Grisaille’ more loosely, to refer to a tonal value layer in any colour. For my oil paintings I generally use Lemon Yellow – or I occasionally use Raw Umber.
For my Second Layer I use the Rosemary & Co Ivory Synthetic Series brushes. I love this series – it is ideal for this layer. It is robust and strong but capable of delivering fine paint layers as well as thicker layers – all with expression. This Ivory Synthetic Series brings me choices I wouldn’t have thought possible with my previous hog hair brushes from other manufacturers.
The flex and spring back allows me to deposit varying amounts of paint with ease and confidence. I can lift paint as well as deposit paint – push/pull paint to ensure my painted surface is just how I want it to be. The Ivory Synthetic Series Long Flats are ideal for laying in colour and also for creating and cutting into edges. All sizes work so well – from narrow to wide – these brushes feel like they are an extension of my arm.
I find the Ivory Synthetic Series Filberts are ideal for creating and nudging into rounded shapes in my painting.
The brushes I use:
Rosemary & Co IVORY SYNTHETIC SERIES
- Long Flats
All sizes – choose the sizes that suit your purposes. I then allow my paint to dry to ensure my tonal value map is isolated.
Layer Three – Establishing Colours
My third layer often requires some quick flicks – as well as more deliberate strokes where I establish my colours, in blocks of colour suggesting basic colour shifts to describe the form of the objects I am painting. I also build up my colour in this layer.
Often quick cross-hatched strokes with Rosemary & Co Evergreen Synthetic Series Long Flats and Filberts allow me to describe form, deposit colour quickly as well as suggest wonderfully expressive, loose backgrounds, hair, grasses etc with speed – and with ease.
Rosemary & Co Evergreen Synthetic Series brushes are ideal for all of these things and so much more – they are so expressive and reactive, reflecting all I want to capture within each brush stroke. I also use Ivory Synthetics in creating this layer too.
Rosemary & Co EVERGREEN SYNTHETIC SERIES
This series is my most favourite of all. (see Layer Two for details on the Ivory Synthetic Series brushes I use in this layer too).
The Evergreen Synthetic Series is, once again, very versatile and robust. I have been using Evergreen brushes since they were first released and they still look and behave like new!
- Long Flats
A variety of sizes – choose the sizes that suit your purposes.
Layer Four – My Fine Tuning Layer
This is the layer where I refine my shapes, form, transitions, edges, lines, detail.
For this layer I use the Rosemary & Co Pure Sable Domed Filbert Series 81 brushes. These are the brushes that pull my paintings together in the final stages of finessing my work. This final layer is what gives my paintings the professional edge I need for my work.
In this layer, I want to draw attention to the main focus of my painting. It is here that these brushes come into their own as I put them to work to help me describe the surfaces, textures, light, shadows, establish the edges and finer details that carry the emotion and a true sense of substance in my work. These brushes allow me to give the impression of ‘presence’ to the main focal point in my painting. I can create subjects that give the impression of soft, smooth skin or the rough texture of rusted metal. You can feel the slip of satin fabric or sense the emotion of a tear in an eye.
These pure sable brushes are very versatile too as they also allow me to establish the less defined, ‘suggested’ loose brushstrokes that describe the supporting areas. These are the areas that allow the main focal point to take the leading role in my paintings.
For this fine tuning stage of my paintings I mostly use:
Rosemary & Co PURE SABLE
- DOMED FILBERT series 81 Sizes 4, 6 & 8
I also find the Ivory Synthetic Series helpful in this fine tuning stage to refine edges, line and shape.
LONG HANDLED BRUSHES
All of the brushes I use are long handled brushes.
I guess I have become a bit of a ‘brush-a-holic’ as brushes have such an impact on the success of our paintings. For this reason I am now very particular and passionate about the brushes I use.
I will never forget how daunted I felt when I first stood in front of a plethora of oil painting brushes in an art supply store. Where to start? Which to choose? I knew nothing about oil painting brushes so I bought a few different brands, fibres, shapes, sizes to try. Not happy, I bought more and then more. Some were okay but many were not.
Those early brush purchases made me feel oil paint was a difficult medium and one that would take a long time to perfect. I persevered with the inexperienced choices of brush purchases I made. But I found painting in oils did not bring me the pleasure I hoped it would. A real bug-bear of those early purchases was brushes that readily lost their paint from the handle. Often into my oil paint! Ahhhhhh!
In my years of oil painting, I have trialed many brushes and brands. I haven’t looked back since discovering these Rosemary & Co brushes. They are so responsive and help me to express the excitement I feel about my varied subject matter and the inspiration that compels me to capture it. I have now been teaching painting for nearly 30 years.
One of the joys of sharing all I know about painting is being able to help artists choose the best materials for our purpose. ‘Best’ does not have to mean ‘the most expensive’ – as you will come to find out for yourself.
After trying numerous brushes, fibres and shapes – it is a true pleasure to help artists find absolutely superb brushes for oil painting that are priced realistically and attainably. I imagine Rosemary & Co must have set out to create brushes of the best quality that are not only affordable but also add enormously to the joy of our painting experience.
Rosemary & Co brushes are available from their website (www.rosemaryandco.com) and can be shipped world-wide.
The video on the right gives further insight into why I choose to use Rosemary & Co oil painting brushes.
I hope the video and my notes above will help you to avoid wasting hard earned money and hours of trial and error to find fabulous oil painting brushes. It is my pleasure to help you on your oil painting journey too.
Watercolor DVD’s and Video Downloads
Order Susan’s highly acclaimed and popular instruction DVD sets below.
DVD: Watercolor Masterclass Volume One: “Painting Life-Like Leaves and Vibrant Greens” – for all skill levelsUS$54.50
One-on-One Watercolor Workshops with Susan Harrison-Tustain – for all skill levelsUS$54.50
Painting Watercolor My Way with Susan Harrison-Tustain – for all skill levelsUS$54.50
Watercolor Portrait Workshop with Susan Harrison-Tustain – for all skill levelsUS$54.50