When I started learning to draw in 2015, I began with a #2 pencil and a sheet of copy paper. One of the advantages of “drawing as a hobby” — I thought — was that it was quite inexpensive. Which it was — at first. Soon, following the advice of author Kate Berry (whose book Drawing Lessons for Beginner Artists was my first how-to book), I purchased a sketchbook. I was aghast at the idea of spending nearly $6.00 for a book I felt I’d probably never really use, but I’d made a commitment to do my best, so I dutifully followed her advice and bought the sketchbook.
Over the years, I’ve said many times that Kate Berry’s book — 99 cents at Amazon for the Kindle version — was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I had no idea how that book would ultimately change my life. The same holds true for the sketchbook. It, too, proved to be a good investment, and over the years I’ve bought many more, always returning to the same “art aisle” at Walmart to buy the exact same brand and size. In fact, only Friday I visited the store for the express purpose of buying a new sketchbook for drawing.
Art supplies can be a bit costly, and I’ve learned from experience that the adage is true: you do get what you pay for. Cheap art supplies are fine for getting started (my opinion), and student grade works well as we progress. At some point, though, we’ll want to make an investment in ourselves and in our art by purchasing better quality materials.
It’s important to have the right tools for the job. My husband reminds me of this often, and for this reason, he’s never fussed when I’ve spent money for the art supplies I need — or even for those I don’t really need, but which I want.
Lately, as you know, I’ve been desperately wanting to learn techniques for drawing fine, thin lines — like the branches of bare winter trees. This is not a new problem for me. This blog is filled with posts which are, in turn, filled with lamentations about thin, fine lines.
I’ve tried a lot of different techniques, and I have tried various brushes, but somehow I’ve never hit on just the right combination of brush, paint consistency, and technique. But I am working on it, and with that end in mind, I recently purchased a new set of brushes. These are “miniature” brushes, brushes that can be used for highly-detailed painting.
Here is the set I bought. It’s a 15-brush set manufactured by Pandafly, and I fell in love with it the moment the set arrived.
It comes in a long plastic tube with the brushes neatly arranged in a cloth “dust bag”. It looks so professional! Using it makes me feel like a real artist.
I bought the set for two reasons:
- These dagger, script, and liner detail brushes should help me create the thin, fine lines I always struggle with.
- I’ve been learning watercolor techniques that involve using lots of brushstrokes with lots of colors, and these brushes will be ideal for this style.
I left the set out where I could look at for a few days, just enjoying the very sight of it. Finally, it was time to open it up, look more closely at the brushes — they’re made with soft, flexible nylon bristles — and dip a few of them into a bit of paint. Oil paint, to be more specific.
Yes, I was going to see what results I could get when I tried creating a bare winter tree with my new brushes. While I still need more practice, I saw definite improvement in this small practice painting, done on a 5 x 7 canvas panel.
The biggest problem I have — even with the proper brushes — is that I can’t get a good paint consistency. If I thin the paint, as art instructors suggest, it’s so thin that it doesn’t cover the canvas. I am, by the way, using my water-mixable oils. I have tried thinning them with oil, with Liquin, and with water.
Another factor is that I always seem to get too much paint on my brush, but again, if I thin the paint more, all I get is an oily or watery bit of color that doesn’t cover at all!
The next problem is my own clumsiness. Doing fine, detailed work is challenging for me. I do turn the painting this way and that, and sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. I become so apprehensive, my hands start to shake, and that makes it all the more difficult. On occasion, I do try resting my painting hand over my other hand as a way to “steady” myself. The more I practice, the more comfortable I’ll become, I suppose.
I did love the way I was able to get a sense of texture on the lower right trunk of the tree. I think I will enjoy learning how to add more “interest” to my landscapes by using small brushstrokes and various colors — similar to the techniques I’m learning in watercolor.
These new brushes are opening up a new world for me, inviting me to try painting in new ways, to see my usual landscapes from new points of view. For me, this is a huge step. In the past I’ve used wide swaths of colors and thick brushstrokes to create illusions in my work. While I don’t intend to get away from those basic elements of “my style”, I do hope to refine it a bit with subtle color variations — and with the ability to draw all those thin, fine lines I’ve struggled with in the past.
The most important thing, though, is how excited I am by these brushes. They represent an advancement in my study; they represent higher ambitions; they represent a new-found commitment to improving my landscape art.
Definitely I still have a long way to go before I’m able to successfully paint bare winter trees, but I feel encouraged now. I have the tools I need. I have the right mindset now, too. I feel that buying this set of brushes was definitely a good investment.