I’ve heard many an art-supplies-salesman say “good art supplies make good artists.” Not entirely true, but sometimes it comes pretty damn close. In my experience, this holds true with brushes. I am a dedicated kolinsky sable owner and will never step back to synthetics. These brushes are ideal for watercolor and ink. One of my favorite things about these brushes is the process of how they are made.
The kolinsky sable is a type of weasel found in Siberia and Northern China. Only the hairs from the very tip of the animal’s tail are collected. Animal rights activists can use these brushes guilt-free because brush manufacturers simply pluck the tip tail hairs and wait for them to grow back. (This only applies to the Kolinsky sable, as I believe basic sable brushes are partially comprised of body fur). They are gathered in the winter when the sable’s coat is especially full and more heavily coated with protective oils. After the hairs have been collected, they are arranged by hand into a perfect point. The best kolinsky sable brushes are exclusively made from male fur, which is thicker and stronger. However, most kolinsky brushes are a mix of a male and female fur. You can test by bending the brush- if it snaps back straight, it’s completely made of male fur. If it retains a little bend, it’s probably a mix of male and female fur. I’ve tested mine and apparently I’ve unwittingly bought two female/male blends. Nonetheless, both male and female brushes naturally make a strong point and, once wet, will always return to their original shape.
- No matter how cruelly you use them, these brushes will always return to a point when wet.
- Kolinsky sable enthusiasts will tell you how well they hold color. Five strokes, and still no need to recharge with color or water.
- Most importantly: they will last you forever. This is the true reason I invested in these ridiculously expensive brushes. I’ve had mine for 7 years now and I use them 4 times a week. There have certainly been nights when I’m too lazy to clean them as carefully as I should and think, “a thorough swirling in water will do the trick just for tonight!” But with a once-in-a-while thorough session with the best brush cleaner in the world: “The Masters” Brush Cleaner and Preserver,” they’ve lasted and show no sign of needing replacement.
A side note regarding “The Masters” Brush Cleaner: I always assumed this brush cleaner was for oil brushes only. Not only was I wrong about that, but I was using the stuff improperly all along. You can use it on any brush. With just a little water, liberally swirl the brush in the soap, and make a paste. Using your fingers, take some time and work the 7 year old gunk out of your seemingly ruined brushes and voila! New brushes.
This is a pretty extensive post about brushes but any other artists will agree that finding that perfect brush, palette, paint, or paper feels a lot like falling in love.