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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Pursuit of the Perfect Paintbrush

You know it exists. You've seen ads for it in magazines. You may even own one or two yourself. But now upon embarking on a new journey of creativity, you, for reasons which are never quite clear, have lost the all important tool without which the whole project comes to a complete standstill.

What makes us obsessively cling to our tools as if they alone created the artwork? Why do we allow them to have such power over us?

"I cannot possibly paint with out that particular paintbrush." 
"This is the only paper I use, none other will do."
"If I can't use those pencils, it just won't happen."

One of the most liberating exercises from art school was when we had to bring in our favorite pens, then leave them in our bags. Instead of pens, we had to draw a realistic drawing, from a live model, using a piece of string, a thing with no fine point and no stiffness or control whatsoever. It dripped, it flopped, it blobbed and rolled across the paper. After fighting with it for an hour or so, suddenly I gave in, and allowed the tool to be what it was, which was certainly not a pen. I began to explore the innate nature of the string, and allowed it to be a string full of ink and I began to draw, really draw, with a lovely freedom of expression because I no longer had preconceived expectations from my tool. I let the tool be itself, and somehow that released my inner artist.

Now, I am not saying to discard your favorite pen, or to chuck your best paints out the window. Tools and materials are very important, and you should always use the best you can possibly afford. The reason for this is that you don't want to spend all your time struggling with crappy tools and materials. But the lesson of the string taught me to allow the tool to be what it is, and simply that.

Yesterday I was painting as I waited for my meal in a restaurant. The lighting was dim, but there was just enough for me to draw and paint by. But the table was small, and so I had barely enough room for my little box of paints and my tiny "Here's where I ate today" sketchbook. So I had to grab the first drawing pen I could, rather than reach in and fossick about for the my favorite one. This pen was on its last bit of ink, sometimes scratchy, sometimes very faint, sometimes dark. I had to accommodate myself to this very rebellious pen. After a few moments of struggle, I started to understand the nature of this almost dead pen. I used the faint lines and the scratchiness and the sudden darkness with skill, trusting that my inner artist, who can draw people with ink laden bits of string, knew how to get the best effects from a faulty pen.

Yes, pursue the best paintbrush. But if, when inspiration and opportunity coincide, do not halt the process looking for it. Just grab any old bit of string and be the best artist you can be!

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't know what type of painbrushes to use, my medium is totally different.they are pointilism pen, very fine ink pen.
    check it out.