Playing with the brushes

I played some more, just now. I had 20 minutes or one cup of tea. And no worries.

I tried out the different small sizes on my drawings for Little Red Riding Hood ideas.

There were a few I don’t like. Their tip doesn’t stop and start very well, they give ugly and unpredictable blotches on the paper. Or the hairs are too floppy, making it impossible to get a line varying in thickness. The 301 Golden Synthetic and the 313 Synthetic are not for me. The 33 Pure Kolinsky was acceptable. I forgot to try out the 22 Kolinsky Designer because I was smitten with the 401 Red Sable Synthetic blend and drew all my pencilsketches with that:

I really like this Rosemary & Co 401 #2. It’s a sable/synthetic blend. The point behaves really well, I can do some of my Sumi-é strokes with it. I can get character when just doing a frivolous line. I like it.
It is playful but also a good technical tool, just what I need.

Illustrator: brushes arrived.

This morning my new brushes arrived.


These are some of the handmade brushes from Rosemary&Co
Some of the brushes have that magic Russian weasel fur, Kolinsky, and some have red sable. Three have synthetic variations of some kind. I bought two thicknesses. Thin (#2) and not-so-thin (#5).
They’re meant to give expressive, fluid lines. To make for interesting black drawings.

Rosemary&Co is a small family business in the UK. My order was processed in the evening and send in the morning. Next day they were here, quick, secure and well protected. It felt like sympa post!

(Do you know “sympa”? It is a French expression meaning “sympathetic”. I picked it up in the ’80s. Not sure if they still use it. We were hip in the ’80s!)

The post arrived just as I finished writing the blog post before this. That’s what I used my one hour uptime for today. Write that post. Then go lay down.
Dingeling! The post. Not only with these brushes but also with the High Frequency shielding fabric for my cage of Faraday.

I know I ought to go lay down. But I could not leave those parcels alone. Had to see the fabric. Had to see the brushes. Then I hád to test them. I was so curious and so full of anticipation.
My new, well meant daily routines are not implemented as easily as they are written down…

So I went upstairs to my lovely attic and tried the brushes, with the ink I bought the other day, in my green owl notebook. Just a few swirls with each brush, to get a feel for them.
I’ll describe the results in a minute. First I want to admit that the rest of today I paid dearly for that indulgence. When I finally laid down after playing with the brushes, and really, that only took about 20 minutes!, I fell down hard. I even fell asleep for two hours from which I have not awakened properly. Ever since I’ve woken from that sleep I’ve wanted to eat carbohydrates (and have done so). I forgot to drink water. I forgot to go to the toilet. I forgot to put the central heating on, I’ve been cold all day. Miserable even. Groggy too.
I have not been able to do anything that involves the brain or the heart. No thinking, no drawing, no knitting, no social interaction on the internet. Not even talk to my husband.
I did take a bath -which broke me even more, energy wise- but only because I had to. I am visiting my doctor tomorrow and … well… I wasn’t very presentable… olifactorial speaking…
Ah, the social pressure to smell flowery… As if my doctor cares. Or even notices, as he will be sitting across from me, behind a desk, not interested in my actual physique at all. Only in the functional representations of it on paper.
So my dear, listen to yourself, if you have concluded that one of the few things you MUST do on a day is laying down and rest after you’ve had your one hour activity in the morning, then DO SO. Stop messing about!

Here’s the brushplay that made me do it:

Such a joy!
The skills and techniques I’ve developed doing Japanese brushwork (sumi-é) are welcomed by these brushes. Even though they are different from Japanese brushes. My Japanese brushes I only use on rice paper, which is smooth.
These kolinsky and nylon brushes I’d use on paper. They do very well with the drawing ink. I recognize some of the loading characteristics I know from my Japanese brushes. It was a joy to do!

I look forward to playing some more. Even ink a drawing I made earlier in pencil. Just for the fun of it. Playing with the ink, with the thickness of the line, it is really fun.
I do need to get to know these brushes much better of course. They do not do what I expect or want them to. But most of them are excellent tools, behaving much better than any ordinary brush I’ve ever used.

Reading at the comic-tools blog I discovered that a lot of people are put of of brushes because of substandard commercial brushes. I sure can tell these brushes from Rosemary&co are in another league.

I also am reading 20-questions-to-cartoonists and I am delighted to learn that there are other people who have a rough time getting themselves to the drawing table. They invent all kinds of procrastinations. But when they dó finally sit down and bring a pencil of brush to the paper, they are deliriously happy.
I’ve never read about these experiences. They are exactly like mine. It’s a ridiculous thing, to postpone the thing you like to do most. I am glad to read I am not alone.
With me there’s a bit of an extra difficulty in that I only have that one hour in the morning. If I hide and procrastinate only for that little while, the opportunity for that day is gone.
Now, at evening, I am full of plans and good intentions. I will sit down tomorrow and draw!
But it’s such another story in the morning…

get up, visit doctor
drink tea
rest or DRAW
get things and drive to the cabin

get up
visit apple tree nursery

get up
vacuum or clean sheets on bed

shitshitshit, there needs to be new food cooked on Saturday! Chicken soup for the rest of the week probably.
shitshit, I’ll be too tired to do it on Saturday. Will postpone it till Sunday. But then one of the other things has to go: the drawing or the vacuuming (which is really necessary and also important to make me feel good in the cabin for the rest of the week)(or shall I just go back to the city for another week? That gives all other kinds of practical problems… which are solvable).
shit, this really isn’t easy.

moving towards illustrating

Still thinking about making my life meaningful



somehow rekindled my interest in illustration. Particularly making beautiful ink lines with a brush.

It’s what I love about Sumi-é. And it is what I admire in comics. I have tried before to make beautiful lines but I never found the tool that suited my hand. Well, except for sumi-é brushes but they must be used on rice paper. (I feel).

Laying sick in bed the last past weeks I read a lot of blogs. For example



Entertaining and funny. I liked it so much that I started reading it from the start, all the way back when we were young and the world made sense. There’s so much fun to read in the comments! Lovely past time for the brain fogged. The owner is an illustrator by trade and lets you freely steal and paste the art all over the web. I paste it all over this page, all art today by!




Somewhere in 2007 in the comments they talked about illustrating. And linked to this site called where a guy talks a lot about all the different brushes there are. Finally! An explanation! A map!

That lead me to a search about “Kolinsky” which is some kind of weasel in Russia whose hairs have magic properties.



magic weasel


The hairs of the tail of the male are used to make brushes. Each hair tapers to the end, making for brushes that hold a lot of ink while having a fine point and bouncing back in form every time you release pressure from the paper. They are expensive brushes! 20 to 30$ for a brush!

Which is why lots of other brushes are also called “kolinsky” but may not contain any magic weasel. Magic stoat, magic squirrel but no magic weasel. Even if a “kolinsky” brush really is made of Kolinsky weasel it may not have been made properly. Any stray hair can ruin the brush. Buying any brush without checking its quality is a big gamble.

Learning about “Kolinksy” and wanting to learn how to find a good brush lead to the blog Which is a GOLD MINE for the “love-ink-don’t-know-where-to-start”- people among us. If only this blog provides me with more words to pour into the google and the youtube! Searching for “Ink”, “inking”, “expressive line”, “brush”, ‘”thumbnailing”, “Windsor and Newton series 7 #2”, “dr. Martins Blackstar High Carb”, “calligraphy line”, “cola pen”, “Bristol Board” helps me to hone in on that niche in art that particularly holds my interest. That makes my heart sing (which is a good compass for finding out what makes my life meaningful. But more about that later)

There’s a whole scene of people who have a love for expressive black lines and made it their profession! They are the people that “ink a comic”. They know about the love your hands and eyes feel when a line comes out just right. Or better than you’d expected. The joy of good tools. Et cetera.




Reading the comic-tool blog made things come together for me. Here’s talk of ink! Here’s talk of brushes that bounce back and are able to make a thin line thick and then thin again! Just like I love with my quality sumi-é brushes (which I would never use with commercial ink, only the hand made Japanese ink.) There’s even talk about my experience that seems very common: trying to make beautiful ink lines with an inferior brush -especially an expensive one!- will turn you away from brushes. Stray hairs ruin the crispness, bad brush posture will spread the hairs and make an ugly line.

I’ve found some friends, momma!


Suddenly I saw a line from my past running into my present. I have always loved comics, especially the monochrome ones, with clear contrast and expressive lines. Interesting page build ups. Visual inventions. I bored my fellow students at the academy with them. Without drawing myself!

Before and after the academy I’ve done sumi-é brushwork, experiencing the joy of a good brush and good ink and developing technique. Learning to hold my brush vertical. Which is how comic ink people hold their brush too!

Ahhh… now I have a chance to make those pencil drawings from a few weeks back into something more. But first: the hunt for a good brush.


My local artist supply shop was unfriendly today, they clearly thought I was nuts. And a nuisance. Even though I admitted to be a beginner and having beginners questions. Because I had just learned that to find a good brush you’d best dip it in water, let it soak up all it can. Then tap it once (on your wrist, for example) and then look at the fur. It should have snapped into a perfect shape. No stray hairs. A sharp point. Perfect shape.



“Well, we don’t have water here.” the woman said, shrugging.

“So how do people asses the quality of a brush?” I asked.

“By buying them!”

I’m not buying a 20 to 30$ brush without trying it out when expert users tell me maybe 5 in every 10 expensive brushes are usable! But I didn’t tell her. Instead I asked about the difference between drawing ink, calligraphy ink and east Indian ink. Which was also a stupid question, apparantly…

Well, I won’t be going back there any time soon. (Luckily the lady at the chocolate shop was much nicer.)

Back home I went online and ordered a couple of brushes from Rosemary & Co in the UK. The people over at are no longer enthousiastic about the quality of those brushes but I might get lucky and with their cheap prices I don’t mind to gamble. I ordered some Kolinsky’s and also a couple of nylon brushes. I would like to investigate how well the nylon brushes have been innovated the last couple of years. Perhaps by now they are able to make a brush that’s flexible, retains its form and doesn’t have stray hairs.

The trip to the shop was exhausting so no more playing today nor tomorrow. Perhaps later in the week.



In the mean time:

unclestoatyand I would welcome it too.

Here again is the link for