I have a brush that I like.

I like it so much that I have two of them. They are very small brushes. I was painting a shadow line and became annoyed that my favourite brush couldn’t paint the line as fine as I wanted; so I stopped, made tea, and took a moment. When I stepped back into the studio what I was painting jumped out at me. The line that I was so frustrated with was perfect.

Does this happen to anyone else? I think it happens because my perception of the line changes due to colours and how close I might be to the painting. My perception of the painting also changes depending on how long I’ve been looking at it and how much I’ve been concentrating on it.

I will always remember one of my teachers telling me to step back and look at what I just painted. At the time I thought she was a little crazy because I found it so annoying. I stepped back and looked then made some changes. I got used to doing this and still do the same thing but it’s only recently that I’ve come to really understand what she was talking about. My daughter tells me to turn the painting upside down (I often rotate it in 90 degree increments). This works as well or better than stepping back. I have a small mirror on the back wall of my studio and when I step back I look at the painting in the mirror. Through all of these machinations I eventually see the thing that the painting needs.

I think this works by breaking the connection to a 3D construct we create about the world around us. The resulting disconnect makes us rebuild the 3D mental construct from scratch and doing so brings our attention to any flaws that may be present. There are always flaws with what I’m doing.

Getting back to the brush, it’s curious to me that one brush seems so perfect and another, that I believe is just as good, doesn’t do the job. I don’t have a good answer for this and the only way I’ve found to get around it is to try every brush I can get my hands on and buy the one that feels best. I rub the brush on my finger to get a sense of how it will feel to paint with it.