Expensive Brushes

I have quite a few brushes but most of them were inexpensive. My concept of a brush is that it needs to get the paint onto the painting surface. That’s it. I have more small brushes than I think I should but I also have medium and large sizes. There are a couple that I like and use more often. I think I pay more for the smaller brushes.

I was watching a YouTube video about typewriters and it made me think of brushes. I know this sounds bazar but they are both specialised tools, one for the artist and one for the writer. I like mechanical typewriters, I learned to type on an IBM Selectric so I like a tactile feel to the keyboard. The Selectric isn’t really a manual typewriter; it’s electric but it has mechanical keys. Actually I think it was an IBM Selectric II correctible; exactly the same model as you could find in any office of the time. I think of the Typewriter as a very specific tool for a very specific purpose. A brush can be thought of in the same way.

Good brushes have a good tactile feel to them. I brush them onto my fingers to get an idea of what they will feel like to paint with. Expensive brushes may have a great tactile feel but I can’t say that I’ve noticed. I’m rarely aware of the price when I’m choosing a brush but I think natural bristle brushes tend to be on the expensive side. I like synthetic brushes because they have a more consistent feel to them. I would certainly pay more for a brush if it had a really nice feel to it. In looking over my brush collection today I notice that most of them probably cost a fair amount but not so much that it hurt or that I noticed. If the ferules start to get loose I throw them out and buy another. I don’t remember if I paid more for it. So over the years my collection has morphed from inexpensive brushes to medium priced. I’m assuming that new brushes I select cost more, but I just don’t know. I still won’t buy very expensive brushes. I’ve seen artists use brushes that were decrepit at best, but they still do the job of getting the paint onto the painting. If I were looking for a brush to paint ship rigging then I might pay a fair amount to get a good one but I haven’t had the need.

I no longer use a typewriter but I miss my Selectric. My computer keyboard is a mechanical keyboard with a fairly loud click and good tactile feel. It’s one of the type that is used for gaming and keyboarding competitions. My wife and daughters hate it. They think it’s too loud. At one time I used an old IBM keyboard with deforming springs but my present one has a similar feel but with quieter ‘clicky’ keys, I think they are called ‘Cherry Red’ keys. So I’m willing to spend what some feel is an exorbitant amount on a keyboard but I’m unwilling to pay a comparable price for brushes.

Quantum Mechanics Versus Reality

I’ve always enjoyed math and science and inspiration comes from many sources. I can’t say with certainty that math or science has added anything to my painting but it does allow me to cogitate on interesting things during the painting process. When my daughters were young I didn’t paint. Oils were too smelly and acrylics too transparent and quick drying. I’ve since found ways around those problems.

Years ago my daughters and I were out and about. I don’t remember exactly why but I suspect my wife was getting a well-earned rest from them. I decided to take them to lunch. There weren’t many people in our section of the restaurant and shortly, after we received our lunch. a waitress was cleaning a table near us. I sensed a teaching moment. The floor was tile and I commented that if the waitress dropped the ketchup bottle (it was a glass bottle) there would be a big mess. Both of my daughters agreed. I mentioned casually that there might be a possibility that the mess could happen even if she didn’t drop the bottle and both my daughters were a little incredulous so I started explaining, but I picked up my fork and ate one of my fries first just to highlight the point.

There is a famous and universally taught experiment in physics involving shining a light through two vertical slits. The result is an interference pattern of many vertical bars projecting on a screen placed at a suitable distance behind the slits. Search ‘double slit experiment’ on Google and you will get a ton of descriptions and explanations. If water is used instead of light the water waves are directed at a divider with two openings in it; representing the two slits. The waves refract or reflect through the two openings creating two curved wave fronts on the other side. The result is a set of standing waves that mimic the bars of light in the Light experiment. The way the water mimics light makes us think that light is also a wave. This is an important point so I carefully and slowly ate one of my fries to again highlight it.

Light can be measured very accurately down to a point where it just doesn’t get any smaller. The impression is that light comes in discrete packets that we call quanta. Hence Quantum Mechanics. The really interesting thing is that we can send a single photon/quantum through one of the slits and still get the interacting pattern of vertical strips. So what is the single Photon reacting with? One theory is that the photon is reacting with itself. In one universe the photon goes through one slit and in another it goes through the other slit. At the moment when the photon goes through the slits the universes/dimensions/timelines haven’t split or collapsed yet so the photon reacts with itself going through the other slit and thus forms the interference pattern that we know and love.

This is usually referred to as the Multiverse theory. So in one universe the waitress drops the ketchup on the floor and in another she doesn’t, so the mess exists on the floor whether the ketchup bottle ends up on the floor or not. This is a bit of a stretch because the waitress is not a quantum object and this is not how the Quantum Mechanics theory was thought of.

My youngest daughter looked at me and said “Dad I have a question”. How wonderful I’m getting a question from the youngest one. At this point she has no idea about math so what will the question be? I waited with bated breath!


Her question; “Dad how can you eat fries with a fork?”


Yellowstone Park is wonderful. I was quite young when my family went and the geysers and hot pools are fabulous. I met Robert Wood there. He was painting at the time (early 1960’s) although I don’t remember what he was painting but apparently I was very interested. That is the moment that I was always told that I started to want to paint. I really don’t remember Robert Wood but I still have the American Silver dollar that he gave me. I presume to get rid of me, I must have been very annoying. When my mother told the story she gave me the impression that she was somewhat embarrassed that I got money from the artist, although she never complained when I went to painting class. I still have the silver dollar and have been repeatedly told to take good care of it. I wonder if he had a pocket full of silver dollars to get rid of annoying children like me.


I’ve had a few people ask me about detail. Some are looking for more in my work and some comment on how much there is in it. They are all surprised when I tell them that I’m trying to put in less.

Detail is a two edged sword. More detail doesn’t necessarily mean a better reality illusion although it can certainly add to it. Putting in more detail is time consuming and may not make the painting look more real. It’s also not much fun. The reality illusion, as I call it, can present with just a few brush strokes but it can also hide until the very last moment, or disappointingly, never appear at all. When I did Pebble Beach the reality illusion didn’t appear until after I completed the painting. I was considering repurposing the canvas (great euphemism). As I was putting it on my website and debating the euphemism the boat jumped out at me as did the mountain side foliage. That is when I decided that it probably wasn’t a failure.

I can add detail to any painting at any time. I constantly put detail into my work until it’s screaming not to add any more. Sometimes it doesn’t scream loud enough. If I see a place that needs more work I add more. I do this until it has the reality illusion or until I get really tired of it. The painting is then finished.

Technological Change is Accelerating

When I first started painting there was very little choice of media. Watercolours were common along with pen and ink but if you wanted to paint seriously then the choice was oils. So when I started taking classes Oils were the only medium being used professionally.

In the 1960’s acrylics were all the rage, and obvious because many artists used paint squeezed directly from the tube but there was no one that I was aware of that used acrylics seriously. I remember seeing a couple of paintings on one of my teacher’s walls that were obviously acrylics but she taught classes using oils.

Today most or at least many artists use oils but more and more are using acrylics. I believe that acrylics are better than oils and eventually most artists will be using them. Recently wood panels have become popular again. I like them and I notice that there are more of them in the art supply store I frequent. I’m anticipating plastic and foam to replace wood in these panels.

Certainly artists are slow to adopt new technology but they are also quick to use something new that works and perhaps saves them money. So technology is certainly changing quickly but the pace of change is accelerating. This can’t go on forever but at the moment I see more changes quicker at my local art store. Twenty years ago Web sites were a new thing, people are starting to look at me funny if I say Facebook and Fax is now a thing of the past (almost). I think art painting will be around a little longer. If I see something new I try it because it might be better.

Concerned That Your Images Will Be Stolen?

I have been complaining that some of the images (photos) I have used from the Web do not have Metadata attached. As a result I have been diligently filling out metadata information on my own work. I’ve also noticed that images I’ve uploaded to WordPress have been converted to WEBP format. That’s a lossless compression format that I suspect is related to JPEG. Photoshop can’t open WEBP images (there are likely Add-ons and work-arounds) so it’s nice to know that images uploaded to my Blog are somewhat protected; I’m assuming that Metadata is retained with WEBP images.

I’ve never been terribly concerned about images of my paintings on the Web. I guess if someone were using one of my painting images, plastering it on a T-Shirt and making a ton of money on it, I would need to do something about it. If they were actually making enough money to be referred to as a ‘Ton-of’ my mercenary side would want a cut. If it were one of my photographs on the net I would like someone using it for a painting to give me credit. If it were being used to do a painting I would be pleased but I would still like some credit. Difficult to ask for credit if I haven’t supplied any information.

Many modern digital cameras will automatically include information in metadata including GPS information. I think that the best way to ensure that I get recognition is to make sure my name is associated with the image; be it a photograph or image of a painting. If the image is used elsewhere and my name is in the metadata, then it’s just advertising for me. If it’s used in a publication or in some commercial endeavour then I would at least like credit and maybe payment depending on where and how it’s used.

I’m not really concerned about images of my work being stolen. If my house were burgled and my paintings stolen (good luck some of them are reasonably large) I’m still not concerned because I have pictures of them all and they are on the Web so they couldn’t be sold. No one could get much for them in any case.

I believe that my paintings are not really worth much; not that I would feel guilty about charging an arm and a leg for them if they were sold. The value to me is in painting another.

Experimenting with GIF’s.

I’ve had a few questions about how I paint. Since I have photos of the progress of all my recent paintings I thought the best way would be to show them in an animation, a GIF. I put the first one on my site so take a look and see how it works for you.

I’ve been taking progress photos ever since my daughter had a painting destroyed in the mail. She sells a lot more than I do or ever did so this isn’t a criticism of the mail service but that’s where it happened. She had photos of her progress and just recreated the work. I don’t think I could have done that and certainly not without photos of the process.

I’m not completely happy with this GIF. It comes off a little choppy and it’s a bit large. I’ll work on the transitions.