New Painting, New Brushes, New Paint Colors!

One among many of the great things about our visit to Arburd Sands ger camp in Mongolia was the herd of domestic bactrian camels that lived at the camp. They tended to wander off during the day, but were around in the mornings and late afternoons when the light was at its best (how did they know?) I had fun sketching them and here is my first painting of one.

Bactrian Camel, Arburd Sands, Mongolia
Bactrian Camel, Arburd Sands, Mongolia

I really enjoyed trying to get the feel of the wooly coat and painting the pattern of light and shadow.

I’m always looking for ways to live more sustainably and responsibly. More and more it involves conscious choices, which means remembering to think about what one is buying or whether or not to buy at all. There is no way to live on the planet without using resources and, currently, the deck is stacked in favor of certain ways of doing things. But it’s been changing and I’ll bet the rate of change is going to increase Real Soon Now.

And, as anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows, I’m very interested in animal welfare issues.

With that in mind, I needed to get some new brushes. I’ve been using Silver Brush Limited Grand Prix Bristles for quite a few years now. Generally speaking, real hog bristle brushes for oil painting are the superior choice. Then I got one of my regular promotional emails from Jerry’s Artarama, who I have ordered art supplies from for twenty years. They were having a sale on Silver Brush brushes and this caught my eye: “How can you save the life of animals and actually help yourself at the same time?”

On offer was a synthetic brush Silver Brush calls “Silverwhite”. And that got me thinking about the use of animal products. I have no idea where the hog bristles in my current brushes come from. Probably China. What kind of conditions are the pigs kept in? No clue. My husband and I already don’t eat meat that we can’t source to a humane producer. What about something like painting brushes?

So, I ordered the synthetics and used a couple for the first time today and I like them a lot. I plan to switch to them. But then the question becomes “What are the Silverwhites made from?” Some kind of petroleum-based material most likely. Sigh. See what I mean? Choices. Synthetic brushes have been around for years, but I’ve never seen them marketed as “animal friendly” and had never thought of it that way before. The idea is kind of “buzzy” in that, assuming the bristles come from hogs raised for meat, it’s not clear how not buying brushes made from their bristles “saves” their lives, but, as I said, I did find it thought provoking.

I’m not going to get doctrinaire about it, but at this point I’m choosing the synthetic. Thoughts, anyone?

On the color front, I want to start pushing more toward a colorist approach. Camille Przewodek is a great contemporary example. She pushes color waaay out there. I looked at the supply list for her workshops (hope to take one sometime when I have the money) and decided to buy these, for me, exciting new colors: Permanent Green Light, Permanent Magenta and Manganese Bue Hue, all Winsor-Newton. Experimentation begins next week.


Everyone has talent at 25. The difficulty is to have it at 50.
Edgar Degas

Every good painter paints who he is.
Jackson Pollock

I realized that all the good ideas I’d ever had came to me while milking a cow. So I went back to Iowa.
Grant Wood

One thought on “New Painting, New Brushes, New Paint Colors!

  1. I’m constantly finding myself in confusion when trying to live more sustainably. Sometimes I give up but I think the honorable course is to do what you did–make your best guess and stick with it til better info comes along.

    (BTW, I’m looking forward to that essay on Mongolia–the poetry intrigues me.)


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