Live from the Studio – Day #3

If I'd known this when I first started painting glass, I would have saved myself a whole load of heart-ache, time ...

And also – money

You may already know that excellent maxim of Francois de La Rochefoucauld – “Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example” – well, the truth is now I’m just too mean to set a bad example.

That’s why today our five long-haul students benefited from a particular piece of hard-won wisdom which I am delighted to share with you.

So, to start: what’s the difference between this

Exhibit “A”

Yes, this – the Exhibit “A” – the brushes I bought when I was starting out:

Exhibit "A"

Exhibit “A”

And this:

Exhibit "B"

Exhibit “B”

Let me answer.

The difference is – 12 years.

12 years of experience. So listen to this tale …

See, when I started, I bought every brush I could find – “investing in my craft” as I dishonestly put it to myself. Fact is, I spent so much time shopping, I didn’t spend enough time painting. And I always imagined that the next brush would be the answer to all my problems. It would be my magic wand. And the only reason I wasn’t yet painting as well as I knew I could was, well, this brush lost too many hairs, that brush didn’t end in an even point, and that other brush’s hairs were too long, while of course anyone could see know that this brush’s hairs were just too short. So I’ll just get this new brush here, because I’m sure it’s just what I need … oh, no – it’s no good either!

The reason this embarrasing tale came to mind is that a particular question has often popped up this week:

What size brush do I need to do this line?

OK it’s a fair question. But I’ll tell you what. Nine times out of ten, this plate of glass right here – this palette – it’s far more important than the size of your brush:

Here’s where to expend 90% of your attention

Now here is just one of many decent things Abraham Lincoln said (and I write this as an Englishman):

If I had four hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend two of them sharpening my axe.

The connection with glass painting?

Well, exhibit “A” is the brush-kit I amassed while doing my apprenticeship.

And exhibit “B” are the brushes which David and I have shared this week to do all our demonstrations. (Don’t nit-pick: I know you can’t see our blender or our hake!)

And actually the brush far-right in exhibit “B” is the one we’ve used for maybe 99% of our lines.

It’s a size 2 Kolinksy Sable. Size 2.

Not size 1 or size 0 or size 00.

A size 2. So in fact it can hold a lot of paint and can spread itself quite wide.

My point is, with the right consistency of paint – here’s where the two hours to sharpen your axe comes in – you can get the most amazing range of thicknesses from just this one brush.

And not just different thicknesses … but also different densities, depths and darknesses of line.

All with a size 2.

When I have four hours to paint glass, I'll spend three of them looking after my paint and my palette

When I have four hours to paint glass, I’ll spend three of them looking after my paint and my palette

Goodness me, isn’t that a gorgeous photo?

And it’s legal and decent.

Well, confession’s over. Looking back to when I started, I wish I’d just had a size 2 plus the good sense to spend my time looking after my paint and my palette (rather than shopping).

If you, dear reader, ever catch yourself wishing for the perfect brush, or if you have a student who keeps rushing to the shops, please remember me kindly and tell them my sad tale of a misspent apprenticeship.

I am now too old and too mean to set a bad example, so learn from my example and focus on your palette.

Another live tip tomorrow.

So until then.

Stephen ByrneP.S. Make sure you never miss a tip or technique – sign up right here.