Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Ebony Splendor Brushes and Derwent App
One of the most useful items in the big box of review products Jerry's Artarama sent me is a seven piece set of Ebony Splendor multi media brushes. What I tried is the Brights set, but other sets are available - Filbert, Rounds with both long and short handle sets and Wash brushes with short handles. Prices for the sets range from $19.99 to $24.99 but these are a frequent sale item. Watch for bargains up to 50% off on individual brushes or sets in this series.
These are true multi-media workhorses. I used mine with gouache, acrylics and watercolor. It doesn't matter what consistency of paint I'm using. They're soft enough for watercolor and strong enough to shove around full body acrylics. You'll get more bristle texture from a stiffer nylon brush if you want them to look more like oils, but the multi-filament structure of these brushes stood up to my tests for use with both thin bodied and heavy body paints.
When I first opened up the package, my 32 year old daughter was thrilled with this brush set. I'm ordering another set because she definitely put these on her Christmas list, especially once I opened it and we tried them with watercolors and acrylics. I want the long handled round set and the Wash Set because these are such good quality that I feel a need to expand my range.
Below is a gouache painting I did using the smaller Brights. The smallest two sizes are good miniature brushes with excellent shaping and razor edges. The size 2 looks a little more than 1/16th inch wide - more like 3/32", definitely smaller than 1/8" and still a perfectly shaped small bright. The next up size is about 1/8" and so on up the line. The biggest is a convenient 7/8" bright, one that I reach for every time I look to wet the paper or lay in a big wash.
In painting, it helps to use the largest brush you can for the area or layer you're doing. The size range in these seven brush sets is excellent for that. I can work to any size in my comfort zone. Wash brushes are 1/2", 3/4" and 1" sizes.
The wooden handles are varnished with a mtransparent burgundy finish, very distinctive, with black dipped ends. They're not scraper ends but work well enough as scrapers with how thick the black enamel is at the end, easy to wipe paint off if you use them to sign or carve lines into the paint. The grip is pleasingly shaped, though of course the handles have gradated sizes and the big giant brush is a bit wide.
I'm fond of good synthetic brushes. These may not be "the butt hairs of an exotic male weasel caught in winter" as my daughter teases me about Kolinsky brushes, but they are reasonably priced and perform beautifully.
Right now these excellent brushes are half price - $9.99 for the $19.99 sets and $11.99 for the $24.99 sets. So if you miss this sale, watch for it again. They're definitely a high quality workhorse brush. You may want to get both the long and short handle sets though, because acrylic use over time wears out brushes differently than watercolor does and if you use any of them with oils, you won't want to use that brush again with watermedia. Grabbing a lot of them on sale is a good way to get around the demands of different mediums and always have the size and shape you need.
I did not test my Ebony Splendor brushes to destruction by letting acrylic dry in the hairs. By previous experience, you can sometimes revive a gunked up brush using a good brush cleaner/conditioner soap or dishwashing liquid. But it's much better to keep them wet while they're in use and rinse them immediately with the solvent for whatever paint you're using.
They've definitely become my favorite brights. While I do finger-shape them after washing, they dry perfectly into their original shape rather than splaying out the way some natural hair brushes do when they're dry. Some sophisticated technology went into creating the mix of synthetic hairs in these brushes.
They may not last as long as a Kolinsky sable, but there are uses for old battered fuzzy brushes too. I'll add notes on their condition when they start wearing out for a home test of longevity, but so far they survived their first few months of use in pristine condition. I do use The Masters' Brush Cleaner/Conditioner on all of my brushes, synthetic or natural, so this is qualified by "when well cared for."
Any brush, if you leave it hairs end down in a jar of water, will get hopelessly mashed and bent. Even the best brushes don't survive that treatment and having gobs of dried oils or acrylic sticking the hairs together is another brush-killer. These are strong for synthetic brushes and some of my other synthetics have showed wear under the same number of uses I've put these through. Definitely a bargain for a high quality synthetic brush, especially when they're on sale. Stock up on them to always have the size and shape you need for thick or thin bodied paint.
I also recently got an iPhone4. Not the latest-best 4S but the previous latest-best that's now half price. Of course I got some drawing apps for it that I'll review in a later article after I've learned to use the new medium. I'm reviewing the Derwent App first though, because I am so fond of Derwent's products and it's so darn convenient for checking up on them.
It's got Hints and Tips videos and articles embedded in it, plenty of the sorts of fun things you can find online at Derwent's site.
Easy to navigate, it includes a bar code reader so that the unidentified black pencil that still has its sticker on it and says Derwent, you can find out what it is and what it does, whether it's lightfast, which range it is and get some hints and tips on using it easily. Very useful if you're at a store, see some colorful new product from Derwent and want to find out a lot more about it using your phone than the display tells you.
The lightfastness charts and color charts arrows direct you to the Derwent site, which you can read if you double tap the screen to zoom in to a comfortable reading size. So it's not a big library of information right within your phone if you're not online, however you can copy these charts and turn it into one if you like. The videos link to YouTube.
It's a fun little app that puts the Derwent site into your hands for convenience without having to type the link in. Also you can add your art to your personal Gallery using the app, or contribute it to the Global Gallery, surf around and see others' artwork done with Derwent products.
It's free, it's fun and easy to use, so definitely worth a download if you like using Derwent's products. Just watch your data plan usage for the videos, see if you can download them rather than watch them repeatedly on streaming.