‘The Black Sheep’
Ladies and gents, I bring to you….
The Westcountry Oriental, my very own, Black Sheep
This little one-off has for a few years been the leader in my small family of brushes. I find it versatile, so that except for larger squirrel mops I currently rarely touch other brushes – except for more Black Sheep (I always have a few to hand).
I discovered a brush that works for me, but I can’t guarantee that it’ll work for you. It depends what you do with it!
Background / evolution
Several years ago I was lent an old set of Chinese brushes. I enjoyed the characteristics of a couple, and in particular one which I eventually discovered to consist – apparently – of ‘goat hair’.
‘Goat hair’ in this context is sometimes the Chinese description of sheep’s wool, and can include other hair types (rabbit, pony, weasel and more – collectively these being known as ‘wolf’) mixed in. Getting to the very bottom of where the hairs come from proved impossible at the current time, but I’ve been assured by a well-known UK brushmaker that chinese brush hairs are, at least, a bi-product from the food industry. (I’m not a fan of the general Chinese attitude to animal rights, so this remains a concern.)
Through experimentation I discovered a way of modifying a type of Chinese calligraphy brush to make it really work for me. In short I found the ideal size and then perfected a method of delicately ‘shearing’ the sheep in a particular way, and this brush is the result. In changing its shape the brush is given more ‘spring’, a finer point and a slightly shaggy belly. The resulting specimen is pictured here when damp.
As the outer hairs are reduced in length the resultant brush has perhaps a degree of similarity with the ‘reservoir’ style brushes available, or to brushes named ‘Pointed Round’, but The Black Sheep definitely goes its own way, and to me is not very similar in use to any other brush I’ve encountered.
The tip produces fine lines when necessary, and I use the brush briskly on its side for much of my foliage painting. I like to see brushmarks, as they are a painter’s handwriting, and I just like the marks this brush gives me.
The tip is firm enough to pick up neat tube paint easily when desired, and the brush carries a good amount of liquid if immersed fully in water/paint. I find I’m able to judge well the amount of paint/water I pick up in it, which on a technical level is one of the most important judgements a watercolourist makes. The Black Sheep is also hardy. I use mine very vigorously at times and it lasts well.
Each individual brush sold has been carefully modified, tested and repeatedly tweaked, until it performs just like the one I use. …Or rather, nowadays the one you buy is the one I use (hence really, no brush sold is ever ‘brand new’) but evidence of the brush’s worth – or otherwise – is always there to be seen in my recent paintings.
The modification process takes time because any small difference in brush shape affects the handling considerably.
Hair length from ‘ferrule’ to tip = 30 mm (variable by approx 1 mm)
Hair width at ‘ferrule’ = 8 mm (approx.)
Handle length = 170 mm, not including loop.
Payment accepted by cash only, in person. Thank you.