The Black Sheep’ – £24.00 


Ladies and gents, I bring to you….
The Westcountry Oriental, my very own, Black Sheep


All families should have one, and for the last few years this little one-off has been the leader in my small family of brushes.  In fact I find it so versatile that except for larger squirrel mops I now rarely use another.

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’.

In fact, goat hair in this context is often the Chinese description of sheep’s wool, and sometimes includes other hair types (rabbit, pony, weasel – known equally confusingly as ‘wolf’) mixed in.

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, pictured here when damp, is unique.


Handling qualities

As the outer hairs are reduced in length the resultant brush has perhaps a degree of similarity with the ‘reservoir’ style brushes available, and also to brushes named ‘Pointed Round’, but The Black Sheep definitely goes its own way, and to me is not directly comparable to any brush I’ve previously 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.  Mark-making is a key aspect of my work, 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 am able to judge well the amount of paint and 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 and the point lasts well.

Each individual brush sold has been carefully modified, tested and repeatedly tweaked by myself first, until it performs just like the one I use.  Or rather, nowadays the one you buy is the one I use! (sorry if you wanted something ‘brand new’)  The original, Master Black Sheep has been retired and preserved for comparing purposes when necessary.  The modification process takes time because any small difference in brush shape affects the handling considerably.  By the time you receive it I may have completed several paintings with it.

Vital statistics:

Hair length from ‘ferrule’ to tip = 30 mm

Hair width at ‘ferrule’ = 8 mm

Handle length = 170 mm (not including loop)

The Black Sheep is currently made to order.
Payment accepted by cash only, in person. Thank you.