The Black Sheep Watercolour Brush

Ladies and gents, introducing my very own, ‘Black Sheep’ watercolour brush.

This little one-off has for several 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 anyone else!

Background And 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 some Chinese approaches 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.

Handling qualities

As the outer hairs are reduced in length the resultant brush has perhaps a degree of similarity with some ‘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 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 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 requires time and testing because any small difference in brush shape affects the handling considerably.

Vital statistics:

  • 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.
  • Price: £25.00.

Payment is accepted by cash only, and in person. Thank you.

Contact Me

If you’d like to contact me to discuss purchasing original watercolour paintings, arranging tuition, attending a painting holiday or for any other reason, then please feel free to email or call me and of course you can also network with me on social media.

T: 0117 9711735