Sunday 27 September 2020

let's talk about : watercolour brushes

My current watercolour brushes

Updated : September 2023

I get a lot of questions about my materials, so this list of my brushes is part of a bigger series of posts where I list all my other watercolour art supplies. Find them under "Tips and Techniques". I try to keep these pages updated regularly, so that if you are following one of my tutorials you can see exactly what I'm currently using.

Like all my other supplies, I do try to keep to being vegan in my choice. All the brushes are synthetic and work as well as natural fibre. I can't see the point of animal cruelty for the making of artist brushes, when synthetic works just the same or even better.

From left to right -

  • Super tiny brush
    Escoda Perla No0
    Who am I kidding? I don't usually have the patience for detail that requires a brush of this size. Haha! But, sometimes, you know, a teeny-tiny brush is just the ticket. And then you want one that is tough and snappy.
  • Fine rigger brush
    Escoda Versatil No0
    For branches, rigging, grasses I use a rigger brush. For studio use only, because it's just too delicate to carry anywhere.
  • Small round brushes
    Escoda Perla No2, travel version and Escoda Prado No4
    For tiny details. The travel brush for painting outside and the Prado for studio work. Escoda recommended the Prado for me, as I asked for a small detail brush that could do more calligraphic type marks than a Perla and I love this brush. It holds a lot of water for it size, has a great point and is very flexible without being too soft.
  • Small round brushes
    Escoda Perla No8, travel version, Escoda Perla No10, Escoda Perla No12, travel version, Escoda Versatil No12, travel version
    Perla and Versatil brushes are my workhorses. The Perla's hold less water than the Versatils, but have a very good point, wonderful spring and snap. I find a combination of these brushes works very well for my style of painting. I have travel versions for painting outside and normal handle versions for studio work.
  • A brush for splatters
    Kaerell Raphael No2
    This was a wonderful brush when it was new, but now it's lost it's point a little. It holds an incredible amount of water and is great for fast, loose paintings. Of all my brushes, this makes the best splatter marks.
  • Largish round brushes
    Escoda Versatil No12, 16 and 18 (not shown)
    These brushes hold a lot of water, have excellent spring and make a very sharp point. So they're both good for big, wet washes, and for detailed work.
  • One inch flat brush
    Unfortunately the name has worn off.
    Fantastic for painting around things where you want a hard edge. For example, where a building juts into a sky. Flat brushes offer good control when you want a sharp line, more than a round brush can.
  • Large flat brush
    Escoda Ultimo 21
    Mostly for pre-wetting the paper for working wet-in-wet and for painting large washes or skies. 
  • Small cat-tounge brush
    Van Gogh No8
    A cheaper, stiffer flat brush is great for scrubbing and lifting out colour. I wouldn't do this with one of my better brushes, as it can ruin them. So this brush works a treat.

  • I did spend a lot of time researching the brushes that I felt would work for me and I really think I've found them. Although if Escoda made a larger Versatil travel brush, I'd be in!
  • The 4 travel brushes, with the silver handles, fold up and I pop them in my pencil case to take everywhere with me. They go travelling, hiking and then back to the studio. They're my workhorses and I love them. 
  • For years I only had the 4 travel brushes, plus the 2 flat brushes. I used the travel brushes both outside and inside. But I paint a lot, in case you haven't noticed ;-) So I have since added normal handled versions to the travel brushes to be used in the studio. If you're just starting out you don't need to have copies like I do.
  • Also, if you're starting out, I wouldn't buy a large number of brushes, because learning a new brush takes quite some time. It becomes an extension of your hand and learning a new snap or "flop" can take a while to accomplish. Each brush also holds a different amount of water, so knowing what's on your brush takes a while to become second nature. So my advice is to do some research, buy the best you can afford, then practise, practise, practise before adding a new tool to the bag. There! I hope I just saved you a fortune :-)
  • What would be my minimalist starting out set? How about these 6 ... Prado 2 or 4, Perla 8 and 12, Versatil 16, a 1inch flat and a cheap small flat for lifting out colour.

Happy painting! Any questions, please give me a shout.

Want to see these brushes in action?? Join me on Patreon or Renee's Studio -

Thursday 24 September 2020

new in my sketchbooks

Shark's Tooth Peak

It's been winter (of course!), so not as much outside sketching as I would like. The adventures have still been happening, but the sketchbook has often just stayed in my pack. Seems I'm not as tough as I thought I was ;-) But, hey, that picture above of Shark's Tooth Peak was done in minus temps and was the first time I saw a wash freeze. Haha!

Here are a few sketches in my sketchbooks from the last few weeks. Some of these done on location, some sketched later, working from photos I took while out and about.

West Wanaka - no, it's not autumn. It seems the willows turn orange before getting spring leaves.

Meg Hut, Pisa Range

Miner's Hut, Pisa Range.

Close to home. My favourite bend in the Hawea River.

Overnight hike to Smoothwater Bay.

Zulu swimming the Smoothwater River.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

flower painting workshop

What a fantastic day - painting flowers in pen and watercolour with 8 lovely folks :-)

In the morning we painted two small paintings (a Californian poppy and a coneflower). I showed students how I approach drawing flowers in ink - how to form the shapes, how to capture the essence of a flower and composition (especially when more than one painting will hang together when complete). The morning was about capturing the flowers quickly, much like I would if I was painting them outside in a garden or while out walking.

In the afternoon we painted a larger, more studied painting - a lovely pink lily. Here we worked with lots of light layers on top of a pen drawing, concentrating on soft edges and getting the form and colour just right.

At the end of the day students went home with 3 beautiful completed paintings! And a whole lot of skills so which they can use to capture the flowers as they emerge this spring.

Next flower painting class will probably be later in the year, or early next year. Sign up to my mailing list if you'd like to be in the know.

Thursday 10 September 2020

new watercolour painting tutorial

Excited to announce I have a new full length video tutorial. In this one we paint this ruined miner's hut which is in the historic, gold mining settlement of Welshtown near my home. I visited this sketcher's paradise late last year and I had such fun repainting this scene in my studio so that you can follow along.

In this lesson (40min) we paint...

  • a hot summer sky
  • distant snowy mountains
  • trees and fields
  • stone hut
You'll learn wet in wet techniques, how to charge in with colours to make washes interesting, how to paint stonework and I show you a trick with how to easily add branches to your trees.