Take a class with SAL - anywhere! A while back I was Looking Closely at JS Sargent’s Portrait of Henry James. In the post I guessed at Sargent’s palette, his brushes, and a bit about his process. After I wrote that post I continued thinking about his process, did more research and more thinking, and then some more thinking and more research. My follow up V. Note got longer… and longer… and longer…. It got so long I decided to teach a workshop because ideas were coming out of my ears. The “Paint like John Singer Sargent” workshop is this Saturday, by the way. Have you signed up yet? I’ll still post some of my notes, but not all in one day. This is one small piece, the first of several about John Singer Sargent. Today I’ll talk about his brushes.BrushesSee how he holds his brush like a baton? This is a hallmark of this style of painting. Keep a distance, a nice relaxed grip, and don’t choke your brush!Rounds, Flats, & FilbertsHere’s a paragraph from my previous post:Filbert brushes can be turned for wide and narrow strokes. Round brushes can be shaped into a point for line work such as the stripes in the vest, and details such as the gold chain and ring. They can also make rounded brush strokes, similar to the brush strokes made with filberts. Combine the two traits of the round brush for pointy-round brushstrokes like the highlights in the hand. Definitely the rounds hold more paint. Given Sargent’s reputation for ample paint application in the foreground, and the subtle way the brush strokes varied, I’m guessing he used the rounds for smaller areas, and the filberts for the large areas, and background.According to his writing, Sargent recommended starting a portrait by sketching with a rigger. Riggers are long thin round brushes, soft but with a spring in them. They’re made for making long precise lines. You can see a rigger (far left) in this collection of his brushes.Below is a picture of a new rigger by Escoda, so you can see how fine the point is.As for the rest of his brushes, I see a mix of small-medium rounds, and two larger flats that have been worn down to act like a filbert. Both have long bristles so would be good for long lyrical brush strokes. The two largest brushes on the right look like they could be very soft (certainly the dark mop brush is fluffy, likely a squirrel tail brush. The striped brush may be a combination of firm and soft, like mongoose). I imagine one could be for laying down fast washes with thin paint (wide mongoose(?) brush on the right), and the other perhaps for smoothing sections of his portraits of women and children (both could be used, but the dark squirrel (?) mop on the left is clearly for a softer touch). See the soft sections on the portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw below. [image_with_animation image_url=”9018″ alignment=”” animation=”None” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”] Fluffers are brushes made with fur from a very soft fluffy animal, something cute. The two big brushes above look like they might be a black squirrel and a mongoose. Cute, no?Squirrels make exceptionally soft brushes, but they’re a little floppy. They can’t blend or move thick paint, only thin. Mongoose brushes are soft, but with enough strength to move some oil paint around fast. Between the soft fluffy fluff of a squirrel and the subtle strength of a mongoose, badgers also make great fluffers. I am told badgers are not cute, but I beg to differ. They’re cute, and according to my rule, if it’s cute, it’s a fluffer.See how fluffy? Badger fur is thick at the point and thin at the base, so badger brushes are light yet strong. They are great for soft blending, and for gently reducing paint ridges in rougher brush strokes. Apart from style, those paint ridges can cause glare, so a brush like the Rosemary & Co blender brush below can be used to blend, or to smooth out the ridges that cause the paint to glare, allowing you to see again.Or, if you’re Gerhard Richter you can fluff the painting to fluff fluffery, removing all detailed or brushy brushwork, ending up with this badgered badass: [divider line_type=”Full Width Line” line_thickness=”1″ divider_color=”default” custom_height=”30 Rikki Tikki Tavi thanks me for saying he’s a “cute fluffer” but suggests you buy a synthetic blender brush. [divider line_type=”Full Width Line” line_thickness=”1″ divider_color=”default” custom_height=”30 The approaches I learned from studying JS Sargent apply to classical and contemporary painters alike. These ideas made my paintings better. Learn about brushes and much more in my “Paint Like John Singer Sargent” Workshop this Saturday. This class will improve your paintings, no matter what your style or experience level. Mongoose optional.Ruthie teaches art classes at Seattle Artist League. Click here to sign up for drawing, painting, pottery, and more!