My Favorite Brush

THE ARTIST’S MAGAZINE, January 2004.

The Grand Prix filbert made by Silver Brush is the preferred brush of oil portrait painter Michael Shane Neal. “The filbert is so versatile,” says the Nashville, Tennessee, artist. “I can make several different strokes with one brush. If I want a thick, broad stroke, I hold the brush down near the shaft and lay the whole brush flat against the canvas. For a vertical or horizontal line, I turn the brush on its side or hold the brush like a pencil and use the tip of the brush.” Another way he achieves variety with a brush is to vary the pressure placed on it. “I can make a No. 6 look like a No. 8 simply by applying more pressure,” he says.

Neal has an assortment of filberts in all sizes. He uses Nos. 2, 4 and 6 for painting heads, a No. 2 for the detail work in the eyes and a No. 4 for the mouth, nose and ears. His figures are painted with a No. 6,8 or 10 and then for backgrounds he’ll use a No. 10, 12 or 14.

The artist has more than 300 filbert brushes and has never thrown one away. “The character and shape of a brush will change over time, but then you can use it for new and different purposes,” Neal says. He’s prudent in caring for his brushes. After washing them with warm soap and water, he wraps them in a wet paper towel and gently presses his fingers on the hairs. He lets them dry overnight so that the next morning they’re back in shape.

by Beth Derringer-Keith