Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

The brush makes the painting.

2010 . 01 . 04

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I’ve always been particular about all the different tools I use in my work, but, more than any other brush, the Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080 size 60 have changed the look of my paintings. Finding these brushes was a revelation: they forced me to re-evaluate the way that I put paint on canvas.



Winsor & Newton Galeria round brush

Winsor & Newton Galeria round brush. Long before I was a Da Vinci Flat Wash enthusiast, I was using this Winsor & Newton brush. It’s a very average kind of brush, nothing special about its shape or size. For years it was the mainstay of my painting tools and I still use it today.



Patern Kervinio

Gwenn Seemel
Patern Kervinio
2001
acrylic on canvas
30 x 24 inches
(detail below)



Patern Kervinio



Winsor & Newton round brush

Winsor & Newton Galeria round brush. In 2001, I was making paintings like this one of my grandfather. I would start a portrait by laying down structural lines and crosshatching with the larger rounds like the one shown here. Eventually, I would use 00 size round brushes to complete the painting, and their small brushstrokes are obvious and even overwhelming in the detail image above. My brush collection was limited, and it’s reflected in the rather uniform finish of the paintings I was making at the time.



Andrea Wallace

Gwenn Seemel
Andrea Wallace
2003
acrylic on canvas
48 x 34 inches
(detail below)



Andrea Wallace



rough house painting brush



House painting brush. Besides the Winsor & Newton rounds, in 2003 the only other brush in my toolbox was this large house painting one. A hardware store find, I was lured in by the affordable price and the rough look that it gave my marks. At some point though, I came to realize that this brush was costing me a lot of money. It was sucking up a lot more paint than it could ever put down on the canvas and, unlike house paint, the fine acrylics I was using were spendy!

All that said, seven years ago, this brush made a lot of sense for me. It helped me to open up areas of my paintings, giving my viewers’ eyes a rest from the minute crosshatching. I used it to put down the first washes of color, and, by the time I painted Andrea’s portrait, I had started to allow some of this brush’s work to show through.











Reed Coleman

Gwenn Seemel
Reed Coleman
2004
acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 inches
(detail below)



Reed Coleman



Winsor & Newton flat brush

Winsor & Newton flat brush. In 2004, I discovered this three centimeter wide flat brush, and I began to use it a bit like the house painting brush. It helped me tame my obsessive crosshatching here and there, and it did so in a more controlled manner than the hardware store brush had done. 



painted portrait

Gwenn Seemel
Guillaume (Folded Paper)
2005
acrylic on canvas
26 x 20 inches
(detail below)



painted portrait



Da Vinci brush



Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080. This is the brush that changed everything for me. I had been coveting it for a while, but, in 2004, I was the textbook example of a starving artist and I couldn’t see spending $30 on a single brush.

When I did finally purchase it, its six centimeters of fine quality brush-ness gave my style an immediate facelift. In the 2005 portrait shown above, the single-brushstroke blocks of color are very obvious. This is something that I toned down as I became used to the Da Vinci Flat Wash brushes, but, when I was first getting acquainted with these tools, I relished the blatant blockiness.







Richard Speer

Gwenn Seemel
Richard Speer
2006
acrylic on canvas
34 x 28 inches
(detail below)



Richard Speer



Da Vinci brush



Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080. A year later, I had incorporated the four centimeter wide version of the Da Vinci brush into my repertoire, and I was learning how to better use these brushes. They were no longer oversimplifying my paintings: they were adding to them.

This 2006 portrait of Richard is very different from the more monotonous paintings from 2001 and 2003. The wider array of brushes was making for a broader language of brushstrokes and a lot more dynamism in the finished work.







Margo Russell

Gwenn Seemel
Margo
2007
acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
(detail below)



Margo Russell



Winsor & Newton small round brushes



Winsor & Newton round brushes. Though the Da Vinci Flat Wash brushes remade me as a painter, I’ve always remained loyal to my roots. As the detail of Margo’s 2007 portrait clearly shows, Winsor & Newton’s 0 and 00 size brushes are still an important part of finishing my paintings.











portrait painting

Gwenn Seemel
Lily
2008
acrylic on canvas
25 x 20 inches
(detail below)



detail image of a portrait painting



plate and spray bottle





In 2008, it wasn’t a new brush that inspired me. Instead it was a conscious decision to experiment (along with an accident involving my right hand) that added another kind of mark to my paintings. This plate and spray bottle are what make the dripping and the softness in Lily’s portrait possible.







Andrea Deeken and Paula Nett

Gwenn Seemel
The Buccas
2009
acrylic on canvas
47 x 35 inches
(detail below)



Andrea Deeken and Paula Nett

This is one of my favorite portraits that I’ve ever made. While that probably has a lot to do with the subjects, it’s also a matter of seeing all my marks united in one painting. In that sense, it’s a record of how my tools have raised me up as a painter over the last ten years. Of course, the portrait of the Buccas is not the last painting that I’ve made, and my style continues to evolve right along with my tool box.



Da Vinci brush



Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Flat Wash Series 5080. This is the newest addition to my repertoire of brushes, the largest Da Vinci Flat Wash I have dared to acquire.

















paint brushes

At a whopping fifteen centimeters wide, it promises to leave an indelible mark on the look of my work in the next decade.


RELATED ARTICLES:
- The tools make the artist.
- On saving paints and brushes
- I’m not a good painter…


CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Practice -


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-- Sheila Tajima -- 2010 . 01 . 05 --

What a great post!!!  Very informative, very fun to read, very Gwenn.

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-- Amanda -- 2010 . 10 . 07 --

I am constantly amazed at the way you paint, finding all the colours and producing something that is so different and yet so real! Posts like this that explain some of the background to your work are just fascinating, so thanks for sharing.

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-- fay -- 2010 . 11 . 17 --

I love your work!I found this site by accident and I’m very glad I did so. I’m amazed at how the finest detail makes such a difference in your paintings. Great work!

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-- Alicia -- 2013 . 06 . 24 --

Getting brush envy over your newest edition.

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-- Penney -- 2014 . 04 . 27 --

Gwenn,

I’ve been looking over your blog the last few days and just went through your guide about marketing art and being entrepreneurial. I have only been hobby painting and drawing for about a year now, basically going off of information from a book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ in terms of ‘seeing.’

I enjoyed your artwork ( I love portraits, too!) and particularly reading your marketing message about juxtaposition. Such a good point!

I loved seeing all of your brushes and the story behind them, too. I have lots of random art supplies and am never sure if I’m using the right sort of technique or brush, it’s nice to see what others are using and get a feel for the equipment I have on hand. I am so new to the painting process that I’m really just trying to figure out what the paint does on canvas panel.

I see you work with wood panels, yes? I have heard they are fantastic for flow and don’t fight back as much as canvas. What are your thoughts about this?

I’ve heard of artists getting them from art stores and some from hardware stores. Do you have a preference?

I hope all is well. Thank you for sharing your work and for sharing parts of yourself — it really does make a big difference in terms of emotionally relating to the art!

(I dealt with endometriosis, too. You know what made the biggest difference for me? I stopped eating inflammatory wheat altogether and soy products.)

With love,
Penney

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 28 --

@Penney: Thank you for your kind words! It’s exciting to be in the full-on discovery phase like you and a good reminder to me to always be discovering, pushing, adventuring!

Panel and canvas do have very different qualities. I water down my paint quite a bit so sometimes the slickness of panel can be a bit frustrating to me, but at the same time I appreciate the crispness of the brushstrokes on panel. I usually buy my panel at art stores because I don’t have the tools to size it as I’d like at home anyway. That said, I do build my own canvases and gesso my own panels because I don’t love the over-gessoed stuff you find at the store. This older video gets more into other supports I sometimes use.

And about using diet to treat endo, I’ve found the same thing! I’ve been mostly off gluten for 6 months and I’ve been feeling SO MUCH BETTER. Genius! I only wish I tried it sooner!

Best of luck, endo sister!

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-- vrindaji -- 2014 . 12 . 16 --

Thanks!  I am an artist ( for over 40 years) and really appreciate your candid expression of your studio journey.  I forget ,most of the time, that there ARE new tools to try.  I came across your blog when looking for a new way to paint portraits that would not put so much strain on thumb joint of my right hand.  Thinking of really wide brushes or palette knife.
You have encouraged me to go further with my exploring…and have fun, too. ( always!)

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 12 . 20 --

@vrindaji: Thank you for your kind words and hooray for mutual encouragement! smile

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