Monday, May 13, 2019

Plein Air Painting Essential Tools: Sharpened Brush Handle

If you're like me, what you fear most about painting is having to sign your work.  You need focus and concentration, perhaps a mahl stick to steady the hand, and maybe even to practice first.  The method is prone to failure.  Many artists who paint their signature use a rigger (a long, fine-pointed brush) and paint made fluid with medium.  When I use a rigger, I usually go through several steps:

  • Darn, paint wasn't fluid enough (add more medium)
  • Darn, I added too much medium (add more paint)
  • Darn, signature is too light (or too dark) (wipe it off, tweak the mixture and re-do)
  • Darn, I messed up the signature (wipe it off and re-do)
  • Darn, I messed it up again ( wipe it off and re-do)
  • Darn, I didn't get quite enough paint in the "J" (repaint the letter)

And in the end, it looks like a third-grader made it.

My preference is to use the end of the brush handle to scratch in my signature—it's almost as easy as writing with a pencil.  I think many artists, especially plein air painters, use this method, too.  But I've improved on it.  I sharpen the end of my brush with a pencil sharpener, making for a sharper point.  This lets me scratch down through more paint, even if I've toned the canvas in advance, right to the ground.  So long as the paint hasn't totally cured and is somewhat soft, this works.  The ground shows up white (or nearly so, if the canvas was toned).

Here's a signature scratched in with the sharpened brush handle.

Worse comes to worst, and the signature isn't clear enough, I can still paint the signature over it.

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