Paintbrush Demo

Bill found his favorite sable brush for portrait detail in London, England many years ago. They are difficult and expensive to ship overseas, however, and he’s been searching for its equal in the states ever since to no avail. Bill also has a close relationship with Trekell, a wonderful paintbrush company located in California. He’s been purchasing brushes from them almost since the company’s inception and has also filmed demos and tested products for them before they head to market. Trekell, in turn, made Bill a Signature Series of portrait brushes according to Bill’s specifications.

Recently, Bill sent Trekell one of his England brushes to see if they could make a replica. They sent him five to test, and Bill gave one to me for my input.

To test the brushes as objectively as possible, Bill is simultaneously using the Trekell replica, his England brush, and a watercolor Kolinsky sable. He remarked he’s unsure of the feel of the replica just yet. As I’ve had no previous experience with magical paintbrushes discovered in a dark and quaint London shop…resting perhaps in a velvet-lined case near the window, a shaft of light breaking through the dirty clouds to form a dusty halo around the lacquered hardwood handle and glinting off of the silver-plated ferrule which catches the artist’s eye…


I am loving the Trekell replica. The sable bristles are longer  than my other detail brushes and yet retain their point for a buttery smooth stroke every time. This is not the smallest brush I own, but it renders minute details with ease.

As I work layer upon layer, I used the Trekell sable to create broken strokes. I then go over the strokes with one of Bill’s old Kolinskys which are perfect for blending and creating textures.

The painting still isn’t finished, but here’s another progress shot:

You Painted These All By Yourself?

“My friend’s granddaughter paints pictures on the shoes…Oh, what do you call them? Anyhow, she paints pictures of little animals and whatnot. And I believe the other children pay her for it. ‘Sneakers.’ Isn’t that what they call them? Anyhow, that’s something I thought you could do.”

-Art School Confidential

People mean well. I know they do. But when someone asks what I do for a living, if you really think about it, there are some things that just shouldn’t be said. It would be insulting to any other profession, but for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to say certain things to artists. Here is a compilation of statements that I have heard:


  • “Did you make all these?”
  • “How long did that take you?”
  • “It costs $#@%*!!!! for that?”
  • “You should charge more for your paintings.”
  • “I can’t draw a stick figure.”
  • “You’re an artist? Oh, how fun.”
  • “So, do you have a real job?”
  • “I could do that.”
  • “You’ll paint that for free, right?”

  • “Wow, you’re really good at painting portraits. Can you paint my dog?”
  • “Have you ever considered painting Abstract? I know someone who wants Abstract work and they are willing to pay a lot. It would be like having a real job!”
  • “I would love to sit around and make art all day, but I have to work.”
  • “Since you’re not doing anything…could you do this for me?”

If you have ever said these things to an artist, please don’t take offense. I mean to bring attention to these comments in a lighthearted way. I’ve decided most people don’t know what to say in response to my profession and one of the above comments usually seems satisfactory.

The truth is, art is freaking hard. The hours are long with little pay. I study the figure’s minute details and nuances with either a three inch long razor sharp graphite point, filling in every pore of the paper’s surface, or a three haired paint brush until my eyeballs bleed and I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

I apply to galleries, shows, and competitions and 99% of the time I’m rejected (notice I didn’t say my ‘work’ is rejected. It’s difficult not to take rejection personally).

Bill said he once had two doctors take one of his workshops. They were two of the most committed and hardworking students he has ever had. Why? Because they understood the definition of freaking hard work.

I love what I do. Or at least the thrill of the initial draft with the potential of greatness. Or the accomplishment of the end result. The in-between, day to day stuff is gristly and painful. Most days I feel like the depressed cliche who throws her painting in the trash bin with a lit match and runs for the nearest cliff edge. But I grit my teeth and soldier on.

So now I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well, what the heck should I say?” Artists are tender creatures. Compliments are always nice. If you honestly think the work is horrid, say something vague like, “It has a dreamy quality,” or, “I like the colors you used.” Ask questions about the artist’s education, influences, or process, questions that could be applied to any other profession.

And if you happen to forget What Not to Say to An Artist and excitedly tell me about your friend’s granddaughter’s wildly successful artistic venture painting shoes and recommend I do that as well…well. That’s okay too.

Being Really Ridiculously Good Looking

Bill has been working on a series of Civil War paintings. There was one painting in particular, however, he wasn’t satisfied with and decided the face needed to be redone. Since my husband, Bryan, has the gaunt and rugged look Bill was searching for, he asked Bryan to pose for a mini photo shoot on Friday.

Here you can see the original reference on the computer screen.

I asked Bill if I could take a couple of photos of his gorgeous studio. Here is a collection of some of his paintings over the years.

Bill has a vast collection of props and war artifacts and reproductions to peruse. He often dons one of the hats, as seen on the mantel, while he paints.

When the photo shoot was over, Bill and Bryan studied the photos.

The photos were acceptable, but they would have been brilliant if Bryan had incorporated Blue Steel.

I’ll be sure to post the painting when it is complete! In the meantime, Bryan will be opening Utah’s own Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too. The core of the curriculum will be teaching that there is more to life than being really, really ridiculously good-looking.