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:

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.

Painting From Life

Last week we had a live painting session at Bill Whitaker’s studio. Leslie, an awesome artist who also apprentices under Bill, asked her lovely sister Camille if she would be willing to model for us, to which Camille kindly agreed (which was super cool of her considering it was during her spring break!).

Here’s my setup.

In about forty minutes I had my portrait blocked in. I oiled my surface using Rublev’s Oleogel medium and used a large bristle filbert and the color Terra Rosa for the initial painting. Later on I added Lead White and a touch of Ivory Black.

I’m painting on an odd, but beautiful surface called ABS. This is one of the primary surfaces Bill uses which was recommended to him years ago by a chemist. ABS has multiple purposes and is most commonly used as light switch and outlet covers. It is both durable and archival, and once it’s cleaned with a mild detergent and sanded down, viola! A gloriously smooth painting surface.

Who would have thought?

Bill remarked that artists tend to be too tentative (guilty), especially when trying new things. Masonite, for example, was invented in the 1920s and ever since has been a primary painting surface for artists, albeit not a very good one. It deteriorates rapidly and swells when exposed to the elements (lesson learned!).

Here is Bill doing a drawing demo for Leslie. Our beautiful Bouguereau model, Camille, is posing on the sofa.

Rather than focus on a linear drawing, I am blocking in shapes of color focusing on accurate value and placement. In this photo I am placing thick daubs of pure Lead White to model the face and give it dimension. I then took a soft dry brush and dabbed at the thick paint to soften the edges. When I paint this is a continuous layering process. Daub. Soften. Repeat.

This is where I ended on the last session Friday. We could have painted longer, but it was Camille’s nap time. Which is a much better way to spend one’s spring break.