March 8, 2009

Readers come through again
So awhile back Comic Tools reader and skilled brush-fu practitioner Sarah Musi (The link is to her blog, which has her art and which you should go see) said in the comments that she had bought a bunch of Rosemary & Co. brushes, and I asked her if she'd mind reviewing them, as she'd bought several kinds I've never tried before and a few that I had. Well, on top of being a good artist she's also got impeccable timing, because she sent me her reviews right after I announced my sick leave this week. Here's what she sent me:

Review of Rosemary & Co.'s Kolinsky Sable Rounds, Rigger and Extended Point Brushes

Hi everyone. Since Matt is sick this week, this is probably an appropriate time to jump in and fill some space here on Comic Tools.

I recently completed a comic book with an obscene amount of dry-brushing and by the end, I had pretty much killed all my favorite Princeton watercolor brushes. Needing to replace them, I decided to take Matt's advice and order some (actually, twelve) from Rosemary & Co. and he asked me to do a review. I just finished inking the t-shirt design below where I used a few of the more standard brushes that most comic illustrators prefer so that gave me a chance to get acquainted with them enough to write this. I apologize in advance for the blotchiness of these iPhone photos.
Some of the brushes I bought:
1) {S2230} Golden Synthetic Spikey Comber 3/4" (for lots of tiny parallel lines made easy)
2) {S46} Sable Extended Point 12 (essentially a kolinsky rigger embedded in a red sable round)
3) {S43} Squirrel Tinter 1/4" (for dry stippling)
4) {S33} Kolinsky Comber 1/8" (for feathers, grass and hair)
5) {S55} Kolinsky 1/4"
6) {S44} Kolinsky Rigger 2
7) {S33} Kolinsky Round 3
8) {S33} Kolinsky Round 2
9) {S323} Kolinsky Round 2

This was the first bit of work I did using Rosemary & Co. kolinsky sable brushes. Size 0 round for smaller animals, 2 round for text and larger animals and a 2 rigger for everything else. Medium: Speedball India ink and Bombay red India ink on 11"x14" Bristol vellum.

Kolinsky Round

First off, I LOVE these rounds. I bought several from Series 22, 33 and 323. They not only hold a ton of ink without dumping it out the second you touch it to the paper but they also make effortless buttery-smooth lines. I was particularly impressed by how well the rounds kept their point, even when gunked up. For those of you who love that chunky Craig Thompson skidding dry-brush effect, just try using one of these with some old goopy ink; I promise, you will be very pleased with the result.

Note about the size 0: I typically use a 2 or 3 round for most comic work because they are great for making both thin and fat lines but 0 rounds are very often too small. However, out of curiosity, I bought the Series 22 Round 0 and after working with it for several hours found that, contrary to my expectations, it actually suited my needs quite well. In some cases, it was able to accomplish the same effect as the size 2 and 3 brushes I had been using before but was far better for getting into tight spaces.

Kolinsky Rigger

Riggers were originally intended for painting the rigging on ships (thus the name) and therefore are fantastic for long straight lines or smooth curves. All you have to do is tip it slightly to the side and apply a bit of pressure. This lays the ends of the hairs down against the paper and allows the tip to maintain contact even if your hand isn't doing a very good job of making the line. My hand isn't always the steadiest at 2:00AM (when most artists do their best work), so I use riggers about half of the time.

This particular rigger (Series 44, Size 2), although wonderful to paint with, was quite different from what I expected. You have to be careful about not overloading this brush with too much ink. I've grown accustomed to riggers of the same size producing a moderate to thin line but this brush produced a medium to very thick line, especially when initially set down on paper with so much available ink. If I wanted a thin line, I had to be very careful in order to get it right, starting by scraping it against the side of the ink jar about three or four times to get most of the ink out of the belly.

In addition, it had a bit of a unruly point that was difficult to control at anything below an 80 degree angle to the paper when it was not in motion. I myself, like many other brush inkers who came from the drawing world, paint with my hand rested on the paper, so the brush is usually tipped somewhere between 30 and 80 degrees but very rarely above that, unless I'm choking up on the ferrule to do detail work. Therefore, the point tended to get away from me quite a bit on this particular rigger when I was working on short lines or spots.

Sable Extended Point

I was SO excited when I found this brush (Series 46, Size 12); it was the first one I tried out of the twelve brushes I bought. As I mentioned before, I use riggers quite a bit. The downside of most riggers is that they don't hold much ink, especially if they are a synthetic. You are always having to pick it up from the line, get more ink and then carefully find the line again and try to keep the stroke going like nothing ever happened. So what you have a brush that's made for making long lines which can't actually hold enough ink to finish those lines.

Rosemary's newly-conceived 12 Extended Point brush combines the great ink-holding capability of a size 12 round and the stability of a rigger (I would estimate about a size 2).

The one drawback to this brush is that it has trouble with thicker inks. I use Speedball India Ink and it tends to get more dense over time from being open during inking. This wouldn't typically pose a problem with a normal round or rigger, but with the Extended Point, the thicker ink gets stuck up in the belly and the rigger dries up and begins to deflect to the side where the round hairs end. That said, this brush may require some practice, even with thinner ink.

To Summarize...

Overall, I was very pleased with Rosemary's kolinsky brushes. Having spent only a few days working with them, I can already tell that they are finely crafted, very long-wearing and have a much better ink reservoir than the other high-quality brushes I have been using. Their only "fault", stemming mainly from my artistic preferences combined with my own probable in-expertise, is that they aren't quite as good at making super-fine lines. But there are other brushes in the world to fill that requirement, so I am satisfied.

Despite her location in the UK, Rosemary's prices are significantly below what you would spend in an art store for a brush of half the quality. She takes PayPal, shipping was super quick (within a week of payment) and the brushes were received, well-packed in pristine condition along with a nice catalogue containing actual-size pictures of all the other brushes she makes.

If you are looking for some great brushes, I absolutely recommend giving Rosemary & Co. your business.


Comic Tools reader and storyboard artist Mark Kennedy sent me a link to his terrific blog where he analyzes comics pages, illustrations, paintings, photographs and film stills to show what makes them work, with special attention paid to composition, drama, and the posing of figures. I'm already learning from it, and I'll probably start linking to individual posts of his pretty commonly. Everyone should subscribe to his wonderful blog.

Mark also linked me to this, a blog which posts a lesson from the Famous Artist's Cartoon Course every month. (I've linked directly to the Famous...Course tag rather than the blog's main page, for your convenience. But you should also putter around.) At the bottom of each post, there is a link where the entire lesson can be downloaded in PDF format. When I was young I paid (by which I mean my mother paid) hundreds of dollars for a poor-man's version of such a course, and here it is free. Totally insane.

Sarah and Mark are hereby awarded Comic Tools Reader gold-stars, which smell like grapes when you scratch them and say "Grape Job" on them. Holy cow, you guys, thank you so, SO much.

Next week on Comic Tools: How to get the Perfect White Out Consistency.

P.S.: Sorry about the weird formatting in this post, I've spent half an hour trying to fix it and I can't make it work. It doesn't help that the preview field is totally inaccurate to what I see on screen.


Anonymous said...

Another great post. The Cartooning Course PDF's are well worth a download. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have two of those Extended brushes, two differrent sizes. I had a feeling mine are Windsor newton but as I am at work and they are at home I can't check but I will. they are great brushes

Eduardo said...

Hi I was avidly reading your topic on Rosemary & Co, I am foremost a professional watercolour artist in Portugal, and have used all brushes referred to on topic, I use the Escoda reserva 7, 10 & 12, as well as series 7 W&N size 6 and 10, and a variety of Rosemary's brushes 9, 7 and 5 series 33, all very good brushes. It's sad to see a retraction of endorsement of a company that singularly has revived the craftsman approach in the UK to give quality tools for the artist. Her standalone no nonsense brush replacement ( which is very fast) relating to any brush that is defective.It's worth mentioning at this point I had two brushes which were not up to standard and were replaced with apologies as she takes her QC very seriously as in fact do Escoda.
My point being although we would expect 100% quality assurance sometimes it fails but if a replacement policy is in effect, no harm done.
The second point was in reference to the W&N vs Escoda and Rosemary and Co. If you were comparing the escoda reserva and W&N serie 7, then in all fairness you should not have compared the series 33 but rather the series 22 kolinsky designer brush, which is on the same platform of the two previously mentioned, it would have been a more serious test.
All the best, good blogging.

Amber said...

Link to the blog is dead :(