November 21, 2011

This Week: Escoda Brushes
So, many of you will remember the post where I retracted my endorsement of Rosemary's brushes, after several readers who had purchased from her reported a precipitous drop in quality to the point of being unusable. You're better off buying the cheapest nylon brush rather than a bad sable brush, and with Japan making those insanely resilient and sharp pocket brush pens, a sable brush had better be good for the money you pay.

In that same post I actually did review an Escoda brush, which I'd totally forgotten about. I got it on my trip to SCAD Atlanta, liked it okay, and suggested it for people as a possible alternative if Raphael brushes weren't available. I haven't drawn with brushes for awhile, so I totally forgot about it.

My current workplace sells Escoda brushes, and they're specifically mentioned in our training video on brushes. The owner, Larry, who travels all over the world to meet his suppliers and see their factories, talked in the video about what makes a brush good and why some good brush companies have lost their way *cough Windsor and newton cough*. Basically, what it comes down to is time spent in a single location. Brush making takes years, even decades to learn, and making the kolinsky sable brushes is the hardest, requiring workers who've been brush makers for 20 years or more. If a brush company moves it's facilities, (W&N), and the brush makers don't or can't follow, their experience is lost, and therefore the quality. You do still see, every so often, a decent W&N brush, but the rarity of them leads me to conjecture it may be as little as one person making those elusive few. I imagine an old man, surrounded by fumbling whipper-snappers, weeping to himself as he places each of his perfect brushes on a conveyor belt alongside their splaying messes of expensive hair.

Larry chose Escoda because their factory has been in the same place since 1949, 18 years longer than Raphael, which seems to make some of the consistently better sable brushes these days. I tested 3 of the brushes in our store to decide what size I wanted to buy to test for Comic Tools, and all of them came to a sharp, single hair point. THAT was encouraging- I wanted this company to be consistent, not just good, if I was to recommend them to my readers. I selected a size 4 to test.
I love it. It's better than Rosemary's best brushes ever were. It has great snap, which I prefer to the well-formed, but to my hand mushy-feeling Raphael brushes. (I don't want to seem like I don't like Raphael brushes, By the way. Habibi was drawn with one for chrissake. I just don't prefer the feel of them.) I compared it to my trusty W&N #3 brush, and in doing so a sense memory came back to me. It doesn't feel like my W&N brush does now (which I still prefer), but it does feel like what my W&N felt like new. I could feel the Escoda pushing my hand into making the sorts of movements that led to my inking style when I drew my first book with my then brand-new W&N. How's the tip? That's a hair from my head next to those lines: Can it do drybrushing well? Yup:
Wispy lines? Uh huh:
Fiddly things like eyes and faces? Yes, and well: I look forward to using this brush and seeing how it ages. Now, there's another lovely characteristic to Escoda brushes, probably having to do with being made in Spain as opposed to Britain or France: They're relatively inexpensive. My W&N #3 cost me around $30 new. My Escoda #4? $16.40. No, really, go see. If you buy some from Artist and Craftsman, put a note in your order that Comic Tools Blog sent you, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt my standing with the company. I should tell you, however, that Blick has a better price. Buying from your local art store, if possible, is always best, especially since you can test the brushes, but if not, I feel obliged to ask that you consider Artist and Craftsman, a Maine-based and very fine art supply company, for your Kolinsky needs.

On another topic, it seems Amalgamated Biscuit has started something. Now Comic Tools reader Kat has made this adorable Totoro ink well as a more stable platform to resist upset by cat:

You can see more photos in her post about it. This is the inkwell I've been using, given to me by a friend:


(Remember, never dip your brush more than halfway if you can help it, and rinse it immediately if you do.)

See you next week!

11 comments:

Jenn Rodriguez said...

every time you give an art material the thumbs up, i inexplicably go out and buy it right away. looks like escoda will be getting my business next time i need a new brush.

Kat said...

Wow, what an appropriately-timed post! I've only just, as of last night, decided it's high time to get some actually usable brushes, and there just happens to be a Blick near me! I'll add these to the list of 'brushes to give a go.' Also, thanks so much for the repost! I'm crazy flattered, you have no idea.

Comic Tools said...

Kat- Thank you for sharing the cool inkwell!

Agentflit said...

Hey I have that inkwell, it rocks! I got it full of black star hicarb dr ph martin, which is my favorite thing you've ever featured.

crewchief227 said...

Hey I wanted to throw in my 2 cents on brushes. Now I have a Raphael 8404 #2, Escoda 1214 #4 travel, Da Vinci series 35 in #2 & #4, and finally a Isabey 6227z #5. Now the hands down winner is....the Isabey. Yes the Isabey and Raphael are made in the same factory but here is the difference the Isabey is only made by the master brush makers in that factory. Plus they use the best hairs first before Raphael and is more densely packed. It has a mind blowing snap and reminds me of a W&N of yesteryear. The reason I have it in a #5 is because they tend to run small but even at that size I can still draw lines as thin as my .18 rapidograph all the way up to probably 2mm. My only complaint is that it is a damn exspensive brush and also I wish the handle was more substantial. Other then that my 2nd go to brush is the #4 Da Vinci and then the Raphael. So my point being is that if the Raphael didn't live up to the hype or your expectations go ahead and try a Isabey. Other then that yes I have to agree that Escoda does make a damn fine brush for the money but I just don't have that much inking time to formulate a good opinion about it.

Anni said...

Oh...I thought that image said "Escape brushes".....
I haven't really gotten to try out brush inking all that much myself, but reading about this really makes me want to still!

Christopher Charlie said...

Where are you buying your W&N #3, because they are under $17 at Blick?

Comic Tools said...

Christopher: True enough, but that's online, and Windsor&Newton brushes can't be trusted to be bought online. And brick and mortar places have to charge more. The Escodas offer an inexpensive, high quality Kolinsky brush that's consistent enough for me to endorse people buying untested.

Joe Decie said...

I had no idea your blog was back up and running. Sorry to hear about all the shitty things you've been going through. Break ups hurt oh so very much.

Pablo said...

Hi, I'm a illustrator from Barcelona. Tajmyr is from Kolinsky-Tajmyr. It's the kind of hair. Really, the factory it's located in Sabadell, Barcelona. They make brushes since 1933. I was walking outside the factory a few months ago. I discovered this brushes from this post and was a fantastic discovery.

Togotooner said...

So you are using the Escoda Watercolour Kolinsky Reserva #4 with Black Pen ink and/or India ink and that doesn't harm the brush????