With so much inspiration for artists around every corner, it's a shame to shut yourself away indoors. But for all the benefits and exciting possibilities you get with painting outside, there's a big downside – having to carry all of your equipment.
The answer is to travel light and when it comes to brushes, choosing a pocket-sized version that will work with various painting techniques, can really make things easier. Making something smaller can sometimes mean sacrificing quality, though, so we were interested to see whether Rosemary & Co, a company with an excellent reputation in the quality of the brushes it produces, fell into this trap with its range of pocket/reversible watercolour brushes.
Brushes in action
We tested the squirrel mop, the kolinsky sable pointed round and the kolinsky sable one-stroke flat. The brushes have a hollow aluminium handle, while the base of the ferrule has a smooth collar that fits into the handle during use. When you’re done, you pull out the brush, reverse it, and it self-encloses back into the handle, making a secure carrying case. It’s great to know you can toss your best sable brushes into a bag or pocket without damaging the tip. That said, you do have to be careful when inserting the brush. We found it best to wet them to a point to avoid bending back hairs.
We tested the brushes on a number of outings. When painting in a moderate 9x12in size or smaller, the largest pointed round – what it calls the R3/#10 – is perfect. It’s a decent size, but slightly smaller than a #10 in conventional wood-handle brands.
In addition to the round, the mop is useful for large areas. But truthfully, you can create a very nice painting just with the round.
In our tests, we found the sable thirsty enough to paint a sky (working fast and pulling the bead), yet sharp enough to tackle tree branches or lamp poles and fire escapes. It’s really a great all-round brush! Certainly comparable to other brands.
Rosemary & Co also offers some speciality brushes, including a One Stroke (long-hair flat), a Filbert, a Dagger (in a sable/synthetic blend), and a Comber, which is a flat with staggered short hairs giving it the look of a comb or rake. We didn’t spend much time with these, but if they’re to your taste, you’re in luck.
One thing we would have liked to see is some engraving on the handle, as they all look the same when closed. This can be solved with a tape and marker, though. Also the handle wasn't as snug as we would have liked – a reassuring click when they connected would have been nice– but we didn’t drop one so it's not a problem. Also, we hope two or three larger sizes are added to the range.
But these quibbles aside, the Rosemary & Co pocket sables are great brushes for any travel-sketching watercolourist.
This article originally appeared in issue 11 of Paint & Draw magazine.