Saturday, September 20, 2014

Painting with a Hake Brush

I'm learning to paint with a hake brush, which is a big blob of goat hair. It is amazing what detail it is possible to paint with such a seemingly unwieldy thing! In the image below, the only thing i painted with a small brush is the walking figure.

Painting with a hake brush

The above picture is not my first attempt. The first was a miserable thing.

I was doing exercises from Ron Ransons' book Watercolours - one of his signums is the use of the hake brush.
A short flat broad thing. This is the brush I used:

Moddler brush

I doggedly made tree trunks, foliage and undergrowth as told in the book. I made some half ovals (they can become beaches). It didn't go well, not at all. I didn't become desperate until I tried to copy the image with trees in the book. It seemed impossible! Frustrated, I reached for other brushes, trying to save the picture but, it was forfeit.  Here it is:

Fail: a moddler is not a Hake

I started looking closer at the picture of the hake brush in the book. I remembered seeing something similar in the local art-shop, one of the many things in there that are mysterious. Had I been using the wrong brush?
I brought the book to the art store, so I could compare in situ.
Here is what I found:

Hake Brush, 38 mm, DaVinci

What I had been using is called a moddler brush!
I made the exercises all over again - this was something else! Making foliage was insantenous, just a few dabs (see below).

Practise with a hake brush

When the hake has the 'right' amount of water and pigment in it, it is surprising what detail one can produce. But getting that balance is something that I will have to practice: with too much water and too little pigment it doesn't go well at all. In his book Ranson talks about the necessity of having an abundance of rags at hand. This is for taking out the water from the hake brush. In a video I saw that he was holding a hand towel as a rag in the left hand while he painted. I'll try that.

There was one thing that moddler brush was great for though, better than the hake: to easily make tree trunks. Below, the trunk in the image to the right is done with a moddler (40 mm), and the one to the left is done with a hake (38 mm).

making a tree trunk with a moddler
Trunk done with Moddler
making a tree trunk with the hake
Trunk inexpertly dabbled with a Hake

In summary:

  • Make sure the brush is actually a hake brush, not some random object that display similarities.
  • One must have a rag in the other hand to remove excess water from the hake when painting.
  • A pro of  the hake brush is that it helps making shapes as they look like in landscapes.
  • A con is that  it is difficult to get the balance right with amount of water it holds. But that might be different once one learn to master it. 

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