I bought a new brush this week. A new paint brush that is. At $33 it is one of the more expensive paint brushes that I have ever bought. Not that I buy cheap ones but a $20 paint brush is usually the top of my price range. It’s the big sable watercolor brushes that are really pricey and I don’t use them. The watercolor brushes I do use are the ones smaller in size and price. Most of the brushes I use for oil painting are made from bristle and not that expensive.

I bought the new brush out of a catalogue in an inspirational moment. That is I was looking for inspiration while thumbing through the art supply catalogue and stumbled upon this brush. I’ve been thinking about painting in some sort of new way and thought that changing tools might be one way to accomplish that. So I ordered a Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Quill number five. It looked cool and it looked like I could do something different with it. It gave me ideas.

A couple of days later the brush arrived, I started working with it, and I was disappointed. Not with the quality of the brush or anything like that but with the fact that the brush wasn’t a magic instrument. That’s the problem with getting inspiration from a tool that you see in a catalogue. In my mind I already knew how to use it but in reality I didn’t. New and different images didn’t dance effortlessly off the tip of my new brush. So much for the magic of inspiration. It was time for some perspiration.

What I did was make a painting. It’s different from my others in that it is a large acrylic painting and usually when I work large I work in oil paint. It was also painted in a different way than my oil paintings but not in so different a way than my smaller acrylic paintings. Overall it’s different, yes, but I’m not so sure what those differences mean just yet and where they will lead me. There is a lot of work to be done after inspiration leaves.

It’s difficult working in a new way after all these years. I’m used to things going a certain way. Of course the whole idea of doing things a new way is because I was bored with doing things the old way but the old ways still have their pull. It’s the pull of the reliable. I know I can make a good painting that way. I’ve done it many times before and I can do it again. Figuring out a new way is a lot of work. Things aren’t necessarily reliable on a new path.

As I was working I had to keep telling myself not to panic and quit. That’s not easy to do when you’re making a bad painting. I kept telling myself that the painting was not about being good, at the moment, but about finding a path. It’s too bad paths aren’t found in just one painting. I stumbled along with my new brush, used some old brushes too, and somehow managed to finish the painting.

I’m not sure if the painting is good or bad but at least the process interested me more than my regular one did. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have any real process worked out yet. There was a lot more improvisation throughout this painting than in my usual ones where almost all of the improvisation comes at the end. That was part of what I am looking for.

One of the things I did succeed at that I wanted to do was to finish the painting a little faster. My usual method, being so meticulous about every square inch of paint, is quite time consuming. I was looking for more speed and spontaneity and got some of that. But I was also surprised at how much longer it took than I thought it would. Maybe that was because I spent more time thinking about how to do things than I usually do but it could have just been because things always take longer than I think.

I haven’t even gotten the new brush to do what I want it to do just yet. I’m not sure if I ever will but I do know there is room for improvement. I can see places where I had it working as I want it to but I’m not all the way there yet. It’s confusing and I’m not used to being confused while painting. I’m used to being sure of myself. Strange path I’ve picked.