Exercise 0.2

Making Tools

I think because I had so much fun with the India Ink in the previous exercise, all I wanted to do was use it in this lesson. In fact, I knew this exercise was coming up as I was using the India Ink, I was already making a list in my head of the materials that could be used to make brushes. In looking back, I realize I could have made other tools but this was where my brain went. 

From top to bottom, the brushes are constructed with bamboo skewers as handles, yarn to fasten, and the following materials for the brush/bristle end :

  1. Mongolian lamb’s wool
  2. commercially spun yarn
  3. cotton fabric cut into “strands”
  4. plastic shopping bag


In my eagerness (and haste), I had too much ink on my brush as seen in the first marks (top left). Once I worked the ink a little, I was able to achieve marks that were indicative of the individual curls of the Mongolian lambs wool locks. These curlicue marks are my favourite of the whole exercise. Again, the earthy scent of the ink made me want to spend some quality time with the medium.

Having been reminded of the nature of the ink with the first brush, I was more conservative with my dipping of the yarn brush into the inkwell. I experimented with stippling, swirls, and zig-zags. As with the Mongolian locks brush, the stippling effect was my favourite with this brush. 

I am finding that while the ink and my gesturing remains more or less the same, the effects obtained by the various brushes is quite different. I am extremely intrigued by the outcomes of the fabric brush. In making it, I cut fringes into a length of fabric and rolled it onto the bamboo skewer. This yielded a dense brush but one that was abundant with texture. While again, the stippling is my favourite effect with this brush (notice the small dots made with the individual “bristles”), The swoops, cross hatching and vertical strokes are highly textured and interesting. It is also worth noting that due to the absorbent nature of the fabric, I was careful not to overload the brush with ink. 

This brush was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it’s the cultural significance of plastic shopping bags and their negative impact on the environment that I had low expectations for the results of this brush. My initial marks were more heavily inked than I’d prefer but given that the plastic had no ability to absorb, it quickly deposited colour onto the paper. The bristles were very flexible and made for very interesting textures. It was easy to obtain broad strokes by applying pressure to the flexible bristles. Softer pressure and less ink made it possible to obtain marks that were lighter and more “scratchy”. 

Upon completion of this exercise, I found that not only was making the tools tremendously fun, it inspired ideas for future brushes. I recall making notes about and doing research on handmade paint brushes that led to ideas of using materials such as feathers, cardboard, and leaves to name a few. I also enjoyed the opportunity to use the India Ink again. Its ability to make heavy, dark marks as well as delicate, light ones is very exciting. This is an exercise I’d like to revisit and go deeper into discovering new materials for brushes but also experimenting with other media such as watercolour and other paints.