Crimson clouds, a low-angled sun, redness deepening.
It’s an art to see shapes in clouds or spot a silhouette.
At the end of a painting lesson, I am contented by the gurgle
of faucet & soap. I love working brush bellies with thumb
& forefinger, rinsing, scraping the ferrule with my nails,
swabbing blotter cloth till no more pigment dislodges, or
I repeat the massage. Sable martens boast a belly that wicks,
reservoirs the paint, allows a painter to increase pressure
and broaden a line so the pigment flows slowly, evenly,
composing sleek curves. Clouds drift, unravel. I dress
a clean brush to original form, tip needling to a point. Finest
sable is Kolinsky of Northern Siberia, where cruel climate breeds
hair that’s robust yet supple. Springy, absorbent. Kolinsky sells
at the price of gold factored thrice, as old Soviets said, the cheap
brushes a false economy. I favor plated-nickel ferrules, corrosion-
resistant. I like bristles to taper & edge. I like best the sign-
liner for gypsy teardrop strokes, my feathery brush down, followed
by pressure, drag, lifting quickly: a thin, thorn-like finish:
my signature. I rotate the brush 90 degrees and repeat
without reloading the Kolinsky. It’s a tool I work methodically yet
without method, seemingly, and Mars red unbinds like a spirit
emulsified. Red runs the slop sink in rivulets, ruby hues spotting,
sticking to the stainless steel, hunching, blobs like big-headed
embryos with bantam hands & warm hearts & naive metaphysics
dashed by force of water until they sail alone
without left-or-right brain or even a single, bridging thought.
Color drains & cycles into endless forms.
Sable brushes stand on handles, not on their heads.
They dry naturally in a jar on a windowsill
giving best results when cared for properly
and last a lifetime.
By Peter Oresick