DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Fan Brush

Fan Brushes, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

These brushes, with their bristles splayed out in the shape of an unfurled hand fan, are used by both makeup artists and oil painters.  With makeup, they’re often used to blend powders and eyeshadows, or to gently remove fallen eye shadow from the cheeks.  Oil painters generally use them dry, flicking them crosswise across still-workable paint to obscure visible brush marks or to blend tonal transitions to perfect smoothness.  Some also use them to apply paint, especially to simulate textures like hair or grass.  Bob Ross, the happy host of the 1980’s “Joy of Painting” TV shows, was a fan-brush enthusiast, using it for many landscape effects such as trees and clouds.  I always hated his painting style, but Bob Ross probably provided my first exposure to this versatile tool.

I’m not an oil painter and am temperamentally opposed to blending.  I generally use fan brushes not to make things smoother or less brush-strokey, but to make them rougher and more brush-strokey.  I like using them with sumi ink, straight up.

Silvana Dance, 2000, by Fred Hatt

Changing the angle at which the brush contacts the paper makes a thinner or thicker mark.  Applying one edge to the paper gives a thin but bold line.  Turning the brush flat to the paper causes the bristles to spread out and lay down thin parallel strokes over the width of the brush.  These lines are particularly delicate when the brush is fairly dry.  I’ve done a lot of drawing from observations of moving dancers.  The fan brush gives a feeling of movement, and also can fill in shadow areas or create a feeling of the volume of a body with very simple, spontaneous strokes.

Des, 1999, by Fred Hatt

Ground, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Open and Coil, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Ceremony, 2006, by Fred Hatt

The fan brush works this way with any kind of ink, including colored inks.

Invoking, 2006, by Fred Hatt

It’s a very quick way to make cross-contours, giving volume to a line-drawn figure.

Crouch, 2009, by Fred Hatt

For more traditional observational drawing, the fan brush is not an easy tool to master, but I like to challenge myself sometimes.  It’s like trying to eat soup with a fork.  I’m pretty sure both of the sketches below were drawn using the fan brush only.  The edges are drawn with the corner of the brush, and the shading, hair, etc. are done with the flat.

Standing, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Ryan, 2008, by Fred Hatt

I like to use the fan brush with body paint, too.  It can quickly depict flowing textures such as flames or feathers.

Blue Heron, 2004, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

The swirly parallel strokes of the fan brush suggest the energy within the body.

Blue Raynn, 2004, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

Fiery Back and Hand, 2001, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

Fire Heart, 2001, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

That last one is a detail of the body painting featured at the top of the post “Fire in the Belly“.  Now that I’ve shown you what to look for, you’ll probably be able to spot the tell-tale stripes of the fan brush elsewhere among my body paintings and ink brush drawings, on this blog or at my portfolio site.

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