How to take care of your brush in Asian Brush Painting, Calligraphy and Sumi-e

 

Opening and preparing a Chinese Brush

Chinese Brushes are usually shipped with water-soluble glue on the hairs to maintain and protect the tip. It is imperative that this glue is removed entirely before you start using your brush. The best way to do this is to first rinse out as much glue out as you can, and then soak the brush tip. Use cool water, and make sure that you aren’t overly aggressive in rinsing, especially where the bristles meet the handle. Brushing the Tip against the palm of your hand is sufficient to loosen the glue. Once you’ve done this, a brief soak of about 30 minutes will free up all the hairs so that the ink will flow easily and fluidly. Do not leave the brush standing on its tip in a cup of water: this might damage the tip before you’ve even used the brush!

Why to use Brush Racks and Brush Rests for Japanese and Chinese Brushes?

A Brush Stand is very helpful for maintaining healthy brushes. Artists will commonly keep their brushes either standing on the back end in a Brush Jar or hanging from a purpose-built stand. If you have many brushes, both strategies can be used. A Brush Rack or Stand is a great accessory for giving your brushes a home. It will look great on your studio desk, covered in a variety of brushes. Keeping the brush in the position it would be used in is preferable to leaving it exposed to potential accidents from above!

Brush rests are also very helpful when practicing calligraphy or sumi-e. All artists need somewhere to set their brushes as they prepare the next page, take a brief rest, or even switch between brushes. A Brush Rest  is an integral part of a traditional Chinese studio; no artist would begin their work without one. A Rest keeps the brush from rolling away from you, or from marking the table when the Brush is at rest.

Common Errors in Brush Care

Leaving a Brush with its Tip Deformed

Always attempt to get your brush to hold its tip before you place it back on the Brush Rack or in the Brush Holder. By all means, do not leave a brush to dry with its tip leaning against anything. Unless it is hanging from a Rack, Brushes should always be stored end down, tip up.

Using Media other than Calligraphy-Ink, Sumi-e Ink or Chinese Watercolors

The Liquid Ink and Ink Sticks we have are guaranteed to interact well with traditional Chinese Brushes. Some Inks and most commercial paints will not interact in the proper way. If you use the wrong substance, the brush will be much harder to clean and may become damaged in the cleaning process. The Chinese Brush has been perfected for natural inks over thousands of year: it is not intended for modern synthetic media.

Rapping the Brush Against Hard Surfaces and Corners

Brushes are delicate instruments. If the end of the handle is cracked, the tip can come loose, and the brush will be ruined. Maintaining a respectful attitude toward your brushes will ensure that they have a long and productive life.

How to clean a Chinese Brush the right way?

Clean your brush after every sitting. Leaving ink in the bristles will quickly deform the hairs and compromise every major quality from flexibility to tip. You don’t need to soak the brush every time, but rinsing thoroughly in water is important. There is no need to use soap or other solvents. Again, do not be too aggressive by pulling at the hairs or grinding the tip into your palm. Be gentle, but firm, treating your brush as if it were alive (it used to be). For drying, brushes are often placed on a Brush Mat this makes the drying process faster than simply hanging them up from a Rack or placing in the jar. This makes guarantees that a brush will not have time to form mildew or other unwanted flaws while drying.

When to replace a Chinese Brush?

Brushes do not have an unlimited lifespan. Every so often, a Brush should be replaced. It is usually easy to determine when a brush has reached the end of its productive life just by trying to use it to write.

The most common flaw in a brush occurs if individual hairs or groups of hairs no longer cohere into a good point. Even though the point may still be there, one or two stray hairs can leave unsightly marks outside your lines. Even trimming these hairs will often result in an inferior fix. The precision with which Brushes are initially produced means that a single hair out of place, or of the wrong length, can severely disrupt the structure of the Brush.

If the brush has been allowed to build up ink residue, or has had some foreign substance applied to the tip, the whole tip may split, and you will no longer be able to get solid, appealing lines out of it.

If a brush has been stored improperly, it might also acquire a bent tip. Although the Brush may still be capable of forming decent lines, a beginner will quickly start compensating for the bend, and may form bad habits that will be harder to break at a later date. Maintaining a fine, straight tip is crucial for beginning your artistic practice.