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Megan Hinton

Paintings, Drawings, and Prints

For some years now I have had an unused fan brush in my paintbrush container. I purchased the fan as a younger artist thinking it was an essential must have brush for any painter.

I remember watching Bob Ross on public television magically use his fan brush to create “happy little trees”.   His paintings have always appeared trite, but I was fascinated with the ease of his application with the fan brush and other painting tools he manipulated. Perhaps associating the fan brush with the Bob Ross cliché made me avoid this painting tool for so long, until recently.

I now use a fan brush as one of my main tools in combination with other applicators like traditional, household, and sponge brushes, palette knives, cotton rags, decorative painting tools and other experimental non-traditional implements.

The fan brush can be used for blending, scumbling, filling in, creating a line, and applying a decent amount of paint to the surface. In fact I’m surprised by its versatility.  Applying paint and blending areas with this tool also feels incredibly satisfying.

A couple of examples of how to paint with a fan brush on You Tube will lead you to the painter Tim Gagnon on how to paint grass. He demonstrates applying perfect blades of grass to the foreground of his realist landscape. Most importantly suggesting the use of an old fan brush with the bristles missing to create blades of grass with depth and texture. I personally can’t wait for my fan brush to become worn out and over used. I believe it was the late abstract expressionist painter Milton Resnick who said something like every brush at every state of use, from brand new to dried out bristles, serves an application purpose. The idea being that in painting a variety of applications makes for a dynamic picture.

The artist Elizabeth Reoch shows her use of the fan brush in her painting tutorial video “Taking Flight”. She approaches her initial painting with a fan brush to blend the various darks and lights of a green monochrome under painting in what she describes as Abstract Realism.  You can view her finished painting from this demo on her website. In the end she applied many more layers that had to be achieved with a variety of tools. Her entry into the painting relied on the fan brush to intuitively lead her around the canvas, laying out a substantial field to further construct.

These days I get a kick every time I decide to use my fan brush as if I have reclaimed it as painting coinage. It adds a welcome nuance to my process. This very reclamation of the tool makes me realize how important it is to change one’s approach and process from time to time in order to freshen up and make discoveries.

The fan brush no longer just paints “happy little trees”. Although Bob Ross was on to something because I find joy in using this tool.  To all my fellow painters unfamiliar with the fan brush’s capabilities start using yours for the first time, bring it out again after a long hiatus, or purchase one at your supplier. See how it can regain your painting.

Megan Hinton, "Fan Brush", 2011, ink on paper


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