Your Favorite Tool: Kolinsky sable spotter brush
Once a month, we ask the current Artist-in-Residence at the de Young to tell us about a tool they use in their work, or that they otherwise find particularly interesting.
Ian Everard first came across the Kolinsky sable spotter brush at L. Cornelissen & Son, an art supply store founded in 1855 and located at 105 Great Russell Street, in London. Behind the shop’s handsome green door, tall black cases are filled with bright pigments, and artists' palettes hang from the high ceilings. The company describes its trade as “artists’ colourmen.”
“It’s an artisanal business,” says Everard, “You feel like you’ve gone back to the time of Dickens.”
This venerable history is important to Everard, and he loves that brushes like these have long been used as instruments for inquiry.
One of Everard’s favorite works is the Great Piece of Turf, painted by Albrecht Dürer in 1503. One of the earliest artists to embrace the medium, Dürer used watercolor to closely examine a group of wild plants in the finest detail.
“This is a very early example of scientific study,” says Everard. “Dürer uses watercolor to ask questions about the natural world. What is a piece of turf? What is a bird’s wing?”
Like Dürer, Everard also uses watercolor as a method of close examination, in his case focusing on other sorts of images—a book jacket or a photograph—and raising questions about their meaning.
More than just a tool for applying paint then, for Everard the Kolinsky sable spotter brush is an instrument that connects him to a long line of those who would examine the world around them, searching out answers in the previously unseen.