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The Importance of Good Brushes By James Sulkowski

James Sulkowski is an established Classical Realism artist. 

James graduated from The Arts Student League of New York and has had an impressive career since; From publishing his first full-length book; Mastering Oil Painting in 2013, to hosting 11 seasons on the instructional show Let’s Paint on public access television.
James’ timeless works have been displayed all over the world – notably in the White House and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. We’re delighted he wanted to write something for us on the importance of good brushes and what that means to him. He is a long time user of Rosemary Brushes and we’re so happy to share his incredible work with you.

rosemary &co brushes

The Importance of Good Brushes

By James Sulkowski

I’ve taught oil painting workshops throughout my career as an artist and I always tell my students that ‘you’re only as good as your brushes.’ 

What I mean is that without the proper tools (brushes) an artist’s ability to express themself is compromised.

Artists need a brush that holds the paint, covers the canvas well and doesn’t shed its bristles. Rosemary and Company brushes fill all these needs because of their fine quality of construction and materials.

I recommend white, hogs hair bristle brushes of all sizes from rounds to filberts. I use mostly filberts but I also like the selection of flats and angular brushes that Rosemary offers. 

When I paint, I stay with the bristle brushes because of the control of the brushstroke that I can get. Students too often use soft brushes in building a painting. These are good for the finish when it comes to thin color glazes. The round sable brushes are what I call ‘ the drawing brush.’ Save these brushes for the final touches or details of the painting. I have a selection of Rosemary sables from 0 to 6. 

So the bristle brushes are for building the painting; its forms, background, textures and so forth while the sables are used for finishing when it comes to a leaf, an eye, a tree branch, a flower petal or stem etc.

As far as my technique is concerned, I subscribe to the Classical approach where the darks are kept transparent and the lights are built up opaquely and even with impastos and later glazed. This creates a depth and luminosity that I feel is unequaled. 

portrait of Father Freddy

The brush I’m using on the landscape painting is an Ivory Rigger that is perfect for the sharp detail I want for my tree branches.

Detail of Forest with riggeur brush Forest and Stream still life with hand holding brush

The brush I’m using in the still life is an Ivory Pointed Round that really holds the paint as I build a thick impasto stroke.

Still Life with Bowl Detail of Still Life with bristle brush

The brush shown in the floral painting is a Kolinsky sable which is great for my crisp finishing details of stems, petals, buds and leaves.

Detail of Peonies with sable brush Peonies in a Basket


I welcome you to visit James’ website to see more about his art: https://www.jamessulkowskifineart.com/ 

And also to: www.patreon.com/sulkowskifineart . You can also subscribe to James’ youtube channel where you’ll see numerous free art lessons: www.youtube.com/@jamessulkowski9802

Gouache; A Brief History and The Suitability of Rosemary & Co’s ‘Shiraz’ Brushes

Gouache paint has been around for centuries however not many casual artists have experience with them like they have with the more popular mediums of acrylic, watercolour or oil. I spoke to Murray Ince, an artist and tutor based on the Isle of Wight about Gouache and what best practices he implements. This is what he had to say;

“Gouache is a lovely medium to work with and has a surprisingly long history. It is very similar in use to Egg Tempera and Casein. Egg tempera’s pigments are bound with egg as you may have guessed and Casein is precipitated from milk. The binder is made by dissolving the resulting ‘Casein’ in an alkaline, usually lime, ammonium carbonate or borax, which is then added to the pigments. There are very subtle differences in these three media, but probably the most important is that over time both casein and egg tempera become waterproof. Gouache is not waterproof when dry so needs to be mounted and framed under glass as you would a watercolour.

The advantage of Gouache not being waterproof is that it can be re-wetted or dampened to re-activate the surface allowing for some subtle blending. The binder used in Gouache is Gum Arabic the same as in watercolour. The major differences between Gouache and watercolour are that the particles of pigment in gouache are larger and there is significantly more pigment in gouache. An ‘extender’ is used in some gouache colours, usually precipitated chalk which all works to make gouache much more opaque than its transparent counterpart.

‘View Towards Seaview from Puckpool, Isle of Wight’

‘View Towards Seaview from Puckpool, Isle of Wight’

Gouache Characteristics

Gouache dries to a lovely, matt, velvet like surface and as it is an opaque medium reproduces extremely well. Watercolour being transparent is notoriously difficult to reproduce well as some of the subtleties can be lost in the reproduction process, light passes through the pigment of pale washes bouncing back from the papers surface whereas gouache being more heavily pigmented, opaque and matt absorbs the majority of the light giving more accurate reproductions. For a long time, gouache has been the favoured medium by designers, animators and illustrators and has become known as Designer’s gouache.

The surface of a gouache painting makes it suitable for certain mixed media techniques, I have used it to great effect with coloured pencil and artist’s soft pastel allowing for some great effects.

The opaqueness of gouache allows for the application of light colours over dark colour, making it much more forgiving than watercolour.

‘Loch Leven’ on Rough 140lb watercolour paper created for an article in ‘Leisure Painter’

‘Loch Leven’ on Rough 140lb watercolour paper


The properties of gouache make it possible to paint on a great many supports and grounds including all types of watercolour paper. Of course you can use any paper below 140lb in weight if it is first stretched as you would watercolour paper. As gouache is so opaque you are able to paint straight onto any dark colour including black, any colour mount board is a good support! You can also paint on stretched canvases and canvas boards. If using on a stretched canvas don’t use it too thickly as the dried surface of gouache is not overly flexible and could be prone to cracking if on a very flexible surface.


I am best known for my work in Water-Mixable Oil paints and am the founder of the ‘Society of Painters in Water-Mixable Oils’ for which I use the Rosemary & Co ‘Ivory’, ‘Red Dot’ and various brushes from their special ranges. I also do an ever-increasing amount of work using gouache and for many years just used basic lower price bracket brushes for painting with gouache due to its make-up, gouache is grittier and heavier than watercolour and even though I have generally been happy with my results I have always had my eye open for the perfect brush to use with them, queue Rosemary & Co!

Thumbing through the lovely catalogue (available for free here) and speaking to Joe at R & Co. I decided to buy some of the ‘Shiraz’ range of brushes and boy, am I glad I did! They are totally suitable for my style of gouache painting and are available in a great range of shapes and sizes. They have a lovely ’snap’ and hold their beautiful shapes well. They are that bit stiffer than watercolour brushes but not as stiff as hog bristle brushes making them perfect for my style and techniques.

I will be adding many more ‘Shiraz’ brushes to my growing collection of Rosemary & Co brushes, they have certainly helped me improve and develop my techniques in all mediums.”

by Murray William Cole Ince

‘Poppies’ on black cartridge paper 11” x 8”

‘Poppies’ on black cartridge paper 11” x 8”

Murray has mentioned the key brushes he has used for his recent gouache endeavours:

The pointed rounds hold their points beautifully and are a lovely shape, the filberts, Daggers and flats hold a knife sharp edge which is really useful and give me the full armoury of various mark making. I will be buying the full range in the very near future!

A big Thank You to Murray for all your information, I hope and i’m sure our readers can learn something new!

Everyone has their own individual preferences and favourite brushes. We are thrilled Shiraz work really well for Murray, but many of our brushes could also work for other artists, from beginner to advanced. Check out some of our brush sets that will be well equipped for gouache by clicking here

I welcome you to visit Murray’s website to see more about his art! www.murrayince.com

SERIES 40 Triangular Brush – The PYRAMID Brush – NEW SIZES Introduced

By popular request we have added two extra sizes to our Series 40.

Earlier this year we launched sizes 8 and 10 as additionals to the original size 12. We will release more larger sizes later in the year.

Here’s what some of our customers say about the Series 40:

“I love the marks this brush makes. It loads up the pigment and then releases it onto the paper in a beautiful stroke.” – Luce Z

series 40 2


“I ordered this triangular brush about a year ago and it’s so fun to use, you could paint a whole picture with it or just use it for special effects/strokes. I use it for watercolour paint only. It has a nice fat body to the bristles so it holds tons of paint but it also comes to the finest tip for details so again, very versatile. The fat/round wood handle is tapered so it’s comfortable to hold.” – Emily U

“I bought this brush last month and it is just wonderful to use…as ALL the Rosemary brushes are!! I LOVE every single brush I have purchased from this wonderful company and the pyramid brush is especially great for painting trees. The paint flows so nicely, it creates nice tree effects. You can get some interesting branch and twig effects with the brush, which comes in handy to get each tree to look individual. I would highly recommend this brush and any of Rosemary’s other brushes to the watercolorist.” – Janet B

Search Series 40 on our website for more info.





We’ve introduced a new Squirrel Blend to our ranges this Summer. The Series 38 Pointed Oval Wash is a blend of Squirrel hair and Synthetic fibres, giving what we believe to be the best of both worlds.

For many, Squirrel hair is the dream watercolour brush for it’s water carrying capacity. However, some say that although it holds an immense amount of pigment, it is a difficult hair to control with it having little to no ‘snap’. It seems a shame to only use your Squirrel brushes for washes and backgrounds if you consider them unmanageable. That is where our new Squirrel Blend comes in handy! The Synthetic fibre that runs through this brush will allow for more control, more snap and also lower the price of a Pure Squirrel Brush. You’ll still have the Squirrel water retention in there, and of course, it’ll be somewhat softer than a 100% Synthetic Brush.

Our new Squirrel Blend works well in watercolour, for silk painting, pin striping, lettering, calligraphy and more. We have introduced the Oval Wash as the first shape, in sizes 1/2˝, 3/4˝ and 1˝ with more shapes to be introduced this year.

For cleaning, you can rinse them in water and lay them on their side to dry. They may go fluffy when they dry completely, but once you get them in water again they will be good to go!

Search Series 38 on our website for more info.


INTRODUCING the TISCH Bristle DAGGERS – By Rosemary Thompson

For almost two years Rosemary and Andrew Tischler have been working on creating a new range, The “Tisch”. Here’s the story.

I’d been looking at Andrew’s work on YouTube for some time and noticed he had been mentioning our brushes, in particular our Series 25, 1˝ Angular. Though Andrew liked it, he wanted something he could love because it didn’t quite do what he wanted it to do due to his unique brush strokes.


So, Andrew got in touch and said that he wanted to make certain brush marks, and wanted the range to be available to his followers in all different sizes. Firstly, Andrew drew me pictures of the angles of the brushes he wanted me to create.

I took those pictures and made a set from them. I explained to Andrew we probably wouldn’t get it right first time, but I needed to know what was wrong with them to get it spot on. Again, Andrew trialled the set, told me we were 90% there but he still needed more of a curve on them. When you see how Andrew works, you’ll understand why that curve is essential.


I made another set, sent them to New Zealand and Andrew said “Rosemary, I love the brushes, you absolutely nailed it. I am ready to go! I love them! I look forward to adding them to the kit, these will be my go-to’s.”

Once we launched the Tisch Daggers I thought it would be best to ask Andrew to tell you what he loved about this new range, “I paint a wide variety of subjects that require different technical approaches therefore, I need a wide range of brushes that will allow me to create an engaging
sense of reality across many genres.

Rosemary and Co make the best brushes out there. I choose these brushes for their reliability and absolute quality. I highly recommend these sets, which contain some of my favourite brushes made by Rosemary and Co! These sets will give you the range and versatility you need to master many subjects from portraiture and still life to landscape!” – Andrew Tischler


From there we expanded all the sizes and made from ⅛˝ right the way through to a 1˝ available on the long handle only. As a brush maker, it’s really so lovely to think we can actually design something different that works for that artist, who a lot of artists around the world are following. This range will help Andrew and his followers make brush marks easier and in a small way, I feel to have contributed.

Images courtesy of Andrew Tischler.
To see more of Andrew’s work visit his website:

To see Andrew’s Deluxe Set, Introductory Set and the Tisch Daggers please visit online



The Extended Point – Posara Brush

Having listened to renowned watercolourist, Sandra Strohschein, we have created a beautiful extended point brush. Acting as a rigger, but with a reservoir ‘belly’, the Posara Brush will soon become a favourite.

It was such a joy this year to introduce a new brush into my set. Developed specifically by Rosemary at my request, I now have a new rigger that by design holds a great deal of water and pigment at the base, which allows me to carry a line forever. I expected a great rigger from this, but did not expect that this size 8 rigger had the capability of painting entire paintings all on its own.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

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Oil Brushes; A Brush Makers Top Tips

We get asked all of the time for the ‘magic’ brush. Sadly, there is no such thing, though there are certainly plenty of options available. And although it’s difficult to recommend a brush to someone without knowing specifically what they are painting, here are some helpful guidelines I want to share.

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Smooshing, Smudging, Tinting

I’ve designed this new range to be an inexpensive blending brush. The Smooshing Brush is made from a blend of different grades of badger hair.

I’ve packed the hairs into the ferrule really tightly to create a dense brush, which will be firm to the touch, but still flexible. The beauty of the domed shape allows for a multitude of brush strokes.

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