The Isabey Kolinsky
The Isabey Kolinsky is his favorite brush. The number 14 watercolor brush is at once delicate and substantial. Fatter than a pencil and longer too, it sits with a delicious weight in your hand. I know the artist likes this brush best because it is worn, not the bristles, but the handle. Its black paint, once shiny and smooth, is now peeling and any identifying information is long worn away.
He doesn’t need to read the brush’s label to pick it out from the others he keeps lovingly in the bamboo sheath. He reaches for it automatically. His fingers touching all the brushes, dancing over them, caressing the wooden handles softly until they find the Kolinsky 14. He likes that it holds so much water, so much paint. He likes that it holds its point even after so much use, so much abuse.
I have seen him abuse his brushes. He presses too hard and sometimes scrubs the colors onto the thick paper. When he cleans them, he brutally smashes the bristles into the palm of his big artist hands. There with just a dab of Murphy’s oil soap and some vigorous scrubbing, all trace of his latest endeavor is washed away. It may seem like he doesn’t care, but that is the way he shows that he loves the brush. I know that I will never find it cast aside with the colors of the day left to dry in its fine red sable, its soft red sable.
Soft like a cat’s fur, I remember the day we bought it. I felt drawn to it, as I know he was. I ran it across my cheek to feel the smooth and pleasing touch of it. We admired the length of it, almost eleven inches of brush to hold. We admired its symmetry and design. A circle of sable extends fat and pleasing from the shiny silver ferrule. Not too long, perhaps a little more than an inch, the sable tapers to a lovely point when wet, a point for details like eyes and lashes, or the fabric of a shirt or the pattern of a doily. The artist tells me that the Kolinsky 14 gives him the freedom he needs to express himself.
With a flair that seems careless he dabs the brush into the colors on the pallet, always mixing and mashing his colors, he places them on the paper with confidence and daring. The Kolinsky takes them, those colors, from the fattest boldest strokes of a background to the tiny glimmer in his model’s eye. Today the artist is away, and the Kolinsky sits, one among many brushes, some not so loved. When I move them, the wooden handles click together musically like the wind chimes that hang outside our kitchen window. They click and clatter and speak to me about masterpieces yet to be born. They speak to me about color and light and mood and most of all they tell me about the artist that loves them.