This Week: Escoda Brushes
So, many of you will remember the post where I retracted my endorsement of Rosemary's brushes, after several readers who had purchased from her reported a precipitous drop in quality to the point of being unusable. You're better off buying the cheapest nylon brush rather than a bad sable brush, and with Japan making those insanely resilient and sharp pocket brush pens, a sable brush had better be good for the money you pay.

In that same post I actually did review an Escoda brush, which I'd totally forgotten about. I got it on my trip to SCAD Atlanta, liked it okay, and suggested it for people as a possible alternative if Raphael brushes weren't available. I haven't drawn with brushes for awhile, so I totally forgot about it.

My current workplace sells Escoda brushes, and they're specifically mentioned in our training video on brushes. The owner, Larry, who travels all over the world to meet his suppliers and see their factories, talked in the video about what makes a brush good and why some good brush companies have lost their way *cough Windsor and newton cough*. Basically, what it comes down to is time spent in a single location. Brush making takes years, even decades to learn, and making the kolinsky sable brushes is the hardest, requiring workers who've been brush makers for 20 years or more. If a brush company moves it's facilities, (W&N), and the brush makers don't or can't follow, their experience is lost, and therefore the quality. You do still see, every so often, a decent W&N brush, but the rarity of them leads me to conjecture it may be as little as one person making those elusive few. I imagine an old man, surrounded by fumbling whipper-snappers, weeping to himself as he places each of his perfect brushes on a conveyor belt alongside their splaying messes of expensive hair.

Larry chose Escoda because their factory has been in the same place since 1949, 18 years longer than Raphael, which seems to make some of the consistently better sable brushes these days. I tested 3 of the brushes in our store to decide what size I wanted to buy to test for Comic Tools, and all of them came to a sharp, single hair point. THAT was encouraging- I wanted this company to be consistent, not just good, if I was to recommend them to my readers. I selected a size 4 to test.
I love it. It's better than Rosemary's best brushes ever were. It has great snap, which I prefer to the well-formed, but to my hand mushy-feeling Raphael brushes. (I don't want to seem like I don't like Raphael brushes, By the way. Habibi was drawn with one for chrissake. I just don't prefer the feel of them.) I compared it to my trusty W&N #3 brush, and in doing so a sense memory came back to me. It doesn't feel like my W&N brush does now (which I still prefer), but it does feel like what my W&N felt like new. I could feel the Escoda pushing my hand into making the sorts of movements that led to my inking style when I drew my first book with my then brand-new W&N. How's the tip? That's a hair from my head next to those lines: Can it do drybrushing well? Yup:
Wispy lines? Uh huh:
Fiddly things like eyes and faces? Yes, and well: I look forward to using this brush and seeing how it ages. Now, there's another lovely characteristic to Escoda brushes, probably having to do with being made in Spain as opposed to Britain or France: They're relatively inexpensive. My W&N #3 cost me around $30 new. My Escoda #4? $16.40. No, really, go see. If you buy some from Artist and Craftsman, put a note in your order that Comic Tools Blog sent you, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt my standing with the company. I should tell you, however, that Blick has a better price. Buying from your local art store, if possible, is always best, especially since you can test the brushes, but if not, I feel obliged to ask that you consider Artist and Craftsman, a Maine-based and very fine art supply company, for your Kolinsky needs.

On another topic, it seems Amalgamated Biscuit has started something. Now Comic Tools reader Kat has made this adorable Totoro ink well as a more stable platform to resist upset by cat:

You can see more photos in her post about it. This is the inkwell I've been using, given to me by a friend:

(Remember, never dip your brush more than halfway if you can help it, and rinse it immediately if you do.)

See you next week!