Discover professional artist Max Hale's first impressions of Jackson's own-brand oil and acrylic brushes, as he puts them to the test.
It’s quite clear that Jackson’s are taking brushes seriously. Theirs are made specifically for the company and my guess is that they have targeted painters that understand what they want from an oil or acrylic brush. The matt or satin long black handles feel high quality too; one variety, the Shiro hog bristle, is a pale neutral grey to light green, which makes it easy to distinguish in a set.
The five types I tried are:
These have glossy red synthetic hair, very springy and perfect for acrylic paint; they easily give smooth results or a definitive mark, depending on how you use them. I found this brush to be ideal with regular or heavy-body acrylic paint and I tried filberts and a short flat, almost a bright. If you paint in acrylic these superbly made brushes could be a major addition to your armoury.
These white-haired synthetic brushes paint like a cross between a synthetic and a natural bristle. They hold their shape better, but carry less paint than, natural hair, but are super springy. In the early stages of the painting, when building value structure, whether shoving, pushing or scuffing paint, this brush withstands harsh treatment and bounces back. I think this could be my all-round brush whether I’m painting in oil or acrylic. The chisel-edged flat gave me specific marks where I wanted them, even after heavy use and rigorous cleaning over the weeks of trial.
For use with either oil or acrylic paint, these acrylic fibre brushes are moderately springy and quite different to the previous styles. I can see them gaining popularity. I used mine more for dragging and pulling paint as the bristles are softer. It will be useful for blending and making gentle marks, perhaps on female portraits or where glazing is required. This brush, I felt, was verging on the soft side for my vigorous style of painting – I like the mark to be obvious and painterly. I can see me keeping one or two in my brush roll, however, for particular mark making.
This product report is taken from the June 2016 issue of The Artist. With our Studio membership, you gain access to our digital magazine archive containing over 6 years' worth of The Artist and Leisure Painter, plus much more! Discover how you can become a member.
Although natural bristle, these do not receive the typical harsh treatment in manufacture. The filaments aren’t boiled to straighten the hairs, nor are they bleached to unify the colour, all of which helps to extend the life of the hairs and, therefore, they retain their shape for longer. I was delighted with their stability and the way they refused to splay out, even after some rough treatment. Hog brushes vary so much in quality, especially in how they respond to holding and applying paint. I’ve had many hogs that, even after three nominal uses, have lost the ability to keep their shape and deliver the paint in the way I wanted.
Feeling almost like a hybrid, the smaller sizes behave like a synthetic but when you get to the size 10 they are chunky and substantial, carrying and delivering a greater amount of pigment. Of all the brushes I tried for this review these were the most surprising. I expected a raw and stiff filament but they are quite the opposite – seductive and superb. I couldn’t get used to the colour of the filaments being two-tone: grey at the ferrule and then almost black at the business end. It took me the length of the trial period to get to understand the mark they made and the way they kept coming back. I loved their resilience and their stiff but paradoxically delicate feel. They’re a winner with me.
I was blown away with this stable of brushes. If I could make any criticism at all it would be that I’d like to have had one more series in a raw natural hair to throw around. But I think all these are superb and will suit almost every style and painter. I used them with the Jackson’s Aqua Oils, a water-mixable paint and a selection of acrylics, both heavy body and regular types, to find how differently they behaved.
Whilst brushes are designed on the whole to be medium specific, I know from experience that the choice of brush is driven by the mark you want, almost regardless of design.
Pigment holding and shape are all characteristics of choice but nothing is as valuable as getting paint on a canvas and leaving the mark required with the minimum of effort, time after time in a reliable manner.
Each series is a small masterpiece of brush design, filament choice and production. Each felt balanced and good in the hand and gave me confidence. Importantly, the movement from smaller to larger sizes was proportionately matched in the handle sizing and at no time did I feel short-changed or uncomfortable whilst I painted.
I would suggest you give these brushes a try if you paint in oil or acrylic. In my opinion Jackson’s has come of age with these brushes. I’m sure I will use more than one as a regular in my selection, as not only are they beautifully made and deliver reliably but they are competitively priced, too.
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Max Hale obtained a degree in fine art from Harrow School of Art, where he studied under Ken Howard OBE, RA. After working as an illustrator he became a professional artist and now teaches workshops and painting holidays, and offers personal mentoring. For full details, visit Max's website.