Los Angeles artist Mike Hernandez switched from rounds to flats and found that a change in his brush shape meant interesting developments in his paintings.

“I went from a round sable tip to a half-inch flat sable blend watercolor/acrylic brush,” says the artist. “I like the graphic simplicity and textures you can get with it.”

The result is a look that suggests tiles of color. “I’m right in the middle of trying this out so there will be more realization to come, but so far I’m really enjoying the results,” says Hernandez. “I’m also experimenting with color textures by loading the flat brush with more unmixed colors so that I can drag more texture and mix right onto the paper. The flat brush makes this more possible — at least for me. I suppose the rounds can do this too, but I don’t like mixing too much texture with too many paintbrush strokes together. I can have lots of color texture while maintaining simple graphic shapes with the flat brush. It keeps the chaos balanced.”

“Griffith Park,” by Mike Hernandez, 2014, gouache on watercolor block, 6 x 6 in. This piece illustrates how his brush strokes in gouache allow the underpainting to show through “like a tapestry,” according to the artist.

Hernandez has been experimenting with the brush and the technique in gouache, a medium in which he is particularly adept, and one that fits his lifestyle — he often paints on his lunch hour. But he looks forward to trying this with oil paints. “I like the freshness of gouache — that is to say that it works best when applied like a sketch. Every brush stroke is laid down and not overworked … allowing the underpainted wash to show through like a tapestry.”

Terry Stanley, an artist and a brush expert with Jack Richeson & Co., says Hernandez’s approach makes a lot of sense. “A flat brush allows the artist to create strokes with clean edges and corners,” she says. “Laying the colors next to one another as opposed to blended together allows the viewer’s eyes to do the ‘mixing’ and lends visual excitement to artwork.”


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