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WHY WOULD MATISSE PICK UP A VERY LONG PAINTBRUSH?

It was really hard to find answers to this question. There is not much written about Matisse painting with a 2 metre long brush handle. There is speculation that this poor health confined  him to the bed or wheelchair and it was the only way he could continue his painting. But I don’t think it was. There are photos of Matisse painting with a long 

Matisse painting with a long brushhandled brush standing up when he was still able bodied. Perhaps painting with a long brush offers artists more than just an extension of their arm. Although we can’t probe Matisse for answers on why he used such a ridiculously long brush we do have an artist today  who uses a long paintbrush, artist Bob Booth. Bob has been surprised by what the long paintbrush has offered his painting. It led his painting into a new dimension, it has opened doors to endless possibilities.


How do you come up with the idea of using a long brush?
Here is a quick run-down of how Bob decided to try the long brush, he was discussing a painting with his son Simon, “we were talking about Constable’s paintings… a particular oil sketch of a storm scene on a beach and seeing how dynamic the brush strokes were, how beautifully the thing and naturally it all held together. So we were saying, how do you produce that effect on a large canvas? And Simon said “With a long handle”.


What would you use for a long brush handle?
Although Bob found this technique very difficult at first, he persisted, experimented with broom handles until he found the perfect extension for his paint brush, bamboo. It was hollow, light and a paintbrush could slot inside it. As Bob got the hang of the long brush his control over it got better, to counter this he made his brushes longer and longer. The longest was 2.2 metres, any longer would have been taking the idea to the extreme.

So what has the long paintbrush done for Bob’s paintings?
The long brush brings his paintings to life with dynamic loose brushstrokes throwing the canvas into an array of emotion and cohesion. The distance Bob gets from his canvas frees him from being locked into small parts of his artwork. There is a sense of detachment and he sees his painting as a whole. Creativity takes over, the long brush gives way to accidents and does away with precise brushstrokes. It is a wonderfully loose style. I wonder if Matisse felt the same way.


The advantages of using a long brush

  • detachment from your work
  • lack of control
  • see the canvas as a whole
  • brushstrokes become more dynamic

 Consistency

It’s important to be consistent with this technique. The artist must be disciplined and keep allowing mistakes, as soon as they take control the painting is lost.