A few of my 10-year-old brushes were finally showing the effects of use, especially some of the Isabey 6115 Rounds. I had heard nothing but rave reviews about the excellence of Rosemary oil painting brushes since the first ‘Weekend with the Masters’ event in 2009, but up until last month didn’t have a need to purchase any.

My Coast to Coast Plein Air Adventure was just weeks away so I decided it might be a good opportunity to put a few Rosemary brushes to the test, especially since Utrecht chose to discontinue one of my favorite brushes – the 207 series.

The oil painting ‘Transitions’ got a wonderful block-in with the Utrecht 207 brush.

I looked for brushes similar to those I already use and also purchased a range of other brushes I thought might be handy.

Artists’ reviews gave hearty thumbs up to the Ivory brushes, so I bought the Long Flats (all my Rosemary Brushes were the Long handle version) in sizes 0-12. One of my Master Oil Painting students gave praise to the Ultimate series so I purchased some of those as well in the same Long Flats to compare with the Utrecht 209’s.

One of my all-time favorite brushes for tree trunks and foliage is the Utrecht 103 X-Long Filbert Bristle Brush. I can push it forward or drag it around for thin or thick lines to create an amazing variety of strokes, and they can really take a beating. So I thought I would try out some riggers that have the same basic shape.

All the tree trunks and much of the foliage in my oil painting ‘In The Morning Light’ were done with the Utrecht 103.

My mongoose brushes were also suffering (my round size 10 shrank to a sliver – smaller than the tattered size 8) so I added the Masters Choice Series 279 and 272 in sizes from 0-10.

My conclusion:

Rosemary brushes are definitely high quality craftsmanship! You will not be disappointed if they are what’s found in your studio.

Having said that, the Ivory series will not be a repeat purchase. They are a beautiful brush and they hold a lot of paint, but they are a bit too slick for me and they don’t hold up well to my vigorous brushwork. Several started splaying out significantly after the first painting. They were also a bear to clean… took much longer than my other brushes. Holding paint ‘in’ the brush isn’t important to me – manipulating what’s on the outside of the bristles is what I’m concerned with.

So if you like a brush that holds a lot of paint it might be just the brush for you.

You can see the dramatic difference in splaying between the Ivory that had one week of use compared with the 207’s with 8-10 years of use – and the size 10 207 is sharp as a razor (it smooshed out a bit when I put it on its side).

The Rosemary Ultimate Long Flats are a keeper. I bought the size 8 from Wind River Arts for $6.07 – the same size 209 from Utrecht is $5.93. While the Utrecht is a few cents cheaper and an excellent brush, the bristles are also about ¼ inch shorter – that extra length in the bristles adds some nice spring and fluidity to the strokes.

These might just become my go-to brush for most purposes.

None of the rigger brushes match up to the Utrecht 103 X-Long Filbert, so that will remain a staple. I still don’t really need to replace them, at least 10 years old and going strong, but I should probably buy a dozen just in case Utrecht ditches them like they did with the 207 series.

The Rosemary Master Series 279 Long Flats and the 272 Long Rounds are also keepers. I haven’t exactly put them through the ringer yet, but they usually don’t get the same abuse from me that the bristles or blends are subject to.  With mongoose hair in crazy short supply you might want to get some soon. Most companies are working on synthetic replacements – I’ll be sure to try some of them soon to see if any are ‘worthy’ replacements.

There is one Ivory brush that is a bit more promising – the Egbert – fun brush with a funny name. It isn’t as thick as the flats and holds a nice sharp rounded edge that is brilliant for thin lines.

What about you? What are your favorite brushes and what do you use them for?