How could I not know this? How to hold a paintbrush

When was the first time you held a paintbrush? For me it was April 27, 1975 — give or take a few years. It’s one of those things no one remembers, because it happens so early and is so ubiquitous throughout our childhoods — how many paintings of bright suns and happy trees must exist in the scrapbooks of grandmas all over the world?

I love you, Grandma!

How then did so many of us manage to get through elementary school (not to mention high school and beyond) never learning the proper way to hold a brush? Where were our art teachers? (I’m looking at YOU, Mr. Black.)

On our second day of class, every one of us adult art students choked up on our brush. It was difficult not to — we were attempting to draw with our brushes (more on that in the next post) and placing my hands far away from the tip made my lines wobble like an EKG.

Clearly my lines need some medical attention.

According to Jim, we’re supposed to hold our brushes well back from the ferrule, and gently, so that someone could easily knock them out of our hands. Like this:


…Not like this:

Geez. Idiot.

The movement, according to Jim, is not in the fingers but in the arm. As an example, he told us about a particular famous artist (this anecdote would be a whole lot better if I could remember who the heck it was) who suffered from severe arthritis. Every morning  he’d have his assistants strap his brush …to his arm.


Four weeks into class (just catching up to real time with this blog) I still find this technique pretty awkward, especially when I first sit down. A few minutes into painting, though, it starts to feel more natural, and I do think I’m starting to see an improvement in my lines from week to week.

Hey, at least I don’t have to do it like this:

It’s not in the toes, it’s in the leg…

One thought on “How could I not know this? How to hold a paintbrush

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s