I was in the market for some oil paint brushes, as forever, have been using my old acrylic paint brushes to paint with or my high quality Kolinsky sable watercolor brushes (yikes).
The requirements is that the brushes had to be specifically designed for oil paints, artist’s grade and made in the United States. Not to much to ask, I thought… but after months of searching, I finally found Trekell brushes. You can only buy Trekell brushes at their website, but that saves you money from omitting the middleman.
Trekell ships next business day via first class mail, expect a long wait if you are back East. I live one state over, and it took a week, while that is not terrible, just something to plan for. The shipping cost is very reasonable. I ordered seven brushes, and the shipping was $3.78. They calculate shipping costs by the destination.
Upon opening, it comes stiff with the standard glue that keeps the bristles intact until the artist touches it—you kind of just fling it off like a powder, and the brushes become very soft. While they are soft, the bristles have a little bit of resistance to them. It acts and feels closer to a Kolinsky sable than a squirrel, if that makes sense to you. But as a matter of fact, they feel almost identical to the Winsor & Newton University brushes. I sincerely hope they perform better.
There distinct is a chemical odor on the handle of the Trekell brushes. I cannot figure what the smell is, and I’ve smelled it before, but it isn’t pleasant. Not a show stopper, just something to note.
The handles are not overly lightweight, but it isn’t luxuriously heavy either, but are comfortable. The bristles looks synthetic, which they are, but if you close your eyes, it really doesn’t feel like it, you can easily fool yourself into thinking they are some kind of fur.
If you are fussy, there are a little imperfections such as some of the ferrules being a little rough around the edges, but seriously, that is part of the charm of being handmade. For example, people all over the world publicly flog my USA Gibson SG guitar for being rough around the edges. Again, that is the charm of handmade instruments be it guitars or paint brushes. Roughly and imperfectly made does not mean poorly made, please understand that.
These brushes are high quality handmade brushes.
To me, brushes are the extension of your arm, turns into a kind of magic wand that will do whatever you wish. Bibbity-bobbity-boo.
Trekell gives you a cool sticker… I love stickers, and my one rule is for stickers, is they have to be given to me, I cannot purchase a sticker. It has been kinda a very long time hobby. I have a sticker board that is actually my first drawing board I took to college with me more than 20 years ago and still use it regularly. The stickers also serves as a diary… as a matter of fact, I need an Iron Maiden sticker in honor of seeing them recently… anybody? 😀
A Trekell brush size 6 brush is about 1/2 inch wide at the ferrule an a size 4 is about 1/4 inch. I hope that helps you purchase properly.
The size 2 round, however appears more like a size 000, at least compared to my other brushes like Winsor & Newton Series 7 number 2 (the cream of the crop of brushes, bow down peasants, these were made for the Queen of England—and yet essential for comic inkers and cartoonists 🤪). That brush (the small one shown) is more than a decade old, moth eaten, and seen a zillion paintings, so it isn’t as pretty or as thick as it used to be, but still works like a charm. It’s more like a size 1.5 now, hahah.
Sizing the brushes never made a lick of sense, even within one company’s sizing system. For example, the two brushes above are made from Winsor & Newton. One is a size 2 and the other is a size 6, they are both synthetic.
I am going to test these brushes out with fabulous idea that several people are doing—oil painting in a sketchbook. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to experiment with oil paint, but only had expensive canvases to work with. This will free my worries altogether. All you need to do is gesso the pages, and let them dry over night before painting in oils. Fabulous!
I used Liquitex Gesso. They had changed their formula over the past two decades, and quiet frankly, it stinks to unholy hell of chemicals and ammonia. However, I am limited to what a small city can provide. Open all of the windows.
You can use any standard journal really, such as Moleskine journals, or the traditional sketchbook journals. Some sketchbooks are more inspirational than others. Right now, I am surface gesso preparing three differently sized journals, so that I can do at least one oil painting study per day, and let the others dry for one or two days. It works in theory. Bonus is that you can use them as a portfolio, as well.
The best sketchbook I have ever had hands down for artwork is the Strathmore Mixed Media 500 series Journal. It is not generous with only 64 pages (32 sheets), but the paper is seriously top notch.
I tried the strokes out on brush up paper or brush stroke practice paper, which is used to practice brush strokes, as well as used for Zen Boards. It is basically a strange paper that allows you to practice the brush strokes, and as it dries, it disappears, allowing you to use it over and over again. I placed mine on a canvas, so it will stay put.
At this point, when it is wet, it acts more like a squirrel, as it retains its shape, of whatever shape you formed it to. Weird putty brush. Sharp points, flat flats, nice juicy broad strokes, but remember to reshape the brush after each use!
To be honest, after 15 minutes in my sketchbook with these brushes, it was hard. The brushes hardly picked up any pigment at all, it was stressful even to get this done. The brushes hold a fine point, and the filberts blend beautifully.
Now, with alkyd oil colors from Gamblin, for some reason, these brushes work like a charm. Seriously, beautiful application. Recommended.
I will also say that these brushes are a dream come true when it comes to cleaning them. The oil comes right off with The Master’s Soap and Brush Restorer.
I’m going to keep working with them, perhaps it’s on my end, I only purchased one tiny round, which I usually have three different rounds as the workhorses, so I might order more just to see. I love, love, love the filberts. The fact that all of the brushes hold their lovely shapes, and cleans easily, is worth the purchase.
Update: I had ordered some more brushes, to fill out the whole of the set. Unfortunately, however they figure their sizing chart is, it is terrible. Sizes 2, 4 and 6 in rounds have virtually no difference between them. And the mop, which is not shown is a tiny little brush that made the the normal filbert look large. So I am returning all of the brushes, since I hadn’t painted since then.
I have to say, however, their customer service is super friendly. So I am thinking of ordering the hog bristles instead. However, I have to take into account that I have to pay for shipping on returns.