Cartoonist Matthew Bernier sends is a testimonial on where to get the best brushes:
The best brushes in the world are made by a nice lady in England
Every person who has ever used a brush to do very precise ink drawing has wanted to magically imbue the brush with the ability to feel real human pain, so that they could take out their frustration on it by snapping it in half. For those of us who have fallen in love with the kind of performance and quality of line only costly kolinsky brushes can provide, life is nothing but expense and inconvenience. We try cheaper brushes, but they lack the sharp point and snap to make those beautiful lines we’re so addicted to. The outrageous expense of the kolinsky brushes isn’t their only problem, but it’s the biggest, and there seems no way around it.
At list price, even a small #2 size brush will run you over 20 dollars. A #4 will cost you nearly double that. There are discount sites where you could purchase the same brushes online, for half the price. But anyone who’s done that knows it isn’t that easy. Buying brushes without testing them first is like unprotected sex with a pool of mostly high-risk partners- you WILL get a bad one, and you WILL regret it. Winsor and Newton and Raphael are generally agreed to make the best kolinsky brushes commercially available. This is almost true- they make the best brushes in the world- EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. The rest of them are worse to use than a cheaper, less springy, less pointy brush. At least a cheap nylon brush won’t splay. We’ve all had the experience of going around a very precise, delicate curve, and as we’re coming around the bend, and the brush is bent with tension, a stray hair sticks out it’s hand and draws another spidery line right next to our line. Or worse, the splayed hair acts like the second point of a pen nib, and suddenly the brush starts drawing a thick, wet line twice as wide as we wanted. It’s confidence destroying. And about nine out of ten expensive kolinsky brushes does this. So you can’t order them- you need to go to a store, where you must pay the full price, and try the brushes out. Often, they are out of good ones, so you must return, perhaps four or five times, until you find a good one. It’s so expensive and time consuming that I’ve seen it drive artists to use markers out of sheer frustration.
Well, there’s a nice lady from England named Rosemary who’s come to save us all. For the last 25 years, she’s made brushes by hand and sold them by mail order, directly from her house, to artists. She makes all kinds of brushes, for oil paint, acrylic, watercolor- and she makes Kolinsky brushes with such beautiful razor points you’ll be scared to cut yourself on them. And she sells them for way less money. How much less? I bought four #2 size brushes and one #4 from her, and with shipping from England included, it came to $36.37- less than the list price of a single #3 brush. Every one of them has a perfect point. And if she sent me one that didn’t, she would gladly replace it, or refund my money in full. Even though it cost me an extra couple bucks, I called her in England to Order, because I wanted to actually speak with her. She picked up her home phone after 2 rings, greeting me with a bright, almost musical English accent. She took my information and my order, and she’d processed it less than ten minutes after I got off the phone with her.
Her website is www.rosemaryandco.com. Everyone who inks with a brush should give this woman their business. Her website has a downloadable online catalogue with 4 styles of kolinsky brush suitable for inking with. And she’ll even make you a custom brush if you like. For instance, she can make you a brush with a triangular handle, if you have arthritis. (the price goes up on custom jobs, of course.)
I don’t think there are a lot of people left who still make brushes by hand this well, let alone who sell them directly to you for 1/4th the cost. Take advantage of this lady’s amazing talent while you can.