Friday, April 20

What Is A Squirrel Mop?

My "Squirrel Mop"
One thing I try to do in writing the Orbisplanis art blog is to provide useful, if not interesting, information for artists and painters. I attempt to find answers to art questions and topics that are not clear to me for one reason or another.

Recently I have been trying out different types and sizes of paintbrushes, primarily No. 12s and larger.

In looking in books and online sites, such as art blogs and art supply store websites, I kept running across the term “squirrel mop” to describe what I took from the context to be a rather large brush used for whatever you use a large brush for.

I didn’t think much about it at first, other than that it was a funny name for a paintbrush. But as I explored with larger brushes, it seemed to me that this might be the exact brush I was looking for in order to paint larger and looser and more impressionistically.

I looked at my local art supply store, but even with two aisles completely filled with paintbrushes, I didn’t see any called a squirrel mop or similar. There were lots of synthetics, some goat and horse hair, even sables, but no squirrel.

Was I really looking for a brush made from the hair of a squirrel? Time for a Google search.

When I put in the search term, “What is a squirrel mop brush,” I got 544,000 hits. Fortunately Google lists the most relevant ones first. Primarily there were links to online art supply retailers, such as Jerry’s Artarama, Blick, Cheap Joe’s, and Daniel Smith. Also, there were links to a few brush manufacturers, such as Winsor & Newton and Loew Cornell.

These sites talked about the brushes they had in stock and something about Kazan squirrel hair as being the softest and finest. One site called it a quill mop.

There was also a discussion, somewhat humorous, but mostly positive, about squirrel mop brushes on Wet Canvas.

However I still couldn’t find a real definition, at least not in the first 10 pages of hits. So I decided to look in the seemingly ubiquitous online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Under Watercolor Painting>Brushes>Shapes, it said:

 Mops (natural hair only). A round brush, usually of squirrel hair and, decoratively, with a feather quill ferrule that is wrapped with copper wire; these have very high capacity for their size, especially good for wet in wet or wash painting; when moist they can wick up large quantities of paint.

OK, I guess I was expecting more information about the origin and history and uses of a squirrel mop, but at least I did find out they are made of squirrel hair, at least some of them.

I ended up getting a Creative Mark Harmony Quill No. 12. I’m still learning to use it, but I think once I get the hang of it, it will be perfect for what I’m trying to do.

By the way, it supposedly is made of the hair of a blue squirrel. Who knew?

Keep On Painting

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