Blue Rider and how to choose your brushes

May 16, 2018


Gabriele Münter, known for her color-rich landscapes, was a founding member of The Blue Rider, a group of Avant-garde artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Franz and Paul Klee. In 1912 Munich, they approached artmaking spiritually with influences from primitive art, music, and Cubism.

The Blue Rider group came to its name through Kandinsky’s belief that blue was the most spiritual color and the rider symbolized an ability to move beyond. His abstract, music-influenced paintings are improvisational compositions like none other.  

Before Franz joined them, he painted academic realism and impressionist work. In The Blue Rider, his focus shifted. Animals in their simplest forms emerged as an extension of the spirit. In one of his most famous pieces, The Large Blue Horses, Franz pulled enormous energy out of a simple primary color palette.


The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1987
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Paul Klee, Temple Gardens

“A line is a dot that went for a walk.” This Paul Klee quote speaks volumes about the playful yet serious Swiss German artist who shared conversation around The Blue Rider table. Klee’s Flower Myth introduced his first use of colorful bird imagery. His storied body of work zigzagged mediums and art movements, including The Blue Rider.   

The first two years of life I was known by the color red and my twin brother blue. Our mom painted one of our toenails to indicate our difference until there was enough of a physical shift to be given names. Red and blue combinations are integral as personal metaphor in my creative work.

~Jason Pearson, Duluth artist.

There’s a bevy of brush styles and bristle materials for fine art painting. Here’s a short list, with tips for use.

•Flats are blunt at the top and king of the brushes for developing forms, filling in area with long strokes, and changing colors in the wink of an eye.

•Filberts are flats that come to a tip. Because they hold a nice load of paint, this brush can move easily from detail to laying down color all in the same stroke.

•Brights are the stubby cousin of flats. The shorter stroke reaches areas inaccessible to long-stroke brushes.

•Rounds can be fat at the top or come to a long slender point. Adept at detail work, the round brush is good with thin paint and nice for rolling in washes.

•Synthetic brushes are made from manmade materials. The stiff bristles work little miracles in pushing oil and acrylic paint and are available in short or long handles.

•Bristle brushes are made from animal hair. They are stiffer than synthetic, which makes them perfect for laying down texture. The natural curve at the tip holds a load of paint and makes setting in large color fields a breeze.

•Sable and other natural hair brushes are heroes for watercolor painters and are soft to the touch. An example would be a Da Vinci Russian Red Sable.

AJ Atwater teaches studio art classes for women of all skill levels.

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