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Review: Nicholas Simmons Artist Set 1 & 2: Escoda Barroco Watercolour Brushes

This review is written by Marvin Chew.

This review is dedicated to the late Nicholas Simmons who passed away recently.
You may have departed but never really leave, for your innovative masterpieces and contributions in both art and music continue to inspire many of us. R.I.P, Nick.

In this third and final review of Escoda Artist Signature Set, I will be looking at Escoda Barroco brushes, endorsed by Nicholas Simmons. They come in 2 sets - the first consists of 3 round brushes – No. 8, 12 and 20. The second set consists of a No.16 round brush and a No.18 mottler or flat brush. Barroco brushes are made of gold Toray synthetic hairs, which are very similar to the white toray used in Escoda Perla.

The round brushes come in green short handle while the mottler/flat brush has a matt varnished wooden handle. Escoda also make them in different sizes and brush types such as filbert, bright, and fan.

To learn more about Barroco brushes, one needs to look at how Nicholas Simmons paint his masterpieces. He used not only transparent watercolours, but also fluid acrylics in large quantity, painted on very large piece of paper. Due to the use of acrylics, natural hair brushes are not recommended as they get damaged easily. Therefore, he chose Barroco brushes which are made of good quality synthetic hairs. They are soft enough to carry some fluids and provide good spring/tension to allow better control and are stronger than a mop or sable to push the colours around the paper.

I have had these Barroco brushes in my possession for several months but only used them occasionally. My modus operandi of painting watercolour is quite straight-forward: Mop brush for the first wash, sable brushes no.12 and 18 for the next few glazes and Perla no.8 and 12 for details. The few times where I did use Barroco, I find it very similar in feel and characteristics to Perla, perhaps just slightly softer. Both brushes have the same spring and stiffness, and very sharp point which is perfect for painting details.

For this review, I have painted a half-sheet watercolour landscape demo using nothing but these Barroco brushes and filmed the process. You may watch the accompanying Youtube video (please excuse my less than perfect diction and our funny Singaporean-accented English aka Singlish ☺).

Usually I would wet the paper with a large squirrel mop brush such as Escoda Aquario as it carries lots of water. I would also use it to paint the first wash, which is always very wet. When using the Barroco flat brush for this step, I had to keep reloading the brush in the water pot, but because of its size, it can actually cover quite a large area. (1:05)

A large squirrel mop brush such as the Alvaro Castagnet Mop Brush No.10, which I showed on the video, carries so much water that it can be tricky to control. If you want to avoid water and paint flowing and dripping everywhere, then perhaps the large Barroco flat brush may be just the right tool, but more effort is needed to keep reloading the brush. (2:05)

Due to the sharp points, the larger Barroco brush, No.16 or 20 (which I use quite extensively in the demo), can actually be a good enough (but still not ideal) substitute for a sable brush as a general purpose brush. (2:47)

As the synthetic hairs are stiffer, it feels less smooth as compared to a sable brush and needs more effort to drag the brush across the paper, almost like it is “scratching” the paper. But this lack of smoothness is compensated by better control and accuracy. (3:22)

Barroco vs Perla, both are synthetics and made of gold and white Toray fibers respectively. Both felt very similar although Barroco seemed slightly softer than Perla. Do they differ in colours only? I wasn’t really sure. (3:30)

So, I asked Ricard Escoda, co-owner of Escoda Brushes about the difference (or rather similarity) between Barroco and Perla. This is what he has to say:

“Barroco is slightly stiffer than Perla, but sometimes difficult to distinguish. If you feel Barroco is softer, then this is as you said due to the used brush*. Both brushes are from the same fibers, and both brushes have a combination of three different diameters of fibers, so Barroco are a bit thicker. Both will make a very fine point and will hold the same amount of water - not a lot though.”

*Used brushes tend to become stiffer due to micro paint residues accumulated in the fibers.

At one point, I tried to splatter some paints by tapping the brush handle, but nothing much came out, as the stiff synthetic fibers did not carry much paints. I had to reload more paints and tap harder. It will be easier to create splatters with a flexible sable brush. (4:22)

With its sharp point and stiffer hair, Barroco is great for painting details, adding lines and applying dry brush strokes techniques in watercolour. (4:40)

Here’s the completed painting done entirely with Escoda Barroco Nicholas Simmons Signature set.


Although I’m very used to painting details with Perla, I now know that both Barroco and Perla are very similar in characteristics as they are made with the same fibers. Barroco brushes, like most Escoda round brushes, have very sharp point, which is ideal for painting details. For watermedia artists, who paint not only in watercolour but gouache and acrylics (just like Nick), you won’t go wrong with good quality synthetic brushes like Barroco.


Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art Supplies (UK)