This review is written by Marvin Chew.
Escoda is a reputable brush-making company based in Barcelona, Spain, since 1933. In recent years, Escoda has made a series of artists’ signature collection sets endorsed by well-known master artists.
In this review, I will be looking at Joseph Zbukvic Artist Set 1, which consists of three Escoda Perla brushes - https://www.escoda.com/artist/joseph_zbukvic
Joseph Zbukvic is one of the leading master watercolourists of our times based in Melbourne, Australia. An amazingly skilled artist, winner of numerous awards and a very sought-after workshop instructor whose classes were often fully booked, Joseph is very particular of the types of brushes he uses to create his masterpieces. He is well known for his lyrical and atmospheric works with beautiful fine details. For the latter, he has always used Escoda Perla brushes.
“I have used them forever,” said Zbukvic when I asked him about Escoda Perla. That really showed how highly he rated this brush.
In this set, there are 3 round brushes, size no. 8, 10 and 12. No.8 and No.12 come in the standard short handle design, while No.10 is a collapsible travel brush with a metal cap. Escoda also makes them in different sizes from 5/0 to 22, and in different brush types apart from round, such as filbert, bright, and fan in both short and long handles.
Escoda Perla No.8, 10 and 12
Escoda Perla brushes are made of White Toray synthetic hairs, which are softer than nylon and taklon, the two most common fibers for making synthetic brushes. They hold more paints, but still possess the characteristic of a synthetic brush, feel stiffer than brushes made of animal hairs and spring back to the original shape after every stroke. Due to this, and the very sharp point Escoda made them, they are perfect for painting details. It feels as if you’re actually drawing with it.
As a watercolourist who paints mainly landscapes and street scenes, I have been following Joseph Zbukvic’s works for some time and eventually followed his recommendation. Almost all the details in my watercolour paintings are now painted with a Perla, usually No.8 or No.12, depending on the paper size I’m working on.
That leaves No.10, as an all-purpose brush, ideal for sketching and that’s why it is made into a travel brush. In fact, when Escoda was selling this set with all three brushes as short handles a few years ago, I shortened the handle of my No.10 and used a cut drinking straw as a cap and extender so that it could fit into my fountain pen pouch.
However, Escoda Perla brushes are not recommended for painting large areas. Some beginners made the mistake of using Perla as substitute for sable brush, and then complained that they could not do a nice even wash with it. That is because Perla is not designed for this purpose. White Toray, although softer than conventional synthetic hairs, still do not hold enough paint to make a large wash, especially the smaller Perla No.8. As mentioned earlier, Perla is more suited for painting details, calligraphic strokes, dry brush techniques, usually the finishing touches, those last bits of jewels to complete the masterpiece.
Below are some random objects and brush stroke test, which I have painted with the three Perla brushes, mostly with No.8 and No.12. An observation worth mentioning for No.10 is the less than ideal weight distribution of the travel brush with the metal cap posted at the end. It made the brush top heavy and not as natural to hold and paint comfortably, especially so for artists who are used to the weight of traditional short handle watercolour brushes.
Below are some close-up shots of some of my works, all painted with Escoda Perla brushes. Take note of some highlights or suggestive details, which are painted straight out of the tube without adding water. Only synthetic brushes with stiffer hairs can push such heavy pigments around the paper, and Escoda Perla is the perfect brush to do this.
People and figures
My favourite use of Perla, however, is to paint trees and foliage with it. The sharp point and the stiffness of the hairs created the perfect tension to execute some calligraphy strokes that mimic the shapes of leaves and branches.
When painting details, Escoda Perla offers a good balance in holding enough paints and providing the stiffness and tension required for accuracy. I would strongly recommend this set of brushes to any watercolourists.