Nestled in the snow mountains high above the clouds lies the paradise of Shambhala (Sanskrit शम्भल Śambhalaḥ, Tibetan བདེ་འབྱུང), the mythic kingdom whence the Future Buddha will emerge to bring the earth again to light, to illuminate the world. The Shangri-la of all brushes is the one that creates the purest form, the perfect circle or immortal spiral. This enigmatic, Zen-like technique is achieved through years of devotion and practice.
Shy and recondite at first, this brush needs a little coaxing to come out of its shell, but once it gets going, it’s happy to be yours. It’s an individual that must come to be known, just as it will get to know you in return. Each brush has its own unique personality, which can be trained: some want to draw lines; others - smooth curves.
We’ve gone halfway there for you with this brush. We tested each of these brushes individually by hand to ensure that their nature befits the fine, elegant lines of the swirling clouds in both Islamic tazhib/islimi illumination and Persian and Indian miniature painting, which are based on spiralling forms. Subtle nuances in line width can be achieved after some practice and are worth it for the dancing effect found in Turkish tezhip especially. The steady lines of classical Iranian tazhib can be also painted with this brush and this is a 'drawing' brush, used to paint the final outlines in illumination work. Illumination can be seen as the art of the line, borrowed from China and most evidently seen in the Chinese clouds in Islamic designs.
Its ferrule is nickel-plated brass and the hair is the finest sable. Three times the price of gold, it is the best hair for creating the thin, elegant lines in miniature painting. The handle is raw birch wood, which is lightest and easiest to hold and allows for the best grip, which in turn grants the most control. Since these brushes are specially designed by me, they are not standard sizes, although they are close to the European size 00000 (UK equivalent 000).
We imagine busy medieval scribes scurrying around monasteries copying manuscripts, the keepers of the flame of knowledge in the so-called Dark Ages; calm monks in high towers steadily turning parchment pages which crackle gently; from a high tower in the East comes a call to prayer during the night while a miniaturist stirs, briefly, from his meditative work to glance up at the minaret (which is the inspiration for the perspective in his painting)… the only light available at day’s close, in their time, was candlelight. As they are turned, the pages in their books gleam in its soft glow, yearning for intimacy and storytelling, harking back to the cave fires. They are illuminated – both because their scrollwork or arabesques catch the flickering light as the pages move – and from within, with the brilliance of spiritual illumination, incandescent with the beam of learning transmitted across centuries.
This fleeting world is like
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
- Prayer from the end of The Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest printed book
Each Clouds brush should have come with a small flag on the brush lid - I encourage everybody to always keep these lids for all brushes you have anyway as they are also brush tip protectors. And the flags tell you what the Clouds brushes are.
However, there is another, better way to tell: take your 3 brushes and draw a spiral with all 3. One of the brushes is best at doing so and will give you the nicest spiral (this is the Illumination brush); write this down on the brush handle. Then draw a fine, thin line with the other 2; one of them will give you the nicest line (this is the Miniature brush). The last one is the Fine Detail brush and good for doing dots, foliage etc.
I also encourage everyone to write on their brush handles what they are good at doing (eg spirals, leaves, flowers/foliage etc...) - thus personalising the brush to you. It may also be that in future as you calibrate the brush to your unique painting style you find other uses for it, and I left the handles in raw birch wood so that you can write down what they are good for. Happy doodling, happy painting!