What did Andrew Wyeth mean by "drybrush?"
Wyeth continues: “When I stroke the paper with the dried brush, it will make various distinct strokes at once, and I start to develop the forms of whatever object it is until they start to have real body. But, if you want to have it come to life underneath, you must have an exciting undertone of wash. Otherwise, if you just work drybrush over a white surface, it will look too much like drybrush."
Les Linton says: "I met Andrew Wyeth in March of 1976 and was able to not only speak to him about his materials, but also ask about his techniques. He was usually reticent about tech talk, but for some reason he warmed up to me and I was able to spend an entire afternoon asking questions.
According to Linton and other observers, "most of the paper was Imperial (22" x 30") 140 lb. Cold Press (or "Not," which in Brit-speak means not smooth or rough) woven linen, not cotton, and handmade. This is why the sizing was "harder," unlike the softer cotton watercolor paper later revived under the Whatman name (and mould made mimicking the original Whatman handmade texture). This harder surface is one of the reasons why Wyeth was able to abuse the surface of the paper so easily. He used sandpaper, knives, steel wool, and just about anything else he could find. Wyeth also had a large supply of rough Whatman Imperial sheets on hand as well."
"Many of Wyeth's drybrush watercolors were painted on extremely smooth 3-ply, plate finish (Bristol) from Strathmore. Some of the earlier Bristol paper he used (50's & 60's) was not archival, but current production is. You can see yellowing in some of his earlier studies and drawings on that particular paper.
"Mr. Wyeth used Winsor & Newton watercolors (with a few Grumbacher colors) and also made much use of W/N Gouache in his darker, earthier passages. The opaque watercolor came in handy in his drybrush watercolors painted in a more detailed egg tempera technique. He occasionally added alcohol (or whiskey) to his water when painting outdoors in cold weather to retard freezing."
"The paint thickener came from liquid gum arabic as well. These passages look thicker, 'juicier,' and are characterized by little bubbles (not possible with just water). He used an old, beat up, folding, enameled metal watercolor palette when I saw it in the 70s. I'm pretty sure his own watercolor palette was made in the U.S., but the nearest thing I've seen to it is the large, black, metal folding palette made by Holbein of Japan - most likely a copy of that same design. He favored W/N Series 7 Kolinsky sable rounds and used to buy the size #1's "by the fistful," again according to Berndt (who used to baby sit Andy when he was a child!). I've always assumed these very small brushes were purchased for his temperas and drybrush paintings and he wore them out readily."
"The main thing I came away with from my visit was Mr. Wyeth's willingness to break 'the rules' and use anything that gave him the effect he wanted in a painting. There were studies littered all over the floor of his studio, some with dusty shoe prints where he'd walked on them.