Some folks write with a stubby, chewed up wood pencil, and others write with a gold plated Swiss fountain pen. These don’t have much effect on the writer’s handwriting, but they do lend familiarity to the writing experience and a distinctive visual style to the script.
In many respects, an artist’s preferences in brushes are of the same kind. As a practical matter, many artists find that inexpensive brushes do the job just as well as expensive ones: the style and appearance of their paintings are much the same.
An awareness of the brushes that are available, and the major differences among them, will help you find the tools that make you feel comfortably at your best, and lend those subtle touches of brushstroke and texture that make your work unique.
I have not been able to find a reliable account of the invention and history of the brush as we use it today. The essential tool concept was probably adapted from twigs that were frayed by chewing at one end, so that they could hold ink or paint, as used in early painting or calligraphy. It seems that the modern brush — animal hair or bristle, or vegetable fiber, bound to the end of a wood handle — was independently devised in Egypt, perhaps as early as 4000 BCE, and in China, perhaps as early as 200 CE. The Chinese brush probably incorporated a quill ferrule around animal hair, making it the earliest tool similar to …