Brushes are much like pencils, in that they are a simple and effective design, and they have changed little in conception since they were first made.
Most brushes consist of a handle, usually wood or plastic, followed by the metal ferrule, and finally the bristles or hairs that contact with the surface. Artist-scribes in ancient Egypt used reeds, and spread apart the fibers to lend flexibility, binding the brush at the point of of the split fibers to make a ferrule that way. There have been some variations of design, constrained by local materials and ideas.
Sometimes I toy with a sci-fi novel that warps and moulds inside my head. One of the ideas I drew for it was this piece, called The Hyperferrule. Paint tubes surround the forearm, using vacuum-suction and a tiny valve to release paint. The crinkled, discarded tubes are popped out. Microservomotors control the teeny robotic arms while delivering the paint into the brush-hairs. Directions: Make a fist, hold forearm parallel to the painted surface, and concentrate on the image in your mind.
Some artists enjoy the process of making art more than the result. For better or worse, I am not in that category. I enjoy painting some of the time, but much of it is a struggle, (I've talked about my Ugly Phase before), and much of that struggle is against time. I have lots of ideas, but it takes me time to put them down onto paper or canvas. I'd love a wired-up ferrule that could take the image in my head, and manipulate multiple brushes to quickly scatter and refine the paint. Happy accidents would still occur, as the image in my head and the image on the canvas would grow together, and my internal concept image would refine with the picture. The same device could be used by hyper-adept trauma surgeons.
Perhaps after the transhumanist movement finishes making everyone immortal, idle body modification like cyborg paintbrushes will have their day. (Thanks for George Dvorsky over at Sentient Developments for introducing me to the modern concept of transhumanism...radical and hopeful and strange, like the future. )
Of course, to lend the artist that tragic air, the Hyperferrule would not be able to be removed. I find the image above a bit steampunk-ish in my execution, which I think comes from drawing organic rather than industrial forms most of the time.
Okay, now Paleo-Future can bookmark this, wait 40 years, and laugh at me after all art takes place inside Matrix-style virtual galleries. Or wait 3000 years for us to use nebulae gases to make portraits of Carl Sagan across the night sky.
Uh-oh. Speculation is running rampant. I'd better finish packing for my trip to Montreal.