Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Beautiful Watercolors

M. Graham & Company makes beautiful watercolors. If you're a watercolor painter and haven't tried them yet, I highly recommend you do. Located in West Linn, Oregon, this very small manufacturer makes their watercolors by hand with pure honey, gum arabic, glycerine and the most lightfast pigments available.

The way in which M. Graham creates their color produces not only jewel-like color but a medium that stays moist in your palette for a very long time. I have never had one of their pigments dry up or crack once out of the tube, no matter how long they've been out. If I open a travel kit that's been on the shelf for a while, the M. Graham colors look as moist as if they were used yesterday. That's because the honey in their formula naturally draws moisture from the atmosphere.

Over the past few years I have worked with Daniel Smith, Schmincke, Windsor Newton and Old Holland and while each of these brands have unique qualities and I have certain favorites from each (and a lot of paint yet to use up!), my top choice for basic or core palette colors, is M. Graham. By basic or core palette colors I mean Hansa Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Light, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Rose and Cad Red Light, Viridian and Hooker's Green.  These are all rich, stunning and lucid colors with unique signatures. Their Cobalt Blue is particularly exceptional. I like all of their colors, really, but the fewer the colors in your palette, the more success you're likely to have.

Until recently, M. Graham had a collection of 35 colors which you can view on their site. Very recently, they added 35 new colors which can be purchased through their main distributor who is hosting a sale on M. Graham through April 1st of this year. (Even when they're not on sale, M. Graham paint is reasonably priced.) The original collection of 35 colors is available at Dick Blick and at retailers throughout the US. I tried a few of the new colors and the Maroon Perylene is beautiful, but all of their colors are! You can tell I'm a fan.

But don't just take my word for it. I learned about M. Graham in 2003 from Handprint's Bruce McEvoy who just updated his high ranking review of M. Graham to encompass the expanded line of colors. To quote Bruce
"All in all, these paints reflect great care and craftsmanship, and I am always struck, when I come back to a painting I have made with M. Graham paints, by the clean, colorful harmony and unique mixing effects these paints create."
M. Graham posts a thorough pigment list on the site and also have an MSDS document on their paints available for download from their front page. The company strives to make their products with as low an impact as possible on the planet. I can only speak for their watercolors but if you paint in oil, I urge you to go to their site and read up on Solvent Free Paining with their Walnut Oil and Walnut Alkyd.

My first title for this post was "The Most Beautiful Watercolors in the World". I changed that to "My Favorite Watercolors". Then I realized that every time I think "THIS is IT!", I then think, well, this, also, is very nice. Plus, I have issues with the "most this or that" or the "Best of" anything. Frankly, more than half of what I use is Daniel Smith but I think so highly of M. Graham that I wanted to write a post about them. Finally, I realized that it's like playing guitar. I can't tell you how many times after watching a great guitar player finish a piece,  I've seen someone walk up and ask "Hey, what kind of guitar are you playing?" A great guitarist can make even a crappy guitar sound good. A good artist can make an arresting piece with even the poorest materials. But, as we all know, the better and more suitable the tool, the better the result and, usually, the easier the job.

Try M. Graham. You'll enjoy working with them.

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