Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Craft of Making Paint

At M. Graham & Co. artists' colors are created using time honored natural ingredients. I'm told by Diana Graham, “We looked back into history and found the ingredients that painters used when they made their own paint.  Nut oil was preferred because it yellows and cracks less than linseed.  Blackberry honey crystallizes less than others.” 

 Painters' Assistant Grinding Pigments, Parmigianino, Red Chalk on Paper, Italian, 1530s

Watercolor and gouache are normally made with some form of sugar. Today that usually means the ubiquitous corn syrup that is also in so much of our processed food. M. Graham & Co. use blackberry honey in their watercolor paints. As a painter who identifies with the Pacific Northwest I can think of nothing more romantic than painting with blackberry honey. As for oil paints made with walnut oil, on the company's Material Safety Data Sheet I especially like the part where it says, WALNUT OIL – Ingestion can produce a laxative effect, a hazard I'm willing to risk!

Photo courtesy Diana Graham

The Grahams' backgrounds in the art business brought them together over the phone. Now in a shop nestled in the hop fields of Oregon the Grahams take a craftsman's approach to creating quality artists' materials, “Individually made, we create our colors a few hundred tubes at a time. Days, not hours are spent slowly coaxing its own distinctive nature from each pigment until the richness inherent in each is fully developed.” Overseeing all of this fine work is Annie, the shop cat. Once a neighborhood orphan, she now reigns supreme. You know that a company has high standards when they have a cat in a top executive position!

Annie the M. Graham & Co. Shop Cat
Photo courtesy Diana Graham

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