The recipe to make oil paint is pretty short: a drying oil mixed with pigment. This means that your choice of oil is quite important. M. Graham Artist Oils are made with walnut oil, a clear oil known for its non-brittle and non-yellowing properties. This means less cracking in a painting over time and the whites and blues will remain the colour the painter intended for years to come. Walnut oil can also hold more pigment than other oils so the paint is intense and goes a long way.
Walnut Oil versus Linseed Oil
For an oil to dry to a film it needs to be unsaturated, to be able to absorb oxygen from the air and polymerise. Of the four main drying oils found in artists’ colours today, only two have more than a 400 year history of wide spread, common use in paintings: walnut and linseed (the other two drying oils for oil painting are of more recent use: poppy and safflower). Both walnut and linseed oils have exhibited a high degree of permanence and have been used interchangeably for centuries but because of its high linolenic acid content, linseed oil yellows and is more brittle than walnut oil. As the master artist Giorgio Vasari wrote in 1550 “grind the colours with walnut or linseed oil, though walnut oil is better because it yellows less with time”. During the 16th and 17th century it was common practice to execute the portions of a painting where colour retention was unimportant with linseed oil. We therefore find its presence in browns, blacks and other colours where the yellowing of the oil did not matter. Wherever colour retention was important such as in passages of white or blue we often find that they used walnut oil.
The Two M. Graham Walnut Oil Mediums
M. Graham Walnut Oil can be used as part of a solvent-free studio to clean your brushes between colours, simply swirl your dirty brush in the oil and squeeze out the colour into a towel. Using M. Graham Walnut Oil as a painting medium to make the paint more fluid will slow the drying time as well as add more gloss. If you wish to speed the drying time use M. Graham Walnut Alkyd Oil Medium which contains no solvents. Both can be used with any brand of oil paint.
Trying out the M. Graham Oil Paints
I set up a palette and painted two small pictures. I found most of the colour to be as expected, some colours are very strong like Phthalo Blue and Cadmium Yellow Deep and the rest have a very good pigment load. It took very little colour to make a glaze with the walnut oil, this paint stretches far. I tried the Fast Drying White but it didn’t dry as quickly as alkyd, it might be similar to the Gamblin Fast Dry White that only dries one day faster than the regular slow drying white. One of my usual favourite colours is Terre Vert, I find its neutral temperature, weak tinting and transparent nature very useful for gently toning down sharp reds, but in M. Graham it is not a natural Terre Vert, but is made of Iron Oxide and a green – it is disappointing, not useful to me.
The texture of most of the colours is fairly creamy but after a bit of time on the palette the thin layer left on the palette can get a bit pasty and needs a thinner. I used Lukas Medium One for the test paintings, the M. Graham Walnut Oil to make glazes for the mixing charts, the M. Graham Walnut Alkyd to speed up drying on the big colour chart.
Colour Mixing with M. Graham Oil Paints
This colour mixing chart has the same colours running across the top as down the left side. This makes it a mirror image on the diagonal. Along the diagonal from upper left to lower right are the pure colours, because they are mixed with themselves from the column and themselves from the row.
M. Graham Oil Paints and Mediums at Jackson’s Art
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The colour mixing swatches were done on Georgian Oil Painting Paper.