Monday, December 3, 2012

From the Mailbag: Paint Brands

Storm Over Bear Mountain, 5x7 oil - $75

A reader writes:  Do you feel that Gamblin oil paints are definitely better than Grumbacher Pre-tested ? Have you ever used M. Graham walnut oil paints, and if so, what did you think of them ? I see that you prefer not to use mediums – do you feel that paint not diluted with mediums provides more saturated, rich color ? Thank you for your time, and inspiration. - Name Withheld

Thanks so much for your note.  You know, the brand of oil paint one uses is really a personal preference.    I know artists who swear by Grumbacher, and others, by Gamblin.  In some ways, it's like Honda v. Subaru.  (I've had both, and currently drive a Subaru.)  Both are economical, efficient and well-made cars, and I'd trust either one of them in a snowstorm.   I use Gamblin because the way the paint handles suits me.  But I also have Grumbacher on my shelf, and Richeson Shiva, Rembrandt, Da Vinci and more.

As for M. Graham, that's like comparing a front-wheel drive car to one that's rear-wheel drive.   There really is a difference.  Graham paints are made with walnut oil, which dries more slowly than linseed oil paints.  As an outdoor painter who travels a lot and needs his paint to dry quickly, I don't use them.  (But that's my only reason; they are perfectly fine paints.)  With Graham, I could certainly use the Graham alkyd medium, but I understand that just makes the paint dry about as fast as linseed oil paint.  Or, I could use another alkyd medium (Gamblin's Galkyd Lite) that would make it dry even faster, but I prefer not to use any medium in the field.  It's just one more thing to take.

And that brings me to your question of mediums.  Oil paint, according to the consultants I've spoken to, is best used right out of the tube with as little thinner or medium as possible.  Oil paint should be prepared in a way so that it has just enough oil to be workable and create a durable paint film.  In the rare case that I run across a paint that's not workable, then I may use a medium to make it "move" better.  I only add a drop or two.  I sometimes find pure titanium white paint needs a little extra push.  If I do need my paintings to dry more quickly because I'm in a plein air festival, I'll use a little Galkyd Lite.

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