Saturday, 6 September 2014

Graham Watercolour Paints

M Graham and Co, one of the three principal American manufacturers, the others are Daniel Smith and Da Vinci, are one of the favourites of Bruce McEvoy of Handprint (well they would be wouldn't they - just kidding Bruce).

The company are family run and have only been in existence since 1992 so are very much a newcomer to the world of paint makers. In that time the watercolours have gained a good reputation, certainly in America where they are well-priced and widely available, according to Bruce mainly through independent retailers. In England the only source  is Lawrence of Hove who seem to have a monopoly, incidentally also with Da Vinci. In the rest of Europe they are available from Denmark www.gefa-art.dk The only other source outside the USA is in Australia.

The initial offering was only 36 colours but a few years ago, following prodding I feel sure from Handprint, the range increased to 70 colours, 80% of them single pigment paints. I have quite a few Graham paints and a particular favourite is Quinacridone Rust (PO48). All the standard (high quality) pigments are there along with a few exotic ones like Ultramarine Pink (PR259).



This was the best I could find. Look on the Graham site.

As already said Bruce McEvoy of Handprint was effusive in his praise of Graham, probably the best review of any maker `..all in all,  these paints reflect great care and craftsmanship.....one of the most satisfactory brands of watercolour paints'... because of the high pigment load all the paints dilute out to glowing tints' and so on although he does say due to the way they are formulated several paints stain aggressively. See what he says in full on the Handprint site under `watercolour brands'.www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/pigmt2.html . Is this American bias? Try them and make your own mind up. While Bruce praises the American brands generally I think he is sufficiently professional not to let national pride influence his judgement - well not much anyway! Graham have an excellent website where you can see details of the individual colours with pigment details and good colour swatches. www.mgraham.com

We now come to a few caveats based on my own experience. Graham paints are made using a honey humectant which gives them a thick honey like consistency. I have read comments by American artists that Graham paints don't travel well, as in high temperatures they remain very liquid.  This is a problem if you are travelling with a filled paintbox. Schminke, the long-standing German paint maker are against the use of honey although the French firm Sennelier certainly add honey. In earlier posts I related the problems I had with the Mineral Violet (PV16). After a few months the paints resembled a thick brown sludge. Complaints to Lawrence brought a prompt response and Graham supplied a replacement, blaming the pigment supplier which they said had now been changed. The second tube went the same way and the third tube, supposedly problem solved, did the same thing although it took longer to do so. I then gave up and Mineral Violet is no longer on my radar. It does seem as PV16 might be a problem pigment, although I haven't heard anything about other makes so don't really know. The other problem is slightly puzzling. I noticed some tubes were sticky and it appeared that something (honey?) was leaking notably from the yellow ochre. Not all were affected so it may have been only one or two but I can only wonder if pin holes are responsible as it didn't seem to come from the cap. 

Am I knocking Graham? No I am not but nobody is perfect. Overall the paints are excellent and the only problem in the UK is having to buy them from a single source, who don't offer free postage whatever the amount you buy, although they have had an offer recently at £75. Basic prices are high but Lawrence offer a 20% discount if you buy 6. However postage adds £4.99p which on 6 tubes is an extra 83p per tube. Even with this they are cheaper than Daniel Smith. I think they are proving quite popular. www.lawrence.co.uk







15 comments:

L.W.Roth, said...

M. graham may be terrific making watercolors, but I was very disappointed in the oils; they poured out of the tube. There was too much binder. I am returning a couple of studio size tubes. Did you ever have this problem Victor? Do they have a shelf life ? I really expected quality given they put their name on their product and their label gave all the proper information.

Anonymous said...

Yes, they are good paints. Highly pigmented, which means a little paint goes a long way and makes the investment worthwhile.

They contain honey, therefore if using them in travelling palettes, paint must be 'wakened' up. I have found lukewarm water works well. Use brush dipped in clear, lukewarm water and go over the top of each paint before painting, and they will be ready. It is a part of everyday watercolour palette hygiene which many don't follow, but complain, I know that too.

Because they are highly pigmented and well ground, they tend to 'stain' as you say, but that is due to pigment size, nothing else. Use them with caution on rough papers. For rough papers, I recommend using the so called 'student' grade paints which may have bigger particles and are easier to lift up, but which are perfectly good as everyday paints too (W&N Cotman, Maimeri Venezia, etc.).

All in all, they are lovely paints, don't produce mud, mix well. Be generous with water when using them, wake them up before painting commences, and they can be a source of happiness and good economy after all.

JMW

L.W.Roth, said...

Sorry Peter. I was also looking over Victor's blog. I will try their watercolors given your endorsement.

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Peter Ward said...

I have never used oils so know nothing about them. I usually spray my paints, if not used for several days with water, before use to ` waken them up' so to speak. I think the complaint from some artists, if that is what it is, about some of the Graham formulations is that they tehd to remain on the runny side. On the other hand in a hot climate like Italy any make can be a problem. I changed to pans when going abroad after a terrible mess one year.

Katie said...

My first professional grade watercolors were M Graham, on the recommendation of an artist I follow at Flickr. I found them lovely, and rich. They do not present a problem in hot climates (I am in Arizona!) in fact they dry out nicely in the palette for travel, the problem is humid climates (which may be hot as well) where the moisture in the air prevents them from ever drying sufficiently to use in travel palettes. My M Grahams are a few years old, and I just reopened a few tubes to prepare a palette for a workshop and the paints came out with the binder dark and brownish separated from the pigment... shock! So perhaps their shelf life is problematic with the honey binder? Also, at the workshop we did an exercise on the transparency of all the paint in our palettes and I was surprised to find that many colors in my M Graham paints were opaque or semi opaque, where as the same pigment/color in another brand (Daniel Smith, W&N, Holbein) were transparent. The workshop teacher, heard me mentioning the results I discovered and she said that was a problem with M Grahams. Perhaps an issue with the binder, or the higher pigment load... maybe I should retry the transparency test diluting the paint more fully? Good post, Peter!

Peter Ward said...

Thank you very much Katie. An excellent contribution on the subject of Graham paints.

Peter Ward said...

Please accept my apologies Linda. I slipped up there as I don't normally allow anything that is abusive, insulting or demeaning and shouldn't have allowed it. This isn't Twitter. I have now deleted it and request JMW IF he posts again to refrain from such comments.

Jayelle said...
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Jayelle said...
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Peter Ward said...

Thanks Jayelle for a very informative contribution to the subject of Graham paints. I'm sure overall this will be very helpful to those considering trying Graham. With the high pigment load obviously using them in tints is an option.

Jayelle said...
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Peter Ward said...

Thanks Jayelle. I have to say I've rather gone off Graham. As well as problems with the MIneral Violet I've had pin holes in some of the tubes.

Jane Blundell said...

I have bought a couple of tubes of M.Graham watercolours as I had heard such good reviews of them. I live in Sydney, Australia and the climate here must be too humid for them - not only do they not dry, they seem to suck moisture out of the atmosphere and get wetter in the pan or palette. And mouldy. And the tubes don't seem to have a very good shelf life :-(

I have tried just about every brand available and the most consistent across the range in terms of thickness of the paint, price, economical 37ml tubes available, great pigments used, ease to rewet, just general 'gorgeousness' would be Da Vinci. They really are outstanding. However I adore many of the Daniel Smith exclusive colours so use a mix of the two in my teaching. We have a huge range of watercolours available!

As for mineral violet - Holbien make the most powerful version, though Manganese violet is another interesting granulating violet option, made nicely by Blockx among others.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks jane. I've not used the latest Da Vinci range but they do look very good. Unfortunately they are only available from one source in the UK - Lawrence - who don't offer a `free postage 'option based on a minimum purchase, so are expensive.

I doubt if I'll buy Graham again for reasons I've commented on previously. They again are only available from Lawrence.

I've become rather cynical about pricing. Daniel Smith are too expensive, and apart from special colours can see no reason to pay the premium demanded for them.

In terms of price combined with quality my choices are Daler Rowney, Lukas and Sennelier, although as yet I don't have much experience with Sennelier. A friend has bought some and they do seen on the runny side (honey?). There are some first rate paints amongst the first two mentioned, After all how many paints do you actually need?