Tysoe’s Art Blog

M.Graham Oil Paints

by on Jul.13, 2008, under General, Materials Overview

After a lot of research I chose M.Graham oil paints. For a number or reasons both regarding the paints and the company that makes them.

M.Graham paints are unusual in that they use walnut oil as a binder instead of the usual Linseed oil most commonly found in other brands. One of the much advertised benefits of using walnut oil is that you can work solvent free. Using the Walnut medium as both a medium to mix with your paints, or to clean your brushes.

When I first started painting again, I recalled why I dropped Oils in favour of Acrylics, sacrificing many of oil paints benefits. Blendability, slow drying so you can take your time getting your paint exactly how and where you want it. Of course slow drying is also a con in that you often have to wait between applying paint layers. The other thing is having to use stinky solvents. Not only do they absorb into the skin and interfere with organs in your body, but the fumes are toxic, even in the odourless solvents formulated specially for artists.

M.Graham oil paints is a small company based in Oregon who are very environmentaly concious, and try to make Oil paints that are based on an ancient formula, but also allow you to work solvent free providing a walnut medium and solvent free alkyd walnut medium for faster drying.

I have had great results with both. The paints have very strong pigmentation, a nice buttery consistency that still retains texture and walnut oil drys clearer with less yellowing than linseed oil. One negative is that it drys slower, hence the Alkyd medium.

As well as producing Oil Paints. M. Graham take efficiency and the environment seriously in the manufacture of their paints.

These folks are mighty green. Not only do they have the solvent-free system of oil painting but 100% of the electric power used at their shop is purchased through the renewable power option. They have purchased more efficient filling equipment and reduced energy consumption by 71%. Almost all of the machinery is reconditioned/recycled–one of the fillers was built in 1951. The acrylic resin is produced in a factory about 2 miles from the shop, the bee farm that makes the honey for watercolor and gouache is about 30 miles away–so even the bees are local. The walnut oil comes from neighboring California to cut down on transportation pollution. The factory waste water used for cleaning equipment is recycled and reused for 2 weeks before it is collected for EPA certified disposal. The paperboard box packaging is all made with post-consumer recycled paper waste as is the paper used for trifolds. The cadmium pigments are by-products of zinc manufacturing which are converted from a toxic heavy metal into a “biologically unavailable” pigment that can be disposed of in garbage as solid waste. Graham products are also available in Canada through selected outlets, and www.artpurveyors.com will export from the USA to anywhere in the world.

14 comments for this entry:
  1. Diane

    I switched to M.Graham oils two years ago…no regrets at all. It took me a while to make the transition from turps to walnut oil for brush cleaning, but once you get used to it…it’s great. I save a fortune on paper towels by not using them at all. Rags do just fine to wipe off the excess oil. I even bought cold pressed walnut oil, to cut back on the expensive M. Graham type. I also like the M. Graham fast drying oil. I’m glad to see that the company has gone as green as possible in manufacturing their products. No more headaches from those obnoxious fumes, and I feel better about not getting any of this into my system.
    I’m a convert!

  2. Mulch Wilmington

    Wierd , your website shows up with a brownish hue to it, what color is the primary color on your site?

  3. Matoki

    How do you clean your brushes?

  4. admin

    Thanks for asking I should write a separate page about this. Basically I have a brush bath with a spring holder that can suspend Brushes upside down over it.

    Whilst I’m working I just use walnut oil from the supermarket to clean oil off the brushes. If I’m not going to use them for a few days I wash them in water using Savvy Soap

    Marvelous Marianne’s Savvy Soap Hand and Brush Cleaner

    A corn oil based hand cleaner with citrus and cinnamon extracts conditions as it cleans. It works on all kinds of paints, inks and grime-with or without water.

    It costs about $10 for 16oz and cleans oil paint brushes with water much like cleaning acrylic paints.

  5. Matoki

    Thank you for responding! If you ever do write another, could you please include how you dispose of waste, like the leftover oil?

  6. admin

    The oil is a lot like turpentine in that the pigment settles. I use the same 2 inches of oil for 4-6 months, just cover it to stop dust getting in.

    I only change the oil when it starts to thicken and become more opaque. Then to dispose of it, I usually pour it into a tray with some paper towels to soak it up and leave it in the shed by the window for a while.

    Spread thin it dries quicker (couple of months) and then I throw it in the bin when it’s like a sheet of rubber.

  7. Bruce

    Thanks for the posts on M. Graham. I have been using the oils for over 4 years
    and have heard conflicting information on the use of walnut oil over linseed. The claim by others that walnut oil is responsible for premature cracking of the paint film. To date, have not experienced this. For a more comprehensive discussion of this, interested parties are directed to Plein Air Artists website blogs. Although I paint more in acrylics but I happen to like the oil paints they make, and their green consciousness is much appreciated.

  8. Celestine Wannlund

    Thanks, your website is awesome! I have a blog on google blogger, I like it because you can change blogger templates really easily without understanding any HTML. Anyway, just thought I’d say hi, and keep up the good work.

  9. Michelle

    Have you ever experienced rancidity in the oil? I’ve heard walnut oil goes “off” easily.

  10. admin

    Hi Michelle, I have used both M.Grahams own walnut oil and some off the supermarket shelf walnut oil. Like you I had heard of the oil going rancid but haven’t experienced anything resembling a bad odour from the oil.

    I actually keep a brush bath of oil pretty much open to the air for months on end, and that hasn’t gone bad, just become thicker and more opaque needing to be replaced.

    I’m located in North California where we have pretty mild winters and very hot summers. I’m not sure what climate or conditions encourage rancidity. I’ve been using the oil for a couple of years now and will be sure to report if there is any change.

  11. Stormy Joplin

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  12. Dish net work

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  13. Nina

    Most oils go rancid due to exposure to air. That includes walnut oil, but I also use M. Graham and the walnut oil, w/o problem.

  14. admin

    I noticed that my walnut oil when left in the brush bath for some time doesn’t smell as good as it one did. But having said that, the odor just changes but isn’t strong or unpleasant and easily masked by other oil painting smells. Particularly if your using oil of spike lavender when you do use solvents. That stuff is strong and probably not for everyone.

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