Tools: The Saga of the M.Graham Palette


A gift of credit at Merriartist left me with $$$ to spend on watercolors…
I’ve had a few M.Graham paints and enjoyed them, but my experience was they often didn’t dry in the pans, probably because of the moist climate of Portland and
the honey which they use as a medium.  I decided I’d splurge and create a
by-the-bedside set where I didn’t have to worry about pans drying for transport.

I filled full-size pans, and put them in a Medeen tin.
The palette, above, filled with M.Graham, along with 5 Daniel Smith Primateks;
I use them frequently in painting and love how they mix with transparent colors.
All M.Graham watercolors unless stated otherwise, and transparent colors unless
I state (SO = semi opaque) or (O = opaque), not my preference:
Top Row: Sap Green, Hooker’s Green, Cobalt Turquoise (O), Manganese Blue Hue, Ultramarine, Cobalt violet (SO), Scarlet Pyrrol, Azo Orange, Nickel Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Orange Oxide, Piemonite (Primatek).
Bottom row: Olive Green, Green Apatite (Primatek),
Blue Apatite (Primatek), Prussian Blue, Anthraquinone Blue, Quinacridone Rose,
Azo Yellow (SO), Indian Yellow, Raw Umber, Hematitie (Primatek).

The only M.Graham watercolor I did not put
into my palette was Mineral Violet,
which I bought thinking it might be like a
Primatek.  It is a chalky color of no use to me!

I tucked into a bookcase near my bedside to dry.  Coincidentally I smelled fetid water and had headaches, so on summer nights, we closed the windows thinking it was coming from outdoors!

NOPE!  It was the paints!

I took them to the studio the smell followed me there!
Yeow, strong fetid smell!  Had they gone bad?
It does happen — once I had a bad batch of paint from Daniel Smith.

The original owners sold M.Graham and getting to talk to the new owners
took several days, but when I did Elke told me she doubted it was bad paint…
She herself has trouble with some M.Graham paints when they are fresh from the tube.
She suggested I let them thoroughly dry and then see if the smell lingered,
or the headaches continued — and also, to use distilled water with them when rewetting.
I find the latter a bit much and if I had to do this would not buy them — that’s just me.

28 days in, and the pans were as dry as they will get in my area.
They still smelled STRONG.  The headaches were bad and last for hours!
Elke from M.Graham suggested I isolate the paints to see which ones,
and they were willing to reimburse Merriartist for any returns.

I pulled the following pigments out of my palette I became headache free…
Sap Green, Olive, Hookers Green (*so in essence all the greens from MG*), Anthraquinone Blue, Cobalt Violet (*sob, so beautiful!*),
Raw Umber
and Transparent Orange Oxide (*sob, lovely transparent oxide!*)

I purchased Olive from Holbein (I wanted to try this mixed green in my palette),
and Cobalt Violet and Transparent Orange Oxide from Daniel Smith.

I can still recommend M.Graham paints, as they are lovely deep pigments,
but as I have never had a reaction to any other pigment in any other brand I advise trying them one by one!  I am not typically bothered by smells though I do have allergies to
a couple of molds, but according to M.Graham they had no recalls.

I often hear about peeps not being happy with product, but they don’t say
anything to the vendor or manufacturer.  It took me calling several times, but I strongly advise you to do so.  It may be bad product.  It may be something else.
In this case, seven 15ml paint tubes was a huge amount of $$$ for me to lose!


Now I have a second by-the-bed palette in a smaller Schminke palette.
All my M.Graham pigments plus a few other colors I have not played with much…
The paints which are not labeled are M.Graham:
1) Emerald (Jasper Stardust), Olive (Holbein), Green Apatite (Daniel Smith Primatek),
Blue Apatite (Daniel Smith Primatek), Manganese Blue Hue,
2) **Phthalo Green (gift from Thomas Blanchard, RIP), Cobalt Turquoise (O),
Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Cobalt violet (DS),
3) Nickel Quinacridone Gold, Scarlet Pyrrol, Azo Orange, Indian Yellow, Azo Yellow,
4) Transparent Orange Oxide (DS), Raw Umber (DS), Quinacridone Rose, Quinacridone Red, Potter’s Pink (to try, a gift, for mixing skin pigments… horrid mauve… we’ll see.)

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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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4 Responses to Tools: The Saga of the M.Graham Palette

  1. Have you written about this before? I know I read about the problem elsewhere and have hesitated to buy M. Graham since. It is good to know it is mainly the greens. It’s sad. Even if they fix the problem now, I’d hesitate to buy greens. I just bought a Cadmium Orange Gouache from them and am eager to try it out.

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    • I talked about it on Doodlewash, and asked about it with others. I was sad about the greens — they were beautiful. I also was a bit irritated with the new ownership and how they handled me. I had to practically prove I was having issues. Thankfully Merriartist stood behind me (always) and finally Elke worked with me. I never buy that many paints at one time so it would have been a huge loss financially.

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  2. Debi says:

    How can you have stinky M Graham paints next to your bed???!!! My nose would be twitching all night. But I am super sensitive to smells on a good day :-/
    M Graham were the first ever watercolours I bought for myself back 2 years ago after watching “The Mind of Watercolor” on Youtube, where Steve Mitchel raved about them. I was sold. I bought a Quinacridone Red, Azo Yellow, Azo Green, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber on a trip to America (where the price is 40% of what they’d cost me here). The first time I opened them and poured them into a cheap plastic pallet, they smelt a bit funky, so I placed the palette open in my sunroom for about 3-4 days – came back and they still stunk to high heaven, LOL. Oh, and they were still wet. I just checked them now after several years.. and yep, they’re still wet. 😛
    These days I prefer my Schmincke pallet as it doesn’t smell, and only use the M Graham straight from the tube. I guess it is a bit late to complain to them now after so long. But yeah, if more people complained, things would be improved for sure.
    Now that you have reminded me, I think I might go paint something tonight with my wet M Graham palette. 😀

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    • The ones I have left don’t smell, thankfully.
      Their deep colors are so lovely, but they also (due to the honey I assume) have a sticky feel that I don’t quite like. I don’t know anyone who uses them in any kind of travel palette… but I could be wrong. I do know that a friend who lives about an hour away had them dry enough — just that hour West makes a difference in heat and humidity.

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