Own Your Encore

My Encore Excursions


Watercolor Ingredients

I must admit that watercolor ingredients are not something I have given much thought to until today. Color Week 48 is a superficial look into what goes into watercolor paint prompted by a presentation given by representatives from M. Graham & Co. The presentation was sponsored by the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon Botanical Artists associations.

M.Graham is based in Portland Oregon and is somewhat unique in that they use northwest blackberry honey in the manufacture of their paints. M. Graham also has a commitment to solvent free paint and other eco friendly practices. Specifically they use walnut oil in manufacturing and cleaning.

What’s so special about M. Graham watercolor

  • Extreme pigment load, honey allows for a more pigment which delivers more intense color
  • Paint dries to a gum drop texture in the palette, never hard and easily dilutes to create a fluid wash, even after months of disuse
3 M. Graham colors on my palette

Generally watercolor ingredients include the following

Pigment particles provide the paint color, oftentimes people will refer to a specific P# color, but each manufacturer has their own source of pigment particles.

Binder is traditionally gum arabic. Gum arabic is farmed in North Africa. Gum arabic is sticky when wet and quite hard and transparent when dry.

Humectant most used today is inexpensive corn syrup it helps paint to retain moisture. As I’ve noted M Graham uses honey as their humectant. The humectant is needed because both glycerin and gum arabic dry relatively quickly

Additives such as an extender, fungicides and glycerin are common

Water of course suspends all the ingredients and evaporates when paint is used.

I have no interest in making my own watercolors but there are recipes and instructions available. I ever so briefly considered a pigment making workshop


Douglas Fir Colors

It is now September, Color Week 35. This morning I went out to the beach to sketch and found myself looking at the hills as they meet the water. The hills are a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees, but that tree on the edge of the beach, tall and wind worn is a Douglas Fir tree.

September morning

Daniel Smith offers some watercolor hues that are distinctly Pacific Northwest. The Cascade green used in my little sketch is one of those colors. I like this semi transparent, granulating color for capturing the unique color of the northwest outdoors.

The craggy peaks of the Cascade Mountains that divide lush, western Washington from the dry, high plains of the east, inspired this unique green.

Daniel Smith

The colors chosen for Douglas Fir include Cascade Green and Perylene Green. I was introduced to Perylene Green in a class and my initial thought was that it looked muddy and a bit ‘off’ for natural vegetation. I have learned to use Perylene Green in shadows and washes with happy results. Check out this field guide page using a limited palette of these greens, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber.

Douglas Fir field notes.
real & sketch

In January 2021 I started ‘Color Week’, a personal goal to weekly explore a color history or curiosity


Blooming Color

The landscape is filled with the pale pink blossoms of cherry, plum and tulip trees. This week the color is Quinacridone Magenta. This was one of the first colors on my palette when I started watercolor. A perfect pink tone for the trees in bloom.

Tulip Tree in full bloom / Tube color
Very Old Flowering Cherry Tree painted plein air


Snow without the fuss

There was a forecast of snow for this week so I made the best of it by learning a few snow painting techniques in watercolor.

It’s all about the blue shadows.