“Project 640 Tubes”

October 15, 2008

Roz starts a campaign to get M. Graham Paints to add PB60 to their gouache line.

I paint rocks (actually I paint a lot of things, but let’s focus on the rocks for now). I use gouache to paint rocks. The rock at the left (about 6 inches tall) was painted using Schmincke Gouache. No M. Graham Gouache was used to paint this rock. You’ll find out why in a couple moments if you keep reading.

So you thought you could just visit my blog and I would never ask you
to do anything, never ask you to show some passion and step up to a
cause? You were wrong, read on. I need your help.

On September 30, 2008 I met Art Graham, founder and colorist (color guru?) behind M. Graham Paint. 

Actually I first met him about 8 years ago when he visited Wet Paint Artists’ Materials & Framing (the local art supply store I frequent and love because it is
local, has "most" things I want, and every staff member is fantastic). That
first meeting, however, doesn’t count much. Art was sitting at a table
near the front of the store. When I came in and asked him to pitch his
paints to me he simply pointed to some tubes, brushes, and paper. "Try
it, " he said with the nonchalant tone of someone who knows he’s made a good product.

Frankly I didn’t think much of that sales strategy. Yes I can tell good
paint when it lands on my brush, but there are a lot of new painters
out there. I meet them in my classes all the time. They need to be told
what is good about a product, how it is made and why that is a better
way. They need to be encouraged to part from their money for something
tangible. If product information isn’t available, or is too hard, or
too exasperating, to come by, they will give up. That’s lost sales. As
the daughter of a capitalist I find that downright obscene.

I did try some paint that day, 8 years ago. Only a watercolor was available. It was a red. I don’t recall which red. It was luscious, but then I was already using Daniel Smith Watercolors. I find Daniel Smith watercolors heavily pigmented, nicely blended, with great workability and a fabulous range of lightfast colors.

I didn’t buy any paint when I first met Art Graham. In fact it wasn’t until several years later when I was teaching a color theory class that I bought some M. Graham watercolors. I really wanted to use Daniel Smith paints but students wanted to buy locally. M. Graham was available locally. I tested the colors with which I wanted to teach. The paint was also very reasonably priced—a great way for my students to get exposed to watercolors for the first or 50th time.

When M. Graham came out with a gouache line (a small range of quality colors) I was intrigued. But they didn’t bring out my favorite color: PB60, known by various names such as Indanthrene Blue or Anthraquinon Blue.

Previously I had been using Schmincke Gouache. I liked it because unlike gouache made for students or commercial illustration, it was pigment and medium without opacifiers. When I made it up into pans for field work it rewet quickly and richly. With Schmincke Gouache I could paint with light transparent washes (as for watercolor) or opaquely.

Demand for gouache in the Twin Cities was evidently low and shelf space limited at Wet Paint. They ceased carrying Schmincke Gouache. (Which is why I now get it mail order and set up the link, if you clicked on it earlier, to the source I buy it from.)

When Wet Paint cut Schmincke Gouache I was already using some M. Graham Gouache colors. The line has some lovely yellows and reds. It too is made without opacifiers. The colors are pigment rich, vibrant, and with that little bit of honey they throw into the mix, even more supple, which is a nice thing for gouache to be.

But there is no PB60 in the M. Graham Gouache line! I need PB60. When PB60 is mixed with its complement Burnt Sienna a wondrous range of browns and neutrals and blues spread into view. One of these valuable neutrals is Malamute gray!



In the above rock detail you can see the wonderful dark neutrals I achieved using Schmincke Gouache, PB60 and other colors. No black pigment was used in this painting and the rock is vibrant because of that.

M. Graham Paint produces a PB60 in their watercolor line. They have a PB60 in their oil paint line. They have PB60 in their acrylic paint line.

I longed for it in their gouache line. I wrote and asked when I might expect it. A polite response said, never, use Phthalo Blue.

YUCK. I’m sorry. How could I be expected to live with the greenish cast such mixes would yield? This just isn’t sensible.


In the above swatches you can see the lovely Schmincke Gouache PB60 at the top left and the green, green, Phthalo blue from M. Graham Gouache in the bottom left. (Both Burnt Siennas are M. Graham Gouache.) The green cast dominates the range of colors mixed with this pigment. There are no Malamutes on earth the color of the second or third swatch from the left in the bottom row. (Unless you have been searching in a swamp on a hot and humid day, but that’s another story.)

So when Art Graham came to St. Paul this September I wrangled an invitation to a Wet Paint staff meeting. He was warned in advance, which is good, because I kept bringing up the need to add PB60 to his gouache line. (I probably wasn’t thrown out because I also brought a chocolate cake as part of my devious plan.) It’s not like they don’t have boxes or jars of PB60 in the storeroom waiting to be made into paint.

Finally Art told me if I bought 640 tubes—which is what the production batch run would be—he’d make it for me. Sadly, even I cannot use that much PB60 fast enough, or in whatever is left of my life. The store owner laughed when Art suggested she buy 640 tubes. Hey, why shouldn’t she laugh? Sometimes I feel I’m the ONLY person buying this stuff.

So here’s why I need your help. I need you ALL to start painting with gouache. It’s a friendly medium. An old and honorable one. (You’ll be joining Dürer, Turner and a lot of the British watercolorists; frankly to mix transparent and opaque passages, or to just paint opaquely is not a sin.)

Now once you’ve started painting with gouache—which you could start on this weekend—you’ll need to develop a palette of pigments to use. I can help you with that. I’ll post some suggestions.

Let’s say next Tuesday or so you need to buy paint, you have to have that PB60. You’ve only got one choice: Schmincke Gouache. It’s a great paint, but it probably is not available locally so you will have to mail order it. Go ahead and do that.

Next, please sit down and write Art Graham a note:

Tell Art you just ordered some Schmincke Gouache, PB60, Dark Indigo (their Delft Blue is also made with PB60 but I like the Dark Indigo better). Tell him you bought Schmincke Gouache "because sir, you don’t produce that pigment in your line."

Explain to him that since you were already ordering mail order you went ahead and ordered the other 7 tubes of gouache you needed (you’re just starting and you need to keep your palette simple) at the same time—Schmincke Gouache of course.

Tell him you won’t be buying any of his lovely line of gouache because it was more convenient to get all the quality paint at one place with one shipping charge. Don’t forget to tell him that this makes you sad because you would love to use his gouache.

End your note with,   Oh, and by the way, Roz says ‘Hi.’

OK, that’s the plan. You see Art told me, and there were witnesses, that if he could sell 640 tubes of PB60 he would make it for me. Your notes to him, honest, sincere notes announcing yourself as an actual user of gouache, aching to buy his product (many colors beyond the one in question), will clarify for him that there is a market for this color, that there is a world of artists out there visualizing the world without a greenish cast to everything.

(And by the way, you can mix more vibrant lavenders with PB60, even when using warm reds. It doesn’t contain all that complementary green to neutralize the reds, that Phthalo Blue does.)

In the meantime, I’ll keep telling people what a wonderful product he has, because it is wonderful. I don’t have any hard feelings.

I’m serious about this folks. I want my PB60 and I am asking you to help me get it. Think of all that you gain: you’ll work in a medium that is fabulously fun, probably the most art fun you’ve ever had. (But don’t paint in gouache unless you are using Schmincke or M. Graham.)

To be continued…(which means I want my PB60)

    • Roxane
    • October 15, 2008

    Count me in for a couple of tubes.

  1. Reply

    Hello Roz. I have a little art crush on you. I think you are funny and your art is really good and I like the way you write. This isn’t the frightening “oh no” sort of crush, just a sincere little crush. I am going to go into the city at the end of the week with your gouache paint list in hand and see what I can find. After I do this I will email m graham with a cheeky letter that is fitting for the circumstance.

  2. Reply

    Go Roz! Haven’t used guoache in years but wish you good luck. Fabulous post. I’ll link to this post in my blog.

    • Roz
    • November 13, 2009

    Diana, I hope you’ll consider using it again and become a fan of PB60 and let M. Graham know!

    • Zoe
    • May 13, 2011

    So much time as past, but I suspect we still don’t have this colour. Have you an update?

    And Roz, I have a cart with 4 colours, all MG, all from Wet Paint and wondered after reading you in a most biblical sense why turquoise in your recommended limited palette and not the more generalised UM?

    And great to get back to your blog and art.

  3. Reply

    Zoe, my go-to blue in gouache is Dark Indigo (PB60). I don’t have UM? Is that French Ultramarine? Don’t have that on my palette. (I do have a tube somewhere in the studio drawer but I rarely use it even in the studio.)

    The Helio Turquoise in this line is heaven with my cool reds for near-blacks that are rich and full and dark and lovely!!!

    You can see my palette selections here

    • Zoe
    • May 13, 2011

    Thanks, Roz. I can certainly understand the PB60. I just checked the Helio Turquoise and see why you selected it–it does look bright and rich. Yes, UM is ultramarine.

    I’ll be giving more thought to a limited palette and hope to put one together next month when Wet Paint gets in the new Schmincke enamel palettes (they are restocking these) so that I can have the gouache in one tidy place.

    All the best.

    • Joshua
    • April 27, 2013

    This is a very late comment, but this seems like the kind of thing that might work on Kickstarter or the like: arrange for someone willing to do fulfillment (unpack the 640+ tubes and repack and ship them to individual backers), set a reasonable price including shipping and handling, record a video explaining how great PB 60 is and see whether you can get 640 orders in 30 days.

  4. Reply

    Joshua, well you have outlined a very interesting approach. I just might have to look into this. Currently I’m going a wonderful PB60 through Schmincke and my life is too full with work and other issues, but I will definitely keep it in mind.

    Thanks for suggesting it.

    • Faith McLellan
    • July 21, 2014

    Your friend Faith just bought some gouache and is itching to get started! So where did I turn for tips right away? Yep, you got it–right here! Stay tuned….

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