We artists can’t help but be transfixed by and have a passion for paint. It beckons in its own quiet, seductive way: “Use me. I will make your art stand out. I will help you create beauty unlike any you’ve known so far.”
We know intellectually, of course, that it’s not the paint that will make or break our art. After all, there are many good and great paints out there. If we have put all of our hard-learned experience and technique, as well as our voice and heart and soul into a piece, would anyone truly know if we used, say, Winton instead of Gamblin, Rembrandt instead of Old Holland? As long as we keep our focus on putting the time and energy into growing and learning every day when it comes to our art, the brand of paint isn’t what’s going to distinguish our work from anyone else’s.
Some very well known and respected artists, like Stuart Shils and Dan McCaw, purposefully use the cheapest brushes and paints they can, for instance. They don’t want to let the expense of higher-end materials block their freedom in the painting process. (Sometimes, we can inadvertently block ourselves if we use expensive tools, because in the backs of our minds, we think, “I mustn’t waste all this money. I must create something GREAT with what I’ve purchased.” That kind of pressure on ourselves can be a crushing killer when it comes to our creativity and the required sense of “flow” in making art, especially if we’re just starting out, but still a risk no matter where we are in our careers.)
And yet …
What if there were an artist who had such a passion for beautiful paint that he decided to make some himself? And then, what if he had the gumption and wherewithal to create that paint and manufacture it and then visit other artists to have them try the paints out and talk with them about his process in creating the most vibrant and emotionally resonating colors and consistency available? And, if that weren’t enough, what if he made them affordable?
Enter Michael Harding.
Now, I’d heard from other artists about Michael’s paints, and I’d smile as they went on about how great he was and how wonderful his paints are. I was polite, but my inner voice said, “Don’t fall for it. You are not a rich woman. Stick with your Gamblins and Rembrandts and Grumbachers and Charvins that you buy only during special sales. Focus on making your art, not on buying more materials.”
I’d heard his colors were more saturated than any others on the market. Well, that got my attention. But I still wouldn’t bite. I couldn’t afford to, or so I thought.
Then I had a chance to go to one of Michael’s demonstrations, given at Gail Sauter’s studio in Kittery, ME. He laid all his paints out. There were palette knives and sheets of specially coated paper for us to try whatever colors we wanted.
I chose Cobalt Violet and Prussian Blue and King’s Blue Deep and Lemon Yellow and Terre Verte. I was thinking about irises. How difficult it is to capture my impression of the particular blue/violet hue in the flowers and the particular yellow/gray/green in the stems and leaves. I’ve come close, but never as close as I wanted.
I smeared the paint onto the paper, enjoying the just-right buttery texture: not too thick, not too runny for my style of painting (which is thick and fast). I let one color blend into another and marveled at how well they played together. I tried to be skeptical, I really did. But who was I kidding? I was smitten. I had no choice but to buy them. Yes, I caved. And I’m ever so glad I did.
Michael Harding’s paints are phenomenal. So far, I love them. The pure joy and delight I get in using them helps me create better paintings. I swear, this isn’t a rationalization. Because the price was reasonable (he gave us an added 30% discount off of already discounted prices, which is what made me decide to buy them), I don’t worry about wasting paint, which allows me to be free in my process. This way, I also have the added benefit of giving my collectors artwork that will last for centuries because the paints are made to. Last, that is. Without fading. Or turning. I like the idea that they will look 100 years from now the way they do today.
I have created a couple of twilight seascapes with them. This week, I will also be painting lakescapes and gardenscapes as I vacation on Lake Michigan. And I will report further about the difference the paints make.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on Michael Harding paints, as well as the paintings I’ll be creating with them.