Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kama & Canadian Balsam

I’ve always found the technical aspect of painting with oil to be an intriguing challenge. It’s important to know the components and strengths of pigments as they interact with each other long after the painting is dry—so it is integral to use the highest standard of oil paint and mediums and I have a few favourites. The more expensive are the highly pigmented paints - Old Holland, Williamsburg and Michael Harding—beautiful beautiful beautiful..and worth every penny- from consistency, handling and saturation. I think it’s important to invest in good quality pigments, but I have found that M Graham Paints and mediums are cost effective and bound with walnut oil allowing for brilliant refractive qualities.

For the past year I have been using KAMA oil paint and mediums. They are ground by hand in an artist run store out of Montreal and they not only offer excellent paint—in unique colours like ‘hemoglobin’-but also powdered pigment and all the fixings if you are inclined to make your own. They are brilliant—also using walnut oil as binder but they are a lot ‘drier’ than M Graham. I really like experimenting with mediums and reading Marc Dalessio's blog led me on a hunt for Canadian Balsam— and I found it at KAMA! It’s very expensive but after investigating it I just HAD to try it.

Today I mixed my medium by using 1 part sun-thickened linseed oil, 1 part solvent and 1 part Canadian Balsam. I work very thin and lay in using only turps and a little alkyd to speed up the drying—as I lay in thicker passages I add the medium. The Balsam moves the paint beautifully—very fluid. Canadian Balsam is a sap from fir trees, used to improve adhe­sion from one paint layer to another and impart a silky smooth qual­ity to the paint. It is supposed to be clearer than other balsams and leave a refractive sheen..will find out when this little painting dries.

oil in canvas
9x12in, 2010



  1. Very interesting to read about the paints you are using. I use Old Holland and Michael Harding they are expensive but I use only a small amount when painting in glazes. I am wondering if you use a great deal of paint as you use your paint so thickly. I can see that the natural colours you use really are beautiful. I agree the paints we use are important.

  2. Hi Carolyn--actually I don't use that much paint just work very wet--but I do a lot of 'building' fat over lean so yes in the end I suppose I do.

    I think this Canadian Balsam would do well in glazes, especially mixed with stand oil--it is very clear and does impart a beautiful flow and sheen--seems to dry fast as well

  3. Gosh doesn't sand oil take an eternity to dry, I think I read that somewhere. I wonder if you use liquin and I must say I am interested to hear that you build up your paintings I had the impression they were very spontaneous paintings worked fast using knife, hands and thick paint. It is difficult to really see the painting properly on a computer screen. I think your work is wonderful it is so expressive and bold.

  4. Thanks for your compliment Carolin, it really does mean a lot--I have a really hard time photographing my paintings -i seem to get glare no matter what and when I try fade reduction and clarify the edges look too sharp so yes, i like to see the mark of the brush and there are thick passages, but primarily done in layers with a #14 flat.

    What do you use for glazes? linseed oil? Stand oil does take a while to dry but sometimes i like the pull it gives when workig wet into wet..

  5. wow...what a terrific painting you have created...love it..keep it up...