the World's Best Oil paints

“When you close the door on an expensive car it feels like you've just closed a bank vault. It's expensive but you get what you pay for. In the same way you can tell quality paint when you use it - that's definitely the case with Old Holland."

-Kevin Murphy

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Old Holland paint is such a pleasure to work with. Evolve students exclusively use Old Holland paints to complete their exercises while in the Evolve program.

In this post you'll learn what Old Holland paint is, why we at Evolve use it exclusively, and what it takes for me to consider it the best oil paint available. 

​What is special about Old Holland paint?

Edward de Beer, Owner of Old Holland speaking to students at the 2018 Evolve Conference.

Old Holland is the oldest paint manufacturer in the world by a couple of hundred years. They've been around since the 1600s. I believe they were founded in the 1640s by a guild of oil painters.

Old Holland has been around in one form or another this entire time. Today the company is still using the same formulas that were used historically (the same expertise from the same manuals from 400 years ago). If you're looking to get closer to the Old Masters, Old Holland paint is a direct link.

Mixing Old Holland paints.

​When you going to a museum you likely don't think about the paint itself. But when you stand in front of any of the Dutch masters, Vermeer and Rembrandt for example, you are looking at Old Holland paint. When you stand in front of a Cezanne - you are looking at Old Holland paint. Jeff Koons is a contemporary artist (I think he's the highest paid artist in the world). You stand in front of one of Koon's paintings and it's Old Holland. Odd Nerdrum is another one; he is widely considered the greatest figure painter of our time. He is a modern day Rembrandt. You stand in front of his work and you're looking at Old Holland paint. Having these incredible painters all use the same paint is a pretty powerful statement.

Why do Evolve students exclusively use Old Holland paint?

Johannes Vermeer used Old Holland paints to paint “Girl with a pearl earring” in 1665.

You want to eliminate as many of the variables that could get in the way of quality work, right? So if you're using a quality brush, quality paint, and quality canvas, you know that the errors (if they creep in) are human errors and they're not shortcomings of the materials.

One of the things with Old Holland is that there is no margin of error with the materials - it's flawless. Now this doesn't make you a better artist on it's own but it doesn't get in the way of you making art. The idea is to avoid adding any additional friction on the road from your first stroke to developing mastery. At Evolve we're trying to eliminate that friction for students by only using the best paint available.

Evolve students participating in a Q&A with Old Holland owner Edward de Beer at the 2018 Evolve Conference.

What are the best oil paints to use?

When you're making a painting it's imperative that the the final product endures. Your time is valuable and quality paint will ensure that your work long outlives you. You want to make sure that what you're producing doesn't disappear into the ether 50 years from now. You want to ensure that it doesn't degrade and fall apart. In the future you don’t want to find out that the paint you were using isn’t light-fast (that the sun breaks down the pigment and you wind up with a bleached painting, even sitting in a room that doesn't have very much light). If you walk into a museum many of the paintings are 400 years old. Let your work stand the test of time by using only the best oil paints.

Evolve students look at an Old Holland color chart. 

What about tinting strength?

When I was younger (before I knew much about paint) I would go into the store to buy art supplies. I'd walk past the Old Holland case and get down on one knee bowed down (I joke around that the case of paint is like an altar) and then I'd keep walking because I thought it was too expensive. The reality is that a 40 ml tube of Old Holland paint is like a 90 ml tube of another brand. So the price is not much different it's just that you have to pay more upfront for it - but the paint goes a lot further. It's tinting strength is incredible. If you take one part of red and one part of titanium white from Old Holland and take that same amount of white and red from another brand, the Old Holland mixture is still red when you're done and the other brand is a pale pink.

All this to say that you don't use anywhere near as much paint for the same richness and result. From the standpoint of making paintings that is a very valuable thing. The higher the grade of paint, the pigment, and the kind of oil, the better. Old Holland doesn't use any fixtures (there's nothing to bulk up the paint); it is purely oil and pigment.

Conclusion

I always recommend that students work with the highest grade material that they can. This recommendation is in order of what is going to be the most important (meaning I don't spend that much money on a brush but I do spend it on paint). At some point the brushes end up in the garbage when they get worn down. But the painting lasts - it endures. For that reason I want my students to use the highest grade of paint and it also makes the job easier because the quality of paint is never a hindrance.  

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