De Mayerne Medium in America

Plein air figure painting.

Gregurić Breg (unfinished). 100 x 80 cm, oil on linen. Painted with the new medium from Blue Ridge Oil Colors.

Blue Ridge Oil Colors is going to start pre-making the medium I use and selling it in the US. (For people in Europe who don’t want to make their own, I would recommend getting it from Zecchi). If you want to make your own I also have a youtube video showing the process.

I was trying it out recently on this large plein air figurative piece, and in my sketches from Copenhagen. The Blue Ridge version dries faster than what I’m used to using. I know that’s a plus for a lot of artists and it certainly is for me when I travel. During longer projects though, like the one posted above, I sometimes like to scrape down a fresh painting at the start of the next session, and this medium dries too quickly for that -just a heads up.

The recipe is a variation of the medium developed by Charles Cecil and is originally based, in part, on the writings of Theodore de Mayerne. De Mayerne was a Swiss doctor who was friends with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. He wrote one of the rare documents discussing painting materials of the 17th-century, and he appears to have consulted with both Rubens and Van Dyck regularly on their opinions. His writings discuss straw-colored Strasbourg turpentine and thickening oil with lead in the sun, as well as many other art material related topics. You can buy an English translation online.

While I much prefer the smell of Strasbourg turpentine to Canada balsam, the Strasbourg turpentine sometimes beads a lot when beginning again on a dry painting. (Looking closely at Isaac Levitan’s paintings you can see the same beading, which makes me wonder what he was using).

At any rate, it’s a great medium for laying-in (add some turpentine), as well as glazing at the end of a project. I’ve been using it for over twenty years now and my early pieces are all in fine condition.


    • I’ve tried it Andre. I didn’t like cooking the oil though and I didn’t trust the look of the stuff I made myself as it was too dark.

  1. Hi Marc,

    Apropos the beading, try scrubbing the dry paint lightly with a scotch bright pad (the ones used in the kitchen). It won’t damage the paint but it’ll make microsopic scratches enough to adhere the fresh paint to. It may dull the surface somewhat – just oil it in, and it’ll be fine.

    PS: The strasbourg sold by Kremer isn’t the real deal, which DeMayerne sais is golden yellow in color. You could use pure larch, it’s pale yellow, very sticky, sets well but dries very slowly (remains tacky for several days).

  2. Hi Wim, I only saw this now. I use a cuttlebone for the microscopic scratches.

    Also, Kremer had a golden yellow colored Strasbourg for a couple of years, maybe 8 years ago?. Unfortunately they sold out and are back to the brown one (which I wont use).

  3. Hi Marc,

    I see you mixing spike oil and your medium together in one video. Is that the mixture in your other one minute video On medium? And and an equal mix of the two? Recommendations on labels here in the states?


    • Hi Ted, when this video was made I was using turpentine still. As my wife is allergic I’ve since switched to spike oil. That said, I much prefer spike oil and am very happy I switched. I still use the same medium as you see in the video. I’m experimenting with dropping the turpentine for spike oil in the medium, but I don’t have enough experience with it yet to say if I recommend it or not. As for brands, I’ve used Chelsea Classical Studios, Natural Pigments and Lefranc & Bourgeois. The last one was far cheaper than the other two. All worked fine. The only one I didn’t like was Holbein.

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