History of R&F

This year marks the 29th anniversary of R&F Handmade Paints. What began as a painter’s solo endeavor has evolved into a multi-faceted paint company that is material-focused and artist-driven.

R&F’s Founder Richard Frumess began making encaustic paint as a painter simply to support his own artistic practice and to ensure that ready-made encaustic was kept in production at a time when there were no commercial manufacturers. During the first year Richard produced encaustic paint as R&F Encaustics. While he struggled to start-up the business, asking pigment suppliers for double samples and also working a second job, the seed was firmly planted. This first year in business Richard sold a line of 39 colors including five “pearlescents” to art retailers in New York City as well as Denver, CO and internationally in Paris.

Within R&F’s first year in business Richard was urged by friend, former coworker and fellow artist Carl Plansky, who later founded Williamsburg Oils, to develop a second complimentary product that also contained wax. The notion was to formulate an oil stick that was different from what was already on the market. Richard worked to create this new product that combined a small amount of natural wax so that the paint could be poured into a mold and would maintain a form, but would satisfy the artist’s desire for the same high-quality professional colors that traditional tube oil paints are known for in another format – the stick. What came out of this conversation were ably named Pigment Sticks. When Richard introduced Pigment Sticks to the market in 1990 they were available in 31 lipstick-soft colors.

Over the years R&F has moved from that Brooklyn, NY basement to West Park, NY and later to Kingston, NY which has been our home since 1995. These moves were significant for many reasons. While our paint is at the core of our company it isn’t our only focus; we view our responsibility to our customer as paramount. As our paint production and commercial market grew steadily in the mid-1990s there was a greater need to provide both technical information and support to those artists working in encaustic. The initial aim of R&F workshops was to introduce artists to fundamental encaustic painting techniques. We wanted to demystify the process for the artist, while educating and providing the most up-to-date technical information.

We offered our first workshops at the Women’s Studio Workshop in nearby Rosendale, NY. Over the following year we set-up a large studio facility and began scheduling workshops year-round. Cynthia Winika who started her career as an R&F paintmaker became the first principal instructor and remains today to be a vital wealth of knowledge and brings her one-of-a-kind perspective to every class.

Those who took our first Comprehensive Encaustic Workshops are now among the most popular artists working in the medium today. Over the years, the reach of our workshops has expanded exponentially and course offerings are now available in a variety of formats and skill levels at various venues throughout the United States and at select international locations. With the Program’s growth and wider artist base, we are pleased to offer new and experimental workshops and collaborations every season.

The other logical offshoot to R&F’s arsenal of artist and community driven support is our Gallery. The Gallery at R&F in Kingston promotes the various contemporary uses of oil paint and encaustic. R&F first established a small gallery space in 1995 when Richard moved the company into the Millard Building on Broadway in Kingston. This was the impetus for the Gallery’s bi-monthly rotating exhibition schedule (and also provided adequate space to establish our workshops). The Gallery began by featuring local artists working in encaustic and pigment stick in its inaugural exhibition “WaxWorks” in December of 1995.  In 1998 the name of the company was changed to R&F Handmade Paints, inc. and that same year artist Laura Moriarty began managing and curating R&F exhibitions after her solo show Don’t Forget to Write.  

Highlights of our exhibitions include: Kevin Frank (2001), Don Maynard (2003), Give & Take: A group exhibition of artwork that uses symbolism to explore cultural traditions and assumptions. Featuring: Kim Bruce, Valerie Hammond, Judith Kindler and John Maul (2006), Encaustics 2000-2007: Rick Purdy (2007), Lorrie Fredette: A Pattern of Connections (2008), Paula Roland: Poetics of Pattern (2009), Charles Forsberg: She Sells Sanctuary (2010), Sean Sullivan: Lost on Roads (2010), BARBARA ELLMANN: FOREIGN AFFAIRS (2010), Nancy Graves Encaustic (2010), Hot off the Press: New Encaustic Printmaking (2012), Alexandre Masino: Geological Radiance (2012).

In addition to our gallery, R&F promotes artists through numerous avenues including our featured artist online gallery, the Encaustic Works biennial which showcases growing trends in encaustic. This first Encaustic Works exhibition was juried by Stephen Heller, featured artwork from eighteen artists and was held in 1997. Subsequent exhibitions were juried or curated by artists Judy Pfaff, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Heather Hutchison and Joan Snyder and by curator Tracy Bashkoff. In 2011 we modified the biennial to an exhibition-in-print which was juried by Joanne Mattera. In her forward Laura wrote, “The landscape has changed dramatically over those fifteen years, as the popularity of encaustic has swelled.” Encaustic Works 2012 was published in June of 2012 and features twenty-nine artist portfolios.

Today R&F calls 84 Ten Broeck Avenue in midtown Kingston home. In 2005 a decaying 19th century factory building was purchased and renovated to best suit the needs and personality of this growing company.  Our story is one that finds a singular material at the nucleus of our company, but our commitment to you, the artist, is where we find our direction. We will continue to distinguish ourselves by producing the highest quality paint available, through evolving and expanding the course offerings of our workshop programming, by maintaining our Gallery presence and by providing you with the most current and complete technical support.