Paintmaking at R&F

We are often asked, what distinguishes the handmade product from its mass produced counterpart? "Handmade" does not mean that we grind our paint with slab and muller and shape it with our hands. What makes our products handmade is the intensive labor involved in making a paint solely from its base ingredients of pigment and medium.

Our concern is that the paint retains the brightness of vivid colors and the subtle interplay of top tones and bottom tones of translucent colors. This is especially true of our mixes. Nearly half of all our colors are mixes, some of them involving as many as 5 or 6 different pigments.This is a rarity in paint lines. Mixed colors are a lot of work. They must be carefully formulated and milled to prevent them from becoming muddy. And they must be matched to maintain uniformity from batch to batch. We wouldn't go through all this effort if there weren't a rich aesthetic value to it. The reward is in the endless variety of tones that can be created with different working of these colors: brown undertones not seen in the top tones of our neutral greys, a lemony yellow when our sap green is extended out, the earthy yellowishness underneath the mossy green of our green earth, or the sharp blue undertone of our somber Courbet green.

We do not accept compromises like additives or mass production methods of making large amounts of paint expediently. We want the individual characteristics of each pigment to come through. This means that the formulation and milling of each pigment must be tailored to its particular traits. Each of our colors, therefore, has a slightly different feel to it. The cadmiums are very smooth, while some of the earths and cobalt colors are left slightly gritty to prevent over-grinding and loss of brilliance and clarity.

All of this necessitates making the paint in very small carefully controlled batches. Each milling must be done with painstaking methodicalness. One day's production, for example, yields fewer than 300 Pigment Sticks and 100 encaustic cakes.

Our emphasis on the highest possible quality extends to our choice of materials as well. This is why we are now importing some of our earth pigments directly from Italy, why we have each of our cadmium shades made specifically for us, and why we insist on using only natural waxes and oils. These factors are what make the manufacturing of handmade paint as much a labor of love as a business.