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A trip to the city.

I make my own oil paint. I buy the grounds and mix them with linseed oil. The grounds come from a business in San Francisco named Sinopia.

A few years ago I attended a Windsor Newton demo and the woman giving the demonstration mentioned how great Windsor Newton paint was, highest grade, blah, blah, unless you want to go to Sinopia and make your own paint, blah, Windsor, blah, Newton. I use a lot of Windsor Newton paint and really like the product, but, her statement about making your own paint really hit me.

I visited Sinopia for the first time about three years ago. The shop looked like a Frankenstein laboratory with plastic bags full of color all around. The owner's name is Alex and I was so excited to meet him and talk about pigments that I rushed home and ordered a copy of Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay for him. It was a little creepy, but whatever.

Sinopia's pigments come from all over the world and can vary dramatically from area to area. An ochre yellow from France and an ochre yellow from England look quite different. The pigments are also usually quite colorful when in ground form, which always tricks me. Most darken considerably when mixed with oil. Each one also absorbs the oil a little differently and mixing takes some experimenting.

Buying dry pigments seems to be considerably cheaper than buying commercial paint. I always love looking at the little five gram jar of $170 lapis lazuli. Sinopia's new line of milk paint is soft and beautiful. But, it is meant for furniture and walls, so, I haven't used it yet.

The shop has since closed. The website is going strong. Alex let my wife and I come up to check out his warehouse this week. It is still inspiring and wonderful to me. Alex has made the mail ordering on his website so easy, I will be doing that from now on, but I had to see the new digs.

I really like mixing my own paint, there is something base and primal about it. You need to wear a mask, mix it in a ventilated area, and it takes some practice. But the colors you can get are simply amazing.

You can visit Sinopia's site HERE.

Emerson MurrayComment