You've seen many frescos and you know they are among the most durable of paintings because of the way the pigment is locked into the plaster. Frescos are also a bit tricky to do. There is a good bit of information on the technique and the chemistry involved. We could even consider making a small fresco... let me know if you want to do this because it would require getting some lime putty ASAP. There is a negozio delle belle arte in via studio near the duomo. Also Fiorenza's husband, Alessanro, knows of some places to get traditional plaster. If you decide to actually do a fresco this could be a good 3 person project I think, given the combination of hands-on and research work. A great book to read is Michelangelo and Pope's Ceiling" by Ross King.


What is the fresco process (what happens to lock-in the pigment)? -- See the Chemistry lab link below

How did fresco painters work? Why was it difficult? -- see "painting in the wet" in Michelangelo and Pope's ceiling

Update June 3

Lime putty, pigments, sand and tiles have been obtained by Timi and Roel. The putty and pigments are from here:
Zecchi Colori - Belle Arti Di A. Zecchi E Figli S.n.c. 
50122 Firenze (FI) - 19/R, VIA DELLO STUDIO
tel: 055 211470 
(categoria "Colori, vernici e smalti - vendita al dettaglio" nelle pagine gialle)

Fresco Observations June 8

(From EutimiaMontoya? and RoelCordero? )

%MRC% Timi & Roel -- thanks for being ambituous and diving into this -- especially with Berlin & other events at the end of the quarter. The frescos came out better than I expected and I too enjoyed learning the "hands on" aspects of fresco preparation that go with the chemistry and the historical discussions of the technique.

We found making a fresco to be a fun and interesting experience. While the actual process turned out to be simpler than we originally imagined, the art involved in making a quality fresco we found to be very particular. One must be meticulous in timing at several stages of the process. The first coat of one part lime and two parts sand needs at least one day to dry, but two days are better, so you have to be patient. However, once the intonaco is placed and has dried a bit, there is only a very small amount of time during which you can paint on it in order for it to work. For instance, if one paints on the intonaco to early, the plaster comes off on the brush, and pigments bleed together. If one waits to long on the other hand, the pigments do not absorb properly and the fresco will not be permanent. Therefore, in order to observe the time constraints, one should already have a vision of what one wants the final outcome to look like before beginning the process.

Working with pigments was especially fun, even though the colors mix together in interesting ways. Finding the proper amount of water to mix with the pigments can be very tricky. If you have too much water and not enough pigment, the color is almost non-existent. Plus, the colors resettle very soon, so one must stir them constantly. They also change after they dry, so one needs to have some flexibility within their colorful vision. Regardless, dry or when mixed with water, the colors are rich and beautiful. They paint on smoothly and the intonaco absorbs them fully. This project definitely gave us a better appreciation for natural color.

If we were to do this project again, we would recommend using a better tool for smoothing the plaster, such as a trowel or spattula. Using just a knife, as we did, left grooves and made smoothing the edges difficult. If you are working on a tile as we did, we also recommend smoothing all the edges at a definite ninety degree angle. If the intonaco is hanging over the edges, when your fresco dries, it will be very easy to chip it where the plaster sticks out. We would also find a better mixing surface for the paints. It was recommended that we mix them on a pane of glass, but we used plastic cups instead, which were abundant and spilled easily. It might also be wise to begin the project sooner in the quarter, because the time it took to gather the materials and then the several days needed to prepare the different stages of work could be better spread out. The amount of time would have been adequate if we had not been traveling for several weeks, so perhaps the time in the quarter would be enough under different circumstances. Even so, the project, as a whole, was a very fun idea. We learned a bit about the history of frescos, and the history of making them, and gained a better appreciation for just how impressive the large frescos we have been visiting all quarter really are.

Links A good page on the method Could do it here...

-- MarkCutkosky - 17 May 2005

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