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frescoes-msg - 10/11/09


Creating frescoes. Fresco being water-based paint on wet plaster. The color sinks in and produces a very pretty and long-lasting painting, which won't disappear until the plaster itself is worn away.


NOTE: See also the files: plaster-msg, Relief-Carvng-art, sculpture-msg, tiles-msg, pottery-msg, tiles-art.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 22:54:10 -0400

From: Margo Lynn Hablutzel <Hablutzel at compuserve.com>

To: A&S List <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: source for pigment


This from Mistress Aidan, C&I Laurel from Calontir

now living in Al-Barran in the Outlands:


--------------- Forwarded Message ---------------


I just got a great catalog in the mail--chock full of "real" pigments,

in quantities from 100g to 1 kilo of ground pigments, at impressive

prices.  It is the Sinopia Pigments and Materials catalog, Fall 97. They

also have a website (duh) at http://www.sinopia.com.


This outfit apparently specializes in sales to people who do art

restoration (!) and frescoes, thus the large quantity. They also sell

brushes and various equipment.


Just thought I'd pass this on to any interested illuminator types....


Ms. Aidan



Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 12:15:12 -0600

From: Stephanie Cohen <olga at icon-stl.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Fresco


Ted Hewitt wrote:

> I attempted to help my 12 year old son, Edmond, experiment with fresco,

> where water-based pigments are applied to wet plaster.  He did a fine

> job, but within a week, the colors faded away.


> I am unsure what happened because we did use a pigmented paint, not a dye

> - and we used it a high concentration.  Any suggestions?


> Edwin, Full-time Idealist, Part-time Realist

> <brogoose at pe.net>


Ok, a correction to my earlier post:  "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and

Techniques", Ralph Mayer.  I've got the 4th editon, 1981  ISBN 0-670-13666-2.

There's an extensive discussion of fresco materials and process, including history and pigment lists. Yep, there's a *big* chemistry consideration- the final painting surface is slaked lime putty...*really* alkaline!  Plaster of Paris is gypsum (calcium sulphate), while slaked lime putty is calcium hydroxide.  I wonder if it's also possible that the different chemical properties would prevent getting a true fresco result- I bet that gypsum won't "lock in" the pigments the same way slaked lime does, but act more like the description of secco- painting on the dry plaster wall with water-based pigments ground with a binder, like watercolors or tempera.





Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 18:29:35 +0000 (UT)

From: Sean Winchell <Paladainn at classic.msn.com>


Subject: Fresco


Although its not period, and is cheating to a degree, you may want to give the

surface of your canvas a light spraying of white paint from a spray can. This

may spread out through the material, allowing you not so much to paint on the

plaster, as on the white spray paint.



Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 17:36:11 -0600

From: rockwallshire at webtv.net (Shared Account)

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Fresco


Regarding Fresco Painting:


My Lord, you will have little success with store bought temepra--which

isn't real tempera paint at all (Try the article I have resident at a

site I am building on illuminated manuscripts; the site is still majorly

under construction but the tempera article is complete, go to

http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Library/2036/index.html and follow

the links for the article if you want an intoductory article on the



According to _The Craftman's Handbook_ (C. Cennini, translated by D.V.

Thompson and available from Dover), dry pigments were used, some mixed

with a bit of water, but clearly no type of paint containing any type of

binder was used in Fresco. Furthermore, Cennini lists a number of

pigments that won't work in the Fresco method, although there is no way

I can know what pigments your tempera paints were made from; in honesty,

however, I would suspect that they were all products of modern chemistry

and thus not something Cennini would have much to say about, since he's

been dead, lo these many years. Nonetheless, this, too, is something to

consider when asking "What Happened!?" The tempera's pigments may have

been incompatable with the technique. {Here is a list of modern dry

pigments that can be used in fresco painting:  all Ochres; the following

Mars colors--red, yellow, orange, violet, brown, black; Venitian Red;

Iron Oxide red; the Umbers; the Siennas; Green Earth; Viridian Green;

Chromium Oxide Green; Ultramarine Blue; Colbalt blue; Cerulean Blue;





Further, an excerpt from _Painter's Dictionary of Materials and



"Nature of Fresco Buono: In this technique, work is done on a wet,

freshly applied lime-plaster wall with pigments that have been ground in

water. The entire chemical reaction is based on the behavior of lime...

[chemisty stuff snipped]... this creates a semitranslucent surface into

which the pigments are bound."


Another educated guess as to what went wrong, then, might be that part

of the problem was the introduction of the cheap, filler junk and large

amount of water that is used to make modern "tempera" into a process

that is supposed to be performed simply with  wetted, ground pigment

upon a fairly specific base material--lime-plaster.


I, too, have experimented in fresco with tempera paints. I work with

mentally retarded adults, and, one day, having finished our usual tasks,

I was looking around for something to keep us busy and learning yet not

something that would take major time commitment for me to teach. We had

tempera paints (I knew they were wrong, but this was an experiment!) and

plaster of paris (wrong again)--what we got was a runny mess (wet, thin

paint spreading through wet, goopy, plaster of paris) that broke apart

as soon as it dried. But we had fun, and my friends got exposed to

something new!  Our paints did diffuse through the plaster, and the high

liquid content of the paint (used straight from the jar) was certainly a

contributing factor. Any wet on wet technique runs into that danger; the

line between "just enough" and "too much" is pretty thin.


Well, I hope this has been helpful to you, and that i am not just

repeating what someone else has told you, as I haven't finished reading

the thread..... Good luck with your project--if you can't find a source

for dry pigments, let me know, there are a couple of online dealers, but

I don't have the URLs to hand.


Your Servant, Merouda Pendray, writing through the Rockwall account.


Visit our Web Site!




Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 10:36:00 EST

From: LRSTCS <LRSTCS at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Fresco Painting and Egg Tempera


Another good book to help with painting frescos is "The Materials and

Techniques of Medieval Painting" by Daniel V. Thompson, another good Dover

book. It was recommended in the Be Not Afraid, class given by Lord Wolfgang at

Penssic this year, I found it very helpful.  If you grind your own pigments,

please take Merouda Pendray's safety advice but also wear rubber gloves.


If you don't want to grind your own, there is real egg tempera available in

tubes.  This is not the tempera paints you mix with water that you find in the

school supplies. This is in the good gouache and oil paints section, it comes

in a tube just like the good stuff! I noticed it at Pearl art supply in

Atlanta, last time I was in there.

If this is of any use to anyone, I will investigate it further. I don't know

who makes it,(wasn't paying attention, just made a mental note that there is

egg tempera in tiny tubes like gouache) what's in it (preservatives if any),

I'll read the display info,the cost etc., and will be glad to pick a few tubes

and experiment with them and let you know how it works.


I'm a beginning Illumination student-If someone has already checked it out,

let me know if it's worth bothering with.


Lady Magge Reichenberg-Meridies



Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 04:32:50 EST

From: <Strappo at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Fresco Painter - introducing myself


"The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques", Ralph Mayer.


This is a very good book. There are few other books, but out of print.

Big libraries have good selection but you have to look for file records

before 1935.


> where water-based pigments are applied to wet plaster. He did a fine

> job, but within a week, the colors faded away.


This happened due to the alkaline action of the lime - should use earth

pigments, ochras and mineral powders. If not sure about the pigment that

you have - test it by mixing with water and lime.


This is a small intro to fresco painting - for more detailed material,

step by step picks, fresco pictures, discussions and workshop go to <A



Affresco ( In English usage, "fresco" ). Painting done on

freshly laid wet plaster with pigments dissolved in lime water. As both dry they become completely integrated. Known as "true" fresco, this technique was most popular from the late thirteenth to the mid-sixteenth centuries.

The common assumption that all mural painting is fresco painting is an

erroneous idea. It is true that one can in fact paint on fresh plaster,

or intonaco, to make a painting in affresco or a fresco. In true fresco the

artist must start applying his colors on the wet (or fresco) intonaco as

soon as it has been prepared and laid on the wall. The colors can thus be

absorbed by the wet plaster. When it dries and hardens, the colors become one with plaster.


Technically speaking the plaster does not "dry" but rather a chemical reaction occurs in which calcium carbonate is formed as a result of carbon dioxide from the air combining with the calcium hydrate in the wet plaster.


    Early morning hours. While Ian Hardwick is applying the final "skim"

coat - intonaco, Ilia Anossov is working on mixing right color tones for the

day ahead. This marks the beginning of painting day - giornata. Painting is

the final and most challenging, of course, stage in creation of the fresco.

Before the artist ready to pain several steps should be followed: 1). Full

scale detailed compositional rendering - cartoon should be developed and

pounced tracing made. 2) Color study should be created, it will be used for

mixing right color tones and general color reference. 3) Plaster has to be

prepared a few days in advance (the earlier the better - lime needs time to

"adopt itself to the sand and gain plasticity) in proportion of 8 parts extra

fine sand to 5 parts slaked (pitted) lime or so with the least water

possible. 4) Panel mast have three coats  (scratch, brown/rough and float

(arriccio), coat names reflect the grade of sand - coarse, rough, fine) of

plaster put on previously with intervals of 5 days in between the coats or

"wet on wet". 5). It helps to grind the base pigments with water into the

paste in advance storing them in sealed glass jars, this way in the morning

(before the painting begins) will be more time to prepare tone mixes. Try

about 25 different tones. Use freshly ground dry lime mixed with water as

white (pigments mixed with lime and lime mixed for whites can not be saved)

all mixes should be done ONLY with distilled water. 6) I use soft long

bristle brushes of various sizes round and flat. 7) After the final

intonaco is applied it should be left for about 20min to settle.





Late Morning - Ilia Anossov is working on monochrome under painting. After

preparation is done and freshly laid intonaco had settled it is time to

transfer the cartoon. Tracing from the cartoon pounced along the lines with

needle or pouncing wheel is laid over the plaster and dusted over with

charcoal or simply incised (pressed along the lines) by the opposite end of a

thin brush to provide the base guideline for the painting process. The

under-painting is done with terra verde (green earth pigment) with shadows

enhanced in umber (picture on the right) or with other colors, but remember

in fresco it is not possible to completely paint out a "wrong" color

therefore every tone should be carefully planned. Another thing to remember

is that plaster behaves differently during the day - it will need more water

in the tones at the beginning and the end of the day then in the middle and

do not keep to much paint on the brush - it will result in "blobs" squeeze

it slightly between the fingers before touching the plaster.    




    Midday - under-painting is done and Ilia Anossov is beginning to apply

color. Major color values should be painted out first in the same manner as

under-painting - work the entire giornata gradually and keep it balanced,

also plaster will not take to much paint at once, let it "rest" between the

passes of a brush by working on different area. It should be about 25 tone

variations with light and dark with two mid tones in-between of each color.

The best working pigments in fresco are the earth oxides and other mineral

pigments. Some pigments will not work with lime plaster at all - some man

made greens change to yellow as being mixed, so as many other modern day

pigments except the ones that specially formulated for the use with plasters.

Test the colors in advance by mixing little portions of them with lime, also

most of art supply stores should have reference material on traditional

fresco palette.




The End of the day. Ilia Anossov is finishing the fresco. He is putting the

last touches by picking up the details and accents. The end of the day for

the fresco painter is the most pleasant stage the plaster enters what is

sometimes called "the golden hour" - painting is 3/4 done and plaster is in

it's best stage. Time to finish the detail pickup and blend color tones by

passing over and over with lairs of transparent color at (this stage the

color mixes should be "wet" again). Painter must work fast and precise at

this stage because "golden hour" also means that plaster will soon "lock

up" - stop receiving paint (the paint will change to much lighter opaque tone

as soon a it touches the plaster - that is it put the brush down!). One thing

to remember is that in the next seven or so days following the painting the fresco will be undergoing the curing stage and this is a confidence test for

the Artist. Colors dry at different speed and plaster is naturally

compacted unevenly although it looks flat and perfect changes to white faster in more compacted areas. These are to of many other factors that make color in fresco change into discouraging cacophony for the first few days after the painting is finished. But do not worry in about 7-10 days it will look even more beautiful and just a little lighter then the day it was painted.


for this text with step by step pictures go to



Fresco Painter



<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org