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The Painting of a Fresco

 A wall fresco begins with an idea ... an inspiration, 

that an artist  often jots down. It could all start with

a   doodle!

Of course there should also be a blank wall  surface.  Then comes a small, loosely drawn but serious, black

and white sketch on paper, generally  proportioned like

the wall area itself, only smaller.  

Once the idea is approved  by the client, the artist produces the fresco design in color, in proportions that echo exactly  (but on a smaller scale) those of the wall surface to be frescoed.

This color sketch (on the left) is the so-called color "cartoon"  -- an important  preliminary step prior to the actual fresco process.


In the cartoon, the artist works out or defines all details, including size and tonal value relationships, color harmonies, and even textures of the final design.

Using a traditional GRID pattern  (see below) , a plumb line, and  other exact instruments of measure, the artist "transfers" or  reproduces the cartoon on an area of paper the exact size of the wall area to be frescoed. This is done in charcoal.
Next, the actual wall surface to be frescoed is covered with the first rough coat of plaster (this rough layer is the  arriccio, pronounced ahr-ee--chee-oh in Italian).

The rough arriccio plaster surface should be fainty wet still by the time the artist begins transferring the drawing to this rough wall  surface --- this transfer is done by "powdering" charcoal onto the large gridded drawing of the design on paper, which has been punctured with nail holes all along the main contour lines of the composition. After the powdering, or "spolvero," the black charcoal  will leave a trail of DOTS on the slightly wet arriccio surface.

Next, Finally (see below) the artist begins  to  paint the FRESCO as a final "intonaco" surface on the arriccio wall with the powdered dots.  The intonaco plaster layer is smoother  than the arriccio.

Since the paint must be applied to this  final "intonaco" surface while this  smooth, refined plaster mix is still wet, the artist works in small patches whose area he or she can cover in one day's work --- these are the so-called "giornate" or "day's work" areas, a sort of building-block process that usually begins at the top of the composition and works its way down.

These three images  BELOW show the progression of  five days' work (or giornate)on the final, outermost surface, where the actual image is applied in color  to the "intonaco" plaster layer,  section by section.
The picture on the left shows the work of the first giornata, the moon's horn against the night sky. The third picture shows the progress I had made by Day Five.
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