During the High Renaissance Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci made some of the most famous frescoes in the world. Michelangelo’s hugely ambitious Sistine Chapel Ceiling, 1508-12, featured over 300 figures from religious scripture and took over four years to complete [Source]. I haven’t seen paintings of the High Renaissance in person but, the fact that they still exist, I find exciting.
The term Fresco refers to wall paintings where mineral or earth pigments are applied to wet lime plaster so that the coloured pigment is absorbed into the plaster surface. In this post, you’ll learn how I create a lime plaster substrate and apply pigments and encaustic paints to the surface.
Lime PUtty & Marble Dust
I discovered lime putty and marble dust as a material for art in a workshop and loved it! What could be better than mixing these two old materials to create a painting in the 21st century?!
Lime putty is also known as pit lime. Pit lime is made from marble and contains 95% calcium oxide and less than 5% magnesium. It is burnt with wood and slaked in a lime pit for up to ten years. The longer it is seasoned in a pit, the smoother it becomes. Quality lime putty can be used to to create brilliant fresco paintings which, due to the high binding power of aged lime, will be of excellent permanence. It also may be recommended for high-quality plaster work and wall painting.
Burnt lime has been crucial for architectural, dietary, and other purposes in Maya society since as far back as 1100 BCE. [Source] A large medieval lime pit dating to the 12th or 13th century has been located in Colchester, UK. Prior to the development of concrete, lime mortar was used to construct some of the world’s most renowned buildings; now it is primarily used for their repair. [Source]
Marble dust is a stone filler for pigments and primers, commonly used in making gesso and to thicken paint. It is also used as an ingredient in Venetian plaster and in the manufacture of soft pastels.
How I Create My Style of Fresco Surface
- Pit Lime
- Marble Dust
Buy Pit Lime and Marble Dust online from Kremer Pigments:
WARNING: Wear protective goggles when handling these products. Exercise care when using dry pigments. Avoid breathing dust. Do not eat, drink or smoke. Wash hands immediately after use. Keep out of reach of children. If creation of dust is likely, wear protective clothing.
Preparing the Surface:
- Mix the pit lime with the marble dust 1:1 to a consistency of a heavier yoghurt. I use an old hand mixer so that the mixture is really smooth. When you open the pit lime bowl there will be water covering the surface. Make sure that the pit lime in the bowl is always covered with tap water. If it doesn’t look like a yoghurt then, and only then, use a bit more tap water.
- Glue your burlap with a heavy glue of your choice onto the substrate and leave to dry thoroughly. Use burlap with a loose weave. The burlap is necessary to hold the pit lime mixture to the substrate.
- Spread the lime onto the substrate making sure that the mixture is buried into the burlap material. I spread it unevenly so that it looks like an old chipped wall.
- Set it aside to dry overnight. Once dry surface cracks will appear. Don’t worry if some of it falls off.
Painting the Surface
- Combine casein and pigments to make runny paints. Using a brush, apply the pigmented casein onto the prepared substrate
- Use a wet sponge to remove excess pigments and reveal the cracks again
- Now you can add your first layers of encaustic medium
For this work, I’ve used old wood from a wine barrel and applied photo transfer as a last layer.
There are many possibilities like photo transfer, collaging papers, drawing a design and more. As I always say, “what happens when I…..” so just go with the flow and enjoy.
I hope you enjoy the process and I would love to see what you produced.
explore | create | enjoy and most of all have fun creating!