Last year Nicholas took a little course in fresco making at the archeology museum in the nearest town. He loved it, and the bird fresco he made crowns one of our bookshelves. This year Jeremy took the same course, and came home with a fresco of the town's banner which I set by the fireplace to dry out. The next day we found that the heat had warped and cracked his fresco; meanwhile his brother's not only still crowned the bookshelf, but even had a halo of winter sunlight.
I called the museum, and asked whether they could give me a few tips on how we could make one at home to replace the damaged one, and they did, together with supplies for two frescoes. So we made our own frescoes, and it is so much fun, for adults and children alike! It's very easy and quite addictive, because it creates a pleasantly rough finish over which the brush runs with surprising ease, and where colors set quickly and lines stay crisp, without smudging.
For anyone who's interested, I wrote a little tutorial, using the advice from the museum and our own experience. Here is how Jeremy approached the project: armed with a sword and a bow & arrow!
Make your own fresco - a tutorial
Making a fresco is a fun, creative, and educational activity for ages 5 to 100: all art lovers should experience painting on fresco surface! It will take a couple of hours to make, and a couple of days to dry out. Be sure you have all your materials ready, because once you prepare your fresco mixture, you have to complete your project, or else the fresco will become too dry to absorb the colors.
Step 1 - preliminaries
Step 1 - preliminaries
Make your cardboard frame by gluing the heavy cardboard strips around the rectangular base piece.
Draw a simple image on your paper. For inspiration, we looked at a detailed picture book on Leonardo's Last Supper, but in the end the boys went for something they knew better: a lighthouse on the coast nearby, and a vine branch.
When your frame and image are complete, you're ready to start your fresco. It will take a couple of hours to complete.
Step 2 Mix up your fresco mixture: put the plaster and the sand in a mixing bowl, and add a very small amount of water at a time, until the mixture is thick but pourable, and about the consistency of cake batter.
Step 3 Pour your mixture immediately into the cardboard frame, shake it gently from side to side to smooth out the surface, and set it aside for about an hour to dry a little. It will need to feel firm to the touch, moist but not wet.
Step 4 While the fresco mixture is setting, prepare the transfer drawing. Set the piece of paper on the sponge, and punch holes in the paper with the toothpick, following the outline of your image. Push the toothpick all the way in, making the holes as large in diameter as possible (not just the tip of the toothpick). Space the holes carefully so that the paper won't tear.
Step 5 When the surface of you fresco feels just right (again, firm but slightly moist), lay the image over it, and blot it repeatedly with the charcoal blotter. When you remove the image, the dotted outline of your drawing will remain on the fresco surface.
Step 6 Now you can watercolor!
(Some of our watercolors were in a sad state, and we had to make do with some watered-down paint, which wasn't ideal.)
Let your fresco dry out completely for a couple of days on a flat surface, at room temperature.
If you use this tutorial, I would appreciate it if you could tell me how it worked for you!