Toroazul Painting and Fine Arts
José Grave de Peralta
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The Painting of a Fresco
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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 right) 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.
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 transfering
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.
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 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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Click here to view the finished
FRESCO.
Using a traditional GRID pattern
(see above) , 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.