What is Fresco Painting?

Fresco painting is a unique and ancient technique of creating art by applying pigments directly to wet plaster. The word "fresco" comes from the Italian word "affresco," which means "fresh." In fresco painting, the plaster and pigments are applied to a wall or ceiling, and the artist works quickly to create their image before the plaster dries. Here is a glossary of key terms associated with fresco painting:

  1. Buon fresco: Also known as "true fresco," this technique involves applying pigments directly to wet lime plaster. As the plaster dries, it chemically bonds with the pigments, creating a durable and long-lasting image.

  2. Secco fresco: This technique involves applying pigments to dry plaster. Because the pigments are not chemically bonded to the plaster, secco frescoes are less durable than buon frescoes.

  3. Pigments: The colored powders that are mixed with water to create the paint used in fresco painting.

  4. Lime plaster: The primary material used in fresco painting. Lime plaster is made from limestone that has been heated and then mixed with water to create a smooth, white paste.

  5. Trowel: A flat, pointed tool used to apply and smooth the plaster on the wall or ceiling.

  6. Cartoon: A full-scale drawing of the fresco design that is transferred onto the wall using pouncing or other methods.

  7. Pouncing: A technique used to transfer the cartoon drawing onto the wall by perforating the lines of the cartoon and then dusting charcoal or pigment over it.

  8. Giornata: The Italian word for "day," and refers to the amount of fresco that an artist can complete in one day before the plaster dries.

  9. Fresco cycle: A series of frescoes that tell a story or depict a theme.

  10. Intonaco: The final layer of plaster that is applied to the wall before the pigments are applied.

  11. Scumbling: A technique used to soften and blend colors by lightly brushing or dragging a dry brush over the surface.

  12. Sgraffito: A technique used to create texture and depth by scratching through the top layer of plaster to reveal the layer beneath it.

Fresco painting is a unique and ancient art form that requires skill, patience, and precision. Key terms associated with fresco painting include buon fresco, secco fresco, pigments, lime plaster, trowel, cartoon, pouncing, giornata, fresco cycle, intonaco, scumbling, and sgraffito. Whether you are an artist looking to explore new techniques or simply interested in learning more about this fascinating medium, this glossary provides a comprehensive guide to the world of fresco painting.


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