Fresco painting is a highly refined form of artistic expression appreciated by diverse cultures for thousands of years. Fundamentally, fresco (fresh, in Italian) is the art of painting hand ground natural earth pigments onto a damp lime plaster wall. As the painted plaster wall dries, the lime in the plaster carbonizes and absorbs the particles of painted pigment into place. The chemistry that occurs between the lime as it calcifies and the earth colors as they are absorbed into the plaster creates an effect of inner light and luminosity that only intensifies over time. Rather than being an image made of colored pigments that sit on top of a surface, the fresco painting becomes part of the structure of the wall. This is why, in many climates, frescoes can be installed indoors and outdoors.
Color, Truly Alive
The fresco painter must work only with certain time-tested pure earth pigments. In cases where the painting calls for using brighter colors such as blues, brighter yellows, reds and greens, a “secco” technique may also be used. This involves mixing pure ground mineral pigment (often using stone colors such as lapis, azurite, malachite, and cinnabar) with egg yolk, and applying these colors over a fresco surface that has thoroughly dried.