Thursday, September 30, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
I enrolled in this great class at a local college called "Aesthetics and Techniques of the Old Masters". It is an interesting hybrid of art history and art technique focusing on Europe (mostly Italy) from 1300 to 1600. The purpose of the class is to expose students to traditional painting methods and materials of fresco, tempera, and oil painting which includes making our own boards for painting and grinding our own paints. The idea of painting in fresco really intrigued me, as did the idea of learning techniques in tempera beyond those used for iconography.
The fresco painting experience was paired with learning about art of the 14th century. Each student had to choose something from a fresco of that century and attempt to reproduce in. Due to time constraints and some prior bad experiences with cracking that the instructor had using metal lath, our frescoes were painted on unglazed saltillo paving tiles.
My choice was the face of an angel from "The Last Judgement", painted in 1300 by the Roman artist Pietro Cavallini. Fresco has its own unique challenges: you can only work in small sections, and you can only work on the painting once because once the plaster starts to dry it will no longer bond with the paint. Also, because of the alkaline lime in the plaster, many colors are not compatible so you mostly have to use earth colors. The technique is more like painting watercolor: work from light to dark, leave unpainted areas for white. I've never been a watercolor painter but I tried and it was fun. Next week I get to see if my plaster dried without cracking. All in all, it was a fun experience but I think I'll stick with tempera. At least it gives me an appreciation of why frescoes look the way they do and what limitations artists worked with which affected their choices in executing frescoes.