Although fresco paintings have been found in Ancient Egyptian structures, it reached its peak during the 14th to 17th centuries during the Italian Renaissance. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling, painted by Michelangelo, and The Last Supper, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, are excellent explains of the technique and durability of this method of painting. There are two types of fresco painting. First, buon fresco, which means “good fresco”, is achieved by painting on wet plaster. This technique is harder to paint on, but more durable because the paint seeps farther into the plaster. The second method, fresco secco, which means “dry fresco”, is easier to paint, but over time the paints can flake off.
This project is buon fresco made on burlap. It is cracked and aged giving it an old world, Renaissance look. If you would like to try dry fresco, check out our fresco secco post.
Materials and Supplies for Fresco Painting
- Plaster of Paris
- white craft glue
- paint brushes
- mixing bowl
- measuring cup
- spoon or spatula
- 10 x 12 inch piece of burlap
Project 2: Buon Fresco Painting on burlap
Make Plaster of Paris according to directions on the box. (We used 1 cup of Plaster of Paris to 1/2 cup of water.)
Place your piece of burlap on a flat, protected surface. Pour prepared Plaster of Paris in the center of the burlap.
Using a spatula or the side of a metal ruler, push the Plaster of Paris into the fibers of burlap creating a circle. Smooth the top. It does not need to be perfectly smooth.
Let the plaster set until it has set but still wet. It took ours about an hour to reach this point.
If you would like, you can sketch a picture first, place it over the plaster, and trace the picture with a toothpick or thin knitting needle. This will indent the Plaster of Paris.
Paint the plaster using water colors.
Allow the Plaster of Paris to dry complete. I did mine during a week of rain. It took my fresco 3 days to dry. For the next step it must be completely dry!
Carefully break the fresco in several pieces to give it an aged, distressed look. Be gentle so the fresco does not pull away for the burlap. IMPORTANT: Check with your child to make sure it is okay to break apart their fresco. Some children will be distressed and feel that your ruined their painting if you do. Show them our completed painting. If they do not like the cracks, honor their wishes and skip this step. If you would like to read about what happens when you do not honor a child’s creative side, check out our post, The Ugly Scar!!!
Lay the painting back on a smooth surface and make sure all the pieces fit nicely back together.
Make a golden/light brown wash with watercolors. This should be quite watery so it adds just a tint of color and does not hide your original painting. Make sure to get paint in the cracks so none of the white plaster is exposed.
Allow the painting to dry completely. (This happens quickly!) Squeeze white craft glue directly on the painting making sure to get it in the cracks. Spread glue with a wide brush. The glue will seal the fresco and hold the broken pieces together. Allow to dry completely. This takes about 24 hours. Repeat with a 2nd and possibly a 3rd coat of glue. You want the cracks filled enough so it will hold the painting together.
When you have finished sealing your painting, cut away extra burlap. You can cut it close to the fresco or leave some of the burlap exposed like I did. Your Italian Renaissance Fresco Painting is now ready to display!