Fresco Secco

May 9, 2009

It is a matter of (pretty) common knowledge that one cannot paint on a finished fresco – and hope that it will last.  There are many examples of old frescos, now sadly peeling.  Therefore, if you must paint secco, take my information, as word of mouth  – from a professional.  A professor from the Royal Academy of Art in Antwerp gave me this recipe.  After five years, the secco painting still looks fine.

The Size:
Pour 80 ml of methyl ethyl alcohol into a chemist’s beaker.  Fill it up to 100 ml with 20 ml of Artist’s grade Shellac.  Stir a bit.  The size is now ready to use.  Paint a coat of it over the surface of the fresco on which you wish to work.  It is dry and ready for paint in one half hour.

The sealed surface is now ready for paint.  Pigments mixed in water can no longer merge with the plaster for permanency, therefore, a medium is necessary.  Casein, oil or egg tempera?  I have read that Casein has been traditionally used, also oil, however I preferred to use egg tempera.  This worked just fine.

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