I gave a fresco demonstration at UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso), to Francisco Delgado's upper division painting students, on 22 September, 2009. Afterwards I visited the student studios upstairs, and was inspired by all the skill and variety. Too bad we do not get to see that much painting in the museums these days.
Manny Sr. started the demonstration by painting the first fresco:
The testing tile, open to all students, evolved into a nice collaborative piece:
During this demonstration we tried both types of fresco mixes -- the homemade lime and sand mix on 2 tiles, and the Sinopia lime and marble dust mix on 2 tiles. However, both mixes were spread on the Hardibacker cement tiles thinner than usual, which could be a big innovation, if that did not cause the frescoes to crack. The thinner plaster makes lighter tiles and cleaner edges, not to mention that they use less scare fresco lime.
We used a Maya palette. My illusion is that we are painting some of the first frescoes in Maya Blue since Bonampak; but probably not. Modern science could not recreate Maya Blue until recently, and then poetically did so at UTEP. Moreover, the UTEP chemists developed new colors from the discovered technique, filling out the rest of the spectrum -- the MayaCrom® pigments -- such as the yellow, orange, red pigments that we used.
Note that I just mixed the pigments up with distilled water only. When the fresco dries, the lime will lock in the pigments, and make them one with the surface. There is no binder in the fluid pigment mix -- not egg, oil, arcylic, or gum arabic. The fresco surface is the binder.
Later, Manny wanted an opaque effect, and therefore painted with thicker pigment, straight from the freshly mulled and drying batch of Mayan Blue. We have not painted with a color this dark before.
Preparing the sand and homemade lime fresco tiles in the design room:
One scoop of marble sand:
One scoop of lime (squeezing out excess water):
Handy 5 gallon bucket to clean lime tools with:
Mixing sand and lime with a putty knife:
Soaked Hardibacker tile for 20 minutes, and waited for the surface to dry matte, to lose the glisten:
Mix stiff, but probably still too wet (as most sand mixes in the past have been so far):
Spreads on thinly with putty knife:
This first tile had only a thin covering of fresco plaster. We used this tile later for the students to experiment on:
Spread remainder of fresco mix on a second tile:
Spread more thickly with putty knife. This is the tile that Manny painted on:
Troweled smooth (without spraying water on trowel):
Tile glistened, but the surface dried matte by the time the demonstration started at 4:30:
Manny's fresco painting:
I ground Maya Blue to demonstrate the glass muller. This mixture was thicker than the pigment mix in the jars. Manny wanted to paint more opaquely, so he used some of this mix straight from the mulled batch:
More opaque strokes:
Did not start cracking until the end of the night. Did this happen because the fresco mix was so thin and dried faster?:
Luis mixing the 2 year aged Sinopia lime and marble dust. Half scoop of lime to half scoop of marble dust. This combination makes a nice paste, and spreads smoothly like butter (because it is drier):
Pablo spreading marble dust and lime intonaco mixture on tile:
The marble dust and lime intonaco glistened, then looked polished even after the surface dried matte:
Francisco Delgado paints on the marble dust and lime tile:
Scraps paint lightly off to pull out highlights:
Luis paints the other marble dust and lime tile:
Notice how white the marble dust mix tile is in the middle, compared to the sand mix tile on both sides:
Francisco Delgado's mural (not a fresco) in El Paso, behind the Sagrado Corazon church. Detail of Pancho Villa eating Chicos Tacos.