Color Studies for Frescoes

Color Studies for Frescoes will serve as your only guide to color during the painting of fresco. Color samples will help you to determine the overall tonality of the fresco, select desired pigment combinations and deside on the color depth.

This chapter details preparatory color studies and its usage in preparation and painting of a true (buon) fresco. Color tests and pigments selection is discussed in "Colors & Paints" Chapter of this tutorial.

Generally color studies can be subdivided in two categories Composition & Color Balance studies and Color Studies of Details and Elements. Some basic materials you will need:

  • Watercolor, pastel paper
  • Pencils
  • stretched canvas various sizes
  • tempera or acrylic or oil paints
  • turpentine or water
  • regular brushes
  • Composition & Color Balance Studies

    Fresco Cartoon helps you to develop and study the structure, values, depth and reltions betwin light and shadows of your fresco.

    Compositional Color Studies are used to refine relationships of the colors and color tones. The extend to which they are exequted range from basic color rendering to fully developed scaled painting. Usually you would need both - a small color rendering to give the basic idea of the color and to present to the client, and developed scaled rendition (painting) for final aproval and most importingly for your own reference during painting (you will be surprised how often you will refer to it while painting the fresco itself).

    Also while painting a large fresco can be tricky to step back to see the whole as often as you would like, especially while on the scuffolding. A fairly (4X5 feet or so or scaled as 2-3" - 1 foot) large and detailed Color Study of the whole fresco is proved to be invaluable - since being so close to the painting, artist has a tendency to overpaint "overrefine" the seconary details therefor disbalance perspective and composition. In regular mural painting it is not that important since arist can always paint over and "fuzzout" the overdeveloped secondary elements to "make them fit" into the areal perspective at any time: in fresco it has to be done correctly from the beginning and only minor adjustments are possible and only on the same day.

    While working on the final scaled color study of the fresco it is ecential to maintain the true proportions and composition - it has to match the cartoon as close as possible.

    Color Studies of Details and Elements

    Most of the time you would like to study - refine your understanding of the color for certain details (hands, faces, clothing, etc. - portraits especially) of the future fresco as they will be painted - to scale. In this case you will need to do separate color studies.

    Very often color studies of the details are done in fresco on portable fresco panels or tiles (see corresponding chapters). Since colors painted on fresh plaster (fresco) look/feel different then the same colors painted using other mediums, then painting a to scale color study of a detail for a future fresco also in fresco would make sence, would it?

    Another aspect that makes color studies very important part but would be often overlooked by the artist is that fresco is a "staitonary" or monumental art and usually stays where it is painted for very, very long time and the only way the artist can create a gallery or museum exhibition/show about fresco he/she painted is to display color studies, renderings sketches, cartoons, small fresco color studies.

    For example the commission for fresco to have been painted in the Council Hall in Florence had to be decided (granted) based on the cartoons entered for the competition. Michelangelo and Lionardo Da Vinci had entered the competition and for several month their cartoons were presented for public viewing.

    In another example Diego Rivera used exhibit and sell limited editions of his studies and catoons that helped him to maintain a steady income between commissions.

    Copyright 2005++ iLia Anossov & Fresco School

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