Italian Renaissance Fresco Painting for Children
Updated: Oct 20, 2019
A fun craft to engage kids in learning about Italian Fresco Paintings.
Learning to enjoy Italian Fresco’s and teaching kids to have an appreciation for frescos can start with understanding the process of how the fresco is made. Whether you are planning a trip to Italy, homeschooling or just looking for a fun project with kids, learning the art of fresco painting is a fascinating look at how talented Italian Renaissance fresco artists were. Trying fresco painting at home will help your child appreciate the talent and place themselves in the shoes of Michaelango, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphaello.
Keep reading to learn about Italian frescos, how to engage your child, and how to make a fresco painting.
About Fresco Painting
Two types of fresco
There are two types of fresco paintings. The first is called “Buon Fresco” (Good Fresco). It is the most permanent method of fresco painting. This is the technique I (try to) show in this article, and it is extremely difficult to master. In this type of fresco, the artist must apply color pigment mixed with water onto a thin layer of wet plaster. As the color dries with the plaster, a durable image is created that lasts for centuries. At the beginning of the artists workday, an area of plaster was applied to a section of the wall. Then, the artist had to quickly apply his paint before the plaster dried. This method leaves no room for error. If an area was left unpainted, that section would have to be cut and re-plastered before painting the fresco.
“Fresco Secco” (Dry Fresco) is not as permanent as the previous method. In this method, pigments are mixed with a tempera type binder and painted on dry plaster. This method creates brilliant colors but does not last long. The paint would often flake off within the artist’s lifetime.
Famous Italian Frescos
A short list of famous Italian frescos and where you can see them.
The Last Supper - Leonardo Da Vinci – Located in the Sana Maria della Grazie in Milan
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling – Michealaneo – Located in the Vatican in Rome
The School of Athens – Raphaello – Located in the Vatican in Rome
Assumption of the Virgin – Antonio da Correggio – Located in Parma Cathedral in Parma
The Rooms of Palazzo Davanzati in Florence (listed in my article of 11 Kid Friendly Museums in Florence)
How to engage your child
Children learn best when they are having fun! This art project can be done from any age range, preschooler to teenager. Limit the amount of information given pending the age of child you are working with. For younger children, the focus could be more on the process of making the fresco than the names of famous Italian Renaissance artists. While painting together, you can talk about the process of fresco painting, the advantage of how long the Buono Fresco method lasts, and how quickly the artist would have to work. You could ask older children if they know of any famous fresco artworks or any famous fresco painters, and go from there.
If you are planning a trip to Italy, you can point out you will soon be seeing frescos in person. If you are not traveling to Italy, but their interest is peaked you could look up famous frescos online or in a book. Look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and ask, “what do you think it was like for Michealangelo to paint all of this with the fresco method?” “how long do you think it took him?” (Answer: it took four years!).
Spoon or spatula
A Mold (cardboard, styrofoam, or silicone)
Water for watercolors
Making your fresco
As mentioned above, this was an attempt at using the Buon Fresco technique where the paint is applied to the wet plaster. We tried this during the summer in Arizona when it is very dry! Our plaster dried extremely quick. I used it as an opportunity to discuss humidity and the effect it could have on creating frescos in different climates and weather.
I chose to use small jewelry gift boxes for our molds. I was inspired by these beautiful tiles we saw at Villa d’Este in Tivoli, just outside of Rome so I decided to make tiles.
Step 1. Set up your work space.
As mentioned previously, the plaster can dry fast so have your molds, watercolors, water for watercolors and paint brushes ready. You may choose first to sketch out your design on a piece of paper so you have a “road map” before the plaster starts drying.
Step 2. Mix Plaster of Paris according to the directions on the box.
The consistency should be that of pancake batter. We ended up adding additional dry plaster to our mixture as it seemed too watery at first.
Step 3. Pour plaster into the mold.
Tap the mold on a flat surface a couple of times until the surface appears smooth and even with no air bubbles.
Step 4. Let the plaster sit until it has set but is still wet.
This will depend on the temperature and humidity in your area. Here in Arizona with zero humidity, we had to start painting almost immediately. However, it can take up to an hour to set enough to start painting in different climates.
Step 5. Paint the plaster with watercolors.
Step 6. Allow the plaster to completely dry.
We waited overnight. If it is extremely humid in your area, it may take longer.
Step 7. Carefully remove the plaster from the mold.
This post is part of the #DolceVitaBloggers Linkup hosted by Jasmine, Kelly and Kristie the 3rd Sunday of every month where Italians and Italy lovers share their blog and vlog posts on Italian subjects.
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