October 15, 2013

Modified Fresco-Secco Tutorial

Art project with kids for Ancient Times

I dread fresco projects with the kids.  Honestly, who wants to give kids wet paint AND wet plaster at the same time?  But so much of what we know about ancient times, we know because of fresco.  So I can't just walk away and not do it at all.  Right?  In the past, we've gotten around the mess factor by painting in damp salt dough, which was slightly less messy than wet plaster and yielded similar results, but this year we tried something different.  

DIY fresco alternative
Technically, fresco-secco involves egg whites and pigment being ground into remoistened plaster, but if you replace egg whites and pigment with oil pastels or acrylic paints (we use both) then you've got a recipe for tidy fresco fun.  To amplify the fun factor, we break the final piece and then glue it back together with gobs and gobs of Elmer's glue.  Kids love the icky stuff, even if moms don't, so we still have 2 icky steps.  They're just not taking place simultaneously like they do in traditional fresco and fresco-secco.


First, the kids use a Popsicle stick to spread plaster thinly on a piece of fabric.  Any kind of fabric will do.  This just gives the plaster something to cling to when you break it, so that the pieces don't fly everywhere.

After it dries, they paint something that looks ancient on the plaster.  When that dries, break if as much or as little as you want.  It's the breaking that makes it look super ancient when you're done with it.  Finally, the next icky step!


The last step is to dump a ton of Elmer's glue over the broken plaster, smooth it over with a Popsicle stick, being careful to really mash it down in the cracks so that they bond back together, and let it dry.

Things we learned in the process:
~It looks more ancient if you don't outline your painting.  The half horse, half sea creature looks nice and ancient on it's tail end, and less so on its head after we outlined it in pink sharpie.

~As it dries, you'll see places that are going to need more glue.  We took the lid completely off the glue for the dumping part, and then went back and traced the cracks with the fine, orange tip just to fill in where it shrunk down as it dried.

~You can either cut the fabric right around the edges and leave it on as a backing so that it doesn't scratch up your tabletops, or you can actually peel the fabric off the back.  Do it carefully, though, and only after the glue is completely dry.  We waited several days and it still felt risky.

That's all there is to it!  Much tidier than traditional fresco, but with all the fun of messing with gooey art supplies! 

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