Friday, 4 November 2011

12__Tucson and more fresco innovations

Having prepared 2 more drip pan sized fresco surfaces, and ground all the pigments, there was nothing more to do in El Paso but wait for the artists to paint masterpieces. Thus I carried all the supplies to Tucson to push for more frescoes there -- it took me 2 trips.

First load packed up at the Glasbox (Oct 10):

I rented a studio at the Sculpture Resource Center again, near downtown Tucson. This is where the fresco project started two years ago:

I returned to El Paso that week, in time to see the Chalk the Block festival (Oct 15). Flam Chen brought their acrobats from Tucson for the event. Here during the climax, Aurelia suspended by balloons, is being lowered over Luis Jimenez's sculpture "Plaza de Los Largatos," to touch the nose of the fiberglass alligator:

Then I drove back with a second load of fresco materials, and immediately rented a "live/work" space at ArtFare in downtown Tucson (Oct 17). Then I settled into my nook at the Sculpture Resource Center:

How poetically correct! The first big fresco Gonzalo painted was on display at the Contreras Gallery in Tucson during the whole month of October. After two years it looked even better, and really motivated Gonzalo and I to tackle the next round of fresco:

The Wall Street Journal alluded to Tucson as a "mini Mecca of the arts." I like to draw the figure as often as 5 times a week, at the Drawing Studio downtown:

Encaustic is like fresco's neglected sister, as both techniques fell out of favor in during my life time. However, I found an encaustic paint store nearby at the Miles Conrad Gallery:

Originate -- Natural Building Materials (next to BICAS), carries the fresco putty from American Clay, and also high quality pigments to paint fresco with:


Quicklime is all but impossible to buy in the United States, so I was determined to get to the source. I was about to drive to the mines in Arizona, where they make quicklime, but stopped off at Lhoist headquarters in Scottsdale first, since I was physically in Phoenix (Oct 20). There I had a nice conversation with the representative, who offered to sell me several tons, but would not sell me a few sacks of quicklime because of the liability issues. Moreover, he did not know of any distributors that would sell me quicklime for the same reasons.

The problem is that quicklime is caustic and can explode, merely by adding enough water to it. The corporation needs to protect themselves from the lawyers, and therefore cannot afford to sell small amounts to individuals who do not understand the risks. Retailers would have to build special storage, to keep rain and water from setting off a reaction, so they do not sell to the public either. Quicklime should be a lot cheaper than buckets of slaked lime putty (which is hard to find as well), if one can find it.

Lhoist referred me to a Phoenix distributor who sold me a single bag of high calcium hydrated lime (which does not react violently with water, but is really just second best). However, this distributor really sells by truckloads, and made a special exception for me. Ultimately the most practical way to get high calcium lime (the bags at Home Depot are not good enough), is to order through the local chemist, like I did last time. As challenging as fresco is, the most difficult part is getting the slaked lime. Perhaps that is why fresco all but died; they do not even teach this historical technique at most art schools.

Not quicklime; high calcium hydrated lime (used to make tortillas, for instance) which I bought directly from the Phoenix distributor:

I bought the top end stainless steel Marshall trowel at New Mexico Plaster in Albuquerque. It was expensive, but should not rust while applying plaster:

DeWaltP power drill (from Home Depot) and brass mixer (from New Mexico Plaster). Mixing the sand and lime putty with a drill is fast and far easier than mixing by hand. However the electric drill might mix too much air into the plaster and compromise the fresco:

I bought lots of new pigments from Sinopia, and a few from the Miles Conrad encaustic store (Kama brand), shown behind the pigment samples I am collecting:

Giotto Green Earth
Kama Pg23

Burnt Sienna
Kama Pbr7

Raw Umber
Kama Pbr7

Raw Umber, very dark neutral shade
Sinopia PC414RU

Raw Umber, reddish dark
Sinopia 190PM12

Roman Ochre, deep greenish hue
Sinopia APC458

Burnt Sienna, deep crimson shade from cyprus
Sinopia 190PM

Nicosia Red Earth, from Cyprus
Sinopia 190PM65

Yellow Ochre, Mexico brownish cool
Sinopia PC102NO

Mayan Red
Sinopia 779R2051

Mayan Green
Sinopia 799G1001A

Verona Yellow, natural iron oxide from Italy
Sinopia K40301

Yellow Ochre, AVANA, greenish from France
Sinopia K4020


Pigments from Originate:

English Burnt Siena 40451

Bohemian Green Earth 41800

Raw Umber Greenish 40630

Venetian Red Italian 40510

Natural Siena Monte Amiata 17050

Burnt Green Earth Light Brown 40850


I notice that Natural Pigments makes dispersions for fresco painting. These could spare the artist from hand grinding his own pigments in distilled water:

I read that Diego Rivera used Asian brushes to paint fresco. At the Sarnoff art store in Tucson, they recommended this Princeton synthetic Asian brush (white tip on left), which handles very much like a fine sable brush:

The biggest innovation is the fresco clay lath from the Fresco School, which one can nail onto a wall, to do fresco quickly. However the lath may not be as sound as preparing a wall in the traditional way. Instructions for hanging and plastering are in this pdf. Plus there is a Clay Lath blog. And a plastering video on YouTube.

I also bought the DVD videos from the Fresco School. One is on how to plaster, the other on how to transfer a drawing onto the fresco. More videos are coming out soon:

In addition to fresco, we are going to experiment more with translucent concrete at the Sculpture Resource Center in Tucson, having order material from Rocalite in Mexico. What next, translucent fresco?

No comments:

Post a Comment