Working on a new fresco panel, I thought of posting snapshots of the work as it progresses. Yesterday I transferred a drawing of “Sita”, a seated female figure, onto a small panel with a smooth calcium carbonate ground. I outlined it in ochre and red shades of iron oxide.

I painted in the basic color scheme, flat washes of ochre, red, olive green and pale blue. These are all iron oxide (until I manage to grow some indigo!). The bright white is the ground color reserved as in watercolor.

Shading is feathered in over yesterday’s flat washes. The whole painting is almost entirely covered and retouched this way, either for contour or to deepen the colors.

And then black lines! Every shape and detail is outlined. Her hair is filled in, around the white jasmine flowers: that’s the panel showing through. I think the black areas really make the colors glow.

A note on the subject: Sita is a main character in the epic poem Ramayana, written in Sanskrit  by the sage-poet Valmiki. The story of good and evil centers on the life of the hero, Rama; the abduction of his wife Sita; and the war to get her back. The magical deer in the background of this painting is a trick, which causes Sita to be separated from Rama, and then kidnapped. This story has enough twists and turns, chapters, and colorful characters to keep me busy forever. The scene in my head for the next painting includes Hanuman, a gentle monkey-warrior.

See my page “natural pigment fresco” for more information on this ancient technique, and where I learned it.

I will send this painting to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts next week, for the preview exhibit “Art at the Source”