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Juana Alicia studied the process of fresco buono, or true fresco, with Stephen Pope Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff. She first met them and took their community based workshops in the late 1980’s, and then studied formally with them while completing her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1989 and 1990. She has done several small frescos on wood panels, and a major monumental work at the San Francisco International Airport. Stephen Dimitroff was originally planning to plaster that work for her, but sadly, passed away before the project was finished at SFO. He is pictured in that work, and it is dedicated to both Stephen and Lucienne.

Stephen Pope Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff were Diego Rivera’s plasterer and painting assistant, respectively. Prolific muralists in their own right, they were my teachers and mentors. Stephen died in 1997 and Lucienne followed a year later. This letter, written to support Juana Alicia and Emmanuel C. Montoya’s project at the San Francisco International Airport, is their testimony to the beauty and durability of the fresco medium.

Stephen Pope Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff
Old Stage Studios
34844 Old Stage Road
Gualala, Mendocino 95445

March 5, 1996

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to describe a brief history of the FRESCO technique, to explain the process and to testify to the durability and light fastness of the medium. FRESCO painting is one of the oldest techniques of wall decoration. There are examples of FRESCO that have been tested with the carbon method that are 3,000 years old. Fresco wall decorations used in churches exist in India (Ayanta Caves), Egypt, Greece, Italy and many other countries including the United States. In the United States we have the works of two Mexican Fresco Painters-Diego Rivera and Jose C. Orozco. In San Francisco there are Fresco wall decorations in numerous places. Some we have done ourselves.


Fresco is a method of painting as follows:
It requires a total of five coats of plaster.
First coat contains sand, cement, and slacked lime. After plastering and scratching its surface, it is allowed to set and dry one week.
The second coat is plastered after the first coat. This second coat contains 2 parts of sand and slacked lime. It is allowed to dry one week. It is floated (sandfined).
The third coat is plastered in the same proportion of sand and lime as the second coat. It is floated-sand finished. It dries in one week.
On the fourth coat the sketch is applied with charcoal for a general idea of the mural, then corrected with lines of red paint.
The fifth and final coat called the Intonaco Coat, is polished as smooth as glass. The tracing of the mural is “pounced” with charcoal again. The Artist then selects usually a portion of the design at the top of the mural from left to right-(it depends entirely on what the artist can do in one day’s work), which is about 8 hours depending on the atmosphere…for FRESCO has to be painted while that coat is moist! It can depend on how dry the atmosphere is at the time the painter starts working.. (Using the back of your hand to feel whether the wall is ready to paint on.) If it is a rainy day it may need some time to start painting. On a dry and warm day the artist may have to work fast.
In fresco technique, painting has only 12 colors. All these truly earth colors are compatible with lime. If any other “paint” is used that does not “unite” with the lime, it will not last.
When the artist begins, he or she knows that when a section is plastered with the final coat, that the painting must be completed in this day’s time. The final coat must not dry without the paint applied to it.
Once a wall is painted in Fresco method- it will take about six months to “dry out” completely.
Nothing is put on the wall. No varnishes, no oiling, nothing. The technique is a water color method. The colors are “fused” and the moist lime forms a matte (non-shining) and transparent finish.
Fresco walls are generally cleaned to remove the “lint” on the wall- (all walls acquire “lint”) – this is done with a soft sponge and water.
Thank you for your attention to this information.


Stephen Pope Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff