The Fresco in the Colhoun Room shows the miracle of the five loaves and two fish feeding the five thousand and carries the message of God’s abundant love for mankind. The design resulted from a yearlong collaboration between the church’s fresco committee, Theologian-in-Residence Fred Horton, and fresco artist Roger Nelson.
Nelson and his assistants created the fresco in approximately 63 twelve-hour painting days in 2005. Several parishioners served as models. The left-hand corner of the fresco includes Roger Nelson’s tribute to his teacher, friend and fellow fresco artist Ben Long.
The Art of Fresco
The following information was provided by Roger Allen Nelson.
Fresco painting is said to be the most ancient of art forms. It is also, perhaps, the most arduous.
Predating recorded history, fresco came to be known in the Renaissance as “The Mother of All Arts.” Learning to master the pure pigments and natural elements of fresco painting gives the artist insight into every aspect of art.
Fresco means “fresh” in Italian and refers to art form with a canvas of wet plaster. Pure pigments, suspended in distilled water, are drawn into the surface as the plaster dries.
The methods used today are similar to those used for thousands of years. Lime is quarried, kiln-fired, slaked, and applied to the fresco. Soon, a chemical reaction takes place between the calcium hydroxide plaster and the carbon dioxide in the air. During this time, the colors must be applied so they will adhere to the new limestone crystals that are forming. The lime then dries, sealing the pigment in as it reverts to its original rock-hard state.
Before any work on the plaster begins, the artist spends many months planning and making figure studies and cartoons (see the cartoon for “The Feeding of the Five Thousand” outside the Colhoun room) and planning the logistics of the team of artists who will produce the fresco.
Depending on their size, frescoes are painted in sections with each portion completed in a single day. Fresco is an unforgiving medium; if mistakes are made, the plaster must be removed and the entire section begun again. Because of the multiple steps in the process, the magnitude of work, and the importance of timeliness, frescoes are usually created by a team, including the artist, assistant or associated artists, the mason, and the architect.
Then completed, the fresco becomes part of the building, creating a permanent work of art.
About the Artist
Roger Allen Nelson is an accomplished artist trained in classical realism, who has been led by his talent and passion into the demanding, meticulous medium of fresco.
Having earned a degree in Fine Arts/Art History from the University of Minnesota, Nelson began his artistic studies in 1972 at Atelier Lach School of Fine Arts in Minneapolis. The school traces its roots to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingress (1780-1867), a realist and naturalist with a penchant for adding quaint eccentricity to his works.
Studying first in the French academic tradition under Richard Lach and Ives Gammel, Nelson began developing a taste for larger work and public art, when he was commissioned by the City of Minneapolis to design and paint murals.
After buying a home and land in the North Carolina Mountains, he turned his skills toward carpentry and renovation. Soon, Nelson was being asked to draw plans, elevations and renderings for local architects. This led to an invitation to provide set designs and drawings for the movie, “The Winter People”, based on a story by John Ehle and filmed in Cranberry, North Carolina.
Each step was leading to a turning point in Nelson’s life - his introduction in Charlotte in 1989 to world-renowned fresco master, Ben Long. Work was underway on a fresco at St. Peter’s Catholic Church when Nelson signed on as a volunteer assistant. It soon became apparent that he was well-suited for his assignments. He was ultimately named Chief Associate Artist to Long, working with him on frescoes in North Carolina and in France.
Nelson also joined his mentor as an instructor at The Fine Arts League of Asheville, where he taught Artistic Anatomy and Life/Figure Drawing.
Nelson began accepting solo fresco commissions in 2000. Learn more at RogerAllenNelsonArt.com