Apprentice to a master

First slide

Gregory Jackson, a sophomore at Seton School in Manassas, has played a significant role in the construction of the new Seton chapel: He has helped prepare the walls for the frescoes.

Asked to join the project by Ioana Belcea, artwork and artistic design director for the chapel, Jackson served as a helper for the master stuccatore, Ian Hardwick. Jackson gained an appreciation for the intricacies of fresco-painting.

"What I found most remarkable is that frescoes can last for thousands of years because the paint goes onto wet plaster and actually becomes part of the wall," he said.

Over the summer, Jackson learned how to mount the chicken wire, make plaster and then apply it in multiple layers.

"Mixing plaster is an extremely taxing job," he said. "All the ingredients are dumped in, and then it is up to my classmate Brendan Santschi and me to utilize the 'chop and shove maneuver' with our hoes. Imagine pushing 40 pounds of plaster, chopping it back for 15 minutes until all the ingredients are mixed in and doing that 40 more times."

Jackson explained the challenge behind layering the plaster: "Each of the four coats of plaster must be spread evenly and the first three scratched to make ridges for the next coat."

Jackson learned much from his hands-on experience with Hardwick but admits to his limitations.

"Though I got to learn how to plaster, I am no master," he said. "Ian reminded me that a typical apprentice (does) not even get to use the tools in his first year, so my training was rather rushed."

Jackson will have the chance to demonstrate what he has learned during two Buon Fresco workshops that will be held at the Seton chapel in October. In addition, Belcea's practice images for the fresco of Our Lady, Queen of Angels that will be depicted in the front of the chapel will be on display.

Find out more

Siena Icon Workshop will offer two Buon Fresco workshops at the Seton Chapel, 9314 Maple St., Manassas. Workshop 1: Oct. 9, 6 to 9 p.m. and Oct. 10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Workshop 2: Oct. 16, 6 to 9 p.m. and Oct. 17, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To register, email

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015