Thursday, 31 March 2011

Work Experience: Start as you mean to end.


Today was a continuation if the commission work for the canteen. The task involved drawing out pictures onto the corners of the mount board, such as fruit and veg, meat, cakes and a variety of dishes.

Now that I am coming to the end of my placement with the National I am finding myself doing the same jobs that I completed on my very first day. The black paint was back in full force as I was touching up the metal frames of some light boxes for the production of "London Road". The frames were not intended on being seen, however a miss calculation in the width of some wood meant that that raw edges of the frame would be visible on stage. So they all need to be touched up whist trying not to get paint on the light box, which was easier said then done. As well as this I was also charged with the job of unpacking fake grass and reeds for "Cherry Orchard" removing all the plastic and labels in preparation for them to be sprayed and made into reed beds. A freelance painter/props maker will be coming in to make the reed beds. I was surprised to find out that this was part of the paint frame work as I would have thought the props department would have made them. It just goes to show that being a scenic artist is not all about painting, you also have to be able to do some construction and carving work aswell.

Work Experience: I could get used to being paid in cake.


As part of an internal commission the head of the canteen requested that some small 3 inch by 4inch canvasses be decorated. We were informed that we could do what we liked on these canvasses and used our own artistic flare to interpret the challenge.  The decision was to paint the canvasses in pastel colours as these would be less obtrusive on the senses when deciding on food. However, the head of the canteen had other ideas and was not too keen on the colour choice. We used the colour of the walls as inspiration, as the canteen is called the "Blue Room", and mixed a midnight blue to match the walls. When we returned to have a meeting with her she loved the blue, but also decided that she liked the pastels as well for use on the cake stand. The final choice was a mix of the pastel colours and the dark blue. It is this kind of indecision that I can imagine experiencing with some designers, who are unsure what they really want. It is all about working with people through a problem to come up with the best outcome for everyone. On top of the canvas is placed a piece of black mount board with a drawing of different food using white, silver and gold pens in the corner. These cards are interchangeable depending on the dish that is being served. Doing a project like this can be difficult as you don't always get to do work that you like or enjoy, but you still have to do the best job possible as it is always about the designer/customer.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Work Experience: It's all about Logistics


It is alll very well and good producing a 3 x 2 meter painting until you have to take it home on the rush hour tube. Now there is a lesson learnt.

Using the roller method to paint over the Crystal Gel proved a really success. As a means of adding tone and texture, this was really affective. The Crystal gel adds instant depth to a piece once it is painted and also picks up hints of colour well. I used the roller lightly over certain parts, allowing the colour to only lay on the raised bits of gel. Some of the smoother bits of gel, on the bow for example, were a little hard to cover as it tended to resist the paint. However once one coat had been applied and dried then it was easy to build up on top of it. 

The Paint Frame was very quiet as the painters were on a research trip to Brighton. The designer for "One Man Two Guvnors" has used internet images in the model box which have then been copied and blown up so are not of the best quality to work from. So the painters have been set the task of re-photographing the buildings and scenes that are used from Brighton. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Work Experience:


I have really been struggling with this painting as it is so far removed from my usual painting style. Despite this there have been moments when I have enjoyed the work, mixed in with moments of utter despair. I have been using a roller to paint this piece, as it creates a really nice affect and texture that works well to emulate the qualities of pastels. On the other hand the roller does create a whole other challenge in itself as it is harder to put in the finer details. I have also been having trouble with some of the colours for the skin as the when the colours used in the original sketch are translated into paint the dancer looks a little dead, so I have spent a lot of time applying layers and dry brushing to try and achieve the right affect.

Within the rest of the paint frame the work is only just beginning as they are starting two new shows "Cherry Orchard" and "One Man, Two Guvnors". Both the floors for these productions have been the first parts to be completed as they take up the most room. Once the floors are done then the rest of the set pieces can be brought through from the workshop. These two shows work well together as one is made up of flats and physical set pieces, whereas the second is all painted on cloth so will fit nicely into the paint frame.
Roller Work

Troubles with skin tones

Painting so far

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Work Experience:


As the drawing I am recreating is a pastel sketch I need to try and emulate that quality of colour and blending that you get with pastels. On the floor I used a mix of brushes and a sponge to get the seamless blending of colour you can get with pastels. To maintain a continuity with the colours I used the same base colours to mix those for the wall of the background. I was inspired to use a small roller to paint the background from observing some of the scenic artists using them to paint samples for "Two Governers, One Gentleman". This technique was really successfull as it allowed me to make a line that looked as if it could have been drawn with charcoal or a pastel. I am finding this painting a much bigger challenge than "Whistlejacet" as the style and techniques are so far removed from my usual painting style.


Work Experience:


Once the initial drawing was complete I used a brush and cloth to rub down the charcoal lines to remove some of the excess powder and colour, making a fainter line to work with that will not make the paint dirty. To add some added texture and interest to the painting I used Rosco Crystal Gel to apply texture to the skirt and dress of the dancer. Using a pallet knife it is really simple to apply to gel which can be painted once dry.


Rosco Crystal Gel



Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Work Experience:


I began scaling up the second painting of Degas "Dancer" using the same technique used for "Whistlejacket". I created a grid using some cotton which allows me to accurately scale the drawing up. I can see now that I have set myself a big challenge, trying to draw up from a free flowing expressionist drawing is a task in itself. I found that I needed to sketch out the basic shape and then go back over the drawing and measure in more of the precise points. Another thing I need to work on is using a lighter touch when using charcoal as I tend to work too heavily which then makes the paint dirty later on.

I also went to the dress rehearsal for "Rocket to the Moon". It was interesting to see all the set in place and being used as it had previously just been in pieces around the paint frame. Some of the other scenic artists did seem a little disappointed with the set design as there were some large textured and painted sections that could hardly been seen at all. There were also a lot of dentist equipment props that were all hidden away in a room portion of the set. However overall all the set pieces and props (seen and unseen) did add to the whole ambience of the play.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Work Experience:


Having completed my painting of Whistlejacket I am now moving on to do a second piece. I have chosen to do something that is out of my comfort zone and set myself a bit of a challenge. I find it really difficult to paint in an expressive 'free' style, I like to be controlled and precise. Which is why I found painting the tail and mane of the horse such a challenge. The painting I have chosen is one of Degas' "Dancer" drawings. The style is much more expressive and also as it is a pastel drawing it will be interesting to try and emulate that texture and appearance. I am slightly adapting the drawing for my copy as once the drawing is blown up it starts to lose some of the finer detail, and what was a hand has just become a blob. So I am removing two of the background dancers and just keeping the main girl and one other background dancer. The painting will be smaller than Whistlejacket, at only 240cm high and 135cm wide, as there is a lot more detail and texture to paint.

Finished Painting

sense of scale
Degas "Dancer"

Monday, 21 March 2011

Work Experience: It's a Horse


I started the day by going to the Littleton Theatre to see the set for "Rocket to the Moon" in place. It is impossible to comprehend just how big a set will be when it is in pieces in the Paint Frame, but this set was huge. It was an amazing experience to be able to stand on stage with it. Once the set pieces are in place the scenic artists and members of the set construction department fill in the joins between the flats and secure some of the finishing, like picture rails.

The rest of the day was spent putting the finishing touches on my painting. For me the tail and mane of the horse proved the most difficult to paint. The main body of the piece involved painting with great care and control, whereas the tail was much freer to give the impression of hair. The tail to two attempts to get right as the first time I did not feel confident with what I was doing so instead of looking like hair it looked more like fur. I then redid the tail using much longer fluid brush strokes. once I had the technique I could then use this to paint in the mane as well. To finish the painting I used the spray gun again, masking of certain areas, so that I could repair any imperfections and cover two or three drip marks that had occurred.

An Idea of Scale

Tail First Attempt
Tail Second Attempts

Finished Painting

Finished Paintings

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Work Experience:


On Sunday 20th March there is to be the first Free Jumping Championship in England which will be taking place on the National Theatre. I was instructed to be part of the event staff working with the carpenters and scaffolders to work with them to touch up the raw edges of wood with paint, and to paint some parts of the scaffolding with colour coat, which is an enamel paint for metal. However, the weather stopped most of this work taking place as it rained all day. We manged to take some of the pieces to the paint frame so they could be painted, but other than that the work will have to be completed on Saturday morning in time for the contest.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Work Experience: First job as a paid Scenic Artist


I spent the morning working on my painting. I was mainly concentrating on the fine detail on the face as that requires the most work. At mid day Hilary received a call from another set designer who was in need of some scenic painters, so she set the task for me and Jenny Rands. The job was at the Cochrane Theatre in Holborn near Central St Martin on a production called “Cure for a Cuckold”.  The set consisted of one large flat with four windows and a door that needed to be pained to represent sandstone, in quite neutral tones of yellow ochre and a dark blue/grey colour. Part of the set had already been painted by some other freelance scenic painters; however Mark Friend, the designer, was not happy with the work they had done so we were asked to help work back into the piece. This proved to be quite a challenge as I find it is always difficult to repaint over something that was done by another person, as you have to try and make your style blend in with what has already be produced. Also at the same time the lighting crew where doing a set up, so we had to work within varying light conditions, sometimes with no light at all. On the other hand it was interesting to work alongside the lighting crew and observe what it is their job entails, how it works and how what they do has an effect on the painting. Due to the height of the set some of the painting had to be done with a very sophisticated artist’s tool, of a paint brush gaffer taped to a broom handle. Although simple enough this proved difficult to wield and an added challenge to the whole task, especially when used up a ladder. On the whole it was a really good experience to go and work in another environment that was completely different from the National, as we were working on stage instead of a workshop. It just proved that in this business you have to be very adaptable.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Work Experience:


The morning was spent working on some maintenance for the Frankenstein production on the Olivier Stage. Part of the set is a strip of hessian and foam that is covered in strands of plastic grass, through out the productions season these pieces of grass have become damaged and fallen off where the actors walk on top of them. Originally the grass strands were clipped onto little pegs, but these were not proving strong enough so we had to go back over the whole piece using the hot glue gun to individually stick the strands of grass back in place. Some parts where completely replaced with spare sections that had been prepared when the piece was first made. These had to be cable tied in place as the whole strip get flown into the flight, so needs to be fastened securely. This maintenance also needed to be completed as the production is being filmed in the evening and will be shown at cinemas around the country, so the set needed to be good enough for close up shots.

The afternoon I did some further work on my painting. I worked on more of the tonal work  and muscle definition. I also went up to the production office to see the model box for the next two plays that the National is producing "Cherry Orchard" and "One Man, Two Guvnors". It was a really good experience to be able to see a professional model box and to witness how they are both made and used by the painters and construction team. I was surprised at just how much the models are handled and moved around, it just shows how robust they need to be as they can be quite man handled. It is important to understand that they are not just there to look good, but are practical "working" models and will be touched, measured and moved around. Once the plays are in the production process the models are kept in the Paint Frame so have been readily available for many a perusal during a spare moment.

Work Experience:


Today I simply worked on my painting. I have started to block in some of the basic colours using a wash of paint and matt glaze mixed together. I then worked back over the painting adding more definite colours and tonal definition.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Work Experience:


Today was just a continuation of working on my painting. After drawing out the outline of the horse with the Vandyke ink I then used it to work back into the image adding shading and muscle definition. The ink is quite an interesting medium to use as unlike paint it sinks into the canvas very almost immediatly, which leaves no room for error or to move the paint about once it has been applied. On the other hand it is a really loverly substance to use and especially good for scenic painting as unlike paint it merely stains the canvas rather making a layer that could crack or split when the painting is moved or rolled.

Vandyke ink Shading

Once the outline and shading was complete I was then shown how to use the spay gun. I used this to spray in the background, as in the orginal painting although the background looks like a solid beige colours there is in fact a variety of different tones and shades of beige. So using the the spray gun was a really affective way of creating these subtle changes in colour. Also similarly to the vandyke ink the spay gun creates a fine layer of paint rather than a thick coating that could crack. Now the background is done I can then go back over the horse and paint back in the shading and outline ready to add the colour.

Sprayed Background
Background with added highlights to lighten background

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Work Experience:


The day was taken up with planining and drawing up my version of "whistlejacket". I used a grid method, using cotton hung in a grid, which makes it easy to measure and scale up a drawing. I used charcoal to draw out the shape and then rubbed most of it back to remove all the loose particles that would make the paint dirty. I then used a mix of Vandyke Ink and glaze to go over the outline. This will mean that I can work over the image to put in a background without losing  the drawing.

Griding Up Method
Charcoal Drawing
Charcoal drawing
Vandyke Ink Outline
Vandyke Ink Outline

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Work Experience:


Today I began my painting of Stubbs Whistlejacket. The canvas is approximatly 3 meters by 2.5 meters, which was streched over one of the paint frames, held in place with staples. I then primed the canvas with a coloured water based paint in a beige that matched that of the painting. I then gridded up the drawing and then transposed these onto the canvas using cotton and nails to make the grid, rather than drawing them on. This could then be used to accuratly draw up the image.

The National Theatre is currently trying to raise money to fund an extension of the building, as part of this endeavour they are outting on a special performance for certain weathly members of the community in hopes that they will sponser their project. The  performance is taking place in the Olivier Theatre; which means that Frankinstien is taking a break, where they have put a stage up over where the stalls are and have transformed the real stage into a seating area with round tables and chairs. I was able to go up for a while and watch some of the choir rehersals.

In the Paint Frame it has been very busy as the flats for "Rocket to the Moon" have been being removed and taken to the Littleton Theatre to be fitted. The turn around for the National is so quick and constant that as soon as the finished flats had been removed the next productions were being in moved in from the construction workshop, ready to be textured and painted.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Work Experience - I can't drink any more tea!


I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black

Today there were even more things to be pained black. All the flats for the play "Rocket to the Moon" had to be painted black ready for the fit up tomorrow. Instead of using MDF of pine wood to face the flats the National uses a plastic sheeting which is then covered in canvas and painted. The draw back with this that if the flats are lite from the back they glow, so all the backs had to be painted black using a mix of Bristol black matt paint and covent garden primer, in order to prevent this. After lunch there was a dress rehearsal for the play "The Holy Rosenbergs" in the Cottesloe Theatre which I was allowed to sit in on. The play had a minimal set with only furniture to make up a living room scene, and the seating which can be moved around within the theatre were set out in the round, so it made a very intimate setting.

Work Experience - The National Theatre Paint Frame


I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

On arriving at the National Theatre I was taken from the stage door to the Paint Frame studio in the workshop. I was introduced to the scenic painters who vary from full time painters at the National to freelance scenic painters and theatre craftsmen who work for a few months at a time. I then went on a tour round the theatre by Hilary Vernon Smith the head of the department, where she showed me all three theatres ( I was even allowed to go on stage in the Littleton). She also showed me all the workshops including costume and introduced me to the set construction workshop heads and employees. once I had read all the heath and safety information I was then set to work helping the scenic technician painting some underlying structures for the sets black. One of the pieces was made of about five upright pieces of MDF and was very difficult to paint as it lent and wobbled a lot. Being determined not to break anything on my first day I had to be very careful. 

While I am at the National I will also being completing a painting project of my own. I have chosen to do a copy of George Stubbs "whistlejacket" which is situated in the National Portrait Gallery. I decided upon this painting because when I first saw it spoke to me more than any other painting that was in the room, the horse just seemed to jump out of the canvas at you and capture you. I really hope that I can do this painting Justice. 

Whistlejacket - George Stubbs

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Final Product

In preparation for the final Geles, the African patterned fabric had to be starched backed with a heavy Calico and stitched together. This made the fabric stiff enough to be folded and also maintain its shape. Each hat was made up of an oblong piece of fabric (about 60cm x200cm, if the piece is too long or wide it then becomes too heavy to hold its shape when it has been folded. Instead of sewing the wrong sides together to make a standard seam or a French seam, I chose originally to over-lock the edges as this is a quick and neat process, however the over-locker uses four reels of thread all of the same colour which is problematic if you want to use coloured thread. I decided as an alternative to fold in the raw edges and use a contrasting coloured zig zag stitch to add a finishing detail. 

To construct the hats I folded the fabric in exactly the same way that a real Gele is folded, but instead of folding around a head I used a hat block. Once the hat had been tied there is a certain amount of adjusting to get the desired shape, despite its flimsy appearance if the hat has been tied tightly then you can be quite rough and bold with it. To finish the piece I stitched some of the layers together to preserve the shape and add some strength. 

Finished Gele Front
Finished Gele Back

I did not have enough of the patterned fabric to make all the hats with one single length of cloth so I used two off cuts to make a new piece of fabric.

Gele made from the left over fabric

The final flourish was to stitch the felt skull cap into the hat this again served to maintain the shape of the hat so that they did not crumple under their own weight and also add a professional finish to the piece.

Skull Cap inside Gele
Once all the hats were completed I then packed them with tissue paper to protect them in transit and when they are stored inbetween performances. I also produced an invoice to be signed by Walk Tall on the collection of the products.