The Mikado

I've had the pictures of these sitting here for a while waiting for me to write. I've a bit of something new to add this time too...
The fall musical: The Mikado.
I was very excited when I got the plans for this show. It was mostly simple but had a few elaborate elements to it.

I began with the carving of the details on the top and bottom of the arch. Those could be done without having the actual arch there to work with. I left extra to allow leeway when the curves were cut.

These were done from pink foam board which is typically used for insulation. I transferred a full scale drawing onto the foam and began to cut it out with a Rotozip. This was a great tool to use for this. It makes a horrible mess but I like that one can control the depth of the cutting blade. Here is the begining of the cutting process.


Here are the finished pieces. Since all the lines on the drawings couldn't be complete cut outs I did much of it in a half depth. These are the center pieces.


Here are the two for the bottom of the curves. I left extra material so that we could cut the curves to the arch for a better fit when it was built.


From there I moved on to the majority of the set. It was a fairly straight forward process for textured white walls. The texture came from an additive bought from the store. Do you recognize the columns from here?


The bottoms of these columns were to have a copper patina look.


The next project was the gilded screens. This took some research as I was concerned about the painting on top of the gold leaf. I also thought it would be a fun project to try some time lapse with.

The panels were done on MDF. First you see the primer, than a colored base coat. The sizing goes on white but dries clear. Then the application of the leaf, painting the design, and sealing the whole thing. The trim was attached after. The leafing was done with Dutch metal in #2. It was sized with Sepp Gilding Size and sealed with Rolco Acrylic Topcoat. Here is a still of the finished pieces.


Last came the gold fru-fru on the arch, beams and columns. The beams and arch pieces were done in the same manner as the other foam pieces. The columns were a bit more of a challenge as it had to wrap around the top. After some frustrating trial and error a solution was had. The foam was cut slightly larger than the design and then ripped on a bandsaw into very thin layers. This was a challenge considering the material was only 1-1/2" thick. I glued the sheets together with Spray 78, which is specifically made for this type of foam. (It doesn't melt it and cause toxic fumes) The layers were wrapped around some off cuts of the column tubes and held with shrink wrap to dry.


The pictures are of blue foam because we ran out of the pink and there was some blue handy in the size required. For the record there is a difference between the two. The blue foam is softer and less rigid. This makes it more suiting to wrapping around a curve than the pink foam, but less suitable for this sort of carving. The other cap was done with pink foam. Here is the the carved piece.


The pieces were then coated with a product called Flexcoat. It seals up the foam and makes it paintable and adds some strength to it. The arch pieces were coated in the same way and then painted with their required finishes.


Then they were all based, sized and then gilded.


The caps on top were pink foam turned on a lathe by our shop foreman. For all the fuss these were they really added a nice touch to the set.


Here are pictures of the whole set. I also sewed the purple banners. The applique was done with an iron on adhesive.




A full stage shot. I did have to go back and add a gray glaze on the walls with the circular windows. Apparently seeing drawings of white walls, research of white walls, and seeing the actually white walls in the shop isn't enough to prepare a director for the shock of white walls on the set. The brown/gray area downstage is actual crushed stone. Overall it was a fun show to do, and consisted of a good balance of easy to bang out techniques with more elaborate ones.


Saying farewell to summer

Fall is finally here and I am thrilled. The summer did not go quite as planned. The opera job ended up taking much, much longer for various reasons. That and my son learned to walk at the beginning of July. We were not ready for him to be walking at 10 months and life has been a whirlwind since.

This summer's opera reps were Carmen and The Barber of Seville. The project was one of those that takes on a life of it's own. Plus many of us in the shop were still a little ragged and seething from the last two projects. At the end of it all, as the truck pulled away, I realized that I took far too few pictures. By the end it was all about getting it done and not recording it for posterity. But at least I took pictures of the fun parts.

The design was a good one, a proper rep set with a single main structure and various elements that would distinguish between scenes and between the two show themselves. One of the distinguishing features of The Barber of Seville was giant rendering of oranges that hung in the skyline above the main wall. Due to a theatrical trick two identical flats were needed. These were initially intended to be fabric drops, but due to the cut out shapes on the top it was easier to do these as hard, fabric covered flats. Otherwise it would have been a rigging nightmare.

Here you get a rare picture of me actually working on something. Being the only painter, I don't get pictures of me working on something that often anymore. Here I am gluing the muslin to the flats. The curves of the leaves and oranges meant a lot of clipping and wrapping of small sections as I wrapped the fabric over the edge of the luan.

All done, glued and sized, they are ready for painting.


After I laid in a base color, I pounced the basic shapes. If I only were doing one, I would have just drawn on the flats and skipped the pounce. But since I had two that had to match, it saved a lot of time to do a pounce.

Then I started to paint. The style was a very loose, watercolor look that I achieved with lots of watery layers of color.






The final touches were the white washes and black 'pencil' lines.


The other fun piece on this project was the bull fighter painting used in Carmen. I know I took more process photos but I did it on three different cameras, including my cell phone. These are the ones that I have on the hard drive at the moment, but at least they are the finish photos.

I like how the placement of the fan works with the flow of the cape on this one. All by accident too.


I also gilded the frame with the left over leaf from last year's ceiling project.


As I said before, there was much, much more to the set that I didn't get pictures of.

Now onto to a new season!

Tommy can you hear me?

I'm being prodded to post, so here it is. I have two good reasons for being lax on updating here. One is the very cute little gentleman who brought plague to the house and then learned how to crawl. He's now pulling up on everything and attempting to walk unaided less than two weeks of learning to pull up. Evel Knievel actions with similar results.

The other is that the last few shows were tremendous aggrivations and I really haven't wanted to revisit them. But here we go:

Oh I had such high hopes for this show. I love Tommy. I know every word and I was positively giddy when I found out it was going to be our spring musical. (and being built after I was back from maternity leave). The due date for designs came...and went. Finally draftings arrived but only for the main structure of the set. Nothing else. No set pieces and no color. For those of you who don't know Tommy, set wise it is a show about two things: a wardrobe with a mirror and a pinball machine. You can sum up most shows into an item or two that are critical to the show itself. Noises Off, for example, is about doors (and sardines). The Fantasticks is a show about a trunk. Well, my point here (and I do have one) is that neither the wardrobe nor the pinball machine was included in the first drawings we received.

To make a long story short (too late), information tricked in bit by bit, or not at all. Color was over a month late. The designer would ignore our requests for information. He never sent the model that he had completed. There were battles over non-issues (we can't paint the stage floor means we CAN'T paint the stage floor). In the end the designer pretty much walked away from the whole thing and we worked it out on our own.

Having never received an iota of information on the pinball machine I did a lot of research and came up with a design on my own. (I now know way too much about the history of pinball machines). We luckily have a pinball machine in our shop, though a very 80's one. With a little tweaking from my very talented husband we got it running. I found and replaced all the rubbers and worked up some new upper cabinet art. Our TD scored some plexi from a hockey rink to replace the glass on the playfield as the actor was climbing all over the machine. In the end it worked out pretty well. And now we have a functioning (though rather boring) pinball machine in our breakroom.

The main part of the set consisted of painted brick walls and a lot of white pipe railings, supports and beams. At least the brick was fun, though the time constraint due to the lateness of everything meant I was doing it all without proper sampleing. At least I got to break out the mega-brick stencil. Though I think it has seen it's last show. The stencil is falling apart and a little too unweildy for one person to easily use.

I started by painting all the walls with the grout color, using a lot of sprays to get the right texture.

Then I figured out the repeat on the stencil and where to begin on the walls (more measuring and math).

Then it was painting, painting, painting. I did the brick in more sprays, mostly using hand sprayer and some Prevals.

When it was done I did the shadows and the highlights.

Out of all the brick I've painted (oh and I've painted a lot) this was probably the one I was the least happy with. Had I more time I think I would have painted and then masked out the grout with tape. That would have allowed me to do more brush work on the bricks. (For those who are curious, I think my favorite bricks were the split homosote that were gooed and then painted with a compound piped in with pastry bags for the mortar. I'll have to find pictures somewhere)

This is the only picture I have of the wardrobe in progress. By the end we were in such a rush that there just wasn't the time to take pictures. The brown things are papertowels to protect the confetti cannons that are used in the shattered mirror effect.

Here it is in the show (picture taken by my TD)

The one truly fun project on the show was the Tommy's Holiday Camp sign. Again, time didn't allow for a lot of process pictures. Here it is being pounced:


And here it is before it was drilled for the lights. The words 'holiday camp' were spelled out in tiny light bulbs.


So that was Tommy, which led into the rep shows that had a lot of the same problems. Poor design, late and incomplete information, not much time, but this time the designer was also our Shop Foreman. Things got rather unpleasant and tense for quite a while. And since I'm a breastfeeding Momma, I couldn't drown my frustrations in gin and tonics, as I usually would.

The two shows were The Idiot Box and The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue. I only have a few pictures of Learned Ladies completed. Of the other I only have what my TD took. I had two and half weeks to paint two full sets, so pictures just didn't happen. Honestly, I don't even want to post pictures of them. I'm not proud of the work at all.

There I think we are all caught up. Now onto the Opera reps (both fun and beautiful)


Sorry for the delay on this post. I was having issues with the photos and then the household got the stomach flu that has been going around. Tommy has been hell on wheels as well, but then that's a whole other post.

On with the opera.
This is the floor for said operas. It is what we like to refer to as fantasy marble, which is marble in colors/types that don't actually exist in nature. Always a challenge. This was a bit more so of one due to the material I was painting on. For marble you want a perfectly smooth surface. That wasn't in the budget for me so this is what I got:


Those are stock platforms that have been painted a gazillion times. They are gouged, chipped, gapping and not ideal for the task at hand. The masonite on the floor is rough side up and the piece have varying layers of paint so they aren't consistant in texture. Not ideal for marble at all. The rake of the stage also presents a challenge.

So here we go. Primed one coat and two coats of base white.


The turquoise base coat. Notice you can still see the gaps between the platforms. That never went away.


I hit a bit of a snag when I went to layout the squares for the 'tiles'. The ones on my drawing were not in proportion to the size he wanted, and none of the tile lines are parallel (or perpendicular for that matter) to any edge of the floor. So I pretty much had to make it up on my own. My head nearly exploded with the math since the size of the floor was a tad off from the draftings as well. But I made it work, even if they weren't exactly square.

The base color down, I started the marbling. To achieve the translucent effect of marble you paint it in lots of translucent layers. I started with the grey/black color and then added the white.


Each of these photos represents a whole day of painting.


Due to time constraints I cut out many, many more steps and layers of paint. Therefore this is probably the least favorite of the marbles I have painted, but it worked for what they needed.


And you may notice my orange clogs in almost every shot. Since I bought these I don't walk on the sets in my socks anymore. It makes for much happier feet.

Once the glazing was done, I laid down two coats of semi-gloss sealer. Voila, ugly turquoise marble.


Here's a closeup of one of the tiles. This really shows how textured the floor really is.


Next time: of my favorite shows, and now, one of my worst nightmares.