Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Sometimes 2 hours in the bathroom can produce a GOOD thing, like this little mural I painted, based loosely on an area of the marsh near which I often walk in the morning. The actual painting isn't this yellow. I don't know why the photo came out so yellow. Camera struggling to deal with the poor light in the room, I guess.
Here's info I shared with my critique group about painting it, as we discussed things like the no-no of using pure black for shadows versus "whatever was available in the theater paint room" where I acquired my mural-painting skills.
One member asked,
"...a new sideline?" to which I replied:
Nah, an old sideline. I've painted faux this & that's in people's homes & businesses many times in the past but it was never my favorite pastime. I'm just not that crazy about painting. Maybe because of that, combined with my experience with painting 32" by 16" flats, I'm unusually fast because I work with rollers in wallpaint instead of brushes in tube paint. I usually pour 3 or 4 colors into two separate paint trays and work with a roller in each hand and a couple of sponge brushes clutched in my knuckles -- kind of like Terri's six-shooter cowgirl, only with rollers -- the short, 3 or 4-inch wide kind. You have to work fast with those wall acrylics, while it's still wet, which is why I work all the colors at once... until they start to blend too much in the pan. I do not want colors to blend in the pan. I want 2 to 4 distinct colors which blend visually on the wall. Otherwise, with these dull wall colors--as opposed to bright tube paints--the whole thing turns to mud.
(Which is where pure black or white can sometimes save a deadly dull backdrop with values which are all too similar. A few pops of pure black and pure white, for contrast, can often bring it back to life. My theater "paintings" are for viewing from 20 to 60 feet away, under various colored lights, so having one's heart set on a color looking the same as you envisioned, once someone has screwed with the lights, will result in disappointment.) As Joe suggests, I would never use pure black on a real painting, but on theater sets it's often the best choice for achieving quick contrast. My other objective being, of course, not to make it a full-time job. I really dislike painting theater sets. It's lonely and boring and I hate climbing ladders. I'm in love with this new hydraulic lift "car" the theater just bought, but I still have to hoist my ample ass 4 feet up onto the platform a dozen times at each paint session. Good exercise, but not the most fun.
When the colors blend too much in the pans, I grab a new pan or two. No washing up until I know the whole flat is done. Since I've painted a thousand variations of marsh fading to several lines of trees, this was an especially easy one to do without a lot of advance planning.
Something else I've learned about set painting is that if it looks great at arm's length (or maybe 3 or 4 feet away) it will look like crap from an audience seat. Well maybe not crap, but disappointing, at least. You'll think, "Why did I put in all that detail that nobody can see?" Often, sponges--which I did use in this tiny mural--look too muted on a big flat. From a distance, (the audience view), it all blends and becomes bland. You can't see that nice texture.
I think I may have told you all about this one:
A dozen years ago, when Collin was about 8, I was painting a nude for a western show. Can't even remember the name of the show. The producer gave me about a 6 or 7 foot piece of "lew-on" to paint the image on. (I have no idea how to spell that, but that's what all the producers call it -- basically it's like cheap pieces of paneling.) The only place big enough to lay a 7 foot wide piece of lew-on was in my living room. So I painted away, using whatever colors I had at hand. In the dim light of my living room everything looked okay, but I discovered that in the right light, she looked a little greenish.
But that didn't bother Collin, my little critic. He came into the room when I was mostly done with the body, still working on her face -- which had taken on a hispanic look but was still very unfinished. Collin looked at the painting and said thoughtfully, "Her face is kind of funny... but her breasts are just right."