Scenic designers

Scenic painting

Theatrical scenic painting is a wide-ranging craft, encompassing virtually the entire scope of painting techniques and often reaching far beyond. To be a well-rounded scenic artist, one must have experience in landscape painting, trompe l'oeil, portraiture, and faux finishing, to be versatile in many different media (such as acrylic-, oil-, and tempera- based paint), and be an accomplished gilder, plasterer, and sculptor. However, the techniques of the scene painter are different than traditional studio artists in many respects. The scene painter replicates an image on a very large scale. This is achieved with specialized knowledge that isn't taught in artist studios. In addition one is often expected to make the finished product fire-proof, and to work quickly and within a tight budget.

Traditionally, scenic painters are drawn from the ranks of scenic designers, and in many cases designers paint their own works. But increasingly scenic painting is looked upon as a separate craft, and scenic painters are expected to subordinate their artistic ideals to those of the designer. Usually, the designer submits a set of 'color elevations', or paintings, to the painter, who is then expected to paint the scenery to match. Alternatively, the designer may submit a scale model or photograph to the painter, sometimes accompanied by a full scale paint sample. In some cases the designer only presents their research and expects the scenic artist to adapt it. This is far from ideal from the painter's perspective.

For an overview of the skills and methods involved, see painting.


294 Play Production IV: Scenic Painting

An example of scenic painting for the Motion Picture Industry

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