More Pastel Dust…

I have this affection for the theater and for dance maybe because my great-aunt danced and probably because my daughter danced from grade 1 through college.  It was always fun to work on sets and create posters for the productions and then last year my fellow accomplice and dance professor/dance producer Idalee Hutson Fish, kicked it  up a notch.  Going back to posts from April last year you can see the statues of the Muses of Apollo that we created.  So…we  discussed the possibilities of using real paintings as back drops for scenes.  The cost of renting back drops is very expensive; they aren’t original, etc…so Ida found out that some ballet companies – in Russia, I believe, were using projection of images as the back drop.  Now I am thinking this is going to be difficult because as I understood magnification, the larger you make an image, the more it is going to lose detail and become fuzzy.  Ida said, no, it will be fine.  Ok…I still don’t get how my 9×12 inch painting is going to be stretched across 30 feet of stage and still look decent.  WELL, it works with the help of a couple of cool guys who are AV specialists.  I sat up in the balcony of Cordiner Hall on Whitman College Campus today and saw it happen!  No one else is using this for their productions and it is quite magical.  I am excited to take daughters and granddaughters to the production tomorrow night and let them see…most importantly that they witness the talent of the dancers and magic of the Snow White production – not the Disney version….more the Brothers Grimm version and then appreciate the designs behind it all.

January 30, 2011 and it’s the day after the Snow White production.  The show was a huge success with nearly a full house and a stage full of dancers in various stages of their learning…from the tiny bunnies that hopped and did beginning dance steps to the Pointe dancers, skilled in years of instruction.  The images for the back drops worked well.  The snow scene was a painting of a few years ago and is one that I chose to keep.  It is a snowy scene from an area  close by with a lake beyond the trees and the Blue Mountains hidden as well.  Ida liked the image and asked if I would do something similar in a summer scene.  I painted the summer scene fairly easily using the winter one as a guide, making some subtle changes that would be believable from seasonal changes.  Knowing that the great detail of the paintings wouldn’t be visible, I was able to spend less time on detail and focus on color that could be altered somewhat with stage lights.  The dwarf’s house interior  painting is the one that appears the least finished…and it is because what would make up the contents of the rest of the rom are stage props in 3-D a dwarf’s’  bed, etc.   The table is small compared to a large fireplace and all seems a little quirky unless you would have seen the production.  The image of the arches was used mostly in subdued lighting and was almost sepia colored (the arches).  They gave the dance scenes in the great hall an immense and castlelike feeling.





          One of the coolest things with the production was the mirror to which the evil queen would ask “who is the fairest of them all?”  Gary Fish constructed this 10-12 foot frame with complex corners only fit for a queen in her castle.  They then found spandex type material in a silver and affixed three columns of the fabric vertically in the frame, overlapping the fabric slightly.  Through these openings dancers would come forth onto the stage or a “Mask”  would appear at the end of an arm from behind the mirror.  As the stage lights changed; the mirror seemed to glisten and almost pulsate with life.  It was a magical prop, in deed!  Of course there were some sort of funny moments in the visualization of this production.  One afternoon Ida and I spent some time looking at clips of the various “Snow White” productions that were out on YouTube, on video, etc.  Trust me there are some quite disturbing interpretations and some that are really spectacular!  When we talked about the mirror and the frame for it and the amount of fabric needed, I calculated the fabric based on sq feet and not sq yard.  Fortunately the correct amount of fabric was ordered, otherwise, I think Ida may have mummified me in about 10 yards more of the fabric that wasn’t needed.  The moment I realized my error I am sending messages to every electronic device she has to hopefully intercept the ordering of extra fabric.  Our work time together is great and it is a joy to see how it all comes together.

So from a technical standpoint…the pastels imaged well.  We used fine resolution for the images in about a 1500 pixel width and a dpi of 250.  As proof of what the AV gurus were able to do with stage lighting, keeping the column, for instance, in a pretty neutral color worked well.  The original image sizes were 12×9 inches and in the future I would probably do these in a 16×8 format to make the image more backdrop size without having to crop.’

It is a fun project to work with performing arts for a change and to stretch your imagination and do something whimsical once in a while – such as the poster design for this show.  We don’t have to be serious, nose to the grindstone pastelists all th time…it’s good to get out and play!!!

The next post will talk about and show some 6×6″ paintings and winter painting…since that is what we are seeing these days!…happy painting…


About bonnie griffith

I am a landscape artist who works in pastels, oils and acrylics. My work focuses on representational studies of the western US. I am basically self taught with lots of workshops and studies with several landscape artists such as Bruce Haughey and Clark Elster. I live in southwestern Idaho, am a native Montanan with a strong connection to the land. I spend as much time as I can in MT painting as well other parts of the northwest. I appreciate getting out in the field and working plein air because there is nothing like completing a painting in the true light of day and visually not being compromised by the use of a photo. In my work, my goal is to produce a piece of work that draws the viewer into the painting and challenges them to explore the scene; get a sense of the time of day, the temperature, the light or lack of. If I have gotten that viewer to step out of their reality and into that painting and enjoy it, then my work was accomplished as I wished. View all posts by bonnie griffith

2 responses to “More Pastel Dust…

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