Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Scenic Painting - the process

Now that I've managed to stop myself from doing any more to it, I thought I'd share the images of the scenic painting on here. I can still see flaws in it and would have liked more time to spend making it perfect, but ultimately I had to leave it and let the cast have their dress rehearsal with a finished backdrop.

I can honestly say this was the most challenging piece of art I've ever had to create. I started off relishing the challenge and looking forward to creating such a big painting. Over time, however, that enthusiasm waned slightly and as I progressed, painted over, and repainted certain elements I started wondering how on earth Rolf Harris does those huge paintings he was famous for when I was growing up!

The plan was to create the illusion of a Spanish Villa - the terraced area overlooking the garden and surrounding countryside of the Sierra Blanca. I researched images of the area- it stated in the play that you could clearly see the mountain range in that area (the Sierra Blanca takes its name from the Sierra Blanca mountain range of which La Concha, the mountain that towers above the urbanisation, is part). I also wanted to feature a bougainvillea bush as it's mentioned several times in the play. 

The first job we had, which we (my husband Keith and I) did soon after the New Year was over, was to paint the walls of the inside of the "Villa" with a magnolia colour. We'd already built the set in September/October so most of the rest of the work was electrical and decorating along with ensuring everything was safe.

Stage one commenced on January 3rd - as you can see, we have so far painted the walls of the villa and the living room door. We are at the point where we are about to erect strip lights above the two arches on the upstage wall - these will help to convey the light of an outdoor scene. The back wall is as yet untouched.

 Day 2 - January 4th. Having completed the painting (two coats of magnolia) on all the living room walls, we started on the back wall, covering up any previous wall covering with white at the top and a magnolia effect on the lower half - this would soon become the wall of the villa's terrace. 

Day 3 - January 5th. Not much has changed in this view - I've blocked in a basic sky and straightened the level of the wall, since I forgot to take the spirit level yesterday! It's also had another coat of magnolia. As you can see, the strip lights are already shedding a fair amount of light in the two archways.
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Close up of SL arch showing gridded plan

Close up of terracotta wall tiles painted onto the lower edge of the "terrace" wall.

Day 4 - January 9th. A long time was spent today painting in the top of the terrace wall, the shaded areas to give some texture to the surface of the wall, and the tiles at the bottom of the wall. Keith helped by marking out a grid on the wall for the plan of where all the mountains would be placed - if you look at the close-up images you can just about make out the pencil lines and in one of the images you can see the plan I was working from. I also blocked in an area of green as a base colour for the garden.

Mountain line drawn in and basic sky colour blocked in.

Low line of clouds painted in at the top of the mountain range.

 Day 5 - January 10th. I pencilled in the mountain range first, then blocked in the basic sky colour, as seen in the first image for today. Then I added a low line of clouds at the foot of the mountain range, and finally I painted the individual mountains, using my gridded plan as a reference.

 Day 6 - January 12th. Didn't have much time to spend on the painting today as we were starting rehearsals with the Youth section again after the Christmas break and needed to do the lesson plan etc. However, if you look closely you can see that I've painted out the clouds that I did last time and repainted the whole of the sky. I didn't like them!

Day 7 - January 14th. Keith decorated the "hall" wall with some plain white textured wallpaper today (you can't actually see it in any of these photos, will show full stage later). I blocked in the mountains and created a new sky/cloud formation. I've also pencilled in other areas ready for painting - a house just beyond the garden, and the corner of a swimming pool which is supposedly in the garden.

Day 8 - January 15th. Most of the greenery has been blocked in now, the basic house colour painted in and the shape of the swimming pool painted in - you can just about see it on the left of the arch. I've added the rough shape of the bougainvillea too, along with a few small trees in the distance.The mountains in the distance have also been lightened to give the illusion that the they are much further away.
Here you can see I've added some basic colour to the bougainvillea bush, painted in the roof, window and side of the house, coloured in the swimming pool and surrounding area and added some houses in the very distant green hills on the right.

Day 9 - 18th January. Branches, leaves and more colour added to the bougainvillea to give it some shape and definition. A creeping ivy styled tree was added to the side of the house.

Day 10 - 19th January. I wasn't at all happy with the effect of the swimming pool in the garden - it just didn't look credible so I decided to paint it out and just have lawn instead. I added some highlights to the bougainvillea bush and painted several different washes over the various levels of green in the distance - and added some hedge lines here and there to help delineate them.

Day 11 - 21st January. I painted in the suggestion of another small bush creeping over the wall in the SL archway,  changed the appearance of a tree positioned in front of the house, in the SR archway and added some more greenery to the creeping plant at the side of the house.

Day 12 - January 23 (Dress Rehearsal day) After adding some shadow on the wall for the bougainvillea plant and the green shrub SL, I also added a path down the centre of the lawn and a low wall at the perimeter of the garden, I enhanced the buildings in the distance that had been painted over with washes, and added a few more splashes of colour to the bougainvillea leaves. The set was dressed with fairy lights for the two arches at the back (to represent evening approaching) and three of my pieces of artwork - as can be seen in the images below. One of them is a collaboration with fellow artist Rob Kirbyson, the Baobab tree. He painted the background and I painted in the tree, All three paintings are still for sale, so if you come along to see the play and are interested, please see me at the theatre or contact me via email to enquire about the price.

"Reading Between The Lines" and "Baobab"

"Watching Paint Dry". 

I am happy to report that last night, at the end of the play, one of the women in the audience spoke to me about how much she enjoyed the play. She then asked if I'd painted all the scenery, to which I said "yes" (I was cautiously replying because I didn't know what she was going to say about it, good or bad). She then said "It's brilliant". Result! All that time spent painting, planning, repainting etc has now officially been worth it. I always say that things are worth doing even if just one person notices - so my job is done!

My next piece of artistic output will be something much, much smaller - a postcard painting for an exhibition in Scarborough to be handed in for Monday!

I would like to thank Anna from for allowing me to use some of her photographs of bougainvillea as reference images for the scenic painting.


  1. Looks ace Aitch! All your hard work is worth it. Love that you have slipped some of your canvas paintings into the production as well. Excellent! x

  2. Thanks Andrea - yes, well, use whatever space is available eh?


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