Playing with paint (and eventually light) to create a prison wall
The scenic designer for The Unfortunates, Sibyl Wickersheimer, designed a multi-layered background including a grey bounce, scrim, some hard scenery, and a translucent drop. This week, exchange artist Kira Nehmer and I have been finishing up the bounce and painting the scrims out at our warehouse. Scrims allow the lighting designer to play with translucency well as provide depth to our back wall.
One of the interesting things about this project is the way we had to paint the scrim. Here at the Festival, since we work in repertory, we have to think ahead on all of our projects to make sure that when we change over the set into the next show, we make it as easy as possible to break down. Instead of painting a full-stage-sized scrim and hanging it in place, we painted the scrim in pieces. That way it can be taken apart and stored when the set of The Unfortunates is taken out and King Lear goes in.
The top panels of the scrim were to be mounted permanently to hard scenery. The lower panels to the far right and left were equipped with velcro, and temporarily mounted to a hard frame, while the bottom center panels were pleated and flowing, and created to put on traveller tracks. We needed precise measurements, allowing for extra runoff to be wrapped around the hard scenery. We also did something I have never done before: paint a pleated scrim. This required moving the scrim around with our feet and spraying and painting it in sections so the folds would not leave hard lines when we sprayed them.
The scrim and the bounce were similar in form and layout; they were designed to give a dingy background to the prison scenes by creating a watercolor-like dripping and streaking around the arches of the windows in the hard scenery. However, while the bounce drop was mostly in greyscale, the scrims were full of dingy colors of umbers and siennas. We tied the two together by using some of the bounce colors on the scrim. Besides using brushes, we also used garden sprayers, your basic variety that you might find at your local hardware store.
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