The intricacies of creating a faux wood finish.
By Sandy Phillips, Scenic Artist
Last week was quite a week around the shop. Monday morning, the painters and carpenters searched for eggs left for us by the properties department in our annual egg hunt. Some were filled with candy while others were filled with confetti and clues. Scenic artist Amanda Haverick found a golden egg which led us to a huge cache of candy stashed in the dye vat!
We also held our first annual chili cook off, started by our new Director of Production, Alys Holden. Among the entries were four kinds of vegetarian chili, a chili made with the heart of a pig and even moose meat! Cornbread and sides accompanied the chili, and a good time was had by all.
The set for A Streetcar Named Desire is coming together. Scenic artists Thayne and Amanda have finished the painting and removed the paper frisket, and the carpenters began piecing the window together. The water effects are being put together, the tub and fixtures have been installed, and the fancy spiral staircases are finished. Everyone is very eager to see the apartment come together, and especially to see the rain effect on the window.
Meanwhile, the paint shop has been working on the props for the show. There are lots of cool period pieces for the kitchen, including a refrigerator, a sink, a table and a hutch. Our new assistant, Leah, has been working on the rusty refrigerator, and Thayne has been working on making a porcelain sink. Amanda and I are working on two different styles of faux finishing wood.
There are as many ways to faux wood as there are painters who do it. Because of the nature of the table top, Amanda opted to use a traditional faux finish technique. This oak finish starts with a directional base coat. Next, a dark grain is added. Here is where you really make the grain look like oak. This can be done by freehand painting, a graining tool, and/or a dry brush technique. Next, we use a series of glazes to tone the wood in steps. Lastly, any aging is added—dirt in the cracks, sanding of the corners and edges. We even added a soft white spray to emulate dust.
I have been using a different technique on the hutch to match the research image. First, I mix stains together to make a color that will make a good base color, and apply the stain. This took a little practice with some small sample pieces of wood because it is hard to tell what color the stain will be until it is applied. Because the furniture was made out of different woods, the stain took in different ways, so I used glazes to correct the colors and make the woods look similar. For example, much of the wood looked too warm, so I made a greenish-raw umber glaze to cool it down. Next, I added a white-wash glaze to tone the wood and give it a rustic look. And last, the cracks were aged and toned with paynes grey to give it a slightly aged look. These glazes may be similar to the glazes one might use in a traditional faux technique mentioned above. The stain step just took the base coat and graining steps and condensed them into one. Thus, we are left with a quicker and more realistic finish. I've really fallen in love with this technique. However, the ability to stain is dependent upon the material the piece is made out of. It will not always be possible to do it this way.
The Streetcar set was loaded into the space this past Sunday. We are all super excited to see all of the pieces of the show come together. It may be a simple as sets come these days, but it is a beautiful and intentional design that I think will prove to be iconic. Get your tickets now.
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