I started the new year with a little set-painting project-- The Children's Hour, designed by my good friend Judy Cullen. The theatre is a modified black box style, this time with the audience sitting on all four sides of the set, which is a multi-level platform. My job was to make that plywood platform look like an oak and walnut wood floor. The faux wood grain starts with a solid flat color painted on. It could be any number of yellowish-to-tan shades (or in the case of mahogany, an outlandish salmon pink). This time we used a pale warm yellow. Next step is figuring out where the "boards" are going to be, and drawing them with a sharpie.
Next step was the oak graining glaze. I mix the correct color from pigment, faux glaze (which has no color) and some water. Then I paint it on a "board" and pull part of the paint off using a graining comb or rocker grainer, which leaves grain lines and lets some of the undercoat show through. The goal with painting for theatre is not to be perfectly accurate with wood grain, but to "suggest" accurately enough that the audience members fill in the rest from their memory of what real wood looks like. I have learned over the years how to be pretty successful with that.
It takes time to do this, but it is one of those jobs that you can become completely absorbed in. Thursday was a very Be Here Now day.
The third paint step is another glaze- a little more transparent this time, that tones the other two paint colors and makes the wood look more real. It is an amber glaze for the oak and a darker brown that has a bit of purple in it for the walnut. After that is dry, this theatre puts a bit of glossy sealer on the paint job to protect it from actors' shoes and enhance the colors and grain lines. There was also a bit of non-wood grain painting to do on two freestanding door frames.
And here is a shot of the set with furniture on it, and most of the trim pieces applied to the platforms. That trim really finishes the platform off nicely. The last photo was taken at a rehearsal last week by the set designer Judy Cullen. If I get a chance, I will photograph the set myself after the show opens tomorrow night.