Painting a Big Portrait

By Charles T. Jackson

Now that I had figured out how to build the beast, and had gotten it done, The next question was, where the heck am I going to find that much gold paint. The gods of theatre once again smiled upon me and I found that my local Home Depot had stopped selling the Ralph Lauren gold that they had, and the four gallons that they had left over were on sale!! Winning!!
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The whole thing got several coats of gold, and then had to be laid out again so I could draw on the face. Transferring the image was actually quite a bit easier than I had anticipated due to the fact that I had been dealing with this image in blocks of 4′ x 4′ almost from the beginning, so breaking it down to 2′ x 2′ and figuring out where everything went from there was kind of easy. Finding space to paint an 8′ x 8′ portrait however would prove a bit challenging. For a size/scale reference on this piece. In the above picture it can be seen covering mostly all of the orchestra pit, and handicapped seating area!! It’s a big’un.
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Here’s another view as to just how big this piece is.
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I took all the pieces out into the hallway of out theatre, and set the upper two full lats on an easel that I made from a trash picked six foot ladder. I used a dry brush shading technique to get the face features on, and then painted in the eyes.
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After the face and eyes, I added in the perfect “Egyptian” blue, and it was almost done. In the above picture, only half of the flats that make up the whole image are seen.
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When it was finally painted and assembled, rigged and hung, I nearly cried. The scale of the piece was perfect for our venue, and was sure to provide some serious visual impact. Another perspective as to just how big this piece was, here’s what it looked like with actors in front of it.
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I don’t know about you, but when I first saw how the cast interacted with this drop, I just said…wow. I was then, and am still now very proud of this piece. I had to develop so much in the process of just making this one piece, and when I consider that I built and painted this whole thing in two days off I had between shifts, I couldn’t have been more proud. In my next post I’ll discuss some minor props and sign I had to make for our High School’s production of “Guys and Dolls” and then touch on how a design can get really ramped up when your daughter gets the lead role!! Thanks for stopping by!!