Friday, May 30, 2014

A Peek into the Past

I'm teaching myself Sketchup and, in that process, am doing research on how-to.


I stumbled across this lovely little bit of history, someone recreating his family's 1912 farmhouse in virtual 3D.  Sparking this project was the discovery of original blueprints (actual blueprints!) and old contracts for that construction, as well as some delightful old photos.  Take a look at the Mason Farm HERE.  (I'm thinking of a similar, much less ambitious project of my own, actually, so I was especially impressed.)

Blueprints, that archaic tech - believed public domain


How much fun it is!  And how addictive!  Because, of course, there's always just one more little bit of information out there waiting for the researcher...  I'm hopelessly addicted to research myself and have watched a number of others succumb, most recently someone introduced to the genealogy bug, which is a particularly virulent strain of the research infection.

Research is one of the great joys in theater design.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Architectural Stories

The sad news is that Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Art Nouveau masterpiece, the library of the Glasgow School of Art has been destroyed by fire.  The rest of his building - and the art collected there - have been damaged, but it sounds as if heroic salvage efforts are underway and plans for restoration are already being developed.

I particularly feel for the final year students whose work (at the very end of the semester! of their school career!) has been damaged or lost.  Imagine losing your whole portfolio...

Read HERE for a good BBC article on the status and HERE to donate funds or help towards restoration.

Glasgow School of Art library - believed public domain photo

On a brighter note (in every sense), HERE's a terrific website about the neon signs of Hong Kong.  Gorgeous!  They influence, among other things, the film Blade Runner... which inspired these LEGO artists  to build an apocalyptic cyberpunk city - see it HERE.

Isn't it amazing what can come from imagination?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Runnin' Crazy, Or, Scenic Design as a Profession

Nutsy busy here.

Since I got back from vacation (very nice, thank you), I've been running to catch up with my career... which seems to have been careering off without me.

Monday and Tuesday were spent, in part, helping scenic paint the next show at Kitchen Dog Theater, Barbecue Apocalypse.  Its out-of-town designer hadn't known - until late - that KD has no in-house scenic painter.  Hence my volunteerism.  Lucky he packed his painting clothes, huh?

(It's amazing the teeny little bits of info any theater can forget to mention to new designers...  No existing drawings?  No pay?  No help?  Hot n' cold running rats?  Etc.)

Anyway, I helped with that plus catch-up on my stuff and Lotso Meetings.  In one o' those I picked up two shows at WaterTower Theater next season: one is a joint production with Stage West which will move from Fort Worth to Addison, The Explorers' Club (sounds like good fun! and a challenge) and the other is the classic All My Sons.

Then the first production meeting for Circle Theatre's Hope and Gravity.  I arrived late (darn DFW traffic!) with scribble-y sketches, ugly 3D computer sketches, and a duck-chewed looking model that was once the model for a different show on the same stage, ruthlessly reused.  Some designs are just hard to represent, you know?  This is a nice script... of the sort that calls for many fast changes of setting to which the director's desire for "ethereal" added another level of puzzlement.  Once I got my head around it all though, ethereal is exactly the way to go.  I'm looking forward to seeing this design, not in model or sketch, but for real.

Some good sets are impossible to show-n-tell, you just have to build and light the darn things.

One perk of helping paint was that I got treated to a nice lunch by Kitchen Dog's visiting designer.  He was kind enough to explain what work at the next level up is like - the traveling-between-bigger-regional-theaters gig.  In trying to balance family and work, he's set limits to how long he stays away from home.  Sensible.  The Big Regional Circuit pays better than the Stay At Home Regional that I'm doing... with travel as both part of the fun and part of the price of that gig.

We talked about the struggle to earn a living as a set designer.  His take is that it's not possible, but that it IS possible to create a living as a more general Creative: to stitch theater design with other creative work to make (quilt?) a viable living.  Of course, there will be good years and lean years.  I believe he's right.  In my case, last year's tax records proved to me that I need to make more money.  So time to stitch in more non-theater, better-paying creative work!  Sigh.  I'm not sure I really want to travel as much as he is - even if I could get the out of town gigs, of course.  Decisions, decisions.  

I can't over-stress how helpful it is it have another designer to talk to sometimes.

So... I think I'll go finish unpacking my suitcase.

Public domain image from

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back In Town... And There's a Sale!

While you've been impatiently wondering where the next post was (you were weren't you?), I was in California vacationing.

But today I'm back and there's notice of a book sale in my inbox:

The last hours remain of a Flash Sale on my how-to set design book Alice Through the Proscenium at its publisher, Lulu.  

More about Alice?  

Read about it at its Lulu site HERE or on its Squidoo book site HERE.

More catch-up posts coming soon... and more theater sets in the works: this week a meeting to discuss one theater's new season (and presumably a show for me to design for it), the first production meeting on the next show at Circle Theatre, some help-out painting on another designer's set, and...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wear Your Coat to See David Bates, Even If It's Hot

A pair of art museum shows - one in Dallas at the Nasher and one at Fort Worth's Modern - showcase the 2D and 3D work of artist David Bates.

I've been a fan for a while.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to catch the painting exhibition in Fort Worth (it only runs through the 11th), but the (mostly) sculpture show here at the Nasher is terrific!

Bates blurs the line between painting and sculpture until it almost disappears.  His paintings often sprout into the third dimension, becoming assemblages of canvas and wood and sometimes wire.  His assemblage style sculptures are often painted.  Sometimes the same still life of flowers and fruit will appear both as a painting and as a free-standing sculpture.

Still life?

David Bates Magnolias: the Painting
 at the Nasher Sculpture Center
The museum kindly allows photography, 
but the art's copyright belongs to the artist, of course.

 David Bates Magnolias: the Sculpture
 at the Nasher Sculpture Center
The museum kindly allows photography, 
but the art's copyright belongs to the artist, of course.

That's an unusual subject for modern sculpture.  They are beautiful.

 David Bates Irises, at the Nasher Sculpture Center
The museum kindly allows photography, 
but the art's copyright belongs to the artist, of course.

Though these are arrangements of flowers - perhaps in tribute to his mother's passing, according to the museum label - there's something almost Picasso-macho about the bold brush strokes.  And the textures!  The rough grain of wood, the gnarliness of wire, the shards of old steel, the corduroy-striping of corrugated cardboard... all transmuted into cast bronze... and then, startlingly, painted.  Fascinating work.

 David Bates Vine Detailat the Nasher Sculpture Center
The museum kindly allows photography, 
but the art's copyright belongs to the artist, of course.

I liked the portraits too, very much, but it is the still lives I want to carry home under my coat.

 David Bates Sunflowers and Thistles, at the Nasher Sculpture Center
The museum kindly allows photography, 
but the art's copyright belongs to the artist, of course.

If only I'd worn a coat...

Darn this warm spring weather!

 David Bates Magnolia, at the Nasher Sculpture Center
The museum kindly allows photography, 
but the art's copyright belongs to the artist, of course.