Monday, December 7, 2009

***Christmas Designs Past***

Note: Link from Illustration Friday "Crunchy" was changed but may still be working. Sorry for word change.

A few years ago, before blogging, I created a Christmas pageant set that I often refer to when working on new projects so I thought I would post a few pictures.

It’s become very popular to use Styrofoam and insulation foam board for stage props and backdrops which is what I used here, however, I want to strongly caution anyone who cuts, sands or burns these products. The dust and fumes are a HEALTH HAZARD! Seek professional advice and the proper breathing and eye protections in a workspace away from other people. These particles are as fine as power and will DAMAGE the eyes and lungs. Simple goggles and dust mask will NOT protect you. Do NOT include children or onlookers during this process, vacuum frequently (shopvac) and wipe down the surfaces. Include others in the fun afterwards. Safety first.

To keep the materials simple, light-weight and manageable, I chose two-inch blue-insulation foamboard that is easily found at most hardware stores like Lowes. I carved (drywall knife), sanded, stacked, glued, painted, and little 5’ft me could move a 4’x 8’ piece all by myself.

After shaping the foam, the seams and imperfections were taped and/or filled with putty. The surface was primed with acrylic gesso. The gesso was watered down slightly to go on easier. (Gesso is great to use as a primer on cardboard boxes for other children’s projects.)
This is my daughter , Katelynn.

To keep the costs down, I used one gallon of white acrylic house paint and requested a pint of the deepest blue, red, yellow, and brown at the hardware store paint center. Rather than worrying about all the colors in between, I used small amounts of New Temp Acrylic 100% pure permanent artists color (same primary colors, plus black) to make my secondary colors, unless I needed large amounts like in the case of my pint of brown. For green, If I were to mix yellow and blue house paint, I would get a dull sick-looking green because house paint has too much white base. But if I added a tiny dab of pure blue to yellow house paint, I would get a rich green color that could be toned down with the white house paint and water (add more yellow again for a warmer light green). I had a dozen or so disposable plastic sandwich containers (with lids) for my palette. Also, I worked chalk pastels into the surface as I painted: yellow chalk for quick highlights, and light blue or purple for cool shadows. The powdery chalk quickly tinted the paint as I applied it. Later I outlined everything with permanent black makers.

The Manger was an opportunity to solve a childhood dilemma. I always hated the fact that the star of play couldn’t be seen by the audience while He lay in the manger, except by tall grownups. I knew how to solve that 2-dementionally, but could I build it? Because the whole idea of the stage was based on a flat story book come to life, I built the manger as an optical illusion cut-out. It might look strange for a classic set, but it worked here. Even I could see the top of baby Jesus’ head as I sat with audience.

Later I needed something to blend the set with stage floor. A natural substance like straw would have been out of place. Plus the word straw made the pastor cringe. However, paper, color paper, lots of shredded color paper would do quite nicely.

But what sort of costumes do little 3-dementional children wear in a 2-dementional world do you ask?

It’s fun to be given the creative freedom to design.