I’m a part-time scenic painter. This is easily the most fun work that I do. For the last several weeks I’ve been designing and painting Liberty North’s production of “Oliver!” For the uninitiated, it’s a adaptation of the classic Dickens tale, “Oliver Twist”. Unlike Disney’s 1988 cartoon “Oliver and Company,” this show features no Billy Joel songs. The experience rocks, nonetheless.
Usually I’m approached weeks in advance to start brainstorming color palettes and processes. I love working this way: being involved in virtually every step of the production —- from selecting the paint, to giving my opinion on lighting options, coaching students in different techniques, to designing the t-shirts and the posters to coming back and doing the ‘detail’ work that ties all the pieces together to create our theatrical universe. We try to craft a believable world that the audience can be immersed in for a few hours.
We start with raw materials: plywood, two-by-fours, pieces of canvas and a library of tools. Using light and pigment, we transform 2012 Liberty into 1800s Dickensian London, with all it’s grime and patina. When you’re up close, this style of painting looks haphazard and messy, but when you step back and look from a distance, the big picture has it’s own sense of beauty and depth. I love that.
I love that I can work and then stand back at the end of the day and see actual progress. I can chart actual accomplishments, not just finishing vague widgets without understanding their impact. We have a concrete goal and the time and resources to meet that goal. I love leaving work with five colors of paint caked on my clothes and hands. I love that my favorite Chuck Taylors are tattooed with years of splatters and happy accidents.
I’m proud of the work that I do here. It involves mentoring, teaching, painting, and creative problem solving. Sometimes I work alone, with my iPod giving me the isolation that I need to get creative. Others times I’m deep in the mix, instructing, giving and receiving feedback, coordinating efforts to do together what we could never do independently.
I’m lucky. It’s rare to find work that is perfectly suited to one’s strength roles and personality. If only it wasn’t seasonal……