Friday, November 14, 2008

Painting Fire

One of my favorite hobbies has nothing to do with textiles, but everything to do with color. In one of my other lives, I'm a scenic artist for a local Gilbert & Sullivan theater company, the Stanford Savoyards. I enjoy painting fantasy worlds for fairies ("Iolanthe"), Venetian gondolas and mythical kingdoms ("Gondoliers"), and so on.

The main drawback to painting theater sets is their impermanence. Once the show is over, set pieces often get dumpstered, or they go back to the shop and usually get painted over for the next show. Even though a piece has had 40 hours of detailed painting work, if it isn't generic enough to use again, out it goes. I once painted a Yosemite scene for the mythical kingdom of Barataria, and I was really proud of it. But the curtain was barely closed before that one got recoated. I painted an eight-foot-high picture of the Hindu deity Ganesha for our "Bollywood Sorcerer", complete with many symbolic details. During the build for the next show, we held a small goodbye ceremony before He was painted over.

Opportunities to paint fun but permanent scenery outside of the theater are limited. Once in a while a mural comes along, but not often, and people pretty much line up for those. As for painting the walls in my house (if I could even find them), their very permanence is paralyzing, and they stay white. Besides, my kids would complain if I painted on the walls and didn't let them do so too! But once in a while, I can make an opportunity.

A Place

My father-in-law will be living in the house I am remodeling, and he doesn't plan to use the fireplace (this is California, after all). The fireplace isn't particularly pretty, and it lets in a wicked draft, even if all the doohickeys are properly closed. So I got somebody to make me a fireplace cover out of plywood to fit snugly over the opening.

What to paint on the fireplace cover? A fireplace with a fire in it, of course! Not terribly original, perhaps, but fun to paint, and that's what I care about.


"I see a fireplace and I want to paint it black..." This is the plywood cover. It looked a little blah completely unpainted, so I started by painting it black with a little grey highlighting around the edges.

Years of painting in the Stanford Savoyards set crew have made their mark--I love blue masking tape!

Now I'm starting to put the bricks on with a natural sponge. I mix colors right on the sponge. A little water helps to blend the colors more.

Here I've removed the mortar-masking tape, but I save it for covering sections later. Time to tweak the mortar colors bit by bit. At this point a couple people do a doubletake as they wonder why I'm putting blue tape on the fireplace! I'm still having various contractors wandering through finishing up on the remodeling.

Time to light the fire...

A couple hours later, it's looking good enough to call it "done"--of course, now that I'm looking at the photo, I see things I want to go back and fix! ("Sara, step AWAY from the paints!")

Now I've put back the real fireplace screen we've had there for years. The whole thing took me somewhere between 8 and 10 hours. This is for my father-in-law's house, and now I'm thinking my house needs one too. Of course, first I'd have to FIND our fireplace! It's behind some huge shelves full of kids' craft supplies. Maybe another time...

I'd say that fire is a good start on a housewarming!


Anonymous said...

Great job! I love it! Hope to see it in person soon!

Falcon said...

I'm impressed. Looks very nice.

Does the perspective work better from a particular angle?