Tuesday, March 6, 2012

paper theater

It's been my good fortune to work with Portland Stage Company, a highly original and energetic group of amazing creators. Here's the process for my latest poster for the production Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh, which I began last summer. For efficiency, the entire season's marketing needed to go to the printer well in advance. The play opens on May Day.

Of all the offerings, I seized on this one. Fashion, history, flesh...what's not to love? I dove in by reading a couple of books, watching a couple of movies, and reveling in the realms of Versailles.

I did a record number of sketches, 14 in all! Here are the ones they liked in general. The play involves a female court painter, Marie the queen, and a dashing count, making for a delicious triangle of intrigue.

I was playing around with those three figures in a variety of compositions and incorporating the title in a decorative way. The gowns are so elaborate it seemed like a good foil for text.

They liked the palette in this, and the easel. Part of the action takes place in a studio setting.

In this one, I again use the costume for the title.

I heard the designer, Karen Lybrand, liked this one, showing the painting in progress.

This was one of my favorites. Couldn't resist the cake metaphor paired with a strong silhouette that serves two visual purposes.

But, never say die. It was my last sketch, the 14th one, that made the pick.

At this point, I went back to the book I had read for more inspiration. Antonia Fraser's biography is downright fascinating and exquisitely thorough.

I presented this sketch before getting approval to begin final art.

And voila! My finished pastel.

Here's the poster.

More recently, I was approached by the client to produce a visual for an upcoming benefit, their annual Spring Gala. Yes! I immediately loved the idea of a pair of characters going to the proverbial ball. I matched two favorite characters, Ba, from Portland Stage's production of the Snow Queen and Marie Antoinette. As a nod to their loyal supporter, L.L.Bean's 100th anniversary, I created a magical outdoor setting, complete with canoe.

Here are a few of the rough sketches presented:

They liked the bottom middle above, so I did a larger, more detailed sketch for approval.

One major perk of working with Portland Stage is complimentary tickets! And it's not just taking in the performance that is the prize. I love seeing their process as well. I'm besotted with the little paper theater sets that Anita Stewart creates. This one was for Last Gas.

Her background in architecture comes in handy, no doubt. But all of it brings back playing with dolls, creating miniature worlds, and falling into imaginary stories. For the final art for the gala piece, I wanted to create something a bit more dimensional. A paper collage set, sort of.

Because the marketing materials have so many applications of different sizes, it helps to provide the illustration in pieces. I did this little spot super fast for a save-the-date mailing.

I scanned each element separately so the designer could use bits for various needs. Here's the final flyer. Found some actual birch bark to collage onto the canoe.

Several whale illustrations later, I returned to the gala project. I was a little less sure by then how I would get the whole thing to work. Not a lot of time left. Here's the pieces lying on the table.

I decided it needed a bit more collage, and then I called in my better half, Marty, who pulled it all together seamlessly.

I guess now it's time to look for a gown! We already have a pair of antlers.

Meanwhile, I am proudest of the company I keep. It's fun to be hanging next to esteemed illustrators such as Doug Smith (who created posters this season for Trouble Is My Business and Heroes) and Daniel Minter, who illustrated the posters for The Morini Strad and Hidden Tennessee. Here we are in the lobby at Portland Stage Company.

I'm excited to see Hidden Tennessee this weekend. I'll be applauding from the audience in more ways than one. Thank you, Portland Stage!


Cathryn Falwell said...

LOVE seeing process!! Wonderful, Jamie!!

Diane said...

Yeah Jamie! This is it's own little "Theatre Design" book. I loved the story. The climax, after the poster show, is getting to sit in the audiance and watch it all "play" out before your eyes. Very enjoyable and quite fun!