If you're just joining in, yesterday I introduced you to Mindy Gledhill, the singer/songwriter who should probably be commissioned to write the soundtrack to a Disney movie ASAP, and talked about the conceptual process of creating the sets for her new shows. You know I tried to work in an oversized flower theme, but eventually we decided on a tree theme that looked as if it was stitched in. Her tangible album, Pocketful of Poetry, has beautiful stitched details by Melissa Terry and darling illustrations by Mike Loveland, and I thought it would be fun to tie it all in together with album artwork. Above is the very first draft I showed her to give her an idea and below is a more detailed color sketch.
First, I had to create the actual backdrops. I totally overthought this process. I overthought most of this process, which kept me up at night. I've done sets previously and used primed canvas. Primed canvas is expensive, but I say worth it if you don't have the time to layer the paint. It creates a lovely base to paint on, without the paint soaking in. I talked to a lot of people in the industry and artists to find out if canvas was even the way to go. I thought about printing the design using a ginormous printer, also expensive, but ultimately decided to go with painting on canvas. I visited Chad Lindsay, a student at BYU who does a lot of sets for the theater department, and got to sit in on him working, which was so so helpful. Then came the panic of WHERE will I actually make a 30x10' set? I tried a number of people with studio spaces and then finally last minute decided to make it work at my house, which totally worked out because I have the nicest landlords on the planet. They let me use their driveway, which just happens to be 30x10'. Coincidence? I think not.
For the actual construction of the canvas: I used painter's dropcloths that come 12x15'. I had to sew three of the them to 10 x 10' each. Well, actually, I created a little pocket at the top of each one so that I could slide in a long pole at the top to keep it straight. The pocket I created at 4" and just sewed it down.
Next came the materials. Home Depot and Lowe's became my friends. I bought the three dropcloths, an extension pole to attach the roller brushes, those painter kits that include a few roller brushes, artist blue tape, duct tape, pencil, Sharpie, industrial brush, lots of painter's brushes, plastic drop cloths to go underneath to protect the ground, tons of paint samples and quarts and two gallons of paint. I took about 6 trips to Lowe's within 2 days to get the right colors. I made good friends with Tim at the paint department at 7am.
How to transfer the image. Mindy's nephew generously loaned me his projector so I can transfer the image onto the canvas. Turns out projectors are the most useful thing in the world and now I want one. I transferred the image using a highlighter and then took it outside to paint on (pic 4 below). TURNS OUT, highlighters disappear in the sun. WHO FRIGGIN KNEW?! Not my proudest moment.
Painting onto the set DAY 1. Losing my image by the sun was all for the best though because first I had to add on the first layer of the background paint with my roller brush anyway. I chose a lighter blue/green and painted the sky (step 1). This took the most time to do because the paint soaks into the unprimed canvas a lot. Next I took an industrial brush (pic 3) and roughly added on a darker blue around the edges of the sky to act as a sunset. I wanted this to look super painterly so it would just give the right effect. Next, I watered down some yellow and added it to the sunset to create a more ombre effect for the sunset (pic 2). Each one of these steps took awhile and pretty much took me all of DAY 1.
Day 2 started out just lovely. The forecast I read claimed beautiful sunny skies. In the midst of working a neighbor walked by and asked me if I was worried about the weather and I happily replied, "no, not at all". 20 minutes later it started to rain. I quickly gathered each set and unloaded them into my living room. Just perfect. So, I decided to set up camp there for the next couple of days, which really turned out to be the best plan because a) it rained much of the day and b) working outside in the killer sun kept my energy levels low so I was happy to work from the shade. Each canvas took up a different room in the house. Mind you, not all rooms are large enough to host it (pic 6) so I had to get a little creative.
I ended up freehanding most of the design onto the canvases. Because setting up the projector each time to get the design was not a practical solution. At this point, I finally got some help from intern Marie Santori, who was a lifesaver. Thanks Marie! She helped out a lot with the leaves and stitching elements.
To paint the design elements, we blocked in the colors. After they were dry, I went back and added the "stitching" like an outline. The stitched lines aren't perfect dashes. Each one takes a few strokes to create to actually look like stitched lines.
Day 3 was pretty much spent adding in the details like the banner, the birds, the shrooms. I had to race against the clock to finish in time (with dry paint!) for the show that evening at Velour. The clock was ticking. At this point, I was only aiming to get the center curtain done as that's the only one that would fit onto the stage at this particular venue. I finished JUST in the nick of time and once I arrived at Velour, we realized that what we thought we could use to hang the curtain was not an option, so Paul and I raced to Home Depot to grab an 11' handrail that would slide into the top of the curtain. With the help of the owner of Velour, Corey Fox, we hung it up and all was well. Honestly, I was so relieved that I plopped myself on the bench and did not move the whole night as Mindy graced the stage. The show was fantastic AND she had delicious cake pops from Sweet Tooth Fairy, aka my meals for the day. Book on Tapeworm opened for her and they are AMAZING. Seriously, if you want to hear some beautifully depressing music, and I mean that in all the best ways, take a listen. Scott Shepherd might have one of the beautiful voices I've ever heard.
Day 4 was another early morning setting up outside once again and praying for no rain. I needed to have all three curtains done by today so that Mindy could take them with her to her show in Idaho the next day, which required all three curtains. I worked outside again because I needed to line up all three canvases together. Plus, at this point, I had only the detail work of the center curtain so I needed to add in the trees, etc. to the left and right curtains. Thankfully, Marie joined me again for a few hours so we put on our go go gadget painting hands and got to work. By 6:30 that night I was done. Terminado. My sweet landlords let me take over their place and I got a view from the top of their balcony of the whole 30' curtain. Can you tell how huge it is?
Then we draped each one over the balcony and the boys were kind enough to hold them while I got some shots.
I haven't talked much about the design elements themselves...each element has to do with a lyric from her song. The house for "Finding Home", the moon for Bedtime Song (brother moon), the trees for Picture Show, the heart stitched into the tree from her album art.
A needle stitches the whole thing together here with a red thread tying them altogether:
And a few close-ups.
I'm particularly fond of the shrooms myself. HOWEVER, I didn't take into account that certain stages hide half of the curtain because of the drumset and musicians. DOH!
If you were to see my clothes up close you'd notice a painted bum. I got this hat in France last year and haven't had a chance to actually wear it until now. Ye haw.
Welp, that's it. If you happen to be in Hawaii (jealous!) I'd recommend going to her show on Saturday. And seriously, if Disney happens to read this blog, sign her up for a movie soundtrack stat.
bottom photos from @tlreed97 and @kristaqm 's Instagram