Jen Stringfellow, South Coast Repertory’s scenic charge artist, documented her team’s work on the stage platform floor for the Outside SCR productions of American Mariachi and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. In the article below, she shares photos and talks about how an unusual item helped make the flooring surface—one of the largest parts of the set—resilient.
There are many ways to mask off areas that you don’t want to paint, such as painter’s tape, paper and drop cloths. But what about odd-shaped sections, specifically areas you want to have a fuzzy edge? A common one that scenic artists use is non-clumping cat litter! I felt it could be helpful in painting the stage floor for Outside SCR, our summer series.
The stage for the two productions that are part of Outside SCR was created by talented set designer Efren Delgadillo Jr. to match some wonderfully aged concrete at Mission San Juan Capistrano. I noticed interestingly shaped chunks that were more bleached-looking so, instead of painting those areas lighter, I decided to paint the floor from lightest-to-darkest and mask off (to avoid having paint in an area) those areas early on. My masking choice of course—cat litter. We made a mess, but it was Febreze-scented so it was a nice change from our normally smelly paint!
- Photos 1, 1a: I based the floor with the lightest color in a heavy-duty paint, specifically formulated for exterior decks. All of the paint had to be rated for exterior use because we want the stage to be able to survive outside with as little damage as possible. I also mixed some safe-grip crystals into the paint to prevent a slippery surface—the morning dew can sometimes make surfaces slippery. After the base coat, I poured the cat litter where I wanted my bleached-looking areas.
- Photo 2: I began to spatter over top of the cat litter, again from lightest to darkest.
- Photos 3, 3a: We didn’t want to wait until the very end to remove the cat litter; this will cause naked spots of base coat surrounded by all the interesting spatter. We removed the cat litter in the middle of the process so that we could work back into it and blend.
- Photos 4, 4a: Of course, this faux concrete had to have some lovely cracks. They were painted with a scenic fitch brush on a bamboo pole.
- Photo 5: Once the cracks were laid in, I started toning. This meant throwing paint into a garden sprayer and just going to town!
- Photos 5a,6: Once all the toning was done, I went back in with a darker color to emphasize some of the cracks. Done!
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