Knowing Scenics love a good brush, Guild sponsor BMI Supply happily offered their newest version of Fineline Fitches to try out and review. Rachael Claxton, Guild Board Secretary and Charge Artist at Actors Theatre in Louisville, pulled the lucky straw and added the brushes to her rotation. For this article, she created a mini-project to put the brushes through their paces.
Guest Author Rachael Claxton
I absolutely love British Pantomime design. The bright colors, storybook-like designs, and intricate detail are a Scenic Artist’s dream. Designers like Ian Westbrook and Mark Walters imagine fantastical drops, floors, and hard scenery that really put an artist’s skills to use. When trying to decide how best to test BMI’s brushes I knew this would be a great project to see what they could handle. I decided to create a spooky tree in the traditional Pantomime design style.
To get started I stretched lightweight raw muslin across the floor and primed it with white paint using the 3” Fineline brush. When using the brushes straight out of their packaging they seemed to shed a fair amount, which can be common with the first time you use any natural bristle brush. However, after a round of heavy washing with Murphy’s Oil Soap and warm water I was able to get out all the loose bristles and didn’t have any more issues. After cartooning and inking the design I was ready to begin laying in the color.
Because a lot of Pantomime shows are based on fairytale stories, the colors tend to be incredibly vivid, so I chose Rosco Super Saturated paints. The highly pigmented paint stained the tips of the bristles, which isn’t too uncommon with reds, pinks, and purples, but even with the staining none of the old colors leaked into my next color of paint.
The length and the flexibility of the bristles made the medium-sized brushes great for blending. I applied the two colors and then used a dry brush to blend the colors together. The brushes worked just as well when I blended two paints together as when I blended into water. These brushes all have a nice sharp edge to them, so the smaller ones, like the 1/2” and 3/4” brushes, worked well for creating crisp corners.
One of the other signature aspects of most Pantomime design is solid black lining incorporated into each unit. Because the project I was working on was 3’x6’, I decided to use the 1/4” brush to create the outlines. The long bristles held a ton of paint, so I rarely had to re-saturate my brush in the middle of a line. As with all lining brushes, the slower I went the more consistent and even the line was. With some finessing the brush handled the curves fairly well, for the most part maintaining the same width throughout all the lines. Occasionally the bristles would splay out, but easily came back together when saturated with paint.
The black lining makes the Pantomime styled tree trunk come together, but I wanted to really make my tree stand out, so I went back in and laid in some bright lemon yellow to finish off the background. Using the 2” fitch again, I was able to smoothly line up against the black outlines and create an even finish in one coat.
Pantomime designs are always so much fun to execute and I only wish we did more of them in the US. They’re a great opportunity for Scenic Artists to really flex their creative muscles.
I’m looking forward to seeing how well these brushes hold up to a foliage-based project: I’m betting the flexibility of the soft bristles will be great for scumbles, spatters and leaf patterns.
For more info about the Fineline Fitches, and their other line of larger Corona-branded 4”- 6” lay-in brushes, please visit BMI Supply.
BMI Supply is a theatrical supply and installation company providing equipment and system installations. In addition to hardware and lighting consoles, they also offer scenic paint, brushes, sprayers, flame retardants, and adhesives to Scenic Artists all across the US.
Rachael Claxton is currently the Charge Artist at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and before that was the Charge Artist for Cleveland Playhouse and Utah Shakespeare. She is proud serve as Board Secretary of the Guild of Scenic Artists. More of her work can be seen here at her website.