Scenic Artists Library

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Our field of art may be small and unique, but it doesn't mean we can't have a bookshelf or two devoted to this awesome field.

When adding a book please include a brief description and a link to amazon/or publisher with in [brackets] Don't stress about how you get that fancy photo to show up - thats a work in progress.

Books about the Craft of Scenic Art, Techniques, People.

Title and Author Book Cover Description
Scenic Art for the Theatre: History, Tools and Techniques by Susan Crabtree, Peter Beudert Now in its Third Edition, Scenic Art for the Theatre: History, Tools and Techniques continues to be the MOST TRUSTED source for both student and professional scenic artists. With new information on scenic design using Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro and other digital imaging softwares this test expands to offer the developing artist more step-by-step instuction and more practical techniques for work in the field. It goes beyond detailing job functions and discussing techniques to serve as a trouble-shooting guide for the scenic artist, providing practical advice for everyday solutions.
The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop by Karen L. Maness, Richard M. Isackes The definitive behind-the-scenes history of one of Hollywood’s most closely guarded cinematic secrets finally revealed—painted backdrops and the scenic artists who brought them to the big screen.
Theatrical Scene Painting: A Lesson Guide by William H. Pinnell Now in its second edition, This book has concrete lessons in how to paint the 2-d sublects like brick, stone and curtains. The illustrations, even though many are black and white, are more informative than many other books on the subject because they are photos of well painted examples (not computer generated images) that show the techniques in wonderful detail and with clearly demarked tonal values.The color illustrations are not just rehashes of the black and white images, but include inspiring examples of scenic painting.
Scene Painting Projects for the Theatre by Stephen Sherwin The high point of this book are the very detailed, step by step instructions to painting some of our most common subject matters for theatrical scene painting. The book starts with simple techniques and then goes on to harder and harder projects. Each project will list the colors and tools needed, space for taking notes and lots of helpful hints. The low point is that the book was all done with photoshop and computer rendered images and not actual photos of painted treatments.
Scenic Art and Construction: A practical Guide by Emma Troubridge and Tim Blaikie Written from the UK perspective and terms, is a practical guide to the construction, painting, and finishing of the scenic elements used in professional theater today. It shows you how to bring a stage design to three-dimensional reality as well as how to avoid many of the pitfalls. Clearly written and drawing on the considerable experience of its authors, it meets the needs of both the carpenter and the artist—whether student, amateur, or professional. Illustrated with 200 photos and diagrams.
Painting for Performance; A Beginner's Guide to Great Painted Scenery by Sean O'Skea Great resource for those getting started in Scenic Art, and designers who need to paint their own sets. Written in easy to understand terms it removes the mystery from painting and gives beginners the terms, tools, and techniques to approach their unpainted set with confidence. Covering the mechanics of paint and its many implementations in set design, this book provides simple and effective step-by-step instructions for painting a variety of surfaces to look great on stage.
Designing and Painting for the Theatre By Lynn Pecktell This book is a classic, over 20 years old and hard to find as it is out of print, but still chock full of great information for how to approach painted scenery. There are lots of the detailed techniques and guidelines to produce wood-grain, marble, turtle-shell and other scenic and painterly effects. Unlike some of Pecktell's other books this is the only one that talks extensively about the art of painting.
Suspended Worlds: Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England By Christine Hadsel A remarkable team of conservators from "Curtains Without Borders" has overcome a century of dirt, damage, and neglect to restore hundreds of these historic theater curtains to their rightful place at the center of community life. This book presents exquisite photographs of these enormous pieces of art that have been hidden in plain sight.
Title and Author Image Description

Books about Best Practices and Safety.

  • The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide by Monona Rossol
    • Dozens of at-a-glance tables and charts present vital information about art materials, ingredients, technical hazards, proper protective equipment, and safe work practices simply and accurately. This brand-new third edition is now completely revised and expanded to detail lifesaving new safety and ventilation equipment, present urgent new discoveries on toxins and pollutants found in arts and crafts materials, and explain the controversies surrounding new government regulations. A virtual lifesaver for all art and craft workers.[1]
  • The Health & Safety Guide for Film, TV & Theater, Second Edition by Monona Rossol
  • A Practical Guide to Greener Theatre: Introduce Sustainability to your Theater Productions By Ellen E Jones
    • Protecting the environment should be a priority of every theatrical production, but it can be challenging to mount an environmentally-friendly show with limited time, resources, and information. A Practical Guide to Greener Theatre: Introduce Sustainability Into Your Productions not only gives you the information you need to make greener decisions, but provides you with practical, workable solutions. You will learn how to assess and improve every production area –[2]

Books for Visual Research

  • Surfaces: Visual Research for Artists, Architects, and Designers, Volume 1 by Judy A. Juracek
    • Looking for images of architectural materials? Surfaces offers over 1,200 outstanding, vibrantly colorful visual images of surface textures - wood, stone, marble, brick, plaster, stucco, aggregates, metal, tile, and glass - ready to be used in your designs, presentations, or comps, as backgrounds or for general visual information. Photographed by a designer for designers, these pictures show specific materials and how they change with time, weather, wear, and different lighting. Each section offers general views of the material, a gallery of commonly used or manufactured samples, and hundreds of specimens showing types and finishes in architectural settings. Captions provide information about the physical properties, dimensions, construction techniques, specific varieties of the material, and types and styles of treatments. Interviews with eight design professionals provide practical advice on how they approach visual research, and a comprehensive glossary of visual and technical terms offers a vocabulary for professional communication. An index of subject matter and materials makes it easy to find just the image you need. CD-ROM included: easy-to-use screen resolution TIFF files of every image! [3]
  • Natural Surfaces: Visual Research for Artists, Architects, and Designers by Judy A Juracek
    • Sequel to her original Surfaces book, this one is full of pictures of all things found in nature - Trees & Shrubs, Flowers,Foliage,Grass,Fruits and Veggies,Stone,Sand,Water,Snow,Clouds along with interviews with designers. CD-ROM included of all the images. [4]
  • Soft Surfaces: Visual Research for Artists, Architects, and Designers by Judy A Juracek
    • Sequel to her original Surfaces book, this one is full of pictures of all types of fabrics and drapes - Great images of basic & pile eaves, brocade, damask, printed fabrics, needlework, lace, knits, rugs, nonwoven fabrics, and drapes, along with interviews with designers. CD-ROM included of all the images. [5]
  • Architectural Surfaces: Visual Research for Artists, Architects, and Designers by Judy A Juracek
    • Sequel to her original Surfaces book, this one is full of pictures of all types of architectural references - Great images of walls, facades, ornate molding, columns & posts, windows, doorways, ceilings & roofs, floors & pavements, along with interviews with designers. CD-ROM included of all the images. [6]
  • Anatomy for the Artist by Jeno Barcsay
    • 142 full page hand drawn plates of human anatomy. Skeletons, Muscles, Full body and parts. [7]
  • The Real Wood Bible by Nick Gibbs
    • The Real Wood Bible is the complete illustrated guide to choosing and using 100 decorative woods! Learn more about the wood you regularly use and discover the benefits of species you haven't previously considered. Find out how trees are converted into boards and veneer, how some remarkable natural effects occur, and what types of wood can be bought from sustainable sources. Packed with advice on buying and storing lumber, this beautifully illustrated guide includes a picture gallery that will inspire, and an authoritative Wood Directory that features a photograph of each wood in detail and to scale. [8]
  • Color Harmony by Hideaki Chijiwa
    • This is a comprehensive guide to making successful color choices and color combinations. Including over 1,600 combinations, this little book packs a big punch, solving color questions through photographic and descriptive examples. One of the best features is the ability to see all the colors on both a white and a black background.[9]
  • The Styles of Ornament: 3,765 Copyright-Free Illustrations for Artists and Craftsmen by Alexander Speltz
    • This more than 600 page volume contains 3765 different illustrations on 400 full page plates. Indispensable for artists, designers, illustrators, architects, craftsmen, students, and anyone else searching for distinctive, authentic design, individual illustrations are royalty-free. Style Periods Include: Prehistoric and primitive; antiquity; the Middle Ages, including early-Christian ornaments of the Lombards, Visigoths, Franks, and Byzantines, Romanesque ornament, Mohammedan ornament, and Gothic ornament; Renaissance ornament in Florence, Venice, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland; Rococo ornament throughout Europe; Colonial style in the United States: nineteenth century classical revival, with designs of Sheraton and Hepplewhite; Empire; and Biedermeier and Neoclassical ornament in Germany. Cultures Include: The vanished civilizations of ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Phoenicia, Judah, India, Greece, Rome, Pompeii, the Celts, the Etruscans; from China, Japan, Arabia, India, Cambodia; from Russia, Scandinavia, the United States, Germany, France, Italy, England, Austria, Spain, and other countries. Design elements & Objects Include: Gargoyles; Buddhas; dragons; capitals, bases, and shafts of columns; necklaces, rings, other jewelry; urns, vases; friezes; buildings of brick, wood, stone; tables, chairs, mirrors, chests, hardware; tapestries and cloths; statues; suits of armor, helmets, lances; mitres; fantastic animals, centaurs, cupids; religious objects; keyholes; sedan chair; bridges; coats of arms; and hundreds of others.[10]
  • Gardner's Art Through The Ages: A Global History by Fred S. Kleiner
    • A comprehensive, beautifully illustrated tour of the world's great artistic traditions. Easy to read and understand, this 13th Edition of the most widely read history of art book in the English language and includes a unique "scale" feature (accompanying the book's photographs of paintings and other artworks) that will help you better visualize the actual size of the artworks shown in the book. Also includes materials that will help you master the key topics quickly and -for example, "The Big Picture" overviews at the end of every chapter, a special global timeline, and ArtStudy Online (a free interactive study guide that includes flash cards of images and quizzes).[11]
  • Creating Pantomime By Joyce Branagh & Keith Orton
    • Pantomime is a much-loved British institution and this book explains how a script and a design can develop together through the creative processes to culminate in the wonder and excitement of a unique production. The book explains how to get started in writing and designing an original pantomime, uses major professional productions to illustrate established techniques and new innovations, examines pantomime traditions and scene structure and how these can be utilized in productions today, describes how staging design can influence the narrative, looks at how pantomime characters develop through their costume, explores the tricks and magic essential for pantomime, and shows visuals from a range of productions from small regional through to large commercial pantomimes. [12]

Books about Trompe L'Oeil and Faux Finishes

  • The Art of Faux Pierre Finklestein
    • Considered by many to be a gold standard book about decorative painted finishes and Trompe L'Oeil effects. Pierre is a master artist and this book is a collection of show-and-tell recipes that include a marvelous range of surfaces, paints, tools, and procedures for both beginners and professionals.[13]
  • Recipe for Surfaces:Decorative Paint Finishes Made Simple Mindy Drucker & Pierre Finklestein
    • A complete step by step guide to more than 40 techniques of getting paint on a surface. Many of these steps are the foundation techniques for creating scenic effects on such as sponging, ragging, stippling, color washing, spattering, dragging, stenciling, marbling, and wood graining. [14]
  • The Complete Book of Painting Techniques for the Home Annie Sloan & Kate Gwynn
    • Written for the beginner, and geared to interior home finishes, this book is full of great descriptions, illustrations, and step by step how-to's for many faux finishes like wood, marble, stone, as well as other standard texture techniques. [15]
  • The Hand Book of Painted Decoration Yannick Guegan & Roger Le Puil
    • over 800 illustrations and photos of amazing step by step processes for creating all the major faux finishes like wood grain, marble,brick, stone and more. One of the first books written on this subject, and still one of the best. [16]

Books about Business Skills.

  • The Business of Theatrical Design James Moody
    • Now in its second edition, this comprehensive and handy guide written by a lighting designer covers everything from contracts to home offices,and from invoicing strategies to hiring assistants. It's a realistic look at what freelancers in technical theater face as they grow. [17]
  • The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams―On Your Terms Sara Horowitz
    • Amazingly, one-third of the American workforce is freelance―that’s 42 million people who have to wrestle with not just doing the work, but finding the work, then getting paid for the work, plus health care, taxes, setting up an office, marketing, and so on. Now help is here, and consultants, independent contractors, the self-employed, “solopreneurs,” and everyone else living a freelancer’s life will never be alone again but instead can be part of a strong and vibrant community. [18]


  • UofMN Scenic Archive
    • The scenery collection in the University of Minnesota's Performing Arts Archives is composed of three parts: the Twin City Scenic Company collection (PA43), the Great Western Stage Equipment Company Collection(PA44), and the Holak collection(PA49). The overall collection is the only one of its scope in the United States, and uniquely documents the technical environment of the popular stage during the late-nineteenth through early-twentieth century. Renderings and materials related to Freemason ceremonial performances are heavily represented in the Holak and Great Western collections.[19]
  • Painter's Journal
    • Created by Anthony Phelps, this magazine ran from 2003-2010. It was filled with great articles about paint technues, products and safety from some the best leaders in the Scenic Art Community. Readable copies can be found here, but please don't steal them [20]
  • DryPigment
    • Blog with images and discussions of dry pigment painting techniques, and its key artists. Written by historian and scenic artist Wendy Waszut-Barrett, Ph.D.[21]
  • Royal Conservatore of Scotland
    • This is an online resource of Scenic Art Techniques from the students of The Royal Conservatoire, Scotland. It will be added to from time to time, so come back to see what we have been up resource