Friday, April 29, 2016

Käthe Kollwitz and The Threepenny Opera

Tacoma Opera finished out their season with a production of The Threepenny Opera. This was a very different set from anything else that I've worked on.  Noel gave me five drawings by Käthe Kollwitz
to reproduce on big panels, to display along the back of the set. The opera was written in 1928 in Germany (between the wars), and its themes of social criticism are nicely illustrated by Kollwitz's depictions of poverty and oppression.

For this show we had the use of an empty office building downtown (owned by the man who owns the Armory, I hear).  Doug checked out a laptop and projector from school, and I used that to trace the images onto the panels. I've never tried reproducing anything like this in paint before, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but it turned out to be surprisingly quick and easy. The fact that they were (mostly) sketchy and imprecise helped a lot.  I ended up just dry-brushing everything, and it looked just like sketchy pencil lines.

This was the one piece that was not sketchy pencil lines--more of a cross-hatch pen-and-ink technique, which was a lot more complicated to reproduce. I'm glad they weren't all like that!

I thought the girl in profile was looking a little too Dr. Seuss-y, so when Anne Marie came painting with me one day, I got her to take a look at it and figure out what it needed. (Doug often gets to fill this role when I work on things at home--it helps to have a second pair of eyes.)

Anne Marie dry-brushing stairs.  The rest of the set was all weathered gray wood.

Photo by Kate (she was having stomach pains and came with me instead of going to school that day).

This was a really nice space. There was plenty of room to spread out all my painting stuff and not get in the way of rehearsals. (It did get a bit hot and stuffy on sunny days, but other than that it was awesome.)  The ceilings were nice and high, too, so I didn't have to worry about whacking anything when turning a panel over.  They were looking for a new tenant, though, so I guess we won't be able to use it again. Alas!

Theater load-in started on a Friday instead of Saturday this time, and I was actually not painting up until the last minute on the day of dress rehearsal. There was still a lot to do, painting and dry-brushing the scaffolding that they put together, and painting the undersides of the higher platforms black so they wouldn't be glaringly visible from the audience. It was kind of a noisy set, with people running up and down the different levels, but Tony put some carpet on the higher platforms and that helped.

Photos by Peter Serko.

(That's Johann in the back.)

I went to the opening night show with Mary McGiffin and Erica Davis (Anne Marie went to a Sherman Alexie book signing and couldn't come). Mary has been to four of my six operas with me, but it looks like this was our last together, since they just found out that they're moving to Spokane. So sad! I will miss my opera buddy!

I wasn't completely familiar with the storyline, but I knew that it was pretty dark and gritty. If I were going to sum up the theme, I would say it's about how morality goes out the window when people are starving. This definitely isn't one to take kids to.  The cast did a fabulous job and everything looked amazing. 

I got to paint all three shows this season! Now I shall fill my summer with other projects.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bed Head

Kate was sitting at the top of the stairs in a sunbeam.  I mentioned that the light was catching her hair, and she said, "Get the camera!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Square Stamp Project

I was asked to come up with something to do with the Activity Days girls at church. I thought it would be fun to make some wrapping paper, so I put together some stamps--square, so they could be stamped in a grid pattern.   I didn't get any pictures of the stamp-making process, but here's the aftermath.

We found out right before this that our stake was being split and the ward boundaries changing, so this was the last activity with this group of girls all together. Everyone showed up, and we had more girls than stamps, but we made it work.

I didn't have time to make any samples ahead of time, to show them the grid effect, so they were pretty much all over the place. I don't know if they would have had the patience to do it that way, anyway.  Here are a couple that I did later:

We ended up with a few sheets of paper randomly and colorfully stamped all over, and we just cut them into pieces and let everyone take one home. It was a little crazy and messy (we went through a bit more paint than necessary), but I think they enjoyed it. And I added a few more stamps to my collection!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring Break Sunset

Kate was sad about Spring Break ending, so I took her down to Chambers Bay to watch the sunset. The sky was full of exciting clouds.

We sat on a log and watched the sun go down, and got to meet the guy who drives around in a little cart and tells people the park is closing. I don't think I've ever been there that late before!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kate's shelves (and some art)

Kate's room is full of little things that she's made or collected--things like Shopkins and Littlest Pet Shop figures, and her various Sculpey creations, which are myriad and tiny.  Her bookcase headboard has gotten very full.  I've had the idea for a while to make some narrow shelves above her bed where she can display all these things more comfortably.   It took some time but we finally got it done.  We made a Saturday excursion to McLendon and picked out some wood and some brackets, and when we got home I started sanding and painting.  Kate was running in and out playing with her friend Tavah all afternoon, and every time she came in she would ask, "Are my shelves up yet?"  They took a little longer than that.

We discussed colors and thought these sounded good, and I was able to mix them up with my cheap craft paints.  I got a little roller which I think worked much better than brushing.  As I was working I realized they're the same colors that Lorne Elliot mentions in his song "The League of Lawn Art Lovers" (a favorite of ours since we were in Newfoundland).  Here's the relevant bit:

Thirty Javex bottle windmills, 
Colored some fluorescent hue.
And if they're not to your liking,
Maybe our house will look more striking
If we paint it in three colors,
Pink and green, and electric blue.

(Kate is a big fan of electric blue.)

Each shelf got two coats of paint and then a coat of polyurethane (which I ended up regretting--should have just left it off).  Mounting them on the wall was a bit of a pain, too. The whole process took a couple of days. 

They look good!  We should have realized, though, that any sort of storage solution we come up with for Kate does not get used for storage, it gets used for playing.  She immediately invented a complicated game with different biomes and levels, and started making more little Sculpey creations to enhance her game. 

(She says she wants more shelves.  I indicated that this was unlikely to happen very soon.)

Here's a recent Sculpey creation--Kate made this Marcel the Shell for me.  He sits on my plant shelf over the kitchen sink.  Isn't he cute?

Kate wanted to share this drawing, too. She calls it "Fox of the Forest."She's really been developing her drawing skills lately.

Friday, April 01, 2016


This happened today. I'm glad I noticed this little guy before biting down. That would have been unpleasant for both of us, I'm sure! The snail went back outside and the lettuce got a better washing.