Being a scenic artist

Scenic artists are responsible for painting backcloths, set pieces and larger props for stage productions, films and some television programmes, depending on what is required. Whilst the construction of the set is more the responsibility of the carpenters and construction crew, the scenic artists look after the finished effect of the set and how it is seen by the audience.

Scenic artists need to have a certain set of skills and bank of knowledge to ensure that what they produce is accurate and visually correct. Knowledge of various painting techniques and finished is essential, as materials often have to be made to look like something completely different (such as turning board into marble) due to cost, weight or construction that would not be viable for the scale of the production or how it is being shown (for example, you couldn’t have something as solid as marble on stage in a theatre when it needs to be moved quickly, it’s not a viable option). Traditional drawing and rendering skills are also essential for drawing up ideas and plans, which need to be clear and precise when working to a tight schedule and when communicating with other departments, such as construction. Not only this, but they have to be able to interpret others drawings and ideas, from people such as the scenic designer who relies on the scenic artists to produce their vision. This means working with scale and proportion when turning a drawn idea onto a backcloth or large scale film set.

I enjoy working in scale and producing perspective drawings (which could be developed into Trompe L’oeil with practice) and I feel that these are also useful skills that can be transferred into this area and if I continue to progress these skills they will be a strong asset in the future. I like the idea of producing large scale backdrops as well as applying finishing textures to other set pieces and I would be interested to see what the difference between film scenic artists and those who work in theatre and see if there are large changes in the skills used and applied.

I found these videos on The National Theatre website from their scenic art department and I found them very useful to watch and it has given me a starting point for skills to explore and finished to have a go at myself.

Trompe l'oeil piece from the National Theatre