Creating the illusion of depth

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2004

Scenic artist Jennifer Morrell was presented with the unique challenge of painting wood grain onto the plywood pedestals that will be submersed in 17,000 gallons of 92-degree water during "Metamorphoses."

"There's a big difference between something that's going to get wet, get splashed or get weather, and something that's actually immersed in water," said Morrell, in her third season at Perseverance Theatre.

The designers decided to cover the triple-layered wood grain with a clear coat of epoxy. The process was expensive, not to mention toxic.

"I painted it the way I normally would with my water-based scenic paints," Morrell said. "In epoxying it, I've hopefully sealed it enough. I'm sure there are leaks in it, but I'm sure it will hold together for the seven weeks it needs to be underwater."

Morrell umbered the wood grain on the scenery - fading the color to black as the pedestals disappear.

"The illusion that we're trying to create is that the pool is depthless, that you can't tell how deep it is," Morrell said. "The audience is thinking seven feet. It's this void of black. Underwater, it looks good right now. It's real blurry, and it just seems like it goes into depth."

Above water, the work on the second floor of the library was also difficult. The bookcase has a French door made to look like mirroring stained glass images. It's based on a pre-Raphaelite painting that set desginer Art Rotch found while researching.

The designers sanded both sides of a sheet of plexiglass with an orbital palm sander to create the look of frosted glass. The images were painted with liquid leading and filled in with Sharpie marker.

"Finding a way to paint the stained glass was really difficult," Morrell said. "It couldn't look like it had brush strokes. We finally found that for the translucency and the look that we needed, Sharpies were the way to go. It looks really good with light behind it."

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