58th Season Paintings Take Shape

posted by artist Eric Brant.

Paintings in various states of completion in the Brant garage.Although it is a very busy time of year for me, I am once again honored with being asked to create the play images for the 2012-2013 Season at Chicago Street Theatre. Our blog at CST has become a venue to share the "behind the scenes" of the creative process that goes into making the art you see onstage at Chicago Street, so I thought even though this is a different kind of art--paintings-- people might want to read about my creative process. Usually, I approach illustrating from a problem- solving space of how do I convey what the play is about in a way that will create an emotional response and entice people to want to see that play? I wanted the paintings to reflect the relationships between people, and highlight the fact that I really love rendering people. Within the season there are many works that most people are familiar with so I also had the challenge of giving folks what they might expect but in a way that has my stamp on it.

Many of the shows that CST is presenting in the 58th season are associated with iconic imagery: Snow White with the apple; Dracula--well, he's just cool and vampires are hot right now; The Sound of Music with that famous image of Julie Andrews singing in front of the Austrian mountains; the Brooklyn Bridge for Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge; and Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson's leg for The Graduate. These images are so imbedded in our minds that the trick here was to have the images immediately recognizable but to put my own spin on them as an illustrator.

I usually start with sketches or thumbnails. I have sketchbooks full of them. This year for the purposes of expediency, I'm working a little more freeform... little more improvisationally... because in addition to the paintings I'm also in pre-production for directing our massive Shakespeare in Central Park Plaza project: A Midsummer Night's Dream. Since there isn't much time, with all of that going on, I'm visualizing stuff in my head rather than sketching first. Then, I'm painting and re-painting if it doesn't work out. This is why I usually work in acryllics because they lend themselves best for do-overs or fixes. As a painter I like to think I'm pretty fast. When I was told last week that the deadline ideally would be by the end of the month, I also needed to think about how I could get the eleven or so done in the quickest way possible, especially with two sort of small kids to take care of in the midst of all of it, and my wife directing the current production

The first image idea that came to me was one for A View from the Bridge because there is a very human story there plus I could use this great image I had of the Brooklyn Bridge. I also wanted to use a sketchier style for the the people and could use markers to render them. Next I found this great reference images for Snow White and Bela Lugosi for Dracula. While "View's" painting was drying, I started simultaneously, drawing on the canvases for the first two shows of the season. It's not unusual for me to have three or four paintings in the works at the same time. However by this Monday, I have three finished and four more in various stages of completion. I always work with reference photos, and I found lots of great ones for the iconic images for The Graduate and The Sound of Music . For American Rex, a new work, I found a really stark photo of a coal miner since the play deals with a mining family in West Virginia. I also have sketches started for Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors and A Picasso. The latter show will be a co-production with Genesius Guild that has a tremendous script. It'll be our first show staged in our Edith Wood Studio.

Hopefully, with as fast as things are going, I'll have time to write a future blog on where I'm at with the rest. I still neeed to work out in my head concepts for The Less Than Human ClubEncores and a cover but everything seems to be flowing well.