STEP by STEP: Painting Play it Again, Sam

After the dark tones of The Beauty Queen of Leenane illustration, I decided that it might be best to work on something and lighter so began working on ideas for the image for Woody Allen's romantic comedy Play It Again, Sam. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I had the opportunity, when we announced the 59th season at Chicago Street Theatre, to sit with the directors and hear their takes on the type of production they want to create. I have to say that Director Jason Utesch is very passionate about this show. I was familiar with the play from when the Guild originally presented it over 30 years ago at the Memorial Opera House.

As for the history of the play, itself, Play It Again, Sam was originally presented on Broadway in 1969 and ran for over a year. Two years later it was made into a feature film by director Herbert Ross who brought many Broadway works to the screen. As with many of Woody Allen's films it takes place in New York City and he played the main character "Allan Felix" in both the Broadway and movie versions.

Allen's character is "Allan Felix" -a writer who has just been through a messy divorce. Feeling that he will never be good at relationships again, he pours himself into his work and his obsession with the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca. His two best friends are a married couple, Christie and Dick, who push Allan into "circullation" again by setting him up on a series of disasterous blind dates. He wishes that he could regain his confidence and be more like the Rick Blaine character in Casablanca. With this, comedy ensues as the ghost-like apparition of Humphrey Bogart become Felix's life coach on love.

Since the play is a comedy I knew I wanted to go with a brighter and sunnier look for the illustration. Next I go back to several little sketches I did to figure out how I want to arrange the image. Because the show has a familiar feel to it, I knew the image had to have a Woody Allen-type guy in it with Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine from Casablanca. I looked through my photo references and found numerous images of both men on the internet.

My thought was to keep the Bogey character in grays, blacks and white like the film, but the question was whether to go literal with him as a ghost or tangible and next to Woody. One idea I had was to make Bogey a ventriloquist and Allen the dummy. Another idea has a tiny Bogart sitting on Allen's shoulder like Jimminey Cricket. Then I remebered that Jason had said something about the voice of Bogey "in Woody Allen's head." 



STEP 1: My first step on this one was to prepare the canvas with bright orange and yellow gradiation. I wanted to recreate this kind of "sunburst" look that I remembered from my parent's master bedroom back in the 70's for the background.


STEP 2: Because I was really happy with how the background turned out, I decided that I would do drawings on separate types of paper to keep their hues different from one another and the brightness of the color behind them. My intent is to collage them on to the canvas insections.  First I draw an image of the top part of Woody Allen's head with his unmistakeable glasses. I intentionally crop the image of his face at the mouth since character feels he has lost the ability to talk to women. Since I liked the idea of the vetriloquist dummy and the bad pun about wood, I draw him on a 12" x 12" piece of scrapbooking paper that had a wood grain on it. I paint in a few different colors in for his hair, the glare on his glasses but keep the majority of his skin tones as the warm wood color of the paper.


  STEP 3: After Woody's image is done and dry, I cut the image out. For comedic effect, I then cut off the very top of the head across like the top of a Jack 'o' Lantern. I place and arrange the pieces at the center bottom of the canvas and attcach them with Mod Podge so that it looks like Woody's head has a lid.


STEP 4: Next I go to my images of Humphrey Bogart. One thought is to blow up and collage an actual photo of him but I'm unable to find one image that will work for that. Since it won't actually be Bogart playing the apparition, I decide, instead, to draw a combination of a head I like with a body that works for where it will be placed in the illustration. I draw the Bogey figure on some scrapbook paper that has a faded newspaper print on it and then lay in some light washes to signify shadows and light.

  STEP 5: Once the washes are dry, I cut out Bogart's image and collage it on to the canvas. Placement of Rick Blaine is precisely what Jason talked about: "in Woody Allen's head." After placing the image I notice that the grays that I used for the Bogey image are too warm and don't have enough contrast to the warmth of the Woody Allen face. I use some light washes with more blue in them to cool it off and give it more of that "Film Noir" effect.

  STEP 6: The last part, as usual, is to refine details and deepen shadows to make these two very flat drawings more three dimensional. Finally, I pop in some highlights and hide the exclamation point. I hope you're enjoying this step by step series on how we create the images for our upcoming plays as much as I am writing about it. So if you are, please stay tuned to the CST blog page- 'Cause there's lots more paintings to come... Now get back to work!

I hope you're enjoying this step by step series on how we create the images for our upcoming plays as much as I am writing about it. So if you are, please stay tuned to the CST blog page- 'Cause there's lots more paintings to come... Now get back to work!

 -Posted by Eric Brant, Illustrator