One popular assignment that many scenic instructors give to their students is the “Anything But A Paintbrush” project. The goal is to get scenic artists thinking about how to create different textures and painted effects by using other techniques. So, the paintbrush is removed from their hands and they’re forced to use other tools to paint a specific project.
Scenic Artist Tessa Broyles shared her version of the “Anything But A Paintbrush” challenge in one of her recent Behind The Scenics Videos. In this case, she chose to paint a landscape scene without her trusty paintbrush. Whether you are a scenic student or an experienced scenic painter, this project is a great way to practice using unique tools in order to develop creative techniques for painting scenery.
To create the colors she would need to paint her landscape, Tessa used Rosco Off Broadway Scenic Paints. Almost all of the colors she used came out of either our Foliage Scenic Set or from our Earth & Wood Scenic Set. Projects, like this one, where scenic painters practice or experiment with new techniques are exactly what Rosco Scenic Sets were designed for. Each Scenic Set comes with four, 6-oz. jars of paint. This is usually more than enough paint for scenic artists to try a new style or hone their skills.
Scenic artists often have to improvise or make their own tools to create their scenic art. One of the key benefits of this project is that it encourages creative problem-solving. By taking the paintbrush out of the equation, scenic painters begin to discover new tools they can use for future projects. In this case, Tessa used a Preval Sprayer, natural sponges, rags, a mini paint pad, a feather duster, and a texture roller.
A Preval Sprayer is a handy tool that can aerosolize virtually any type of paint. Tessa notes how they can be “very finicky but, once you understand their quirks, they are a useful tool.” In this project, Tessa filled the Preval Sprayer with the light-colored White + Lemon Yellow mixture and filled in her sky areas. Later in the project, she used the Preval spray to soften the edge of her tree trunks and add an orange wash on top of her grassy areas.
Next to brushes, sponges are probably the most common tool most scenic painters are used to working with. It never hurts to practice different sponging techniques or to experiment with different sponge materials or patterns. In this project, Tessa used the sponges to paint the hills in the background and to sponge in the leaves.
How do you create wet-blends in larger areas of scenery if you don’t have a paintbrush? One way is to use a simple rag. Tessa used this technique to base-in the colors of the grassy area in the foreground of her landscape. She noted how tedious this step was, but that “rubbing with a rag created some nice grassy textures that would not have been as good with a brush.”
MINI PAINT PAD
A small paint pad is a helpful tool that painters use to paint trim and make touchups. Note how Tessa uses just the edge of the paint pad to paint in the trunks of the trees in her landscape. This was the part of the project where Tessa missed her paintbrushes the most. As with the grass texture created by the rags, however, Tessa noted again how using the edge of the paint pad created different bark textures that her brushes wouldn’t.
What do you call the painting technique where you apply the paint with a feather duster? Everybody say it together – SCHLEPITCHKA! Tessa used this technique to flog texture into her grassy area. “Schlepitchka is pretty fun. You just whack and twirl the paint until it looks right.” For this project, Tessa began with passes of the darker browns and greens and then progressed back-and-forth with lighter tones.
It’s never a bad idea to have a set of mini texture rollers handy. They’re really inexpensive, so don’t be afraid to modify the texture pattern by cutting the foam with scissors or a matte knife. Tessa used her texture roller to fill in the center of her trees with green and yellow “leaves.” She did find that the size of the roller made it difficult, so, at one point, she reverted back to sponges. The texture roller would have been effective, however, to execute the same technique on a larger piece of scenery.
If you pay close attention, you’ll see that a paintbrush does make an appearance in Tessa’s “Anything But A Paintbrush Challenge.” She uses it to spatter in some flowers and weeds into the grassy area, noting that, “everything in theatre needs a little spatter.”
“I highly recommend doing an exercise like this to anyone who hasn’t done it before,” Tessa states at the end of her video. “The point of this exercise is to show how different tools can help you create specific marks and textures more quickly than you could with a brush. It will force you to think and problem-solve creatively, and you’ll be surprised by the tools you find most helpful. Scenic artists often have to paint very quickly, so a creative use of our tools will save us time and headaches.”
When you’re ready to take on your own “Anything But A Paint Brush” project, explore our Scenic Sets product page. From foliage and dirt to skies and shadow, Rosco Scenic Sets can provide the paint colors you’ll want to experiment with – no matter what painting tool you’ve chosen to use.
Tessa Broyles is a scenic artist based in New York City and one of our Rosco Ambassadors. Her experience includes props work at Santa Fe Opera, and various freelance scenic paint jobs around the city – with one of her favorites being at The Juilliard School of Drama. Tessa is probably best known, however, for her popular Behind The Scenics channel on YouTube where she shares painting techniques for creating theatrical scenery.