Sinbad: the Eighth Voyage

Richard Bell's Wild WestYorkshire nature diary

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This year it's Instanbul (the pantomime version, as I doubt whether there's an Anchor Inn in the real city); last year this backdrop was a forest scene and the year before that it was a fresh canvas, what a luxury, that became the Land of Chess.

This morning, as a starting point for the first scene of Sindbad; the Eighth Voyage, I painted out the forest with a remnant of 'Prairie Gold' vinyl matt emulsion I found under the stage then used the curved outlines of the trees as the starting point for these domed-rooved houses.

Land of Chess
The Land of Chess


I draw my designs on A5 scrap paper in fibre tip pen then use a 1cm hog's hair brush on the canvas which gives a similar scale of line on the backdrop. I don't like to use my regular sketchbooks for stage designs as I have to climb stepladders brush in hand and I don't want to mess up the other drawings in my sketchbook in the process.

One old chair I climbed onto creaked then collapsed beneath me! No, I'm not putting on weight; the school had been performing Grease last week and I think this silver-painted 30 year-old school chair must have had some rough treatment in a dance number.

Blocking out and Distressing

As I mapped out the canvas in my characteristic nervous, wobbly lines, Ken, a painter and decorator and Daniel, a plumber, mixed colours and blocked in the buildings. Ken is no stranger to this kind of work as he's been to Italy as a part of a team creating themed pubs and restaurants. They do marbling and wood graining but Ken's speciality is distressing. The trick is to make the pubs - the Italians seem to like Irish pubs for some reason - look mellow and friendly without making them look grubby.

We haven't got time to distress Instanbul. It has a simple cartoon background look; this is a pantomime after all and it starts with a brisk, humourous (we hope) big musical opening to introduce the characters and set the scene for the story.

Ken as the White Rabbit in Alice two years ago

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