Painting The Nutcracker   By The Book

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Ziska Childs
Guest Author: Ziska Childs
Ziska Childs has been an entertainment industry professional since 1978. With over 300 productions, her credits range from Tony award winning productions like Phantom of the Opera and "M" Butterfly for Eiko Ishioka, to Global Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, SAP and AOL/Time Warner. Ziska was asked to create a large book for a production of The Nutcracker, and below she explains how she used Rosco scenic paint to get the job done.

The Nutcracker and Christmas… sugar plums, mice, and a chance for hundreds of little kids to wear leotards and slip into dance slippers. It’s easy to be an audience member when it’s your kid in the cute little bee suit spinning with the lady in the tutu. It’s easy to fall in love with the audience from behind the footlights when that audience is holding you in a warm safe place… when that audience is your family. This is the place where love of dance starts for so many of us…it’s enduring and not just because of the music.

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The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet asked me to repaint their Nutcracker ‘book” for the 10 year old production of Nutcracker. No one could tell me the name of the original designer but this Nutcracker is a pastiche of Victorian wedding cake lace architecture and a carousel complete with some glossy painted ponies. It’s a bright colorful production with all the whimsy intact.

The Book does tricks. Each page is a little over 8’x6’ and the entire book flies in. Six pages are painted muslin but the seventh is a gag page. It’s spandex with a split for the Nutcracker to “break” through during the pyro.

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Seah Johnson, lighting supervisor for the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet redesigned the pages and Danny Bachelor Production Manager had them printed to scale on bond. This helped a lot with all the lettering. The pages were printed out full scale and a pounce wheel was used to prick holes into the printout and then the text was laid into the spandex.

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The design was inked in then a charcoal transfer was done, which could be flogged off prior to painting.

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The decorative borders on the cover and text pages were stenciled in then painted with Supersaturated Roscopaint.

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To create a velvety richness in the cover a dot roller was used alternating between Green Shade Blue and Ultramarine Blue.

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This content was originally published on Ziska’s blog. To learn more about this and other projects she has worked on, visit her website. You can also visit the Supersaturated webpage to learn more about the paints Ziska used in this production.

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