Eric Hart, Assistant Props master at the Public Theatre, describes how they solved the problem

For the Public Theater's 2010 production of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson", the prop shop needed to make faux oil paintings. The scenic designer, Donyale Werle, wanted the set to extend all around the audience. Part of that was a "portrait gallery" of what she called "dead white guys" all around the seating.

All together, we needed 19 portraits. As the audience would be extremely close to these (they could in fact touch them if the ushers were not watching closely), we needed to instill them with adequate realism.

We printed the pictures ourselves on our large plotter and mounted them on to foam core. We then took Rosco Crystal Gel and "painted" it over top with a variety of brush strokes. When the Crystal Gel dried, it was clear, but it gave the surface texture and depth like in an actual oil painting. The way the Crystal Gel surface looked, felt, and caught the light really made the pictures seem like real oil paintings.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson transferred to Broadway after its successful run at the Public Theatre. The portrait props were used in the Broadway production as well.


Biography: Eric Hart

Eric Hart has worked as a props artisan at companies such as the Santa Fe Opera, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and on various Broadway and off-Broadway productions. He is currently the Assistant Props Master at the Public Theater in New York City. Eric writes a blog about props at

Crystal Gel: It dries clear, but adds texture and depth to scenic material and props.