An Important Legacy

Interviewing scenic artists and painters, production staff and set designers who have a direct link to traditional painted stage cloth methods and who work in the modern environment are key to the project.

Photograph showing artists' signatures painted on the wall at Joseph Harker's Paint Studio to record the history of the artists who worked at the studio wall (credit: Christina Young)
Recording the legacy of Joseph Harker’s Paint Studio via artist signatures painted on the studio wall (credit: Christina Young)

These oral histories offer unique insights, including thoughts on origins & inspiration, identity, scenic artists, roles in the production process, the materials of scene painting, stage cloths, economic and social history, and the future of the profession.

Emerging Commonalities

Origins and Inspiration

Childhood and parental background: architectural draftsman/marine and ship building/ dressmaking & crafts.

The first memory of the stage and wonder of live performance was often pantomime then ballet.

Social and Economic

Long working hours: painting in the day then painting and designing at night.

Intense on-the-job experience which once or twice weekly repertory gave you as a young painter.

Apprentice training with a small community.

The Paint Shop was often cold and basic, but the paint frames were a way of life.


Hierarchy in the profession e.g. scenic painter, scenic artist, set designer, director.

A desire to have enough artistic freedom to interpret the design and execute it; with the understanding and experience of working with scale, lighting, texture and viewing distance on the final appearance.

A huge sense of pride, passion, and professionalism in their Power to Transform the stage.

The Future

Loss of traditional drawing and painting skills among designers and scene painters.

Students need practical experience-it is not enough to be highly trained in a classroom.

Open to technological developments in projection, video and virtual reality but see the wide use as a trend that can also be distracting.

Less contact with the director or set designers, less interaction at all levels.

The legacy is being lost- as the paint frames vanish- the traditional manufacturers & suppliers of materials dwindle- the interaction of people becomes more remote- the association with production and the links with its theatrical past are less tangible.