DRAMA 3315

Theatrical Scene Painting



Steve Gilliam, Professor & Scenic Designer

     RTT 118 (by the scene shop)

 Office: 999-8587   Design Studio: 494-7373



OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-5:30 & by appointment. To schedule a meeting outside office hours, please contact Professor Gilliam by e-mail or in person to arrange for a time. MWF, 9:00-Noon, he may be reached by calling his studio.


CLASS MEETING: T-R, 2:10 – 3:25, RTT 108: Painting Studio  


PAINTING STUDIO: The Scene Painting Studio is both our classroom laboratory space and the paint studio for the department’s production program.  It is going to be a challenge to keep this area organized.  Your cooperation in keeping this a clean and safe workspace will be expected.  Each student will be assigned a week of cleanup and studio maintenance with specific guidelines to be distributed in the near future. 


STUDIO HOURS:  The Ruth Taylor Theater is open M-F, 7am – 10pm; SA, 9am – 6 pm; and SU, Noon – 10pm.  The Paint Studio will be available during these times provided use does not interfere with ongoing Stieren Theatre events.  If the theatre is in use, keep the doors to the Paint Studio closed and be quiet.  Students enrolled in Drama 3315 will be permitted to use the Paint Studio after hours by respecting and observing the following policies:

Š  There must always be a companion with you during after hours use. 

Š  You must have a cell phone to call out in the event of an emergency.

Š  You must be in the building and in the space before the building is secured for the evening.

Š  You will need proper Trinity University identification.

Š  Unless you are working with a drama faculty or staff member, you must let Lupita Puente know during university working hours of your desire to be in the building, date and times, for communication with Security.


COURSE OVERVIEW: Scenic artists create illusions of reality; environments designed to enhance moods; and worlds, which render meaning and provide context to stories, events, products and the like. The scenic artist is in the business of creating make-believe worlds come alive, of enhancing a product, or underscoring reality in the theatre, motion pictures, television, interior design, theme parks, restaurants, toy fairs, street fairs, industrial conventions, parties and many others. To be a successful scenic artist is to understand the art, science and business of scene painting. This course serves as an overview, a taste, an introduction to theatrical scene painting.


ATTENDANCE: Attendance in this class is required. You are allowed a total of two cuts before it will have a measurable impact on your progress and ability to keep-up in this course.  Experience has proven that those who miss class, miss instruction, feedback and the benefit of our class collaborative discovery process. Missing a class or classes diminishes understanding and progress. Should you miss a class for whatever reason, it is your responsibility to cover the missed material and be prepared for the next class meeting. The instructor will not repeat class demonstrations.




         Text:  SCENE PAINTING PROJECTS FOR THEATRE by Stephen Sherwin.  Focal Press.  Available at the Trinity Bookstore.


         Supplies:  To understand and appreciate this art form requires active participation in a series of guided projects. Students will be required to purchase art supplies and scene painting supplies to complete assignments. Order your supplies immediately.


ACADEMIC HONOR CODE:   Specifics regarding Trinity’s Academic Honor Code should be well understood by this point in your academic journey.  To refresh your appreciation of this commitment, log onto the following: 




Whereas this course is a mixture of individual and collaborative creativity, it is assumed that each student can distinguish when it is proper to use and incorporate ideas and thoughts of others and when it would be ethically improper. Drama 3315 follows the guideline set forth by the University regarding the Academic Code.  


UNITS & PROJECTS: Scenic artists have been making a living for centuries. It demands the abilities of a creative artist, the skill of a specialized technician, and the savvy of a business manager. Successful completion of the units and projects cannot guarantee a career in scene painting. However, skills learned in this course will be life skills. Upon completion of this course, all students should be able to paint their own apartments; appreciate color mixing, combinations and color taste; and/or be able to communicate with individuals who might paint your set, color your office or finish your house interior. To facilitate these objectives, this course will explore units and projects to assist in understanding theatrical scene painting.


This course will focus on artistic understandings important to the scenic artist and painting techniques.  Most “Scenics”, as painters are called in the business, possess strong graphic communication skills: value, sketching, enlarging and duplicating painter elevations, color mixing and reproduction.  These artistic skills need to merge with the scenic art process, which includes distinct aspects: paint preparation and interpretation of designs or elevations leading to specific step-by-step painting procedures to execute and refine a finished product.


Each unit and assigned project builds on a previous assignment. As a record of these projects, students will maintain a journal or Scenic Artist Notebook throughout the semester, which is due on the Final Exam date.


Projects throughout the semesters vary in length, complexity and degree of completeness.  Each project serves to illuminate a portion of the scenic art process.  In most cases, the projects are sequential and essential for future assignments.  Consequently, projects are due on the due date.  Late assignments will be downgraded one grade (from B to C) and will receive a partial critique.  Projects submitted later than two weeks of the deadline will receive an automatic "D".  Projects not submitted will receive an "F" grade. 


SCENE PAINTING EXHIBIT: To recognize the collaborative significance of the scenic artist in a theatrical production, members of Drama 3315 will produce a scenic art exhibit during the second week of THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS. The class will present scenic art samples and projects in a lobby display.  The entire class will participate in preparing for this event with submissions and the execution of the exhibit (set-up and strike).


CREW ASSIGNMENT: To better appreciate the business, working conditions and deadlines of the scenic artists, each student is required to work 20 hours on the semester’s main stage productions.  Dates and crew hours will be posted in advance and will take into consideration how busy everyone is.  A number of you are employees of the drama program with work assignments in the scene painting studio.  Clearly, working in the paint studio fulfills an appreciate of what a scenic artist does.  Crew Assignment responsibilities will vary from student to student.  We will determine this aspect of the course at the outset of the semester.


ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION: A large portion of the communications for this course will be conducted via e-mail (sgilliam@trinity.edu) and the web page (http://faculty.trinity.edu/sgilliam). The University assumes that students will check their emails each day. Failure to read posted announcements is not acceptable. Make it a practice to check your e-mail daily.  And, READ THEM.


EVALUATIONS: Artistic interpretation allows for a wide degree of interpretation. However, in most cases, the scenic artist is not an interpreter rather a conduit from a designer to the final product. Thus, a scenic artist is hired to execute a design from a scaled designer's paint elevation and line drawing. These skills take practice. Evaluations will focus on skills and an understanding of the process. Feedback will be based on several considerations not necessarily limited to the following:

  Overall understanding to the project

  Demonstrated attention to the scenic art process (research, drawing preparation, clarity of procedure, samples and execution)

  Technical painting skills

  Color understanding

  Individual progress


Professor Gilliam will digitally reproduce student work for evaluation and publication on the course web site as outlined in the syllabus. Late projects may not be posted and will be evaluated when possible. Late projects will not receive the benefit of a class-wide overview. Students are encouraged to meet their deadlines.


GRADES:  Assignments will be given an assessment to determine an overall score.  Below note the total point score conversion.  Please understand that there may be adjustments to the below listed projects depending on the needs of the class.  If you have questions, please ask.


Texture Techniques                             10 points

Sculptural Samples                              5

Spattered and Sponged Wall               10

Wood Grain                                        10

Brick                                                   10

Stone                                                   10

Marble                                                 10

Ornamental Painting                            10

Blood Wedding Project                       15

Servant of Two Masters Project          25

Scenic Exhibit                                       5

Midterm Scenic Notebook                    5

Final Scenic Notebook                        10

Studio Participation                             10

Post Card Final                                   15       


Total Points                                         160

A         160 -152

A-        151-147

B+       146 -140

B         139-134

B-        133-128

C+       127-121

C         120-115


Calendar Exhibit of Class Work Project Assignments
Paint Supplies Marble Process