Take Me to Your Leader

So it has happened again. I have unintentionally become a leader.

I am now in charge of the theatre scenery crew, at least for painting. The official chairperson of this committee is not me, and is a dad that is not so artistic, but builds the framework for the panels we paint. He loves my ideas and gives me complete freedom to design the scenery. For the past few productions, I was content to put my vision and work on just a small portion of the panels, leaving the others to other parents. But this time, due to life’s craziness, an illness in the chairman’s family, a vacation in another family, it came down to me to get started or we would not ever get finished in time. So I became the one in charge. Again. This usually happens to me, and I always quietly and graciously accept the lead, but have never asked or demanded it. I just step up as needed, and then usually stay up by request.

So I came up with a sketch for the panels, creating a continuous scene this time, rather than all the separate ones we usually do, when each person gets a panel or two to paint alone. I asked him would it be alright, if we had one scene, one plan, one vision this time, to span the entire stage, left-to right, to create more of a setting with an organized feel? He loved it. But we weren’t sure how to do it, because I can’t paint the entire thing alone, since each panel is 4′ by 8′ and there are about 12 panels, just not enough time, and, we have others who want to help paint. So I asked if I could block out the scene on each panel, and then have the helpers fill it in with my guidance? He said we should try it that way. So I quickly had to learn how to upscale my painting methods, and it was so much fun!

The first few days, I didn’t even touch my tiny, delicate artist brushes or tubes of acrylic. Instead my pallette was gallons of scraps of wall paint, each one with its own 1-3 inch brush. I’m painting 4 panels at a time, so my canvas is 16′ by 8′. Woah. It is quite fun traveling back and forth to create this large scene with what feels like wild abandon, instead of the controlled precise movement I usually have on  my usual-sized artwork. I started some sky colors on top, going across all the panels, but varying darkness and levels slightly in each one. Then worked my way down to some rolling hills in the landscape scene, again adding slight variations for interest, but basically remaining consistent. I left holes of non-painted areas for the trees and other items that would be in the foreground. And so we now have a map to follow, and others can jump in and add an item or details or just follow my lead to finish filling in colors according to my plan.

I was uncomfortable at first, not knowing how the other painters would respond to my instruction. To my surprise – they are grateful to me! They keep thanking me for jumping in and getting this started, and they ask me for help mixing colors and for techniques to make sure what they paint is high quality and matches the scene. They feel they must live up to my standard, and love the final effect. They feel proud when they step back, and I’m proud of them too. So I am an art teacher too now, which is also something else that always happens to me. I am actually a paid art teacher for children’s classes at our local museum, but it amazes me how I end up being an impromptu teacher in so many unrelated situations. I just know how to do stuff, and I am happy to share my secrets, and especially happy to share the joy of creating art and music.

I also have no ownership on these projects, which I am surprised. The whole idea of shared art is so strange, but I learned long ago to let go of my preconceived notions and allow others creative freedom. Maybe what they created isn’t exactly what I envisioned, but somehow that makes it even better, all of our minds coming together in a huge project. So I keep insisting that they try, and not to worry about “messing up” what I started.

And the best part of all of this, is the reaction of the theatre kids. They come in for rehearsal and check our progress on the scenery, and “oooh” and “ahhh” excitedly as they imagine their characters interacting with the scenes and props. Some kids even give us ideas, which I usually try to incorporate somehow too, since the scenery belongs to them – the amazing little actors and actresses, not us – the artists. Our scenery is meant to be in the background – literally.


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