About Chris Van Patten

Posts by Chris Van Patten:

Cobalt Studios – 8.10 and 8.11

Began our transparency projects!

We are making small drops that alter their appearance when lit from behind. Tis is accomplished through the selective use of opaque paints and dharma dye. By making certain areas less opaque than others you enable the light from behind to go through the fabric easier, you can then apply the dharma dye to the back side of the drop to create a new image that appears in that place.

This can be used for sunsets, windows lighting up when it’s darker, most often a change in time of day, or color.

The biggest advice I can give you is to starch and size the he’ll out of your fabric. On the back side use 3 layers of starch and 2 on the front (since the front is generally where you apply the opaque paint – whatever side you’re applying the dye on you want more sealant)

My project is one with the pyramids in which it changes from day to sunset. I’ve been using prevail sprayers to achieve semi translucent skies on the front, and then even coats of color on the back. Another important note is that in areas with transparency you will be able to see your brushstrokes, or any strokes made with your tool. This is why I used sprayers, however your choice of tool can also aide in your image, just make it purposeful.

Cobalt Studios – 8.6 and 8.7

For the past few days we have been working on our “you want me to paint WHAT?! on THAT?!”
Basically each student got an unusual fabric to work with and had to paint a given image on that fabric.

My project wS on a shower curtain, and I painted a translucent stained-glass window of an ogre.

Useful tips, when painting on a surface that the binder in the paint does not want to stick to, put a coat of crysal-gel, from rosco. Originally my paint would just chip off but after a few experiments I was able to find this solution. I also worked with Dharma dye,which is water soluble and translucent!

Some other tips that came from this project include:
Mask everything you don’t want sprayed, even if it’s 5 ft away, over spray will find a way.
When working with satin methicyl works as a great binder to maintain the shiny quality of the satin and allow paint to stick to the surface.
When cartooning on an unknown surface use string lines, so you don’t have to worry about the cartoon lines being unable to erase.
When working on scrim use a scrim pick to ensure that the scrim does not stick to the surface – things DO stick to bogus paper.

Cobalt Studios – 8.5

Today we finished up our marble! And also worked on drapery and stenciling.

For stencils there are a few ways to get the image to come through the stencilbwi minimal bleeding.

The most traditional way is to use a natural sponge, or sponge roller, and apply the paint to the sponge using a brush, to avoid over loading it. Then while applying the sponge to the stencil you do an even build up across the entire stencil, rather than focusing on one area at a time.

My personal favorite is the “wax on – wax odd” method. For this one you fill a large fitch with a small amount of paint, dab out the end before applying the fitch to the stencil, to get rid of any blobs that may be on the end of the bristles. Then you place your fitch on the stencil and move it in a tight clockwise motion, or wax on, then alternate with a counterclockwise motion, wax off. So you move across e stencil surface with alternating clockwise and counterclockwise motions, filling in the stencil evenly.

One last method Rachel showed us was to use a wood grain brush, the kind the resembles a wide tooth comb- where half e bristles have been cut out, and apply paint in one direct, giving a streaky texture. Us ia greT for stencils on wood grain etc.
With this method paint tends to gather on ne edge of the stencil, the edge you are moving all the brush strokes towards, this can either be annoying or wonderful, as the small build up tends to resemble stitching marks. If you don’t like this effect then you simply need to clean the stencil every so often to remove any build up on the underside of the stencil.

Helpful hint is. To always have a clean bucket of water and a clean sponge handy to clean the stencil. Build up will happen and it is always necessary to clean it if you want to keep a uniform stencil pattern.

Cobalt Studios – 8.3 and 4


The only sure thing about marble is that the is no one way to do it. Every reference of marble has new characteristics that you would approach differently with a new set of tools.

However there are a couple hints I can give you:
For your base coat scumble together 2 to 3 colors
Always take note of patterning and directionality of your sample
Consider using non-traditional tools such as burlap, sponges, feather dusters, sprayers.
Let layers dry, you don’t want to get soupy.
If you have marble with large chunks in it mask off with pieces of bogus paper
You can always go in with a glaze after it’s dry to add contrast.

Cobalt Studios – 8.2

Woodgrain, all day.

We started woodgrain exercises for both finished and aged wood. Right now they don’t lo like too much but tomorrow we will be adding in all the highlights and shading so I’m ready to make things pop!

Here’s some helpful hits I surmised today:
for your base coat, wet blend at least two colors, and make sure all your brush strokes are going in the same direction as your grain.

The next step is to have a sample of the type of wood grain you are trying to emulate. The pease of e day was “thin grain, thin space, wide grain wide space”. The rule of thumb is that when the grain is thinner the grain is very tight and close together, while when the grain widens the spaces between the grain widen as well. It also helps to use your brush as you would a calligraphy tool when doing the knots and wider grains. We were using a husky brush, much like a fitch except the bristles were aligned to create thin lines. When focusing on a section of all thin lined grain you can use a regular lay-in brush whose bristles separate easily.

After you apply the grain you begin adding details, such as glazes imitating the stain of finish wood, or highlights and speckles for aged wood.

All I can say is practice makes perfect. Every scenic artist needs to know how to woodgrain, you’d be hard pressed to find a theatre season that doesn’t use it.

Cobalt Studios – 8.1

Hello world, back again for another week at Cobalt!
Today we had our lesson in perspective. Specifically in how you use perspective drawing to transfer a drawing from small scale to a larger scale drawing that you would use as a cartoon for a drop.
You essentially plot out the vanishing points on the paper and use a string tied to a pushpins in the ground to plot out the perspective lines from each object.
Make sure your smaller reference is in scale! Or else you’ll have an even bigger headache.
By using the scale rule and the vanishing point or points you are able to chart out the large draw, no grid involved.

Cobalt Studios – 7.29

Here i am again! It’s Friday and the last day of class this week. 🙁

Today we focused on how to shade and shadow an object.
The most helpful advice I can give you is this,
Make your objects local color the base color
Make a shadow out of burnt umber and a dark blue, water it down so it is a little translucent
Make the objects shadow a color that would be the compliment of the source light (that’s how it occurs in life!)
Make your highlight out of your local color, add white and some of the source lights color
To create the “zinger” or hot spots you take white and the color of your light source and apply them sparingly
Then you add bounce light (from surrounding objects or surfaces) in your shadow. The most important part is that they appear in the shadow of your object. It’s best to do this with dry brushing, without thinned paint
The last step is to add the cut line, or line of shadow that occurs at the point where the object hits the surface, or is touching it’s cast shadow, this line is a very dark color, even black.

Follow this and you will have spectacular shading! 😀 sounds simple… But once you try to do it with a fled sashes and ditches to get just the smallest line ever – you discover that it can be quite the challenge. My favorite discovery was learning about the bounce light, that small addition really makes your painting come alive! I saw examples in the studio and I was marveling at how the artist included pops of color in their shading, and it went together so perfectly. Now I know how it’s done 🙂
Alright world, I’ll see you again on Monday!

Cobalt Studios – 7.28

Today began with everyone once again at their flat, the one we made the gradated wet blend and the stumble on. We then proceeded to test various tools on this surface, by dividing the flat into four sections we were able to work with three main tools.
Those were slinging, rags, textured rollers, and combing.
We then experimented with some other tools on the floor. My personal new favorite is a mop head connected to a handle by a wire, which enables it to swing around. You soak this with paint giving an amazing spatter effect. Even when you soak it in water you get another spatter effect when you rink it out.
After that we had a lesson on proper spattering (the irony). It is not proper to bang your brush against another item (or hand), instead you manipulate your spatter by how thin your paint is, how much paint is in your brush, and where in your brush the paint is resting. You then flick the brush with your hand, and control the direction by pointing where you want to spatter. It is important to keep the wide edge of your brush (we were using 4″ lay-ins for spattering) facing down. Otherwise you will end up with lines of spatter instead of a uniform spatter. We also worked by doing wet spatters and bath spatters, which is playing with how much water is on your surface prior to spattering.
Following the spatter lesson we began lining. Properly built lining sticks are key. They need a beveled edge and a concave base, making the bottom of the lining stick only touch the surface in two locations. Angled Sash brushes are ideal forlining. We also used fiches and created soft edged lines.

Cobalt Studios – 7.27

A quick lesson on how to clean brushes:

1. Put brush in clean bucket with water, bristles face down. Best way to do this is to have a bucket under running water where you then swirl the brush around, empty the water when it becomes colored. Repeat until water is clean (ish).

2. Stick brush in Murphy’s Oil, much like a dish soap. Make sure it is diluted. You don’t want the soap to be too hard to rinse out.

3. Scrub brush as you would your hair. Get between the bristles and down to the base.

4. Rinse under running water.

5. Get a plastic toothed scrub brush (metal ones damage the bristles), and scrub in one direction from the base of the bristles to the end of the bristles. This is to remover any
Ain’t that is stuck in the base of the bristles. You should do this step under running water.

6. Store your brushes horizontally on a metal mesh shelf. This allows the brush to dry without any leftover paint getting caught on the end of the brush. If any paint was left it will collect on the side of the brush, which is a lot easier to clean than the tip. The metal shelf also gives it a way to breathe.

Today we did a lot of work wit bamboo. Starting out with drawing exercises and then moving on to a large scale replica of a Mucha painting before lunch.
After lunch we used our ,iced paint from yesterday to do some wet blends, graidation and scumbling. Afterwards we learned about proper use and maintenance of sprayers.

Cobalt Studios – 7.26

Today was the first day we used paint! And boy is rosco worth it, the paint is so thick and the color is so intense. Basically after you thin the paint you really aren’t paying much more for it, because a gallon goes a long way.

The day began with some basic geometry skills, and knowing how to bisect lines and create right angles on the floor.

Then we began to starch our soft good flats we made yesterday. Who knew you could starch a flat for a fraction of the price of primer?! Tomorrow were going to do the final layer of sizing ( a glue mixture ), which will completely seal the fabric

We then learned about the parts of paint, and created the ol’ color wheel. Then came the fun part: color matching.
Now the best trick I learned today was to figure out a recipe for your color using the fewest steps possible. You start with straight paint and then add white or a good color shifter like raw umber. From there you can really figure out only one or two more dabs of color will do the trick. I was able to color match two swatches exactly in less than 2 hours. Can’t wait to paint more tomorrow!