We often get to talk to Directors and Actors about what it is like working on a production. Today we decided to take time to talk with the less heard from Designers. Here is a short interview with our illustrators from Twas the Night at Theatre Three Yvonne Johnson and Scott Osborne. Scott has been a much sought after designer and mainstay of the Dallas theater scene since the early 90’s. Yvonne is a recent graduate of SMU’s graduate studies program in design. Both are part of the Theater Three family. We’re thrilled to feature their work in Twas The Night.
How would you describe your artistic style?
YJ: It varies. I’m very fluid depending on my mood and what inspires me when I’m working on whatever art project I’m doing at that time. It can range from high fashion illustrations to realistic intimate portraits to abstract line art.
SO: I like to think that I don’t have a specific style, per say. But rather, my job as a theatrical designer is to adapt my work to whatever style, genre or source of inspiration that is appropriate in telling the story from the perspective of my client and the production team with whom I am working. My ultimate goal is to visually support the narrative and make the message and theme resonate within the context of the composition that I am creating. So the style of my work depends heavily upon the nature and substance of the story that we are telling. My approach is crafted through the process of creative collaboration and is best labeled as “infinitely adaptive”.
I’m probably best known for my open-minded enthusiasm and willingness to initially dwell in the realm of the abstract and metaphysical. Even when we are working towards an idea that is best rendered in the concrete and realistic, I still enjoy seeking the sublime visual metaphor by trafficking exclusively in signs and symbols to the extent that my client will allow me to do so.
Do you have an artist or artists that inspire you?
YJ: I draw inspiration from a wide variety of artists in varying media. Kara Walker, John Singer Sargent, Lina Iris Viktor (one of my fav) to name a few. I’m also a costume, fashion, and scenic designer as well. So I draw inspiration from other designers in those fields and their artwork. Paul Tazewell, Robert Perdziola & Gregg Barnes have some of the most beautiful costume renderings that I aspire to.
SO: My proclivities, interests and sources of inspiration are as wide-ranging and diverse as the realm of imagination affords. As a visual storyteller, I am tasked with using whatever objects and images are best suited to communicating the perspective that’s being offered in the context of the ideas I’m striving to physically manifest. For example, if the script lends itself to melodramatic interpretation, then perhaps it is my task to research sentimental Hallmark greeting card imagery. If the story is best told through the lens of abstraction, then the design process might very well lead me to investigate cubism or surrealism. It all depends on the requirements of the script and the vision of my collaborators.
That being said, I adore and revere the classics in art, theater and music. From Da Vinci to Picasso, Shakespeare to Strindberg, Bach to Beck. The story of humanity is told through figures and movements in art. I have had the sheer joy of learning history through the process of seeking inspiration for designs. It’s always exciting and inevitably leads to the acquisition of knowledge that I never would have gained otherwise. Art inspires me.
Could you tell us a little more about the art that is featured in the show?
YJ: The artwork I did for the show was inspired by the songs that Cherish chose to sing (Jingle Bells & America the Beautiful) for this special. Having recently in the last 3 years learn more about painting through the use of photoshop, I chose to use that medium as it lends itself to a lot of fun ways to create images. I really wanted to do something that was fun, uplifting, and really spoke to the spirit of the songs Cherish was singing. Especially more so now than ever with the world being how it is currently.
SO: When Jeff and Christie approached me about working on the show, I was, initially a bit hesitant because my designs on paper are typically intended as tools to communicate ideas for creating three dimensional compositions. In other words, the drawings are never the art. The art is usually the result of the renderings, not vice versa. I am not a trained graphic designer. So my work tends to be more hand-crafted specifically for the purpose of developing an idea for audiences to experience in-person. This time I was being asked to place emphasis on the actual representational image itself. A goal more related to the idea of a virtual art gallery with music.
So my task was to find distinct sources of inspiration related to the tone and mood of each song that was being featured. Luckily enough, I had the fortune of working with amazing collaborators who each had their own distinct visions the work. Jeff and Christie said that they were interested in sending a delightful and mysterious “Christmas card” to Theater Three patrons, a comforting and compelling gesture of creativity, imagination and good-will. They intentionally sought out the most dynamic and diverse team of artists to work on the show in order to insure a broad array of perspectives and methodologies.
I am fortunate to have had the chance to collaborate with musician Sammy Rios. Her approach to making music always creates a strong sense of perspective, tone and mood. It was a rather straight-forward process devising visual themes to support her work. I researched classical paintings from the Renaissance to accompany the foreboding and atmospheric “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” as well as 20th century Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art for the more whimsical, rich and zesty “Deck the Halls”. The clarity and uniqueness of Sammy’s interpretations of these traditional songs made my job a lot easier.
What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
YJ: My favorite part is enjoying my family. I love watching their reactions to their gifts and cooking a big nice dinner for them. No work, no school, just us content with what we have and each other.
SO: My favorite part of the season is the moment when the cobblers kid finally gets her shoes. It seems like I am always working on several projects leading up to the holiday. As a result, my house never gets decorated until mid-December. Before I became a parent, I hardly even went to the trouble of putting up lights and a tree because I was creatively spent from working on other people’s projects. Now I eagerly anticipate the moment when I can devote myself entirely and specifically to my favorite audience of one. My daughter is my source of inspiration and the main reason I enjoy the traditions we have created revolving around decorating our home. No matter how many audiences I’ve dazzled, hers will always be the smile I’m seeking in the spirit of the season.