I recently had the honor of designing The Swordsmen's new banner. If you don't know The Swordsmen, they are an incredibly funny Renaissance Faire act full of silly sword tricks and dashing humor! Check out their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/theswordsmen/
For those who don't know me, I spent a considerable amount of time working in Renaissance Faires. It has been a place of creativity, friendship, and swashbuckling for me! I was on cast at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire for several years, I learned stilt walking and balloon animals there from the amazing stilt walker Jeff Fahringer, and I had my own act "Plank and Plunder" that toured a variety of California Faires for a couple of years. I love the Renaissance Faire setting! It is the modern vaudeville! Music acts, faire food, jousting, Shakespeare, costumes, sword fighting - what more could you want!? I was first introduced to one of The Swordsmen through my work with the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD). They actually performed at the Winter Wonderland Workshop in 2009 - which was my first time attending that workshop! We have crossed paths in the stage combat world more frequently, but I haven't had the chance to see their show again since 2009! Need to get back out to the faires...
Needless to say this was a particularly fun commission not just because I was designing for a ridiculously fun act but because I got to not only design their banner (which will also be sold on merch) but ALSO transfer my design and paint it onto a giant 6x8 banner! I wanted to talk you through the process of I went about doing this. It was a learning process for sure.
First off, I created the design! I used my ipad and ipencil to doodle something out. There was a bit of back and forth with The Swordsmen about what they wanted. After we came to a design we liked I actually enlisted the help of my mom. She's a seamstress extraordinaire! We purchased a large canvas drop cloth from the local hardware store. Then my mom hemmed it and added a fold over on the top and bottom to slide in poles for hanging.
Next came the tricky part! How to transfer my design onto the canvas banner? I watched lots of youtube videos, looked at a variety of projectors online, and even tried my parents old slide projector from the 80s (it still worked!) to find the best way to project my video onto the canvas to paint. What I ended up deciding was definitely more user friendly and cheaper than buying a fancy projector. I printed off my design then traced it onto a piece of clear mylar. I then cut out a rectangle in a large piece of cardboard and taped the design to the hole.
I waited till nightfall, draped the banner over the back fence and put my cell phone flashlight propped up on a small table behind it (you can see in the photos below!)... our fence is not straight so this took a bit of maneuvering to get the banner placed for the projection to line up well. I did a quick line drawing on the canvas banner then waited for daylight to start painting.
The banner was too big to paint in my house and it kept raining (thank goodness! We need all the rain we can get in Colorado.) so I eventually found a place to set up flat on the ground on the front porch. I had talked to several scenic painter friends about paint types and sealants. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that instead of using acrylics like I had originally intended, latex based fabric paint would be more durable and not need it's own sealant. I needed a paint/sealant that would be flexible, waterproof, and with a good lightfastness. These paints worked well because they were heat set - which just meant I had to iron the piece after I was done. I also threw it in the wash just to make sure it would be okay in there (it got a little dirty being on the ground!) and it worked great!
It's fun to paint something on such a large scale. I've had the pleasure of painting several sets and it's always an exciting challenge to see what will read best from far away. This was a fun mix of large scale scenic painting and my normal illustration work. A challenge and an adventure! I'm pretty happy with how the final product came out. What do you think?