Up And Away! A Collaborative Art Project

It’s the 1930s. Big City has become a place where greed trumps goodness, a city in desperate need of a hero. A hero like no other. The very first superhero.

Planning The Caper

This year, The Pittsburgh CLO invited members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators to attend rehearsals of the CLO musical Up And Away, as a collaborative effort to produce artwork inspired by the show.

In this post, I’m going to break down my basic illustration process and ramble on a little about the show (because it’s really fun and you should go see it if you can).

UpAndAway_Process_VinceDorse

Assembling The Team

I think there were six of us invited to attend early rehearsals for the show. We were there to get a feel for the show, and then create anything we wanted. Some of us illustrated scenes, some of us did renderings of the rehearsals, some did portraits of the cast. But from the very start, I knew I wanted to create a fictional comic book cover that featured the characters from the superhero-themed musical. Here’s the thumbnail I sketched out during that first rehearsal:

UpAndAway_process_VinceDorse

Clip Studio Paint To The Rescue

I used Clip Studio Paint to set up my image. As usual, the perspective rulers were invaluable in helping me redraw the background architecture over my sketch (the show is set in “Big City”). I used the blue drafting pencil to sketch in characters based on reference sketches I did at rehearsal, and a G-Pen to ink them in. These aren’t caricatures of the cast as much as representations of the archetypes the actors portray in the show.

UpAndAway_Process_VinceDorse

About The Show

Up And Away is jam-packed with references to comic book culture. The two brothers (who leave their farm to find adventure in Big City) are Jerry and Joe Jessup (a nod to Superman creators, Siegel and Shuster). There’s a fast-talking lady-reporter, a mysterious billionaire, a tough but doting mother, and a host of costumed kooks running rampant in the city.

UpAndAway_Process_VinceDorse

One of the most interesting things about this project was seeing director Marlo Hunter, creators Kevin Hammonds and Kristin Bair, and the cast members hammer the show into shape during rehearsals; changing blocking and choreography, editing scenes, working out the props and stagecraft. Process. It’s fun to watch things unfold, piece by piece, whether it’s an illustration or a comedy-musical.

UpAndAway_Process_VinceDorse

Kevin Hammonds (Book and Lyrics) and Kristin Bair (Music) put together a catchy bunch of tunes. I must have heard “New Kind Of Hero” two dozen times that first day. Anyone who’s ever rehearsed a live musical performance knows you’re going to go over and over and over the songs. But that was fine, because when I saw the show opening week, I could practically sing along.

UpAndAway_ComicCover_VinceDorse

The performers are fantastic too.  It’s one of those shows that employs a small cast (just five) who have to race through backstage quick-changes to play a series of alternate roles (with those roles sometimes possessing alter-egos themselves).

UpAndAwway_Process_VinceDorse_07

And, in keeping with the stripped-down feel of a small cast, Up And Away employs classic, lo-fi stagecraft to achieve its own brand of special effects. Think “standing on one leg and bending at the waist with your arms forward to simulate flying over a collapsible MDF cityscape.” I don’t know how you’re picturing that, but trust me, it works.

UpAndAway_Process_VinceDorse

As the little corner box intimates, Up And Away made it’s premiere here in Pittsburgh in January. But it’ll be running at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square through Sunday, April 22nd. If you’re in Pittsburgh during that time, and you want to spend a fun couple of hours at a musical comedy made for comic fans, try to get tickets.

Art Show And Sale

And, as of this Wednesday, March 14, the Cabaret Gallery will have the Pittsburgh Illustrators’ Up And Away art on display and for sale, with 20% going to the Pittsburgh CLO. I’ll have two pieces there — the comic book cover (signed & numbered prints) and an ink and marker rendering of the villains in the show (based on brief descriptions in an early draft of the script). This was a fun project, a nice way to spend a few weeks with some talented creators and performers, and I got to see a superhero musical for free! Whooooosh! (that was me, flying away, in case you didn’t catch it) -v

UpAndAway_Process_VinceDorse

And here, just for fun, the fictional comic book cover:

UpAndAwway_Process_VinceDorse_10

 

 

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