2DCostumes, Costume Design Renderings
Costume sketches for theatre are, by and large, merely a means to an end. The usual term used in the business to describe them, costume renderings, emphasizes their primary use as a sort of anatomical diagram of all the parts of a costume that will be made or altered in the costume studio. However, additionally, renderings are used in other ways: they provide a point of reference at production meetings (weekly meetings of the director, designers, and key technical staff) to allow discussion and coordination of design elements, they also serve as communication tools for the costume designer to talk with individual actors about character and costume and to the technicians who will be building the costume. Costume renderings also sometimes function as part of the publicity materials used to promote the performance, either as clip-art that can be used in other art work like posters, or as early images for pre-publicity articles, newsletters or (at UAF) lobby showcases. Finally, renderings hold an afterlife for live performances, often being one of the few surviving documents of a live performance once it is completed.
Because my costume renderings serve all these multiple uses, they tend to have elements of caricature (for conveying to actors and directors the idea of the character as I see it) detailed working diagrams with occasional margin notes and fabric swatches (for the costume studio staff) and an overall style, with framing device and show title (for promoting the show with the public). Increasingly, my drawings are also sized and rendered in ways that aid scanning, so that they can more easily be archived and shared online.
The drawing style of each set of renderings is also varied as much as possible from show to show to help convey an overall concept of the production’s style, often being done in close imitation of a drawing style of an artist or genre which the director has indicated is the closest (in his or her mind) match to the show. Students of art history should be able to identify renderings here that are made in close imitation of illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, George Gros, Jacques Callot, Egyptian wall murals, William Steig, Tarot Cards, children’s book illustrations, and RPG fantasy art. This imitation is deliberate, and often completely indispensable when trying to make certain that the finished costumes most closely imitate the style needed for the director’s concept. While making the costumes in the studio, the garments are constantly compared to the rendering, and sometimes to the source materials, to make sure the finished product contains the same spirit as the original vision.
This does not imply that all costumes come out looking exactly like their renderings. For one thing, renderings are often made that are rejected in meetings, as in the case of the whole first set of sketches for The Bacchae (1997). The drawing for Mamka the Witch in A Russian Christmas Tale (1990) was the seventh one made for this difficult transformation costume. Costumes also routinely change when the actors playing the role change. A character interpretation that will work with one actor is rarely suitable for another. This is why the two different casts for Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1997) have completely different costumes, despite sharing a color scheme to fit with the unchanging set.
Costumes also change when practical considerations like fabric availability, actor blocking, or studio staff abilities either force compromises or invite improvements. Costume renderings are a mere step in a process of group-made art that must flow and flex with the many aesthetic and practical needs of a production, and the group of artists who come together to create it.
“I am a costumer; I make clothes for imaginary people”. For all that I work in collaboration as an artist, I think I am very solitary by nature, and spend many hours each day in invented worlds of my imagination. My chosen art allows me to take these fictitious people that run around in my head, and make them physically manifest themselves much as I imagine them. It is a curiously magical feeling at times, as though I had some sort of impossible superpower that could anatomically transform ordinary undergraduate students into radically different extraordinary beings for a few hours.
About the food hats at the reception