An in depth conversation with our Artist-In-Residence, Andrew Criss & the inspiration behind his vivid oceanic creations for our fall fringe production...The Sea Voyage!
PAC’s first show of this season started with a figurative and literal bang! From gunshots to sword fights, love triangles and romantic reunions, Fletcher & Massinger’s The Sea Voyage directed by Dan Hodge was a vibrant and bold work of art and the same has been said about the artwork created by fellow cast mate and PAC’s Artist in Resident for the season, Andrew Criss. Audience members and readers alike may be shocked to find out the actor playing the charismatic, brawny authoritative sailor known as “Tibalt” had another talent up his nautically stripped muscle clad sleeve; he is also the genius behind all the vibrant artwork and character portraits created for PAC’s fringe production; The Sea Voyage.
The Artist in residency program allows collaboration between performance art and other art mediums and provides a space for various artists to find inspiration in a particular PAC production and create their own art in alliance with the show’s themes and aesthetics. As an Artist in Residence, Andrew Criss designs all visual art and graphics for the fall and spring production for PAC’s 2019-20 season.
One of Andrew Criss’s side jobs in his 20s was as an illustrator in graphic design. His first introduction to print media came around while attending school in Austin, where he quickly became enthralled with the play posters he’d seen for a small theatre company. He wanted to create play posters that were as popular “ the music venue posters [and] cool enough that people would want to tear them down and collect them and keep them”. Traditionally an oil painter with more experience in portraits and landscapes, Criss missed out on the “storytelling aspect” that his past work , in creating theatre posters for shows provided and his excitement in going back to print media combined with painting is evidently presented in his work.
“It was kind of a perfect amalgam of my interest in design and performing and visual art...that ability to weave storytelling into the painting as well which was particularly appealing to me”
- Andrew Criss
The 3-d miniature ship, uniquely shaped moon and boldly colored waters in Criss’s image shown above dazzle the eye and seem to invoke the feeling of swaying or constant motion, that make the image feel fresh and alive but also invoke a feeling of nostalgia in it’s viewer. Andrew Criss’s artistic style for The Sea Voyage was inspired by classic illustrations from the golden age of illustration and is a nod to that, Criss looked at two acclaimed storybook illustrators in particular, N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle. Howard Pyle is of particular interest to Andrew Criss as Pyle is from Brandywine Valley, Delaware where Criss currently lives. Criss also used “hand applied” materials (oil painting etc) in the beginning construction of his illustrations.
“Howard Pyle is the person who gave us what we think pirates look like. He illustrated Treasure Island and he’s the one who sort of gave us the “hodge-podge” costume, sash on the head, random mis-match clothes. That was really his visual invention and then N.C. Wyeth continued that tradition with some of his illustrations as well”- Andrew Criss
“An attack on A Galleon” - oil canvas by Howard Pyle
Along with creating the image for The Sea Voyage also created portraits for each character based on each actor cast in the role in the show. These eleven portraits were also created in a similar style as the graphic created for the show. Andrew Criss’s idea to incorporate a “meet the cast” component to his vision for the artistic media for The Sea Voyage was extremely unique, and a refreshing take on allowing the cast faces to be a part of the storytelling as well.
“When you do a portrait you really study the person... get to know them and you're also telling the story of their character, so it's a great way to begin character research as well, as well as study the play and think how can I tell the story of this play... the graphics are the first introduction to the play, so that poster that advertisement that postcard, is the very first thing that the audience might see, especially if they don’t know the play, it's one of the first impressions of the play that they have, so there's an important responsibility" - Andrew Criss
You can look forward to more of Andrew Criss’s work that was created for our currently postponed production of Strindberg’s The Dance of Death directed by Damon Bonetti, and check back in to see what inspired his creations for this tumultuous dark drama!
Thanks for reading the PAC blog, where we share what's happening behind the scenes, what we're thinking about this week, and what classic stories are inspiring us right now.