page to stage

Posted by on Mar 21, 2015 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company, Slider | 2 comments

I’m privileged to work with Portland Stage, creating posters over the last five seasons for their locally made productions. It’s a creative challenge with the best perk: seeing the great theater they put on stage.

Two of my posters flank the entrance on Forest Avenue, connected by a red color scheme.



Last week we saw The Whipping Man, and I only regret we didn’t go sooner. It was by far one of the most powerful plays I’ve seen. Of course, I knew what was coming, as I read the scripts before doing anything else. The play by Matthew Lopez unfolds directly after the Civil War has been won, and a wounded Confederate soldier opens the scene by collapsing in the shambles of his family’s mansion, inhabited by two former slaves. The set design by Brittany Vasta was spectacular, and the eery play of lightning and thunder against the backdrop added a truly unsettling quality, down to the bone.

So much happens on so many levels, it was difficult to capture in a few strokes. These were a couple of my rough ideas, back in July when posters for the entire season were taking shape, and a circular format was in place.


This is the more graphic direction that was chosen.


The circular format was shelved in the end.


It never ceases to amaze me, seeing the final production with incredible actors giving voice to words on a page. What this band of makers brings to life on stage, right here!

Before doing any sketching last summer for the poster for the upcoming Red, I asked Marty to model in the backyard.


The action is in the studio of Mark Rothko, an abstract expressionist painter famous for his large fields of color. Tension arises between Rothko and a new studio assistant. I wanted to use his shadow as a visual device, rather than show two figures.

I grew up at the Red Doors Motel in New Hampshire; is it any surprise we have red doors on our old house in Maine?


Creating my own references helped this sketch come together.

8red-roughAnother idea involved a vinyl record, as Rothko plays very specific music while he works. It felt like a good choice, given the circular format at the time. But it wasn’t chosen.


I was in heaven using shades of brilliant red pastels for the final.


I just visited the Rothko Harvard Murals, during a field trip with my MECA students. One gallery has several digital projectors casting calibrated color over the faded murals, to recreate the original environment Rothko intended, the latest in non-invasive conservation.

Red opens this week, I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, I’m back at the drawing board feverishly working on the last of 7 poster ideas for the new 2015/16 season. This Monday, March 23 at 5:30, PSC will launch their new season. Rumor has it they will also feature some views of my studio/island habitat. It’s free and open to the public, so come celebrate with Portland Stage!


  1. Jamie, wonderful, interesting and colorful post. I loved your explanations of the transitions in your thinking and work along the way. Good luck with the rest of the project. Please keep us posted! Steve

  2. Dear Jamie
    I just love following your excursions into the final choice for your artwork commissions. You have allowed us to do so for a long time, and for that I thank you. Your poster for The Whipping Man is both arresting and gripping. It tells the story without any words. Kudos to you!

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