The Binding Medium – Extra Strong Size

“The medium for binding distemper is known as “size,” or sizing.  For making it, gelatine is preferred, although the best grade of White Cabinet Glue answers very well and is most commonly used.  Drop four or five pounds into the cauldron, cover it with water, and fill the water vessel two-thirds full of water.  Apply the heat, and when the glue is melted you will have extra strong size.  One dipper full of strong size with four dippers of clear hot water will produce working size.” Excerpt from Frank Atkinson’s “Scene Painting and Bulletin Art” (1916, page 154).

Advice from Wendy: My glue supplier is Bjorn Industries out of North Carolina.  I have discussed my need for animal glue during restoration projects with their chemist and we decided on their product HC351.  Rabbit skin glue is my second favorite to work with as an alternative. Also, NEVER put size water in plastic – only metal or glass.  Also, do not seal the jar, cover loosely.  Otherwise, you create your own little science experiment, allowing the glue to begin a rotting process.


Profile Cuts on Netting

“Profile Cuts on Netting” (Frank Atkinson, Scene Painting and Bulletin Art, 1916, page 194)

“Wings with much profile are very expensive, and it is difficult to join them to the borders, since they must be painted separately; so, in place of them, we render wings and border complete on a full-sized stretch, and when finished we take a sharp knife and cut out the entire creation and all of the openings found inside the principle outline in a most elaborate manner. The center of the stretch is, of course, wasted, and can be used for for covering small set pieces in other productions.”

Below is a picture from the Winona Scottish Rite netted leg drop for the Rebuilding of the Temple scene (16th degree design by Sosman & Landis Studio of Chicago). Obviously, the individual in charge of cutting for netting missed a section. This image always makes me smile as using bright orange to make the “X” identifiable didn’t work!


Lemon Yellow

“Lemon Yellow: a beautiful, light, vivid color; in body and opacity nearly equal to Naples Yellow, but much purer and more lucid in color and tint, and at the same time not liable to change by damp, sulphurous, or impure air, or by the action of light, or by steel palette knife, or by mixture with white lead, zinc, or other pigments; this makes it a valuable addition to the palette.  It is principally adapted to high lights and produces agreeable effects when glazed over green.”

From ScenePainting and Bulletin Art by Frank Atkinson, 1916, page 18




Yellow Ochre is “King of the Palette”

“Non-poisonous colors are colors which work agreeably in all admixtures with other colors, with true affinity.

Yellow Ochre: ‘King of the Palette’; good everywhere that one may chose to use it; it is indispensable in ‘carnations’ of flesh tints; absolutely non-poisonous; can be mixed with any color on the palette; quite opaque; permanent; dries fast.”

Excerpt from Frank Atkinson’s Scene Painting and Bulletin Art (1916, page 16-18)


Poisonous Colors

“A poisonous color is a color that materially changes itself, after a short lapse of time attacks neighboring colors and alters them. When this action takes place it is termed “poison” in artists’ vernacular, and the result is a “false note” in the “poisoned area.” Excerpt from Frank Atkinson’s 1916 book, Scene Painting and Bulletin Art (page 20)
Chrome Green – deep, medium, and light: Very poisonous and not in favor.”
Colored rendering and detail from Twin City Scenic Co. Collection, box 2 (University of Minnesota Libraries – Performing Arts Archives, scenery collections).