Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA)

Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) is a Gold Medal award-winning organization, known nationwide for its excellence in parks and recreation management. FCPA manages more than 22,000 acres of park land, nine RECenters, eight golf courses, nature centers, historic sites, lakefront and community parks, and more. It’s no surprise, that with so much land and facilities, it relies on a dedicated corps of thousands of volunteers to provide a wide variety of services. Every year, the Elly Doyle Awards program honors some of the most outstanding volunteers who have distinguished themselves in service to the FCPA.

The award ceremony is a festive event! The organizers begin with a clever theme idea : a pun celebrating Parks and the value of Volunteerism. Some past events have included a jungle scene with the slogan “Go Wild for Parks!”, and a 1960’s “hippie” theme with the slogan “Volunteers are Groovy!” ….

As plans for the 2013 ceremony get under way, I meet with Sousan Frankeberger, Mona Enquist-Johnston, and Debbie Lodato in my studio.

They decide the theme for the event this year will be, “Volunteers are Ozsome !” …

It is a fitting theme because 2013 is the 75th anniversary of the “Wizard of Oz”. Since this event has a tight budget, I begin by pulling everything I have that could be remotely connected to the theme idea. I pull out farm-related stuff to represent the “Kansas” side of the story: rail fencing, barrels, a wagon wheel, faux straw bales, an old metal bucket and watering can. I also happen to have a black and white “Tornado” scene and some cardboard cut out figures of the Wizard of Oz characters. These elements will serve well as secondary décor; perfect for a photo-op area. But we figure we’ll need something more substantial for the main stage area. We decide that I will design and paint a new backdrop for Emerald City. To complete the overall décor package, Mona volunteers to come up with some creative table-top centerpieces.

The next stage is to do some research. This is a little tricky because I want to come up with a unique “Emerald City” … yet it has to look like the Emerald City that everyone knows. I want to come up with my own composition – I can’t just copy someone else’s design. But the attendees have to look at the backdrop and recognize immediately that they are looking at a scene from the ”Wizard of Oz”.

My first sketches are just doodles:

I begin with the cliché elements: Emerald City and a sunny blue sky with fluffy clouds and the mandatory rainbow. The yellow brick road appears, then disappears and re-appears as it meanders over rolling hills. For the second sketch, I add trees on both sides as a framing device. The trees represent those creepy, old trees that throw apples at Dorothy and her friends. I like the trees so I expand that area for the third sketch. Then, I change the position of the yellow brick road – so it curves into the composition, disappears, then re-appears as it curves into Emerald City. Before moving forward, I want to think a little more about what those gnarly old trees will look like:

I decide to work this design up to a layout:

We are planning for a 24’ stage so I put the design in scale for a 10’ by 24’ backdrop.

Okay…. Time to start painting:
I’ll block in the sky first – so, I mix a sequence of colors for the bright blue sky. Whenever I mix color sequences, I usually do it in groupings of nine tones. That seems to be the right number of steps for me to get from my lightest tone to the darkest tone. It takes me a few hours to get the sky blocked in.

The sky helps me establish the range of values. The next thing I want to do is to cover a lot of square footage – so, I tackle the grass and rolling hill areas:

The grassy area in the foreground transitions to the Forest/Tree area, so, I use more earthy colors for the ground.

For the trees, I mix a sequence of greys alternating warm and cool shades. I also weave in earth tones: ochres, siennas, and greens along with the bright blue from the sky colors.

So, the sky, grass areas and the trees are the more neutral and dull shades of the composition. Now I’m ready to create a different type of contrast by introducing the brighter and more chromatic colors in Emerald City, the yellow brick road and the rainbow:

I drop in the rainbow using an airbrush: I want the effect to be soft, translucent and with feathered edges.

Here are some photos of how it all came together at the event:

As the guests arrive, they have their photos taken in front of this display.

…. And this is how the main stage turned out:

If you’d like to know more about Fairfax County Park Authority and the Elly Doyle Awards; visit their website at: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks

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