Casey Hallas is an artist and musician born and raised in Quincy, IL and Iowa City, IA. Casey graduated with a BA in Art History from Grinnell College in 1998, where he studied New Media/Multimedia Design, focusing on digital web/audio/video production and studying film.
After College he moved to Chicago, IL to pursue a painting career, committing to the bohemian existence in the Chicago Flat Iron, immersing himself in gallery culture and music/video performance in the Wicker Park art scene during the years of 1999-2001.
From there he moved to New York City and secured a role in the Digital Imaging department at Rose Brand where he learned the new field of textile printing for Theater/Special Events/Architecture and Broadway.
In 2006 Casey returned to Pittsburgh to establish Rocking Horse Artspace and began working directly with Olle Lindqvist and Big Image Systems. Simultaneously pursuing song-writing (folk and electronic), Casey built a reputation as a video artist (VJ) within the Pittsburgh electronic music scene. He continued designing posters and logos for Lawrenceville Art All Night, Rocking Horse, live performances, and established a new music festival called R.A.N.T. with a band-mate and friend, Michael “Zombo” Divine.
Following the closure of Rocking Horse in 2009 Casey moved to Taos NM to start his painting career; spending time in Europe to help establish Big Image Systems UK with his Grinnell colleague Andy Brooks.
B.I.T.N. asks every Designer the same 6 questions in the Design Forum. I know, I know, seems pretty lazy on our part, but each designer is unique, and their individual take on the same subject can prove a fascinating peek into the mind of an artist.
Plus, it’s our blog …
Q1 – How and when did you first get into designing for the theatre?
I didn’t do it intentionally – but I’ve always aspired to be a painter and started out working in design as way to pay the bills while I worked to become a proficient artist. When I moved to New York City I got a position at Rose Brand working in the Digital Imaging department where I spent a lot of time working with production art and specifying print for Theatre. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had envisioned someday designing shows – when I was kid playing parts in musicals, I spent a lot of time with the director talking about scripts and learning about how he interpreted the work, so it comes naturally to me to deconstruct text and pull from my degree in Art History to “see” the image I’m trying to paint before I paint it. So while I’m not specifically a theatrical designer, I have seen how the historical avant-garde crossed over into theatre and always hoped I’d have a chance to do the same.
Q 2 – Who and or what are some of your inspirations?
Well, I love music and multiculturalism. I love storytelling, in song and performance. My favorite painters growing up were Jackson Pollock (abstraction really appealed to me because my mind was in a lot chaos) and later Andy Warhol – since my family was also from Pittsburgh. Picasso is a favorite along with Van Gogh, and Robert Rauschenberg. Frank Lloyd Wright really inspired me to think about personal expression in home design. More recently I’ve been studying Georgia O’keeffe and taking a liking to Grace Hartigan and the landscapes of Egon Schiele – though he’s more known for his figures. I’d say the Modern art movement is the largest source of my inspiration.
Q3 – When you design for the theatre, what is your thought process?
I draw a map. I consider the space/time of the setting, as well as how the staging moves in and out of “real-time” into fantasy – how lighting is used for that – and then try to figure out how all of these moments in space/time relate to each other in real space. The goal is considering how I can create the most scenes with the fewest number of pieces possible. I’m also focused on authenticity of the setting, how light/shadow would work within my map to render scenes at the time of day in which they take place and use backlighting affects to change time or season. I consider where perspective can be used to combine more than one scene onto a single drop – say, turning a corner – for example.
Q 4 – What, if anything, do you think technology brings to the worlds of theatre design?
This is where I hope to be innovative. Between integrating print, photography, hand-rendering and digital painting (and some other tricks I hope to demonstrate) I apply the way I paint to the scenic designs I’m working on. It’s a “whatever means necessary” approach to my paintings – that is I’m not a purest in how something needs to be rendered. I like leaving marks/strokes and accept imperfections as part of the artistry. My scenic designs will be very much like my paintings – unique to me and recognizable as such – so that you know a part of me when you experience the design – as I want you to enjoy my vision as a communion with my artistry. I’ll be trying a lot new techniques but the most important aspect of technology is the digital photography medium and sampling to create the basis for a design, and then using the computer as an extension of my hand. I won’t be 3D rendering or painting exclusively digitally because I like the texture of the painting medium and want my scenery to reflect the reality of “making” something.
Q 5 – What advice would you give to aspiring theatre designers?
Consider the print medium and learn about the materials available. This will help you design around what’s possible.
To see more of Casey Hallas’ work or to contact him for design services click on the links below.