Miniaturist & Theatrical Designer

Darryl Audette is a Miniaturist, and Theatrical Designer living and working in Winnipeg, Canada.

Any Warhol Behind the Scenes

Andy Warhol

My project for last term’s Theatre Design class was to portray the environment that Andy Warhol inhabited, or rather how I saw it, first on paper, then in a 3-D, fully-rendered model.

It seems in North America that theatre models are as is with no lighting, because the lighting design is usually a separate element done by another highly talented designer. But in Europe, especially in the Eastern countries, the stage designer can be all-inclusive in the field of Scenography, where the Designer designs all the elements of the production.

This is what the box dioramaist is: a Scenographer in miniature, as Sheperd Paine has shown all of us for many years.

So: Where would Andy live ?

The first step as always is research.  The Internet has become the chief source of knowledge and a good starting point, but by no means the last place to look.

You can find exact locations, such as the actual street and building Warhol lived in after moving to  New York City in the early 1950s. As one of my professors mentioned, you have to “swim” in your research, moving through it, leaving the world around you, as your images develop and evolve, similar to a photograph revealing itself while immersed in developer. (That really shows my age!)

Warhol’s “Factory,” as it came to be known, is the place where Andy lived, thought, crashed, entertained, and worked, making many of his iconic illustrations and art pieces of the 20th Century. In time, the factory would become known as “the Silver Factory,” with walls lined in aluminum foil.

I chose the setting before foil was added because I felt that would be a lighting nightmare, and I wanted to show lots of different textures and light patterns in the huge N.Y. City loft without tons of unnecessary reflections.

The scale of  the model is the standard 1/4”= 1”, although the larger 1/2” would have been nicer to do, because of all the detail items I found at a local model railroad shop.

The mirrored floor was just that: a mirror cut to shape, layered with clear plastic floor planks.  This was done to still have the mirrored floor, but with a clear-planked layer to cut down on unwanted reflections from the lighting, which will be above the stage/scene.

All the walls are cut from 1/4” foamcore and covered in brick details from the train shop and wooden strips to represent moldings, window panes, sills, frames, etc. The entire model was painted with gouache and acrylic paint, with the windows being covered from behind with clear plastic, showing identical photo images of N.Y. City in the 1950s, referring to Warhol’s iconic use of repeated images. I also added a layer of intense blue to represent the sky, which has lights behind to push light through the blue gels and images.

My favorite part of the model is the lighting, which, aside from lights behind each window and stairwell, is the main lighting from overhead. I used a vintage brass lamp shade, which had hundreds of tiny holes in it that allowed the light to come though, but in tiny beams and points of light, hitting the set all over.

A few yellow and red gels were added between the brass shade and lamps to change the color of the light, combining with the blue of the windows. The set really becomes a large picture screen for “Warhol” colors to be projected on. By moving the lamp sockets around, you can direct the spots of light right where you want them.

Raised Catholic, the religion played a huge part in Andy’s life right to the end, so I wanted to add this influence/element to the scene, and came up with suspending a huge gold stone cross from overhead. This just plastic sheet construction, stone lines scribed in and covered in gold foil, then tarnished a little with paint.

All the props, posters, and flat boxes were found images reduced to scale and cut out. After lots of experimenting on their placement, they were glued in place, along with the large roll of wall-cover aluminum foil to be used later on to make the “Silver Factory.”

“Andy” sitting in front is a 1/4”-scale paper-cut out painted in acrylic Warhol colors.  The infamous shades were added later, but I’m still not sure if they should be there, as they obstruct the windows. I originally intended them to be on a dropped transparent scrim/curtain in from of the whole stage.

Just like several of my previous boxes, most of the power is 120 AC, reduced down to 12 volt and less as needed, with wires leading from the power transformer in the outer case to the inner scene, which slides in and out of the outer case with ease.

Lastly, we have the presentation frame, a double black suede matte with the opening cut in both of them to follow the floor line of the set and hide all the “back stage” supports and electrics, and crowning the mattes is a primary red frame, all very Warhol.

Projects like this can be fun and take you to place you wouldn’t normally go, but that is one of the great thrills of  box dioramas.

This project from initial drawings to final presentation took about two weeks.


Darryl Audette is a Miniaturist, and Theatrical Designer living and working in Winnipeg, Canada. My goal is to be constantly learning and I aim to experience all aspects of theatrical scenographic design from the best in the industry.

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