Monday, October 1, 2012

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s life-size rendering of Seurat painting showcases the talents of noted digital retouching artist Michael Lande

When the Chicago Shakespeare Theater put together the artistic game plan for its soon-to-open production of the Sondheim and Lapine musical “Sunday in the Park with George,” CST’s creative agency, Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide, placed a call to Chicago-based digital retouching artist Michael Lande.

The mission was intriguing: To create a unique, life-sized rendering of Georges Seurat’s famous “Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte” painting. This is one of the Art Institute of Chicago’s most prized and beloved masterpieces.

But this rendering would have a few missing elements. Some of the subjects in the original painting would have to be removed. “In this life like version, I had to make it seem as if the cast members of the play had literally leapt from the canvas onto the stage,” said Lande.  “I had to artistically take people out of the painting and replace their images with what I imagined would have been in their place.”

For Lande, conceiving and producing this work of art was an adventure that captured his imagination—and tested the enormous skill set he has developed over twenty years of working in the digital space. He was a natural choice for this project. He has built a stellar reputation for his longtime work with such major clients as Leo Burnett, P&G, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Comcast, Miller, Nintendo and Wrigley’s, to name a few. He is a CLIO award winner and a go-to artist for many projects involving photography, retouching and special effects.

“After I started working on this project,” said Lande, “I became immersed in the artistic vision of Seurat, who was a true innovator. It was Seurat’s work that inspired the term pointillism and it is Seurat who everyone thinks of when they hear that term.” Lande went so far as to find some French classical music to play while he spent hours working on the digital painting. “At some point I began feeling as if I was channeling Seurat. It was extraordinary to feel so connected to an artist, but I had to have that connection in order to make my rendering of the painting exude his master’s touch and passion.”

Lande started with a quarter-scale digital version of the original painting. He then enlarged it to life-size and digitally removed and replaced parts of the digital image to accomplish his mission. Using a Wacom Intuos 5™ pressure sensitive tablet and stylus, which allowed Lande to work as if he was holding a paint brush, he experimented with a variety of digital techniques to achieve the Seurat look. “I tried using the clone stamp tool and patch tool, among a variety of techniques, but I finally wound up painting by blocking in colors and then painting dot by dot, the same way Seurat did, using the new mixer brush tool that is available in Adobe Photoshop CS6™,” he said.

“I tried a variety of shortcuts using Photoshop tools and filters, but it was apparent that they weren’t going to produce the results that would meet Seurat’s standards, if he were alive to see them. So I re-grouped, analyzed his painting technique very closely and figured out how to do the same thing with the mixer brush tool. It was if I dipped my paintbrush, sampling colors of paint from the original painting and then dabbed the paint onto the canvas, the way Seurat did it. ”

The final rendition is printed on canvas on a 1:1 scale to the original painting. Lande has achieved remarkable accuracy in duplicating the lighting, textures and color tones that are on the original Seurat. “If you compare the original with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater version, and then see the musical, you’ll see that the missing elements are the cast members brought to life,” said Lande with a smile. “What fun!”

The rendering was on display at the Art Institute of Chicago during a preview event for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and from there, it was moved to Chicago’s Navy Pier Expo. On September 26 it will be on display in the lobby of the Shakespeare Courtyard Theater at Navy Pier, where it can be viewed during the run of “Sunday in the Park with George” which ends on November 4. After the final performance, the artwork will be auctioned off to benefit Chicago Shakespeare's arts-in-education programs.

For more information about the September 26-November 4 production of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” please visit the CST website at or call the theater box office at (312) 595-5600.
To contact digital photographic artist Michael Lande, please visit his website at He can be reached by telephone at (312) 404-1593 or by email at

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