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November 6, 2015

Staff Profile: Duncan Johnstone – Head Scenic Artist

How long have you worked at the Young Centre and tell us a little bit about what your job consists of lately.
I have been working at the Young/Soulpepper 5 years and three of these as the Head of Scenic Art. Prior to being with Soulpepper I worked at the Stratford Festival for six seasons and before that in film and television.

The past four shows have varied considerably; the designs were all over the map. On the Baillie stage in Victoria Wallace’s design for The Play is the Thing Paul Boddum (scenic painter) and I started off by painting a parquet floor witch was quite involved, it was like painting three different wood grained floors in one. The show also had a lot of ornate gold trim work and a large gilded looking frame, which we made with plastic bits and bobs from the dollar store and some penne pasta, then painted it all gold. The show that repped with this was Marat/Sade designed by Lorenzo Savoini which was the polar opposite; concrete, grunge and rust. On the Young stage again two completely different designs; Happy Place had clean lines and was so eloquent, this was juxtaposed with Glen Charles Landry’s organized chaos of a car crash with rusty car parts and broken windshields witch we achieved with hot glue from a glue gun.

What artistic projects have you been involved in outside of work?
I also work outside of Soulpepper occasionally. I’ve worked on:
• George Brown Theatre School, Head Scenic Painter, 2-3 shows per season – 2013-Present
• Toronto Centre for the Arts, Head Scenic Painter – Driving Miss Daisy – 2015
• Crow’s Theatre/Canadian Stage, Head Scenic Painter – The Seagull – 2015
• nightswimming, Head Scenic Painter – Fish Eyes – 2014
• Adelheid Dance Projects, Drop Painter – Elsewhere – 2014
• Canadian Stage, Head Scenic Painter – Dream in High Park – 2013
• Opera Atelier, Drop Painter – Der Freischutz (The Marksman) – 2012
• Canadian Opera Company, Scenic Painter – Aug 2012
• The Royal Conservatory of Music, Drop Painter – Nov-Dec 2011
• Stratford Festival of Canada, Scenic Painter – 2003-2009
• Partners Film/Mood Design, Head Scenic Painter, Carpentry, Props, Set Deck – 2001-2003
• Hot Sets Film Scenic Painter – 1999-2003

I am also a visual artist and have been showing and represented by Alison Skinner at the Distill Gallery for over ten years. My web page is:

When you’re not at work, what are you doing?
When I’m not at work I’m usually hanging out with my partner, my dog and my two kids: Ada, my daughter, who is 14 and my son Emmett who is 12. Hiking, cycling, gardening and cooking are a big part of my life, and of course painting.

What is something we would be surprised to know about you/what is a hidden talent?
Hidden Talents………. Hm? I wish I could say something like I can burp the alphabet but I can’t. I grew up in Rossland BC and spent most of my youth ski racing downhill and X-country, mountain bike racing, X-country running and Rock Climbing. I then moved to Vancouver and attended Art School at Emily Carr University of Art & Design and planted trees in the summers to help pay my way through school.

What do you love about working at Soulpepper?
My favourite thing about working at Soulpepper is the diverse and supper talented people that are working in every department of the organization. I also really enjoy the smell of our neighbors SOMA Chocolate which somehow manages to work its way through the wall and right into the scenic shop on a regular basis