Every year at this time I am asked by the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society to create a new poster for their upcoming June production. I really love the characters in G&S operettas, there’s always a lot of sly British comedy running through them; and to my mind, Victorian clothing has got to be the most elegant and also character-descriptive in the history of fashion. People really knew how to dress then!
This year’s show for Bucks G&S is Trial by Jury and More! It’s a three-part combination: the short operetta Trial by Jury by Gilbert & Sullivan, another short three-person musical, Cox and Box by Burnand & Sullivan; and a review of some of the best songs and overtures from several other G&S favorite shows.
I’ve seen Trial by Jury performed years ago, but I refreshed my memory and also listened to the music of Cox and Box, both through Youtube videos. In Trial by Jury there is a pretty bride who has been jilted by her fiance, and she appeals to a judge to punish the cad; in the end the judge fancies the bride enough to marry her himself. Cox and Box are two comic characters who are rented the same flat by a cagey landlord; but since Cox, a hatter, works during the day and Box, a printer, works all night, they never run into each other in the room – until they catch evidence of one another and have it out. Both these short operettas have witty dialogue and downright amazing patter songs.
I started with a sketch of the infatuated judge and the sweetly singing bride in front of the bench, with Cox & Bos peeking suspiciously out the sides.
After looking at photos of the Old Bailey in London, I made the bench higher, which gave a little space between the characters and some more room for the title.
I usually do a color sketch, but since most of the colors in the image were preordained – white bride’s gown, black judges’ robe, brown court bench – I went directly to painting the finish. Here are a few details, and then the finished art dropped it in on the poster.