‘On The Buses’ was always a good show to work on. After contacting
Steve he thought it might be an idea if I explained the role of Scenic Painters and other members of the crew and what we
actually did in order to prepare the studio and scenery for transmission
help if I explain how a scenic painter differs from a conventional decorator:
a scenic painter is a trained professional decorator who, when he or she goes into TV or Film has to learn other skills.
I think the best way to describe the work that a scenic painter does is that his remit is between a scenic artist and a decorator.
The scenic painter may have to paint paving stones outside the door of the set, make new items
look old and old things look new The one thing that was guaranteed to make a new scenic painter question what kind of world
he had walked into, was to get him to completely wallpaper a set, then age it down and make it look complete tatty and old.
The scenic painter is responsible for the completed decorative effects on the screen.
day of the build for Buses would start with the painters getting a drawing from the designer from whom we would get all our
instructions and information where the sets would be placed on the studio floor. Bearing in mind that the living room
could be in one place and the bathroom somewhere else. An illustration of this could be clearly seen in the episode
‘Olive Gets Divorced’, the main living room set had painted floorboards. The kitchen painted tiles, the
bedroom, club, canteen had painted floors. It was the painters job to mark out and paint the floors accordingly
and this was done from the drawing provided by the Set Designer. The reason the we painted the floors was because the
studio at Wembley only had black floors. It also gave the Lighting Department some help.
living room of the house had floor boards painted. The paint was a special paint that would be washed off by the night cleaners
after the show. Any rooms that had tiles on the floor were either painted using a pad to the size of the tile
i.e. bathrooms tiles could be small and hallway tiles could be slightly bigger. We also used vinyl low stick fablon to great
effect. The reason we used low tack was because it had to come off before the next show and also so that it did not damage
the studio floor.
When the bus garage set was required in the studio we would have to paint the studio floor to replicate
the garage where the buses have come from. Just a point on the bus, when it came in to the studio it had minimum fuel in order
to minimise the fire risk.
The sets were stored on barrows and brought from
the scenery store to the studio for the build. As soon as the carpenters had built the sets and stage hands had finished
their work the painters would go in and work on them bearing in mind the set could be in a dozen different pieces so
it was the painters job to make the set look like it was permanent and not taken apart.
The schedule for the build of the Buses went some thing like this:
PAINTERS PAINT FLOORS
0830 LIGHTING RIG
0930 STAGE HANDS and CARPENTERS Commence Build
1030 SET PROPS
Sound and cameras would come in the afternoon after outside rehearsals.
The painters would work on each set as it went up, repairing any damage and dealing with all changes
that the Designer required. Continuity was a very important part of our work - things had to look the same every week The
window panes were made of Perspex and the reason for that was safety, because of the amount of movement every week they
were bound to have got damaged and, of course, the windows were safer to transport. Something the viewer may not have noticed
was that some of the windows were made opaque. This was for various reasons: one to stop you seeing through, the other
to stop reflections from the studio. This was done by either applying tracing paper on the back or applying a mixture
of paste and glaze. We had to be very aware of our audience, after all, a few million people were going to be looking
at our work and, to be fair, I think the boys took a lot of pride in what they achieved. I say ‘boys’ because
in those days no women were employed in construction or set painting. It has all changed now!
If the bus was in the studio the painters would have to do what we call ‘dress the bus’
which would entail putting the correct signs on the bus. Once again we would use signs that our sign writer had
prepared earlier and we would cover the original bus signage with our own signage i.e. Luxton District, as require by
the script. These would be put on using Vaseline on the bus so that they would come off easy and not damage the paintwork
on the bus. We did not want to get a bill for respraying a bus! We would have to make the bus look like it has
been on the road for a while and this was done using special wash off paint plus Fullers Earth. We even had to
paint scratches and muddy the wheel arches and this was all done using the special paint. It all had to be washed off
after the show and before the bus went back to the garage . We would even have to create oil patches on the studio floor to
make it look like the real thing. The build day was always a busy one. Just a note on the paint that we used - it was
always watercolour and fireproof.