top of page
  • Writer's pictureLaurie Swigart

SHLEPTICHKA LIVES! (Or, Using a Featherduster to Paint)

By Gerry Patt, Jr., Salisbury University

For centuries, scenic artists have found traditional tools of painting such as brushes and rollers quite inadequate in creating deeper and more interesting textures. Our search for a better painting tool, to realize our vision, has taken us to the strangest places and caused the most peculiar behavior. When ordinary paint brushes would not do, we ties them, taped them, and cut their hair. We resorted to sponges of all sized, sorts, and shapes – from natural to man-made, round, oblong, and square. We have used rags indescribable, ops

and push brooms, metal and plastic combs, sand, gravel, foam, burlap, feathers, and bamboo.

Just when we thought we had exhausted techniques and tools to suit our painter’s sprite, we discovered flogging of the flat – not to punish but to beautify. To this end, we tied strips of muslin to a stick and slapped it on the surface to create wide ranges of color and contrast.

By far the strangest painting tool to date comes not from a paint store, fabric store, or even the hardware store. Amazingly, it is found in the janitorial supply area! Thought to be a distant relative of the 15th century feather fan, the feather duster becomes a versatile instrument of painting in the hands of a creative scenic artist.

In combination with other scene painting techniques such as spattering and scumbling, the application of the feather duster (called schleptichka) is very effective in creating interesting and deep textures. The basic three-value scheme (base, light and dark) illustrated here serves well for a basic texture and for giving a nice deep base to wallpaper, stone, and stucco.


Step 1. Starting from a neutral prime coat, do a random scumble of the entire surface with the three colors

Step 2. Dip the feather duster in the paint, beginning with the darkest value.

Step 3. Holding the duster vertically, by the end of the handle, apply it a couple of times to a pallet or scrap of 1/4” plywood, to remove excess paint.

Step 4. Again holding the duster vertically by the end of the handle, and using a twisting motion with your wrist, apply at random to the flat. Do not push down too hard, or you’ll get a blob.

Step 5. After you have a fairly even coverage with the darkest value, repeat with the other two values of the hue.

Step 6. Spatter evenly with the lightest and darkest values.

Voila! A great texture which can be used as-is for a stucco effect, embellished with a stenciled wallpaper pattern, sponged and mortared for stone, or used in any way your imagination inspires

Feather dusters come in many sizes and tupes. I have used turkey, chicken, ostrick, and combinations. In my experience, the best ones of made of long ostrich feather alone or in combination with Asian chicken feathers. These dusters are not always each to locate. Here is the address of a good company:

Texas Feathers

dba TxF Products

2702 Morris Sheppard Drive

Brownwood, TX 76804.

The website URL is:

Also, check with your favorite theatrical supply house to see if they have added

these great products.

96 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Question: I need to make a window about 5 feet tall by 8 feet wide and was wondering what I should use as the window pane. Just like everyone else, we have a very tight budget. Answer: Do you really n


Burlap or a rough canvas work well for texture as does old hemp rope if twisted apart and used near the base as roots and what not. --- Chicken wire covered with muslin stiffened with starch. Keep it


By Erin Viker, STAGE DIRECTIONS, February 2004 Small professional theater companies and up-and-coming civic theaters eventually reach the point where a few painted flats onstage no longer adequately s


bottom of page