Celebrate 'Put a Bird on It' Month in Mixed-Media Art

It's May 1! Where I live, that means birds are singing, nesting, and flying.

mixed media birdhouse
My mixed-media birdhouse: I put a bird on it!

Where I work, though, birds are everywhere, all year round. That's because birds are a popular theme in art, and a lot of fiber and mixed-media artists seem to like to "put a bird on it."

In fact, so many artists use bird motifs that IFC Portlandia made a video mocking the flock to bird motifs, and it quickly went viral.

We here at Cloth Paper Scissors Today are definitely in on the joke; it does seem like every other collage, assemblage, painting, and piece of mixed-media art has a bird on it. But you know what? A lot of the staff and our contributing artists also like to put a bird on it. We like birds!

So, hey, we thought we'd just go with the flow and celebrate the theme with a Put a Bird on It issue of the magazine (May/June 2013) and a month-long celebration online.

Our PABOI festivities will include giveaways, video, a Pinterest contest, and a bird-themed 12 hours of free how-tos and downloads on Facebook. And we'll be tweeting daily, of course.

how to make your own stencil for mixed media
Trace the bird onto the stencil material.
how to make your own stencil for mixed media
Cut out the stencil with a craft knife.
how to make your own stencil for mixed media
The finished bird stencil.

To get the bird party started, I'm going to show you how easy it is to Put a Bird on It with your own stencil.

You can make a stencil out of heavy paper like cardstock or poster board, which is good for a few uses before it breaks down. If you want a more durable stencil, try Mylar®, acetate (like a clear report cover), or frisket film (a clear film with a slightly sticky backing, which is good for flat and rounded surfaces).

For my stencil, I used Grafix® Dura-LarTM film, because I had a sample and wanted to see how it worked. Dura-Lar is a translucent, erasable polyester film that doesn't tear, so it's perfect for stencil making.

The process of making a stencil for mixed-media or collage art couldn't be easier:

1. If you're using an opaque material for the stencil, you can freehand draw your bird onto the substrate. Or trace a simple bird shape onto tracing paper and transfer the shape onto the stencil material (e.g. cut out the traced shape and draw around it). Because I could see through my stencil material, I simply traced a bird with a permanent black pen.

2. Cut out your stencil. Depending on your material, you can use scissors or a craft knife. The Dura-Lar film is light but very strong, so I used a craft knife first and a small pair of very sharp craft scissors to smooth out any rough edges. (Be sure to save the cut-out positive part of the stencil to use later as a mask.)

Tip: If you're using a knife, you may want to use painter's tap to tack the stencil to the cutting surface to hold it in place. Alternatively, you may find it easier to cut if you move the stencil rather than the knife. Your preference may depend on the shape you're cutting. Experiment to see what works best for you.

That's all there is to it! Now I'm ready to Put a Bird on It everywhere, all the time!

To learn more about how to use layering, painting, and other mixed-media techniques in collage and art journaling, be sure to check out our incredible Exploring Collage Starter Kit, available for a limited time.

P.S. Do you like to Put a Bird on It? Or do you think that's for the birds? Leave your comment below!

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