Graphic Facelift for an Old Art Technique

cate pratoI have been trying to follow some of my advice lately and ridding my studio of some of the art and craft supplies I no longer use.

Make that never used.

Country-style ribbon and checkerboard stencils, I'm talking to you. You, too, mauve and Williamsburg blue paints.

So out they went. Phew, what a relief.

Experiments in graphic stenciling.

But no sooner had they hit the trash can than I was seduced by a new kind of stencil. The bold, graffiti-style stencil that makes a statement and doesn't require register marks. Yes, the stencil is back, and it's modern again.

Apparently I shouldn't be surprised. According to artist Linda Blinn, use of stencils in artwork can be traced back to ancient Greece. More recently, their use in street graffiti has worked its way into the mixed-media and home décor areas of art. The approach is freer, fresher. More "in your face" and less "in your parlor."

So, banish any thought of the stencil as faux Colonial décor and simply look at it as "a shape you put color through," says Linda. Then start playing.

So I did. At home I grabbed a drab-looking muslin curtain panel, some lace doilies that hadn't sold in a recent yard sale, some plastic stencils from Crafter's Workshop, and spray paints and inks. Then I went outside, put down a drop cloth, and had some fun. I just messed around, looking to see what kinds of effects I might achieve.

By flipping the sprayed plastic stencil over and using it as a stamp, it created
a rust effect.

In her Workshop video, "Make it Graphic: Stencils, Silhouettes, and More," Linda shows how you can obtain different effects by either spraying over the edge of a stencil or by masking off the edges; by using a bold stencil or one with delicate lines; and by spraying on top of a stencil and then flipping it and brayering over it to "stamp" with the positive side. When I was using an orangey ink and a plastic stencil, I noticed that the last technique gave me the look of rust dyeing, which I loved.

I had less success with using a paint or ink dauber to go through the stencil. It could be the fabric, or it could be because I didn't follow Linda's directions for taping down the stencils and daubing from the outside in. In any case, I ended up with some reddish blobs. But no worries! I laid another plastic stencil over the area and sprayed with black paint to disguise it, another trick I learned from watching Linda's video.

I wasn't trying to "make" something, just experiment and play. But I'm still happy with my results. I like the way the sample still has vintage, feminine feel, which is my usual style, yet it looks fresher and has a little edge.

I call this "Feminine with an Edge."

I learned a lot about the basics, and the fabric I created should make great backgrounds for artist trading cards and so on. Or maybe I'll keep layering over this "sample" with some other colors and handmade stencils.

"Make it Graphic: Stencils, Silhouettes, and More" shows you a way to use stencils and found objects to design in a new way using a classic technique. It's fun, easy, and the materials are inexpensive. What could be better?

P.S. What do you do to give your art an edge? Have you tried stenciling with spray paints? There are some very cool stencils and art sprays available now. What have you used? Don't keep it to yourself! Share below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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