Stencils – How to Make Your Own

 

 

Art Journal Page; Spray Ink; Pen and Ink;
                 “Go Gently” ©2016 Tracey Hewitt Art Journal Page with hand cut stencils

Stencil Love

During art journal classes, the one thing that everyone seems to have great fun with is stencils.  Spraying ink over stencils, and rubbing back paint through stencils is one of the first lessons I teach in art journal class. It’s quick, easy, effective and seems to unleash our inner child faster than anything.

There are endless suppliers of ready-made stencils – just Google ‘stencils’  and you could disappear for a week checking them all out, and still not have exhausted the possibilities. But, for artwork that is uniquely yours, with the fun level only stencils can provide, cutting your own is the way to go.

 

handcut stencils made by drawing the stencil design onto copy paper, laminating and cutting design with a stanley knife
Hand cut Stencils

 

 I’ve tried all sorts of material to cut stencils from, some more successful than others. Template plastic (a refugee from my patchwork days) worked well, but was murder on the fingers to cut, and so hard to get a knife through, crisp detail was hard to achieve. Manila folders work OK for one or two uses. Much easier to cut, but once they’re wet with ink or paint, the light cardboard buckles and tends to fall apart pretty quickly.

Enter laminated copy paper! I guess I must have been doing a bunch of laminating for something, and I wondered if maybe this might work well? Turns out it does. I’m not sure how long these will last, I suspect that ultimately the laminate may let go, but they’ve survived one round of art journal classes in tact, so I’m feeling hopeful.

 

How It’s Done

Grab a sheet of ordinary copy paper

Draw your design – make it simple, and remember that you need to leave some ‘veins’ or connecting pieces, or you’ll just end up with one big hole. A series of simple shapes – squares, triangles, circles – repeated many times are some of the most effective stencils you can use.

Whack the sheet with your hand drawn design through the laminator. I’m lucky to have one here in my office. If you are seriously deprived and don’t own one, try an office supply store or perhaps your local school or printing works. They’ll probably have a small charge, but it will be pittance compared to buying ready-made stencils.

Grab a Stanley knife, self-healing mat and a cuppa (probably not a wine – though I have done that, and the stencil and I lived to tell the tale) and settle in to cut out all the little pieces of your design. Remember – you need to leave little ‘bridges’ in more intricate designs.

Give your fingers a bit of a massage. While the laminated sheet is much easier to cut through than some stencil material, by the time you carefully cut out all the bits, you’ll still be a little tender in the digits

Pull out the spray inks and paints and get cracking on experimenting with your new hand cut stencil, by laying the stencil down over your page which has a bit of background colour on it, and spraying some ink over the stencil onto the page. Carefully lift off the stencil, and Viola! (Have a spare sheet or journal handy to mop up the ink from the stencil after you remove it)

 

 

A Mask is a Stencil in Reverse

 

Art Journal Page with spray ink
Payton and Pa Mask

 

Silhouettes make great stencils, too. As well as eliminating the anxiety about leaving little bridges and connecting bits, if you are careful as you cut, you will end up not only with a stencil, but also the piece you cut out ever so carefully, which can be used a mask. For this one of Payton and Pa, I printed a photo onto copy paper, laminated it and cut out around the outline, yielding a positive and negative image. A stencil and a mask. Lay the mask (the cutout piece) over a page with a background already laid down, spritz spray ink over the mask, carefully lift the mask off, and there you have it – Payton’s first horse ride with her Pa frozen in time, and spray ink!

There’s a bunch of ways you can incorporate stencils into your creations… this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. You can give yourself a little detective challenge and see if you can spot where I’ve used stencils on the works in the Art Journal Pages Gallery. Or, have some fun in an Art Journaling Workshop with me!

 

 

 

 

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Art Journaling 101 – an introduction.

 

Art Journals; artwork;art journaling, watercolour; artist; sketchbook

People often ask “What is art journaling?” Good question! I do my best to explain, but sometimes it’s easier to show you.

First you need a journal

 

Art Journal Stack, art journaling

Let’s start with the journal. You can use anything! This pile represents a fraction of the sketchbooks and journals I have accumulated – collecting journals and art supplies is my guilty pleasure! An assortment of paper types, sizes, page counts and constructions, there’s something I love about each of them. My favourites though will lie flat on the bench when opened to work in, and have a weighty paper that can withstand wet media (like watercolour, spray inks and paint). Other features that rate high for appeal are pockets in the covers – you never know what bits of flotsam and jetsam you might find to keep for addition to your journal ‘later’ – page marker ribbons, and elastic bands to keep the book from flying open as it expands from the inevitable addition of collage and tape and ephemera.

What goes in the journal?

 

Art Journal spread, art journaling

The real fun begins when you start to do stuff in the journals! What goes into them? Anything at all! I tend to describe art journaling as the intersection of keeping a written diary with keeping a sketchbook. There are journals like this one with a bit of writing and reflection for each day, and some colour and sketching or scribbling – playing, really. This particular spread is in a cheap visual art diary. The paper is pretty flimsy, so there’s a coat of gesso on the paper to give it a bit more substance, followed by collaged papers, washi tape hand carved stamps, water soluble pencil and watercolour paint.

 

Sketchbook doodles, art journaling

 

Then there are the more ‘traditional’ artist sketchbooks where reference sketches are made, and ideas are given a trial run before the detail is worked into a final piece. These snazzy arrows to mark North were explorations before committing the compass direction to a map created in a collaborative artists book.

Art Journal Page, art journaling

My favourite art journal is one where I experiment with ideas and media. Sometimes these pages end up a muddy mess, and that’s OK, because the purpose of it is to explore, to see what works and what doesn’t, and it’s this absence of pressure to produce something ‘worthy’ that is the best part of all. My brain knows I’m just mucking around, so it’s low stakes and no expectation.

The spread above is a great example. I’d been mucking around with spray inks and stencils, and the page was pretty ‘blah’. I had been reading about using indian ink in an aqua brush, and this ugly page was a very safe place to try that out – it couldn’t get any worse! The face happened with the inky brush,  a bit of extra colour popped into the eyes, mouth and hair with coloured pencil and a white Sharpie marker, and although she has a somewhat alien complexion, there’s something kinda cool about it.

That sense of freedom to play and explore because there is no pressure for a dazzling outcome is what makes me believe that art journaling is a wonderful way for anyone to begin to dabble in something creative, to learn a few techniques, to follow your imagination and let the hidden parts of yourself surface and come up for air in safety. Don’t ask me what hidden part of myself came up for air with a green eyed, green faced martian lady… reminds me a little of Salvador Dali’s Mum who said after looking at his paintings “I don’t know what what in his head, but I’m glad he got it out”!

 

Art Journal; Blue; Watercolour; art journaling

Right now, I’m exploring and experimenting in a different format again – the Disc A Day journal. Which is my own promise to myself that I’ll do something small every day (well, ok… I can’t honestly say that I’ve added to it every day, but I have added to it most days, and right now, I’m happy with that). This little journal is made from a large sheet of hot pressed watercolour paper, cut into three sheets and folded and stitched together, which is great for the wet media I mentioned earlier. What I love most about this little disc, is what the washi tape beside it says: “Make Time”. We’ve talked before about how important it is to make time for creativity, rather than wait till you find time.

That awesome tape, by the way, is designed by Kal Barteski and came from You Are Awesome Co, who are sadly wrapping up trading at the end of September, but they have some great bargains going on there for the next couple days.

So, there you have it. Art Journaling 101. Art journaling is my favourite thing to teach – if you’d like to know a little more about classes, check out my Art Journaling Workshop page.

Ch Ch Ch Changes…..

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Sometimes, we need to listen to ourselves. Take our own great advice.

Since “When Your Superpower Becomes Your Kryptonite” was published, life has thrown us a curve ball or two. (Or maybe seven, but, who’s counting?) Some of those balls were pretty easy to catch and toss back. One in particular landed right on my heart with such force that I suspect it may never beat the same way again.

But it’s beating. And that’s all we need in order to show up and choose to live our precious lives with as much grace and courage as we can muster. That’s what’s happening in this picture… having reclaimed my outdoor ‘nest’, I’ve taken some time to journal, read and rest. Then get back up, and come back to the computer and once again do something I don’t really know how to do. Build a website! It’s taken a long time, but traceyhewitt.com is up and running. There are plenty of areas that can (and will) be tweaked, improved and made a little snazzier to look at, but for now, it’s good enough.

You’ll find gallery pages (which are one of those areas that need some tweaking), workshop information, and a shopping page – which currently only has my book for purchase, but some more goodies will find their way into the shop soon. Nestled in among all that and along with all the usual ‘contact’ and ‘about’ pages, is my blog.

It will look a bit different, and will probably evolve (and hopefully improve), as I learn to negotiate the new platform. For those of you who have been subscribers in the past – Thank you! From the bottom of my heart. Your comments, emails and messages on facebook have all been warmly appreciated. I’m yet to figure out how to add a subscription option on the new platform – I’ll keep you posted.

I have to confess to you that I’m nervous about this move. We’ve talked about the voice of fear here before, and moving the blog from a format and design that has been well supported is scary. But, things evolve and change and shift and it’s time. So here goes! I’d love to hear what you think of the website, and the blog living here. Let me know what you miss and what you’re happy to see. And, now that a lot of techie stuff is sorted out, I hope to be giving you more to look at and think about from now on.

Once again – my heartfelt thanks for being here. I’ve said before that art is only complete when it has an audience, and I appreciate so very much that you are that audience for me.

An Uncomfortable Model

 

Later this year, my creative efforts and I are off to Bush Christmas – an exhibition showcasing the work of rural and remote artists and artisans, held in Toowoomba in December, and I’m pretty stoked to announce that yours truly is to be the Featured Exhibitor for Day One of the exhibition.
What that means, is that I’ll be there, set up with some goodies from my studio, ready to chat with anyone who is prepared to stand still for a minute, and share the delight of colourful, fun materials. There is potentially going to be a product addition to my offerings this year… There is a book in the pipeline! But more about that, later.
For now, the fabulous Bush Christmas organisers need photos and information to update their website and begin promotion.
This is my least favourite part of this job. As a model, I make a good cook; and I agonise for hours over what to write about myself that people will find interesting to read. Thankfully, my daughter-in-law, Caitlyn, knows her way around a camera, and proved skillful in sneaking some shots of “the artist at work in her studio” that didn’t leave me feeling awkward.
I think she did a great job, and I particularly love this photo, with DO IT NOW on the inspiration board behind me. Not only because the kick-in-the-pants directive is helpful; but the focus is off me!
When our “photo shoot” was finished, I bit the bullet and wrote the ‘about me’ piece to accompany the profile picture:
In between knocking up mustering smokos, doing budgets and bookwork, and managing the office for our Central Queensland family farming business; I create artwork, write, and prepare art journaling classes for people who are keen to flex their creativity, but aren’t sure where or how to start. I believe every human possesses an innate desire and capability to create, and have made it my business to help others unearth and explore that desire. Their eyes light up, shoulders loosen and they smile. A lot. I have a passionate belief in the transformative power of creativity.
Gleefully abandoning an art teaching degree in the 80’s to marry my salt of the earth farmer, my city upbringing gave way to the adventure of country life, where I’ve spent thirty years raising three high spirited sons, while fine tuning my skills in fine art, photography, writing and textiles. Ironically, the art teaching I was anxious to flee from has become a source of delight and fulfilment.
I have a tendency to think a lot more than I speak – there’s lots going on in my head. I have a thing for funky cowgirl boots, yoga, and soulful conversations; and my grandbabies think I sing the best “Incy Wincy Spider” the world has ever heard. Others might disagree.
 
Over the years, Bush Christmas has been a catalyst for a lot of amazing opportunities for me, along with the many other talented artists and artisans who exhibit there. You can follow Bush Christmas on Facebook for a look at some of the clever work happening in sheds and studios all over rural Queensland, and New South Wales.
I’m off to the studio to get busy… safe and secure in the knowledge that I won’t need to smile for the camera for a couple more years!

 

Learning the Hard Way

Say Hello to Casper. He’s an old man now – by cat standards, at least. Well into his sixteenth year, he – along with his brother Garfield – has been part of our lives for over half of our kids lives. He’s an introvert. He hates lots of people, and new people freak him out so much, he’s been known to quietly disappear to the shed when visitors arrive, only to return after three or four weeks living on mice and sleeping in the hay when he’s sure the intruders have departed. Unlike Garfield, he is NOT fond of cuddles (or BBQ chips, but that’s another story for another day), and might choose to come and sit close beside you if it’s cold; or, if you’re trying to perform a task which is made much more difficult by the appearance of a cat under your arm!
Casper pretty much does his own thing- as is the want of most felines – and provided he is fed frequently (he isn’t actually all that good at catching mice) mostly keeps to himself and out of my way. Most of the time…
Which brings me to this:
This is my Peerless Watercolour Palette. See how the left side is all crisp and white looking? And how muddied and watery and splotchy looking it gets towards the left side? I guess it’s my own fault, but, is the weird green pond water in my paintbrush water jar really more appealing than the fresh, clean water in your cat bowl, Casper? Apparently. So much more appealing in fact, that he not only drinks out of it, but knocks it over, all over the studio bench, drenching my journal, causing pages to run, and – most alarmingly – drowning my favourite watercolour palette and discharging all that delicious colour. 
As you might have guessed, I was pretty bummed about this. Actually, “bummed’ doesn’t put near a fine enough point on it, but it’s somewhat unladylike and undignified to swear about it and put into print the words I uttered at the time. 
Casper has done this before – numerous times, but, I’d been lucky that nothing got damaged – usually just a puddle of nasty greeny looking water on the bench, and me muttering to myself that I need to learn not to leave the water jar full when I’m done in the studio, before the spill wreaks havoc with something special. 
Sometimes, we seem to have to learn things the hard way. Reminds me of that John Wayne quote. 
“Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.”
I’m off right now to empty that bloody brush water jar, before Casper decides he’s a feline Michelangelo.

Sometimes, You Just Have To Do It Your Own Way  Art Journal Page

©2015 Tracey Hewitt

There’s been a lot going on here over the past week. Most dramatically, a shed fire. Another one. It’s been a while since the hay shed went up in flames – seven years, I think – but, surely one shed fire in a lifetime is enough for anyone – right? Maybe not. This one had no hay in it… but it did have an old Toyota, a ride on lawnmower, and a few other very useful bits and pieces; as well as a tractor parked right beside it. Not anymore. That thing’s now a pile of molten metal and ash.
However, my precious daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who were the only ones around for quite a distance when they noticed they had an ENORMOUS campfire – and no marshmallows – are safe and unharmed. Their house, which was closer than any of us would have liked to the fire, is also safe and sound. Bullet dodged, fire out, and heavy sighs of relief heaved.
 
The fire has nothing to do with the next thing on the agenda – but everything to do with this journal page – which is teaching another round of ArtJournaling classes, which might be some of the best fun it’s possible to have! The page you see here is the result of some preparation sample and demo pieces for the classes. It also started with some writing about that fire. This is what is so transformative about the Art Journaling process (well, really about any creative process, but I love art journaling, because it truly is accessible to anyone). You can write out your worries and your woes, get lots of crap off your chest, and proceed to obliterate it with funky colours, patterns and scribbles, transforming that icky experience completely. You can still see snippets of the writing in odd places, which ultimately become just another layer of line and form.

Detail:  Sometimes, You Just Have To Do It Your Own Way

This was put together using mostly spray inks, stencils, and a mask I cut based on a photo of Keelan on his wedding day, as he was walking toward the altar. (Or, to be more precise, the gate and arch set up in front of the garden bed in our backyard for the ceremony.)
The stencil had been cut, waiting to be used for a while, and I grabbed it without thinking too much – just needed to get the page done, and I was keen to see how this mask would come up. It morphed from an account of  blazing destruction; to cool, strong colours carrying a great sense of independence and hope for the future. I don’t know about you, but that feels pretty transformative to me.

A Tale of Three Art Journal Pages

Just One Heart Art Journal Page
© 2014 Tracey Hewitt
One way and another, the art has been struggling for attention lately. What with plotting ways to spoil a new grandbaby, end of financial year, and a tiny change in our farm business structure (how is it that a tiny change necessitates a thousand phone calls, pieces of paper, and forms to fill in? It will forever remain a mystery…) just to name a few; the time available for creativity has been limited.
There are, thankfully, Art Journals. Smeared with paint, spattered with ink, heavy with bits and bobs glued in, and carrying no pressure to come up with anything special – just to pick up a brush, pencil or scrap of paper and slap something on a page. Aaahh…. balm for a careworn soul.
As I’m writing this, looking at Just One Heart up there, I realise there should be a comma after the word blooming. Oops! (As a self confessed grammar Nazi, that’s going to bug me quite a bit!) The page was created with Dylusions Ink sprays, assorted stencils, a few bits of paper, coloured pencils, stamps and marker pens. The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharp delivered the inspiration to have a crack at some fancy lettering – which was tremendous fun!
Worry Art Journal Page
© 2014 Tracey Hewitt

So much fun, in fact, that there was more on the next journal page. Worry is a Misuse of your Imagination. I need this tattooed inside my eyelids! Not only a misuse, but probably a terrible waste of imagination as well. Constructed in a quite similar fashion to the first page, with acrylic paints instead of ink sprays, and a hand cut stencil. Manilla folders are infinitely more interesting used to cut a stencil than they could ever hope to be in my office.
Ink Calf Art Journal Page
© 2014 Tracey Hewitt

As life’s path seemed to be walking me more and more towards cows and tractors (which I shouldn’t complain about – that enterprise kind of keep us fed and clothed), and further away from the studio, I engaged that imagination, and decided to try bringing the farm to the journal. This little guy is brushed in Sumi ink (my current infatuation) over a stencilled, ink sprayed, and scrap paper collaged background. He’s funky, but I think I love him.
 
A little story, for your information: I often add links to products, books, artists, places – pretty much anything that I think is great. Only because I use it, love it, just plain cannot live without it; and to make it easier for you to find more info about the things I’m waffling on about. No one pays me to give them a plug – it’s all about the love!

Making Friends with Muriel – The Joy and Wonder of Art Journals

posted in: drawing, Fun, journalling | 4
Making Friends With Muriel; Art Journal Page
©2014 Tracey Hewitt

Let me introduce you to Muriel. I think she is in fact a little older than she looks; and she is the face belonging to the voice inside my head. Some people would call her the “Inner Critic”, there are probably a hundred titles we could give her. Please tell me you have one too? You know, the voice that tells you how much you suck; that you’re too fat, too skinny, too loud, too…. you can fill in the space. That ever present nagging that you’re not enough of the good stuff and too much of the not good stuff. A little while ago, she was getting real loud. It was time to deal with her. It started with some writing, and at some point, I burst out laughing, because I realised that she reminded me of my high school Home Economics teacher. This woman had a most unfortunate voice, and was possibly the most negative human being I had encountered in my fourteen or so years. She would hawk up some spit onto her fingers to wipe chalk from the blackboard, and, most unfortunately, would swipe her finger through one cake batter after another in the Home Ec kitchen, suck it off, and move on to the next bowl, until she had tasted them all – never washing that finger off. And yes, she probably had spat on it to clean the blackboard first. Toss in sarcastic and a tiny bit mean, and (not that I consider this a character flaw, but it affected my opinion of her back then) sorrowfully dowdy and dull.

But, back to Muriel. It was time, as I said, to put her in her place. A quick sketch with a water brush filled with Sumi Ink (which might just be the best fun you can have with any drawing instrument on earth), and suddenly, she was getting a makeover. Sparkly turquoise glasses, bright pink lips and a big, fat piece of my mind! Who knew that could be so much fun?

Again, I was reminded of the power of art. To start with a topic, subject or feeling that has negative aspects; express it with colour and movement, and through the process transform it completely. The great thing about it is this – it happens every time.

Muriel will forever live in my head, and sometimes, she has some useful stuff to offer – like “For heaven’s sake, get OFF Facebook and DO something!” But, when she’s being a cow; thinking about this journal page makes me smile, and quietly ignore her and get on with shooting for stars and aiming for awesome. (Neither of which I accomplish, but I figure it’s good to set your sights high!)

Art Journaling – It Feels A Bit Like Therapy

Does this pile of luscious goodness look like fun to you?
How about all this snowy, fresh paper and clean brushes?

Wheel that trolley out onto my back verandah and into a gorgeous autumn afternoon, and the stage is set for some serious Art Journaling fun.
A while back, I sent out feelers to see if maybe one or two people might be keen to spend a bit of time here exploring a few art techniques and materials in the safety of their very own Art Journal. While I love where I live, it is a small community, and I thought I might be lucky if I could find any takers. To my surprise and delight – there were nine! All keen to excavate the creativity they hoped was buried in them someplace. 

Over the course of three hours, they were introduced to Dyelusions Sprays, Distress Stains, stamps, stencils and all kinds of markers and pens, which they used to create some really fun backgrounds and play with lettering styles. Of course, many of them (OK – most of them) looked a little horrified when I suggested it was time they write – in their own handwriting – in their journals. When I asked how many of them hated their own writing – hands went up all around the table. What I told them in essence, was this:
 Every mark we make, every word we write, comes from us. Is us. Our essence cant help but show up in everything we do. Hating our handwriting (substitute voice, thighs, drawing, tummy, crows feet, toes, teeth…. you get the idea) is to hate a unique and authentic part of ourselves.
I know we all do it (I am guilty of it often!) But, I’m coming to believe that we have more to give when we give ourselves a break. When we are OK with ourselves and our efforts.
I reckon they all found the tip of their creative icebergs. Which makes me really excited for next week, when we’ll have a play with acrylic paints, try drawing faces and dedicate a page to our Inner Critics. I’ve named mine “Muriel” (apologies to any wonderful and beautiful Muriel’s out there…) and she can be a real shrew. Should be fun to share our stories and see the portraits these great girls create of their own versions of Muriel.
 

Honouring The Ordinary

I recently stumbled across Brene Brown (the Internet holds endless wonders and discoveries, doesn’t it?) whose research into the human condition is fascinating. A couple of videos of her TEDx talks are the worth the investment of your time (at least I felt they were worth the investment of mine!) The Power of Vulnerability and The Price of Invulnerability are thought provoking, heartwarming, and funny. She knows the ‘stuff’ we all do (and admits freely to doing it herself…makes her totally charming!) What I’m getting to here, is that she talks about the ways we can choose to live wholeheartedly, vulnerably… by, among other things, Practising Gratitude and Honouring the Ordinary. Which brings me to my point…Lately, I’ve been feeling a little less than enamoured with the ordinary (if I was totally honest with you – bored. Not bored as in nothing to do, bored as in uninspired, untouched and unimpressed). So, I set myself the task of looking at the ordinary with fresh eyes. A sunrise…very ordinary, in that there’s one every day. But magical, and beautiful…I know I forget to notice that sometimes. Every day a new, fresh opportunity to appreciate things we take for granted.

My ordinary days include my family. With all the convivial chaos that that includes. And that makes me a lucky, lucky woman.
My ordinary environment looks like this…peaceful, quiet, yet solid and strong.
These guys visit my eucalyptus trees regularly. Some days, their chattering and partying can make it hard to think straight…but their enthusiasm is infectious.
One of my most favourite ‘ordinary’ things to do is write in my journal…a great place to practice gratitude. And one of the things I am grateful for is You. You honour me so greatly by giving up your time to stop by here and read my ruminations – Thank you!
Looking at your ‘ordinary’, and honouring it – recognising how special it really is – is something I thoroughly recommend….try it today.
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