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.
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
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!