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!






Get Creative With A Disc A Day

Disc a Day Project


The past year has seen me drift away a little from my brushes and paints. Not intentionally, not even all that willingly, but still, for one reason and another it has happened.
In the meantime, I have come to enjoy Instagram – I love scrolling the feed of gorgeous, creative outpourings of colour and beauty. Recently, I happened across Lou Adira @adiraphoto, and a post she made about a project she created for herself after losing her Grandmother – a loss she felt keenly. Something about the idea whispered to me, and I now find myself with a handmade watercolour paper journal, filled with the feint outline of many, many, small circles. Discs, into which I am putting some colour, some lines, some puddled watercolour, and whatever else takes my fancy, almost every day. It’s a small commitment, which feels sane and sensible right now, but what feels even better is picking up a brush and spending ten or fifteen minutes focusing on nothing but creating a tiny patch of beauty in that small disc shaped space.
As you can see from the photo, I’ve only just begun, and have no idea how many discs this journal will hold! I figure I have enough circles in there for me to fill one a day till Christmas, at least! And while I am enjoying that this is just for me and has no particular outcome or purpose other than to get me into a better creative routine; it feels like this could be a fun project to share. So… would you like to join me? I’m already noticing some patterns and themes evolving in these little circles, and it’s going to be interesting to see what is revealed as time passes.
Join me!
You can be as elaborate or ordinary as you like – a scrap piece of paper, a full-on journal, or anything on between will work. Just grab something disc shaped (circular, really, but ‘disc a day’ sounds kind of funkier than ‘circle a day’)  – I’m using a roll of washi tape – and draw very light pencil outlines in a grid on your page/s. Once a day, set aside a few minutes to put something in a disc. Maybe grab a pencil and draw your coffee mug, or your dog.  Perhaps glue down a scrap of brightly coloured paper and some printed words torn from your junk mail. Maybe pick up your pen and write a tiny poem. Or grab a coloured pencil and play with colour combinations….   You get the idea – explore, play, and fiddle and use whatever supplies you have access to. A feather dipped in ink is wonderful fun to make marks with!
It will be great to see what you come up with! I’d love for you to share here on the blog comments, or on my Facebook page, or on Instagram with the hashtag #discaday. I’ll share my pages as I fill them. You can share at whatever point you feel moved to do so! These little pops of creativity don’t need to be complete works of art. Simply an opportunity for you to choose creativity for a few moments in your day, and a few moments of creativity will always make any day better!



Pencil Portrait Discoveries

posted in: art work, drawing, Uncategorized | 0




Pencil sketch, portrait
Will ©2016 Tracey Hewitt 35cm x 30cm Pencil


When our first grand baby – Payton – was born, I knocked out a pencil sketch portrait of her one day while in the waiting room for the torture chamber known as a mammogram. Sketching her was a delightful distraction from the anticipation of the squeezing and squashing and discomfort waiting through that door. Not having great faith or belief that I could even render any kind of likeness at the time, I was simply puddling around and enjoying getting absorbed in the curve of her perfect little mouth. The result was a surprisingly good likeness – so good that we framed it as her gift for her first birthday. (You can click through to that post and sketch here, if you’d like to have a look at it)  At the time, it occurred to me that it would be special to do the same for each of our grand kids as they came along. No one could know how quickly the next three would show up. In the space of fifteen months, the number grew to four! That idea to draw a pencil portrait of each of them for their first birthday has seen me with a pencil in my hand more in the past six months than in many years.



2016 Hunter_Tracey_Hewitt_Web-1
Hunter ©2016 Tracey Hewitt 35cm x 30cm Pencil



As well as being sources of endless delight and joy, these tiny humans have led me back to something long forgotten – just how much I enjoy to draw. These drawings have also held some lessons about creative fear. The discomfort of that mammogram was almost insignificant compared to the realization that I was avoiding beginning the second portrait. Avoiding it, because in some deep, unconscious place, I doubted I could do it again. But do it again I did, three times in rapid succession! Yet every time, the beginning was put off for a while. There was a cupboard that needed clearing out; a pile of ironing, untouched for six months that simply HAD to be attended to first. Anyone who knows me well will knows this is the surest indication of avoidance of a task. I loathe ironing with a passion! So many things that weren’t terribly important took on monumental urgency in the face of beginning each of these portraits.

Research and conversations with other artists has led to the understanding that I’m not alone in this. In fact, it’s not just artists. School Principals, entrepreneurs, and professionals of all kinds have said “Me too!” But here’s the thing: when you take a deep breath, dive in, and start whatever it is that you’re nervous to begin, you’ve already succeeded. It doesn’t matter if you hit it out of the park, or you make something barely fit for the bottom of the birdcage, you moved, you took action. Sometimes, you’ll make it work first go. Other times, you might have experiences like I did with Hunter’s portrait, and create something that looks like a little alien baby. Even if we had a cockatoo – it would not have wanted that drawing lining it’s cage. But you know what? The awful drawing was a wonderful limbering up exercise, and even though it ended up stuffed in the back of the sketchbook as a reminder that each work is a journey that sometimes takes a very circuitous route, without it, the final portrait would not have been as successful.


Levi ©2016 Tracey Hewitt 35cm x 30cm Pencil


Looking into the eyes of these precious tiny souls, I am thankful for all they have taught me already, grateful to them for inspiring me to pick up a pencil and draw again, and filled with anticipation for all the wonder and awe we will share them as they grow. There will be all kinds of lessons along the way – for the little ones, as well as for the bigger ones whose task it is to guide them through this this wild and crazy life. And, just between you and me, I’m excited for the day we can all paint and draw together – without them being more interested in eating it!







She Could Be Anywhere – Art Journal Page
©2015 Tracey Hewitt
 For some inexplicable reason – known only to the Gods of confusion – things have been chaotic here for the past couple of weeks.  New babies, growing babies, special visitors, annual reviews, feeding the multitudes, tax provisions, weaning calves, birthdays, unexpected departures, physiotherapy, coaching sessions, and home butchering – are just a few of the things that have landed on my plate lately.
So it felt really wonderful to claim an hour in the studio and let it all pour out onto the page.
This little lovely has a background of acrylic paint and torn book pages on watercolour paper, while she herself has been brought to life with Prismacolour Pencils.
Sometimes, when I feel like I’m done with the drawing, some words will want to be added to the page.
“She could be anywhere… and she chooses here… with her heart in her throat”
are the words that fell out of the white paint pen and onto the page. (Have I ever told you how much I adore that Sharpie white paint marker pen? It’s a cracker!) And, while this face was never intended to be me; those words feel like they belong to me this week. Of all the places I might ever have ended up; I am here. I choose here. Even when things are hectic and demanding. Even when I struggle to find time for the things I need to do; much less the things I long to do. Here is where I choose to be.
Even when my heart is in my throat. I still choose here.

Try Something New

What does it say about your personality when you have an idea to try something you know bugger all about, and think “I can’t do this, but I’m doing it anyway?” I don’t know, either, but here are the results! For a long time, I have thought that adding a few videos of works unfolding and techniques in action might be fun for me, and interesting for you. I have a lot to learn, and will possibly need to relocate to an area where I can access a much bigger Internet data quota (apologies to the Aussie Government, but this NBN thing isn’t working out so well for us out here), which isn’t such a realistic idea. I think there is a lot of research and education in my immediate future if I’m to follow this notion any further. 
However… this was fun for me, and I hope you find the video a little bit interesting. It’s a time lapse look at creating a background with tissue paper on canvas for a mixed media work. The background was done without any firm idea of what the focal point might be. That realisation came a little later.

Small Wonders 

©2015 Tracey Hewitt  Watercolour and mixed media on canvas

After the addition of some acrylic paints to introduce a little colour, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect background for another challenge I’d been hankering to take on. A photo of our Granddaughter, Payton, in a rare moment of stillness, had been whispering it’s longing to be drawn or painted for a couple of months. For someone who, a few years ago, wouldn’t even attempt to draw a face or human form, because “that’s not my thing, I just can’t do them”; I’m pretty excited to have captured a resemblance to a human being, much less enough of a resemblance to a particular human for her parents to know she was the model!
 Her features were sketched in, with Derwent Graphitint pencils. These babies might be my favourite art supply. (Even as I type that, a hundred other little special art supplies are clamouring in my mind to be named favourites, as well!) These pencils – as the name suggests – are much like a graphite pencil, with the added appeal of a range of beautiful, subtle colours, as well as being water soluble. They’re not as intense as some of the other water soluble pencils out there, so the results are soft and delicious. A little watercolour for the pink in her dress and lips, a few touches of inky black for details, and she was done.
That little butterfly she’s so intently looking at? That is a perfect example of the glorious serendipity of layering materials and media. It wasn’t until after I’d drawn Payton in, that I noticed that little butterfly on an underlying layer of tissue paper, perfectly placed to seem to be sitting on her hand, and the focus of her rapt attention. Sometimes, there are forces at work when we create that simply cannot be explained. Happens to me all the time. And, it’s the best feeling. 

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!)

New Inspiration – for Pencil Sketching, and all kinds of things!

posted in: drawing, Family, Grandbabies | 0
Payton #1 © 2014 Tracey Hewitt
Pencil 12cm x 12cm
We’ve had some big news around here…. A granddaughter! This post has been written, rewritten, scrapped and started over a number of times now. Then, I remembered that I wrote a letter to this baby girl the night she was born. Not quite your run of the mill, regular post, but then again, a family’s first grand baby is not quite your run of the mill, regular experience is it?
Dear Payton,
Today we met you for the first time. New to this world- just hours old – I was captivated at once. Maybe one day, many years from now, I’ll remember this letter and give it to you – a memory of one of the most favourite days of my life.
It rained! All day. And we had been hoping so hard and needing it for so long, which made it even more wonderful. Much like we hoped so hard for you. I feel as though I have loved you forever already – certainly since I saw you swimming around in your Mums belly at her first scan. And even before that, when you were just a possibility and we hoped so hard you would decide to stay and grow. And today, on the day of  my first baby – your Dads – birthday, you joined us in this mad, happy, crazy, wild, fun, fantastic circus called life, and our hearts are so happy.
It’s difficult to describe how I feel tonight – excited, happy, content, nervous, pleased, thrilled- a whole lot of emotion all rolled up together, and full, my heart feels full. Thankful, grateful, full. I’m sitting quietly, listening to the rain on the roof – one of my favourite sounds, and thinking of you, of your tiny, perfect face, little bit of soft hair and wee fingers and toes. You had so many visitors today, and you slept and ate and were not the slightest bit amazed by the excitement your entrance into the world had caused.
We had a cuddle, you and I, and the world felt perfectly right. 
I know that as you grow and the years pass there’ll be times you are sad and unsure, times you doubt yourself – you’re human and we all do that. But I hope that through all those times, I can help you remember you are a miracle. You are perfect exactly as you are in any moment and magical in your ability to bring joy just by being in a room (that will never change for me, nor, I expect, anyone else in that room with you today).
So, on this ordinary, rainy day, while the newspapers ran headlines about a Malaysian Aeroplane that disappeared without a trace, and our Govenors General, Quentin Bryce (the retiring one) and Peter Cosgrove (the new one) have been announced a Dame and a Sir, and the republicans are getting all worked up about it, and most of the world was going about its business as if it were any other day; we know better. Today was a special day. The day Payton came to live on planet Earth as part of our family. And we are so very happy you are here.
Welcome to the world precious girl. I can’t wait to get to know you, and the wonderful person you will become.