The gateway that enables anybody to create work good enough to go on their walls!
By Paul Dunwell, writing for EasyFrame
© Copyright EasyFrame 2019
What This Article is About
We all tend to purchase, give and receive a lot of art that exudes sophistication and has been created by skilled artisans whom we have never met nor are we likely to meet. Very often that art is something we’d make a personal decision to select though actually we are not in any other way personally involved with it. Certainly we have not created it. And, because of that, we never usually bond with it in a real sense.
It might be a different case if we were to have created that art ourselves. Yet many of us are conditioned to demur when it comes to creating our own work and being proud enough of it to frame it then mount it on our walls. Why do we do this? Probably because we lack the skills, we think, to create anything sufficiently good to show to others. We likewise lack the self-confidence. Usually that’s because we’ve failed at art in school. And we thus condemn ourselves to living amidst other people’s creations for the rest of our lives.
Yet stencilling gives us all an opportunity to generate art of which we can be proud. It’s a technique that’s more reliant on patience than draughtsmanship. And, with a little application, you and your kids can employ it to create eminently frameable pieces of work that truly mean something to you.
The two examples above prove a point. Somebody has created a stencil that is, in effect, a mirror-image of just part of a famous work by Hokusai. It required little skill and artistry. But it looks great!
A brief history of stencilling
Stencilling is an ancient art. In essence it pre-empted everything. And, as the examples below demonstrate, it was used by primitive people to simply say something that we all wish to say in our homes. ‘I was here.’
So what exactly is stencilling? A stencil is a device for applying a pattern, design, words or more to a surface. It usually consists of a thin sheet of cardboard, metal, lino or other material from which figures or letters have been cut. Then a colouring substance such as ink is rubbed, brushed or pressed over the sheet. That substance passes through the cut-aways and onto the surface. In the case of the primitive examples shown below you can see that the ochre and other colourants passes between and around the fingers. By regular placement of the hand a repeat pattern can be achieved and the effect can be really very appealing. You may have done something similar at school with potato-printing.
Start by tracing
Stencilling can start with tracing. We all know how to do that. When I was a child we used to employ IZAL loo-paper (other brands are available, thank God, though you can also use baking-paper) and trace the outline of something underneath the paper. Then we could turn the tracing paper over, scribble on the other side to transfer the pattern onto something else, and then we’d got a copy of the original without damaging it.
Clearly you could copy an Egyptian symbol in this manner. And transfer it onto an old lino tile. Then cut the tile with a craft knife. Then use it as a template to repeat the symbol ad infinitum.
Such an idea could be utilised to make quite an expansive piece of art. The biggest I’ve seen was an Egyptian scene several metres long though individual elements within it were repeated. Of course you could even mix-and-match such techniques like, for example, starting with a brass-rubbing of a gravestone. That could be turned into a stencil.
Bridges and islands
If you are going to cut out a stencil from a lino-tile or similar you need to be aware of what are termed ‘bridges’ and ‘islands’. See below (courtesy of https://makezine.com/2017/06/07/digital-stencil-design/ which will give you more detail for those who are ambitious). Essentially you must find a way to keep the stencil in one piece. Otherwise components could move and you’d struggle to replicate the same pattern exactly when you try to do it time and again.
Which medium should you use?
Almost any medium will work. You can try poster-paint (which is pretty safe in the hands of kids though ultimately it won’t be waterproof). You might apply that with a sponge. Or maybe crayons. (How much damage can a kid do with crayons?) You can try using oils. Or acrylics. Or spray-paint. But that’s when you’re confident. And it’s a good idea to have a bash at printing through the stencil onto something that doesn’t matter (like a newspaper) first. Only progress if you feel you’re getting the results you want.
Some of the greatest modern art is made using stencils
Don’t underestimate the potential worth of stencils. As Banksy would tell you, if he every surfaced, stencils have been the key to his fortune. They lend themselves to guerrilla art. All of his famous work below was patiently created elsewhere and applied surreptitiously in moments.
Can you create complex artwork with stencils?
Don’t be fooled. It is possible to assemble intricate pieces by making a number of stencils then moving them time and again before the colour is reapplied. The example below proves that. It was created by a kid.
Stencils can be forgiving
It is also perhaps worth mentioning that stencilling is a technique that can be very forgiving. If something is amiss then you should be able to let the medium dry, paint over in the background colour, let that dry too, and have another go.
So stencils are a great way to create pretty decent pieces of art. They can be made by lifting designs from other artwork which somebody else has originated. All you have to be able to do is trace. Then cut. Then spray or otherwise apply colour. It’s hardly rocket-science. And what you end up with is often good enough to grace your own walls.
You’ll need it framing first. EasyFrame is an obvious and affordable supplier, whether you want to source all you’d need to do the job yourself or have them do it for you.
Any good framers will be able to show you a vast range of different solutions and advise on what might be the most suitable given the work and its proposed location.
EasyFrame is on 01234 856 501 and / or firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll always chat even if you don’t want to buy!