Thursday, February 7, 2013

Turning One of my Favorite Designs into a Stencil -- Then Using It

I love the shape of gingko leaves so much that my husband bought a gingko to plant in our back yard.  Ever since, I've used its pressed golden leaves in collages, greeting cards, altered arts and lots more.  Back when I was designing art rubber stamps, I may even have used gingko leaves in designing one of those.  As soon as I decided to try out for a position with StencilGirl as one of their stencil designers, I chose ginkgo as one of my earliest patterns.

I scanned some of my favorite pressed, dried gingko leaves at 300 dpi and used Photoshop to reduce them to silhouettes.  Then began the cosmetic work -- a few years ago, when she introduced me to the designing of digital clipart, good friend Cindy Powell taught me that it's necessary to greatly magnify every image to rid it of all "stray pixels" and less-than-perfect edges. 

After cosmetics, the next step was to teach myself how to design stencils.  In no way was I good at it right off the bat, but I began to "think stencil" and in so doing, added "bridges" throughout every area of the newly created pattern.

The irony of what I was doing was with me every moment.  I, a stencil designer?  Why, I had seldom wanted to use stencils!   I associated them with the generation of women who happily created borders of flowers or kittens or the like, along the tops of their walls and the edges of their furniture.  The few times I had actually forced myself to approach stencil-use, I had frustrating results -- the paint wanted to leak every which way, making a mess.  And finally, as my interest in fine arts deepened, I asked,  "Why would I want to use a commercially available stencil?  I would only end up with art that was not entirely my own original work.  Besides, what's the point of just repeating what a thousand other people are doing, since everyone can get the same stencil?"

Well -- as has happened often before -- a day came when I had to eat my words.  I experimented to learn the right kind of paints and other media to use with stencils, for starters; but much more satisfying than that, I taught myself ways to use them that were original and unique to me.

Then came the moment when I asked,  "Since I love creating non-representational abstract artwork, where can I get stencils that will lend themselves to use in this direction?"  Not at my local A C Moore or Michaels, that was sadly for sure.  Thus was born the idea to start designing my own ...

While designing a collection of abstract patterns, I started to wonder whether any stencil-making company would like them.  Alongside that idea came the thought that I should create a portfolio that included not only the way-out-there abstracts, but also a collection of traditional stencil images --  so out trotted my gingko, ivy and a number of my other pressed and dried once-green treasures.

I hadn't really expected to use the gingko stencil much, myself.

Wrong, again!

Delighted to be included among the StencilGirl designers, and to receive my first batches of stencils made from my own designs, I had to play with everything!  Starting with gingko ...

...and one of my earliest experiments was to spread gloss gel medium through the stencil; then, while the gel was still wet, I sprinkled it with colored sand.  I chose to sprinkle a heavy layer of sand onto part of the pattern and a lighter amount on another part.

I was careful to immediately immerse my stencil into a basin of water until I could give it a gentle cleansing -- telling myself,  "Be nice to your stencils, and they will be nice to you!"
is where you can find this stencil and lots more! 

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