Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Repeating Designs in Abstract Fine Art thru Stencil Use

Above is a close-up of a mixed-media collage I will be bringing to my April 15 demo at Monmouth Festival of the Arts ...

... wherein I will show a number of fine-art applications using stencils from

Like many of the techniques I use, this one that I call "stencil-and-scrape" is not entirely original.  I did discover it by way of happy accident -- but shortly afterward, I saw that someone else had made the same discovery and posted it on the Internet.

After using masking tape to secure a stencil to my substrate, I use more tape to add a sheet of translucent paper over the stencil.  I use deli wrap paper, but tracing paper or many other substitutes will work as well.  With a credit card or an artist's spatula, I then scrape acrylic paint over the paper atop the stencil.  This is simply a "wet" version of making a rubbing, an old technique that I described in a much earlier post.  It is much faster and easier than the traditional dry rubbing method.  When I do it, I'm careful to stroke the loaded scraper in one direction only.  I use several strokes, moving from left to right across the paper atop the stencil.

I remove the translucent paper and set it aside to dry.  After dry-time, I cut it into desired shapes and add it to my mixed-media collages, as shown above:  The far left shows a paper that was scraped over my Kaleid stencil, using a combination of gold and white acrylic paints.

The pink middle section was created with one of my other favorite stencils from, using the tried-and-true method of simply sponging on paint thru the stencil's openings.

The aqua right side was created with the addition of a second dried piece of "stencil-and-scrape" paper, this one having been scraped with aqua acrylic paint.

The over-stamp of gold paint on the right side of the photo was a "ghost print" --  elsewhere on the same artwork, I had just used a stencil in the traditional way of applying (gold) paint thru a stencil with a sponge-topped stipple brush.  While the leftover gold paint on the stencil was still moist, I pulled the stencil off the substrate, flipped it over and pressed it to this area, over the aqua collage paper.

This ghost print method is a form of monoprinting, stamping and transfering; I've seen all three labels applied to it.  It keeps paint-waste to a minimum and it serves the purpose of helping create unity in the artwork by repeating a pattern ... doing so without using the exact same image, which could become boring to the viewer's eye.  The flipping over reverses the original image; the fact that the paint is just leftovers creates the "ghost" effect, which further changes the design in a way that is likewise subtle.  I like to make my artwork interesting in every part of the surface -- not equally interesting; I almost always want the focal point to stand out -- but I do want to "entertain the eye everywhere," to borrow a wonderful phrase from some other artist whose name I wish I could remember!

Altho it may not be immediately apparent, the gold ghost print was created using the same stencil (my Kaleid stencil, available at as what had been used earlier in creating the "stencil-and-scrape" collage paper on the far left.  The viewer's eye may not immediately grasp this similarity, but the vaguely similar pattern will give the viewer a sense of satisfaction.  The goal of unity in an artwork is, I think, to achieve this satisfaction.

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