I like to explore the same image in a variety of media and I find stencils a great way to help keep a consistency between the different versions. It’s also a great way to go if you lack confidence as a painter and there is a great deal more potential to stencils than the suggestions you’ll find in books on decorative techniques.
Because I use them to explore my own imagery I cut my own stencils rather than using the ready cut commercially available ones, but there is really no reason that you can’t use those with just as much versatility and creativity.
Recently I cut a stencil of a rose, using one of my own photographs as the starting point. To begin with I modified the image on my computer using Photoshop to create an image that emphasised the outlines of the petals. I found the best way was to turn the image into a Black and White version then using the Neon Glow Artistic Filter to give me a good basis for the stencil.
Once I had printed my image out in the size that I wanted for my stencil I traced the outlines onto tracing paper then used carbon paper to transfer the drawing onto a piece of heavy card. I used to use waxed manila but haven’t been able to find that out here, so I’m just using some card that I have in my stock. If you are starting from scratch with this method of working you can now buy transparent plastic sheets specifically made for stencils. That would cut out the tracing and carbon stages that I have described here because you can lay the stencil plastic straight onto your image and trace around it with a marker pen. If you are using card, it is a good idea to seal the whole thing with a layer or two of PVA (Elmer’s Glue) so that it doesn’t disintegrate if it gets wet).
Two points to remember when you’re cutting your own stencil –leave a good margin around the whole thing and make sure that all your stencil parts have good contact with each other so that the whole thing doesn’t simply flop apart. And make sure to use a really sharp craft knife.
Once I had my stencil cut I wanted to use it to repeat the same image four times on a rectangular canvas, using different media but sticking to a monochrome palette. I made two of the images using the normal stencil technique, in this case applying the paint with a natural sponge rather than a stencil brush. I introduced tonal variation, darker at the heart of the flower, graduating to lighter tones at the periphery, to give it a more three dimensional quality. One of the variations was simply tones of grey; the other had a warmer quality to it through the addition of burnt umber and light yellow to the grey.
The other two images were collages with something of the mosaic about them by virtue of the fact that I cut each piece using the stencil shapes. For one of the versions I used carefully selected pieces of newspaper pictures, for the other I used shapes cut from some very beautiful textured hand-made papers that I have. It was a case of using what I had to hand, but you could use scraps of fabric or beads or anything with texture, in any colour combination that you like.
When I had the two collage images in place I found I needed to make slight adjustments to the colour of the two painted versions because the tones of the newspaper and hand-made papers were slightly warmer than the paints I had already used.
A final coat of water based satin varnish added the finishing touch.