Monday, April 12, 2021

Pucker Up?

Puckers are good for kissing.  Not so good for collage papers.  Today's post will list 5 things I've learned while making collages.

Above:  I developed this mixed-media collage using assorted papers, including papers I'd printed using stencils and masks, via a variety of stencil/mask-using techniques.  The substrate is a stretch canvas.

Above:  This greeting card is embellished with cut-outs from a print made with 6" x 6" Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 1 s864.

Above:  A collage made with blue papers printed using 9" x 12" Clustered Leaves.

Above:  Collage created using prints made with (top layer) 9" x 12" Garden Montage and (bottom layer) 9" x 12" Prayer Flags

If your collages pucker, here are my suggestions.  

(1)  I learned from MaryBeth Shaw that, at least for the larger collage papers, it's good to lightly mist them with water on the back before adding adhesive.  The mist swells the paper's fibers and that's going to work to the artist's advantage in eliminating puckers.

(2)  Use the driest adhesive you can find.  My personal favorite is extra-heavy matte gel.  Low viscosity ("runny") adhesives throw down the welcome mat for wrinkles and puckers. 

(3)  After each collage piece is added to its substrate, go over it with a hard rubber brayer.  If a stretched canvas is your substrate, place a book or pile of magazines under the unframed bottom of the canvas, so the pressure of the brayer won't over-stretch the canvas and make it sag from its built-in frame.

(4)  As soon as the gluing is finished, it needs to be pressed under a pile of books.  If your substrate is a stretched canvas, keep that pile of magazines or that book under the unframed area of the canvas, for the same reason -- to keep pressure from causing a sag in the canvas.

 (5)  Between the top of the artwork and the pile of book-weights, place a sheet of wax paper or waxed deli paper.

The waxy paper (A) soaks up any residual moisture and (B) protects the art from sticking to the book-weights if there happens to be any residual adhesive on the face of the art.

My personal preference is to let the pressing period last all night.  If too much adhesive was added, the pressing period will take longer.  

Above:  Most of this collage was created using prints made with (top layer) 9" x 12" Garden Montage and (bottom layer) 9" x 12" Prayer Flags. The right side was made using a print created with 6" x 6" Sprigs.

Above:  A mixed-media collage created with cut-up prints made using 6" x 6" Looking Up Through Trees s793.

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ever Tried This?

 "Dry brushing" may sound like an oxymoron; since Day 1, we've been dipping our brushes into paint, then running the bristles across a substrate -- the point being, obviously, to cover a surface with a layer of paint!

Somewhere along the way, however, someone discovered or developed the technique of dry brushing.  For anyone like me, who likes to overdo everything when it comes to paint, this might seem a hard technique to master. 

But a little practice works magic!  And the results of dry brushing with stencils are rewarding -- especially for me, since I love to find ways of achieving new looks with my stencils and masks.

I've been taught that the way to paint with acrylics is to first dip brush bristles into water, then use forefinger and thumb to squeeze excess water back out.  Result:  a damp brush tip that now gets dipped into paint.

The technique of dry brushing skips that water dunking.

The bristles need to be dry; only the tips will be brushed into paint.    

First, try a dry run.  Crumble some scrap paper, enough to make a textured surface for practice --

Above:  Only the tips of the big brush have been just slightly loaded with acrylic paint.  The next step:  Lightly brush the bristles over the textured surface.

During my own practice time, I started with soft-bristled brushes.  Eventually, however, I decided the brush that works best for me, personally, is a brush with very stiff bristles.  So that's the kind of brush I've used in all the following photos.

Above, part of my 9" x 12" mask Blooming Where Planted has been masking-taped to a substrate.  Especially with this technique, I find it very helpful to secure the stencil in some way.  Dry brushing across the texture of a stencil will make the stencil want to move, unless it's held firmly in place.  

Below is a similar shot, this time, with my 9" x 12" mask Prayer Flags being put to work on stretched, gallery-wrapped canvas. 

In the close-up below, you can see that, on this particular piece, I've dry brushed all the way down the length of the stencil.  (The round splashes of green paint were applied earlier and were dry before I started dry brushing.)

Below are two shots of this stretched canvas, showing what the surface looks like, now that the stencil has been lifted.


I'm ending today's post with a warning -- it's so easy (at least, for me)  to load too much paint onto your brush when first approaching this technique!  Below is a shot of what happens when the brush is over-loaded with paint.  In this case, the stencil used was my 6" x 6" mask Webbed Medallion -

Above:  If you're trying for the effects of the dry brushing techniques, the painting above is a "failure."  But a whole different viewpoint maintains that it's a success.  An artist always has "poetic license" to say,  "I wanted it to come out like this!" 

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To scroll thru the pages of my StencilGirl stencils and masks, please start here.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

 Today's post follows an artwork of mine as it goes thru its stages toward resolution.

Above:  My paint-stained Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 1 s864, now cut free from its original 6" x 6" frame, is placed on a new substrate and from it extends an ultra-narrow artist's masking tape.  Under the roll of tape lies a small sponge-top paint applicator that's just been used to add pale pink acrylic paint all along the area around the tape.

Below:  So the starting print can be seen, the tape has been removed and the mask has been slightly moved.

Below:  As I continue repeating the same type of paint additions, I rotate the substrate and eventually bring in another paint-stained mask, Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 3 s866.  It too has been cut from its original 6" x 6" frame: 

Below:  Now the substrate looks like this: 

The next photo shows more development --

Below:  Now I bring out Abstract Composition Backbone Mask 4 s867, which has been further customized -- not only removed from its original frame but also cut into two unequal halves....

And I change from pink acrylic paint to blue --

Below:  I start to add a darker pink and darker blue, still using the small sponge-tipped applicator thru my masks....

Finally --

The photo above shows the finished piece.  By the time I've reached this point, I've used all four of the masks.

Abstract Composition Backbones Masks 1, 2, 3 and 4 look like this --






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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

One of the many ways to use a color wheel is to visually isolate analogous colors -- colors lying next to one another on the wheel.  On the right side of the photo below lies one of my color wheels.  With red dots I've designated my chosen 5 analogous colors ....

... and my reasons for choosing these colors are (1) analogous colors play well together and (2) I'm working on a sheet off Yupo faintly stained from an earlier project; those pale stains are in this analogous color range.  I wanted a background close to white, but not perfectly white because I wanted to show a somewhat different way of using Abstract Composition Backbones Masks to create "light paths" across a piece of art.    

The above photo shows the stained Yupo covered with Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 1 s864, now cut free from its outer border.  In the lower center lies Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 2 s865, also cut free from its border and stained from earlier painting projects.  In the center top and along the far right side are two halves of Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 4 s867.  I've secured the masks in place with masking tape.

Below is a photo showing the analogous colors spread across  my tablet of white palate paper.  I'm using heavy body acrylics because I want to apply paint with sponge brayers (far right in the photo) and this type of paint works well with these brayers.


Below:  The first color has been added.

Above: All colors have been added.  Below:  the masks have been lifted off.

Now the stage has been set.  My light-paths are clearly established and so are my main areas of color.

The painting itself now sits unfinished, but I have a plan...

... and to show, rather than tell, what this plan looks like, I've Photoshopped it to show the direction I have in mind:

Above:  As I continue to develop this piece, I'll apply paint to mute/fog some of the areas, while allowing some of the near- white lines to stay as they are.  

After I've muted out some areas (visually moving them into the background), I'll leave alone the lines that will visually connect, moving from the upper left, thru the middle, and down into the right bottom.  

Muting out selected areas will bring more overall order, as well as provide resting places for the viewer's gaze.

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Saturday, March 27, 2021

What Makes Successful Artwork? These Artists Show Us.

The January 2021 StencilGirl Stencil of the Month set was one of 5 StencilGirl Products stencils that artist Barbara McLawhorn chose, in developing this complex and intriguing artwork -- a piece that draws the viewer right in, providing entertainment in every detail.  Notice the clever use of colors!

And I'm delighted to add that another of the five stencils was a cat stencil that's included in L768 ATC Mixup Swatton #1....

L768 ATC Mixup Swatton #1, shown above, was derived from a collection of my bigger stencils and masks.  In particular, the cat stencil drew its inspiration from my 6" x 6" stencil Cats s183.

When StencilGirlProducts laser-cuts its sturdy sheets of Mylar in creating stencils and masks, the byproducts are what we cheerfully call "stencil guts."  It was with a "stencil gut" -- one that had been cut from my 6" x 6" stencil Cats s183 -- that artist Luci Sweet used in bringing together this artwork:

Above:  A "stencil gut" is a small mask, automatically created when a stencil is cut from a sheet of Mylar.  After using other StencilGirl stencils to print colorful background papers for this 2-page art journal spread, Luci Sweet used the Cats "stencil gut" as a tool:  On a stencil-printed sheet of handwriting, she traced around the shape, using a bold black to give the cat its dramatic border, visible here.  Luci then cut out the cat shape and glued it onto her background, a finishing touch that brings the viewer's attention directly to a focal area.  What makes this art especially successful?  It's the fact that viewers automatically look for recognizable shapes or images; everything else is background.  Here the background is a variety of geometric shapes that give the overall look of stability.  This visually stable background and its off-center focal area combine to make this an artwork to remember. Note: An off-center focal area is a good thing!

To mix a metaphor:  Pictures speak louder than words.  The photo below shows (on the left) 2 "stencil guts" and (on the right) my 6" x 6" Osprey Wings Stencil.  "Stencil guts" are actually masks -- they're the exact opposites of the stencils from which they were cut.....

So okay, "stencil guts" are mini-masks.  More on "masks vs. stencils" comes up later in today's post.

For now, swinging back to the artist Barbara McLawhorn, I'm showing (below) Barbara's photo of an art journal page that she brought to life using another stencil of mine, 9" x 12" Thistle.

Above:  And as you can see,  when Barbara used 9" x 12" Thistle she chose color combinations that really pop!  Warm yellows and whimsical orange curls have a lot of sparkle when set against a subtle blue background.  Viewers see cool colors, such as this muted pale blue, as "receding"; and warm colors, including these yellows and oranges, are visually perceived as "coming forward."  Cool hues and warm hues, when placed next to one another, are perceived as a visual "tension" or "vibration" -- and this catches the viewer's interest.  Hence, the above photo shows another successful painting.

Above:  Barbara has used 9" x 12" Longwood Florals Mask in combination with her Gelli Plate to create this stunning piece.  Its bold pairing of black against cream make it a visual masterpiece.  The "tickles" of red add warmth and visual energy that engage the viewer.

Below, this photo from artist Carol McGowan shows a totally different kind of print likewise created with 9" x 12" Longwood Florals Mask.  Her skill at entertaining the viewer shows in these rich textures set against metallic gleam.  (Her skill at photography also takes a lead role here, because the successful capture of  metallic surfaces presents a challenge.)  I've always loved fossils and fossils are what I'm reminded of as I enjoy lingering over this artwork.  I want to run my fingers over its textures.  How will Carol use this piece of art?  Personally I'd be delighted to see it mounted on matboard and set into a "floating" frame.

Today's next masterpiece comes from StencilClub member Heather Thompson Lynn.  My placing it here is done with purpose; my  9" x 12" Longwood Florals Mask was used by the two artists above, Carol McGowan and Barbara McLawhorn.

Heather, however, has chosen my 9" x 12" Longwood Florals Stencil in creating a gorgeous 2-page art journal spread.

Before I show Heather's artwork, let me skip into tangent-mode to further explain what differentiates a stencil from a mask.  They are exact opposites.  See the examples below --

Above: 6" x 6" Garden at Nemours Mask (S658)

Above:  6" x 6" Garden at Nemours Stencil (S844)

White = the areas that WILL be covered by the Mylar when paint is applied.  Black = the areas that WON'T be covered by Mylar when paint is applied.  

StencilClub member Heather Thompson Lynn was so clever in using Longwood Florals Stencil that at first glance I thought she'd used the mask, not the stencil.  She invited me to take a closer look and sure enough, it was indeed the stencil that she'd used.  Just barely visible are the tiny gaps between leaves and stems that are characteristic of a stencil, not a mask --

Heather is another artist who knows how to make images pop -- you see this in the fluorescent pink that surrounds the purple-black.  I see a number of successes here.  Heather has wisely chosen to avoid creating an area that's entirely pitch-black all the way across.  Instead she has mixed black with purple and gray, a rich, visually satisfying blend. Against that field she's placed 3 images that appear to be swaying in a happy breeze.  The scattered sprinkles of white add to this visual sensation of movement.  Last but not least, Heather has chosen to use an odd number of images.  Odd numbers are generally more visually pleasing than even numbers.

It knocks me for a loop to see what others have done with my StencilGirl masks and stencil -- using them with creativity, imagination and flair -- far exceeding the basic ideas I'd had, back when originally developing these designs.  My hat is off to them!  And I'm grateful for their permission to re-post their artworks here.

For today's last -- yet far from least! -- teaching aid, I'm circling back to Barbara McLawhorn:

Here, Barbara shows us a dazzle of an example of abstract composition.  Notice how Barbara's monochromatic brown pieces work together as a bold unit with movement that guides attention from the upper left to middle right and then to far left at the bottom.  She's taking us for a visual ride thru the artwork with something exciting to view, all along the way.  This visual path was created by using dark-value papers (monochromatic browns) in contrast with those of light-value (blues and pinks.)  Besides using the design strategy of light vs. dark, Barbara has shown us how effective it is when the artist uses the color wheel, placing the brown pieces straight across that wheel from the pale blues.  In other words, to heighten viewers' interest, she's used complementary colors (colors that visually "complete" one another; this is something we look for in an artwork, either consciously or unconsciously.)  Whether or not Barbara hauled out a color wheel while working on this piece of art, is beside the point.  Every artist has intuition.  As experience builds upon experience, an artist learns to trust intuition. 

Barbara's monochromatic browns were created using my 9" x 12" mask Garden Montage....

Garden Montage (9" x 12")

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Art From StencilGirl's Stencil Club Artists

I'm seeing today's post as a runway.  The next post, in a few days, will be the take-off.

In today's first glimpse of art, I introduce with a smile a member of StencilGirlProducts' StencilClub, artist Barbara McLawhorn. 

This bright and bold piece of Barbara's begins its statement with a gold-on-red print made using part of Garden at Nemours Stencil in the upper left.  All stencils and masks that she used came, like mine, from StencilGirl -- Triangle Transitions 1, designed by Mary Beth Shaw, and Travel Note by Rae Missigman.

Today's second eye-catcher, also created by Barbara McLawhorn, features gold metallic paint on a black background--

-- and the mask Barbara used here was my 9" x 12" Palm Fronds Silhouette Large L781.

My 9" x 12" Palm Fronds Silhouette Large L781 is one of three in a series....

9" x 12" Palm Fronds Silhouette Large L781


In printing today's next artwork -- below -- artist Kathy Waldo brought together the palm fronds theme and Cathedral Floor by Tina Walker....

.... and as you can see above, Kathy's results hold the height of drama.  Her keen eye spotted the fact that the base of Cathedral Floor segues naturally into the similar patterns of my palm fronds series.  And she underlined this segue in her use of black for the cathedral as well as for her bottom print; this leads attention directly into the cathedral.  The unity of this overall image is priceless!

Another artist from StencilGirl's Stencil Club, Betsy Harting has, likewise, used more than one stencil in creating the inspiring artwork below.  Betsy's focus on cool greens gives viewers a sense of calm; a glimpse of peace -- she gently brings us these twin gifts so very needed in today's world!  The print dominating the far left was made with My 6" x 6" stencil Pressed Leaves

Along with other StencilGirl stencils (cited below), Pressed Leaves was again used -- with a solid shade of dark green -- in the pair of artworks below, both from the skilled fingers of artist Mary Beth Shaw:   

Today's post closes with an ad!

Thank you for stopping to check out my blog today!  To scroll thru the pages of my StencilGirl stencils and masks, please start here.