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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