Monday, April 6, 2015

Welcome to StencilGirl Guest Designer Jacqueline Sullivan

A great BIG StencilGirl welcome to Guest Designer 

Stencils! Oh, how I love them! I have been using stencils in my work for many years.
For a very long time, it was both fun and frustrating to find ones that I wanted to use. I wanted designs, not imagery. What’s the difference? To me it is the difference between a realistic painting  and an abstract one. I liked the texture and the designs that could be an underlayment for my bright colors. But I did not want the design to be front and center. I wanted it to be well integrated with my painting.

I made some of my own stencils, cutting them from old file folders and later from acetate. These worked well but it was “just one more thing”. It was a chore and wasn’t my favorite thing to do. And I couldn’t always get as detailed as I wanted.

Enter Mary Beth Shaw and StencilGirl. It was love at first site when I saw her display full of well designed stencils at one of the retreat venues. I could just imagine some of these beautiful designs in my paintings, on books, as backgrounds on book pages and more. Students are forever asking – where did you get these great stencils?

I love the play of geometric design against organic forms. Since most of my paintings tend to be organic abstracts, I like the play of some of the geometric designs in my work.  And this line of stencils features more geometric designs than even I could dream of!

My usual way to use and teach with stencils is to push Light Molding Paste through them, creating a stand up texture that takes paint very well. When painting this texture, I try to ignore it so that it is integrated into the painting as a whole and the texture is a bit of a surprise to the viewer. You can see this technique with the “Bubbles” stencil in this photo. 

But lately, I have been “hooked on” a new technique. I have been stenciling with Absorbent Ground. This is a Golden Product that is sort of like an Absorbent Gesso. This means that it takes washes really well. I first use the stencil Blueprints of Archeological Treasures  on a blank sheet of paper – as a white on white design. Once it has dried, I do a wash of watercolor or watery acrylic on top of the stenciled paper. The paper takes the wash differently than the paint and so you see the stenciled image coming through in a very subtle way.  

This is Absorbent Ground on Cold Press Watercolor Paper with a wash of QoR Watercolor (Quinacridone Gold) over the tope of it. The Quincacridone Gold is blended with Nickel Azo Yellow to make it more interesting. I covered the entire page with this wash and let it dry. I then used a different stencil Square Dance  with Absorbent Ground for the next layer. I blended the edges of the stencil so there would not be a hard edge between the layers. Once dry, I blended in some Teal color High Flow Acrylic over parts of the stencil.

In this series, I continued layering and blending stenciled imagery with the Absorbent Ground and painting it with a mixture of watercolors and High Flow Acrylic paints. I decided to try it on some colored paper. I used some hand made papers that I had bought on a recent teaching trip to Alaska. 

In this photo (#3) I used a dark brown sheet of paper and stenciled it with Intersections and Absorbent Ground. The Ground dries white. It was then painted with the same watercolors and High Flows, mixing in some Absorbent Ground as I painted to get some more opaque colors.

I fell in love with the Intersections and discovered that it is a great way to divide up space in an abstract work. In this photo (#4) I used the spaces made by the stencil for areas of tiny textural writing. I used the top group of lines as a high horizon line for my focal point of calligraphic marks and tiny writing. The marks were made with High Flow Acrylics in a Fine Line Applicator tool. I do the tiny writing with a Sakura Gelly Roll pen. 

In my Calligraphic piece with the layering of the word, Imagine (the photo below), I worked on a piece of off white Arches Text Wove paper. Again, I used the stencil as a way to divide up the space on the page and as built in lines for my Calligraphy.

I worked on these pieces on a recent retreat in California. The love of the stencils with the beautiful bright watercolors is completely intriguing to me and I look forward to using even more stencils for building layers and dividing space in my paintings. 

To see more of Jacqueline's work visit her website HERE.

Stencils Used:


  1. These are just gorgeous - I love the dreamy quality from the watercolors, and the addition of the calligraphy is too cool! Thanks for the idea to work with the absorbant ground - I just added some to my cart at Blick so I can try this :)

  2. This artwork is gorgeous -- beautiful! I had noticed that you use StencilGirl stencils, Jackie, so I'm doubly delighted to see you here as a Guest Designer! And I wonder when you plan to make your next DVD ...

  3. Terrific to see YOU and your beautiful work again!! It's been so long! I will see you this weekend though!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. beautiful artwork! thank you for sharing..i'll be trying out your techniques for sure!

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  6. This is amazing!!! I love watercolor and seeing them with stencils tickles my muse! Thank you for a really beautiful and inspiring post!

  7. They look like paintings. Very unique use of medium and paint! :)

  8. They look like paintings. Very unique use of medium and paint! :)
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