Hi, everyone! Staci Swider here! In my painting process I always include a middle layer of red design, often something decorative such as flowers or geometric designs, more recently as drips that influence the placement of compositional items such as flowers and plants. These elements are usually drawn using a squeeze bottle of red paint. I could go into all the subliminal reasons for my color choice and how I got to this point but the end game is that because of the way I apply my paint bits of red almost always poke out around the edges of my designs and aesthetically I find that to be very pleasing. Stencils in beautiful designs are a natural fit for this middle layer of my process and they allow for a broader array of more complex elements that I may not be inclined to take the time to draw out by hand. For the demonstration that follows I chose two organic plant designs and whimsical bunnies.
If you’d like to learn more about my process or insight into my design choices pick up a copy of my book “Acrylic Expressions” or one of my painting videos that demonstrate more in depth how I apply paint. For now, let’s take a look at how that red layer plays out using stencils.
9" x 12" mixed media paper (I used a scrap from an old project)
Scraps of textured paper (these are handmade cotton rag)
Mod Podge or similar collage adhesive
Acrylic paint in a variety of colors
Sennelier Oil Pastels (expensive but worth their weight in Gold)
1. I chose this particular piece of mixed media paper because I liked the subtle nature of the underpainting and I knew that most of it would get covered up. If you find yourself without any old papers that could stand a facelift, simply use some acrylic paint thinned with water to edit out most of the white.
2. I can never have enough texture in my paintings so I opted to glue down two pieces of handmade paper, also from my scrap basket. I used a thin layer of Mod Podge applied with a two-inch brush.
3. I placed my stencils on top of the collaged papers and using the same 2” brush I pounced a little red paint all over to transfer my designs. I wasn’t overly concerned with the edges being crisp and clear because these designs are merely a place holder for color later in my process and will be repainted. I oriented the bunnies up high and the foliage at the bottom, thinking that the bunnies would become part of my sky.
4. Next is the fun part; adding color. When I paint, I move my color around the entire piece at the same time, rather than completing a small area and then moving to the next. If you look closely at this photo you can see how I added paint not only over top of the bunnies but also around them. My intention was to create a monochromatic blue area with a subtle rabbit pattern.
5. At the same time I added tints and shades of greens and golds to the foliage area below. I continued moving my brush around on my paper, switching between blue and green until all of the under painting was covered. I allowed bits of red to peek out around the edges of the design.
6. The sky area was looking a little too light to me so I added darker blues and purples. I started losing the edges of my rabbit pattern but I was pleased with the overall effect so I decided to let it go.
7. Here you can see more closely how I used the design from the stencil to guide me as I painted over top of the red and then filled in around the red with a lighter neutral in the negative spaces to form the ground.
8. After the painting was dry I used several greens and a bright orange oil pastel to add pops of color and clarity to the plants. I also rubbed a little grey into a few spots of the sky just to elevate the color up there a little. When all was said and done I accidentally created a painting that was almost cut in half horizontally between sky and ground. I corrected my composition by cropping out a portion of the sky to create a square. Shifting that horizon line upwards divided the painting into thirds thereby making it more interesting than if it was divided directly in half.
Learn more about Staci Swider and her artwork on her website at staciswider.com!