Friday, April 12, 2019

Trish McKinney: How I Use Stencils To Transform Ordinary Paintings Into Wow!

My Supplies – step 1
-       An Old Painting You Have Fallen Out Of Love With
-       StencilGirl Stencils by designer artist, Trish McKinney – Bare Wisteria Vine Collection:
-       Golden Fluid Acrylics – various colors
-       Golden White Gesso
-       Sponge Rollers, various sizes
-       Fritch Scrubbers – Cheap Joe’s Art Supply
-       Paper Towels
-       White Chalk Pencil
-       Reference Photo

1- Select your painting – it should be a good painting, but one you no longer feel any passion for - make sure you have your original reference photo for the painting, this will be helpful.
2 - Select your stencils – let the shapes in your painting inspire your selection – I am using 2 stencils from my Wisteria Collection because they were reminiscent of the curved lines in the sunflower petals
4 – Prepare your materials & paint area – first - prepare one styrofoam tray with white gesso & one tray with darker value colors – be sure to only use colors that are already in your painting for color harmony.  You will need a clean, dry sponge roller for each tray and a few in the wings in case you need them. Have your rubbing alcohol and a good paper towel and a Fritch Scrubber nearby.
5- Using your stencils – begin by placing your stencils on you painting – look for a simple, open area in the negative space that has simple, dark values. I would recommend using 1 to no more than 2 stencils. And use 2 stencils only if the stencils connect to each other with similar lines and shapes– ie, my wisteria collection, sea grass collection, spanish moss collection, line waves collection, etc..
6 – Begin lifting & painting - Start with a paper towel soaked with rubbing alcohol then begin lifting the dark areas working towards the focal area.  Be sure your stencil is placed in a slightly opposite direction to your subject – this will create a very important design principle – tension.  Move  your stencils around the painting working around your subject
7 – Integrate and shift values – when painting switch from light to dark then lose and find your edges. Work gradually all around your painting until you are satisfied. 
8 – Refine & Finish by using your brush to refine and emphasize the lines and shapes you have created as well as distinguish and emphasize the subject.  The lines and shapes should never over power you subject matter but enhance it instead. You will know you are finished when this  is accomplished.

How I Use Stencils To Transform Ordinary Paintings Into Wow!

Every now and then I need to be reminded to dance and have fun!  Every now and then as artists we all need to do the same thing in our studio - dance, have fun, and shake things up! Shaking things up in the studio helps me avoid getting stuck in a creative rut.  It also helps me to grow/evolve into my “next” – my next series, new technique, etc…  The painting I used for this post was a totally fine painting – some might even think it’s just fine as it was - but for whatever reason I felt no passion towards this piece.  So this painting has been lingering in my reject pile for quite a few years because I was feeling just “bleh” towards the style but not necessarily towards the subject matter.  I deliberately wanted to use a piece like this so you can see how you can transform an ordinary, good painting into something new, fresh, and extraordinary - rejuvenating your passion to paint and inspire creativity!

After selecting your stencils – I ended up using just 2 of the 3 wisteria stencils I had originally selected.  Too many lines and too many stencils will cause you to get too complicated so select no more than 2 stencils and make sure the stencils connect in some way – ie, similar lines and shapes. 

Next, begin twisting and turning your stencil(s) around the entire painting, painting with your sponge rollers and lifting out.  Working around the painting from all sides will keep the flow going.  It’s best to start with your stencil placed in a simple, open area with very little patterns or textures – somewhere in the negative area surrounding your subject if possible.  Begin by lifting out color with rubbing alcohol.  If you can’t lift then use either gesso or dark value colors and your sponge roller – whatever is the opposite value of the painting.  Work towards the focal point and have a light hand at first. Try not to get heavy-handed and obliterate your original painting – use the stencils to enhance the focal area not detract from it.  It might help to turn up the music and dance while you do this! ;)

Step back and look at your painting at a distance to see how it is progressing.  Assess the painting by remembering that your subject matter – in my case the sunflower – should still be the center of attention – the focal point.  The lines and shapes created by the stencil(s) are supposed to enhance your focal area.  Once you have assessed what is needed, keep working back and forth with light and dark values - lifting out and painting until you are satisfied. 

Refine, tweak, and keep working until you are satisfied.  Be sure to step back and look at your painting from a distance from time to time during this process
Once you are feeling the love and excited again about this painting – you are done!  I’ve now fallen back in love with this sunflower.  I feel like I have taken this painting from dull to exciting and fun!  I hope you enjoy this technique and I’ve inspired you to take a risk and have some fun! 

Always remember the secret to creativity is “new” – ie, a new surface, new paint, new technique, and so on -  so why not try something new? 


  1. Wow! I love the way you used the stencils to create a completely different painting. I thought the sunflower was great before but it is awesome now! Thank you for sharing your technique.

  2. Amazzzzzzzing how you can transform your art with stencils so magically!! Sharing you technique is priceless....

  3. Wow, Trish! Great video and technique! You're a master!


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