When StencilGirl® asked me to be Guest Designer, I couldn’t say “YES” fast enough. I am so honored to be able to share my artwork and techniques with everyone but I also have to admit that I am a bit nervous since this is my first “official” blog post. This past year, I have been using StencilGirl® stencils in my art journaling so I decided to share this technique with you.
I used a Dyan Reaveley Dylusions 8 ½” x 8 5/8” journal for my journal spread. This brand is my go to for art journaling because it holds up to various types of art materials and the pages don’t warp when layers of acrylic paint are applied. Many designers prime their art journal pages with gesso but I didn’t in this case and I haven’t experienced any issues by not doing so.
To make my background, I sprinkled instant coffee grounds onto the pages and spritzed them with water using a small spray bottle. I put the journal off to the side to allow it to dry before proceeding to the next layer. Once dry, I brushed off any excess coffee grounds using a dry paintbrush.
I wanted to add additional depth to the coffee stain so I added watercolor in random areas using German Greenish Raw Umber by Daniel Smith and Yellow Grey W351 by Holbein.
Next, holding a Stabilo All (water soluble) pencil loosely at the very end of the pencil, I scribbled lines across both sides. Holding it at the very end allows you to keep a loose grip so the pencil bounces across the pages as it moves. Vary the pressure as you go to create interest. Then, with a wet brush, go over some pencil marks to soften and blend. Reapply pencil marks in areas if needed.
Continuing to build up the background, I used a sanguine conte crayon and scribbled randomly in areas on both pages. Don’t overthink the placement – this will be the base layer and will eventually be covered up. Just be loose and free at this stage.
Once the background layer was complete, I continued building layers with stencils. Using the StencilGirl® Open Bare Wisteria Vine stencil by Trish McKinney and a drug store make up wedge sponge, I started to paint over the background with acrylic paint in Steel that I picked up from Target. I love Target’s range of acrylic paint colors and they work well when art journaling – not to mention that they are inexpensive so I don’t have to feel bad wasting the good stuff. I moved the stencil around until both pages were covered. The Open Bare Wisteria Vine is a mask so the background layer that we created peeks through. Be sure to use a contrasting color for this part so the colors underneath “pop”. If you want a more subtle look, you can use colors close in value.
In order to start pulling the different layers together so there is a sense of cohesiveness, I added smaller details randomly over everything. For this step, I like to use repeated patterns such as dots, circles, and/or small squares. First, I stenciled Organized Chaos by Cat Kerr with Tim Holtz Distressed Oxide inkpad in Iced Spruce. I used a make up wedge sponge to apply the color.
I continued building texture and dimension using Gridded by Rae Missigman and Martha Stewart Satin Acrylic Paint in Couscous. Then, using Seth Apter’s Text and Texture Transform Stencil, I added tiny dots using a make up wedge sponge and Ranger Archival Ink Pad in Dandelion.
Once that was all done and dry, I repositioned the Open Bare Wisteria Vine stencil over the original design so it would act as a protective mask, protecting the areas underneath, for the next step. Holding down the mask, I stenciled the 6” Travel Note Stencil by Rae Missigman in the large areas of the vine’s negative space using Target acrylic paint in Malted Milk.
Now, you could stop here and be pleased with the results, however, I kept going because I felt that it needed a focal point of some kind. So, I decided to paint a large section in the middle of the two journal pages in a solid black using Dylusions Paint in Black Marble. Do not paint the sections at even widths – vary to give more interest and (off) balance.
Once dry, I stenciled the Gigi stencil by Lizzie Mayne on the top of portion of the black sections using Parchment acrylic paint and a makeup wedge sponge. Move the stencil down until 2/3rds of the black section is covered. Be sure to line up the design as you move the stencil around.
Paint the bottom section a Warm Gray (Dick Blick acrylic paint) and then use the Sequin Grid Waste stencil by Jacqueline Sullivan and trace random sections using a 0.7 mechanical pencil to give a “faux” stone look.
Stencil over the gray section using the 1700s Building stencil by Carolyn Dube and Dylusions acrylic paint in Black Marble. Using my finger, I lightly tapped / rubbed Parchment acrylic paint in the “faux” stone design areas to add highlights. For the very top trim section, I stenciled this with Martha Stewart acrylic paint in Celadon.
To tie in the center section with the background, I cut out thin strips from 12” square scrapbooking paper that I picked up at a local craft store and using gel medium, I glued these to cover the edges.
Now, you could stop at this point but I kept going. At this stage, there are layers, texture, depth and visual interest but I felt that everything was at the same “level”. The center section was definitely grabbing all of the attention so I wanted to force it back a bit. So, another layer was added to soften things up and bring these together. Using Golden’s Titanium White acrylic paint, a make up wedge sponge and the Swooping Crossed Line Waves stencil by Trish McKinney, I stenciled over the center section, while also moving somewhat into the other areas on either side. This step / technique brings everything together and makes all of the layers you applied seem cohesive and intentional. Do not cover everything – just some areas to allow what you built underneath to still show through. Also, for this layer, do not overdo the amount of paint you apply. I like to dip my sponge in the paint and then pounce most of it off onto wax paper before stenciling.
Last but not least, using a wet brush, water down navy acrylic paint and flick the brush to lightly splatter paint across the entire surface. The closer your brush is to the page, the larger the droplets of paint. I like to hold mine further away for smaller drops.
Since the center section was “pushed” back to meld more evenly with the rest of the design, it still needed a focal point. To accomplish this, I collaged various images, old book pages, vintage ephemera and torn pieces of fabric covers from antique books onto both sides of a Joggles large watercolor tag. Once dry, I painted the tag background with Ruby Mountain handmade watercolor paint in Dark Chasm. I also painted over the edges of the collage papers in the same color to soften and tie the various pieces together.
Once complete, I used the Tim Holtz guillotine paper trimmer and cut the tag into (3) sections. Using a mechanical pencil, I added “tick” and scribble marks to the top of the tag and tied (2) colors of embroidery thread through the hole to make a tassel.
The larger section was hand stitched using embroidery thread in a contrasting coral color that picked up the original sanguine conte crayon color used in the beginning stages of the background. Since hand stitching through thick layers of paper is difficult, I used an awl to poke holes before stitching. I added various mark making to the backside of the larger section using Tim Holtz’s Distress Oxide Paint in Iced Spruce, Titanium White acrylic as highlight and a mechanical pencil.
Once I had all of the tag pieces complete, I played around with testing out positioning on the pages, the direction of the images and the various sides and number of sections, taking photos along the way for reference. This process helped me to narrow down the final choice before committing. Since the background already had a lot of interest, using all of the tag pieces would have made it too busy. So, I finally decided to just use the main image of the castle (large section) and the very top of the tag with the tassel. The windows in the castle image tie into the stenciled windows from the 1700s building stencil nicely and allow one’s eye to move along the pages.
To attach the pieces, I decided to stitch them into the center seam. This way, it can move like a page in the journal and the collage elements on the back can also be visible.
Helpful Tips to Building Layers / Dimension in your artwork:
1. Use contrast
2. Add random repetitive design elements
3. Soften edges
4. Don’t be afraid to cover over something (or remove)
5. Add elements that will “peek” through (mark making, collage elements, patterns, paint flicking, etc.)
6. Do not use too much paint – can always add more but harder to remove. Less paint allows previous layers underneath to show through when dry
7. Experiment with different types of art materials to build texture
Being able to learn from other artists willing to share their tips and techniques is extremely valuable to me in order to grow as an artist. Therefore, I hope you enjoyed this post and found something to take with you as you create your own artwork.
You can find more of my work on Instagram @artfulradish. Feel free to take a look and / or contact me (email@example.com) if you have any questions or just want to say ‘hi’.
Thank you StencilGirl®…….I had a blast!
Nicole Luperini (Artful Radish)