Friday, October 9, 2020

Guest Designer Sally Hirst: Video Tutorial with StencilGirl® Stencils

Hello, everyone! Sally Hirst here! I have been using stencils in my artwork for many years now. I am a painter and printmaker creating abstract painting using acrylics, oil and cold wax medium as well as intaglio and monotype prints. Often the same stencil will appear in a range of pieces, visually linking them together. I particularly like how using a stencil can provide an area of interest in a painting or a print that draws the viewer’s attention. So, I was delighted when Mary Bath asked me to be the guest artist! It also gave me the opportunity to explore some new StencilGirl® products.

I met Mary Beth at a GOLDEN function a while back, I was impressed by her creativity, passion, and her products. She creates stencils with and for artists, she understands what artists want, and StencilGirl® provide us with what we need

Much of my work explores texture and I like building textures with stencils and a range of GOLDEN acrylic pastes and gels. Stencils are an ideal way to create a texture that is subtle, often only seen when the area is cast in shadow.

Here is an example of one of my paintings, you can see how I have used stencils to create raised patterns under the surface of the paint. 

A particularly nice way of using stencils and texture products is on watercolor paper. This has its own texture and is absorbent, but has a different absorbency to the GOLDEN pastes and gels that I love to use. By playing with this difference I can get interesting yet subtle contrast in values. I mostly work on paper but then I attach it to a panel with GOLDEN Heavy Gel, putting textured pieces behind glass loses the shadows cast by the textures. Why not straight onto panel? I find I am freer, and looser if I work on paper, and I can always just cut out a smaller piece, a dynamic ‘found’ composition. Often one large painting will provide me with six smaller ones!

Rolls is a stencil by Daniella Woolf. The design rolls across diagonally, increasing the sense of movement. I was particularly drawn to the fractured nature of the design which enabled a textural effect.

Here you can see where I have pushed GOLDEN Fiber paste through the stencil, the fractured nature of the design is enhanced by the highly textured paste. When dry I painted it with GOLDEN High Flow, allowing the paint to run through and around the stencil.

You can see how the differences in texture and absorbency really create an interesting affect.

Switchbacks by Daniella Woolf reminds me of journeys; train tracks, wooden shuttering, endless roadway. For this stencil I used Fiber paste again. It is one of my favorite pastes as it has such a lovely texture and is flexible on paper.

Not only did I use my favorite paste but also my favorite GOLDEN paint. This is Bronze which is an iridescent paint that when you water it down ‘splits’ into two colors; pthalo green and bronze. I love it! It creates an aging effect, a patina reminiscent of old Venetian walls.

Layers by Mary Beth Shaw has quickly become a favorite stencil. The subtle shift in texture left trails across the paper. 

I pushed Golden Light Molding paste through the stencil and once dry I flooded it with GOLDEN Transparent Red and Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold. The two colors mixed together to give a delicious blend reminiscent of rust.

Once it was dry I rolled Burnt Umber lightly over the surface which picking up texture and provided more contrast. In areas I didn’t want it I wet it down to blend in with the oranges.

Shape Shifter by Mary Beth Shaw is a geometric delight! I used a cradled panel for this piece as I wanted to use GOLDEN crackle paste and it is too fragile to use on paper. I used the stencil with a GOLDEN Heavy Gel which, once dry I knew would give me a range of fabulous large areas to fill in with the crackle paste.

Once the gel was dry, I coated the panel with black gesso and a layer of black GOLDEN High Flow, allowing it to dry between layers and after. GOLDEN Crackle paste likes a non-absorbent surface, and I knew the black underneath would really highlight the cracks!

Once all dry and fully cracked, which takes at least a couple of hours, I painted the panel with a watered down GOLDEN Bronze which dispersed into bronze and pthalo blue when diluted. These close up shots really show the amazing shapes from the stencil and the lovely crackle effect.

Mark Making by Traci Bautista is a delightfully loose and free, stencil so I decided to push the idea of mark making and use GOLDEN Fine pumice gel. This created a delicate rough surface that once dry picked up the charcoal that I smeared over the surface. I worked into the charcoal with ArtGraf, a water-soluble graphite.

Art Party by Daniella Woolf provides that geometric structure that I love. I used GOLDEN absorbent ground with this stencil, it’s similar to gesso but more absorbent and gives a lovely matte texture.

I worked over it when dry with sepia GOLDEN High Flow.

MB Makes Marks Pipette was also designed by Mary Beth Shaw. This is the second of these stencils I have owned. The first was given to me by Mary Bath at part of a workshop for GOLDEN Artist Educators. Unfortunately, it became someone else’s ‘favorite’ after a monotype workshop I ran recently! The loose scribble design created using a pipette has such a lively energy. For this stencil I used GOLDEN Heavy Gel Matte.

I knew it would not be as absorbent as the paper, it would act a ‘resist’ to the GOLDEN High Flow, being matte it would ‘stain’ but not be as clean a surface that you would get with a gloss gel. Once dry I flooded it with GOLDEN High Flow sepia and black and watched it flow into the paper. Pushing over the stenciled area with a spreader cleaned off most of the High Flow, leaving a lovely contrast.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing with these StencilGirl® stencils, it’s always a delight to try a new one and to see what I can get out of it! These papers will become the basis for further work using either Oil or Cold Wax medium or more acrylic gels and colors, but the stencils from StencilGirl® have given me a starting point.


  1. I found your video and article fascinating and inspiring on using stencils with various mediums. Your explanations about using absorbant or non-absorbent substrates was really helpful. Looking forward to doing some experimenting!

  2. I've used some of these gels and pastes. You make it look so luscious and inviting. I will try more of your techniques. Also, thanks for the information about the Golden Bronze and how it breaks when diluted with water. I haven't seen that before and love the effects!


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