Thursday, September 16, 2021

StencilGirl® Guest Designer: Michelle Vandyk

I’m honoured to be a StencilGirl® Guest Designer! I LOVE their stencils and use them often in my personal work and in my new art therapy practice.

As we enter Fall, for some of us it is also a new season in life. I’m reflecting on this personally in my Healing Journal as I journey through diverging careers in my 50’s. It’s a time of hope and excitement, yet daunting as well.

I’m particularly drawn to the windows, doorways, ladders, fences, bridges, and vessels that are rife with meaning, symbolism and metaphor. Stencils allow me and my clients to use symbols and metaphors that resonate with us consistently - yet they are flexible, and can be used in a myriad of ways as a form of self-expression and relaying our stories from the inside out.

Stencils used in this project:
Arched Aqueduct Stencil
Ladders Stencil
Door to Heart 9 Stencil
Door To Heart 6 Stencil
Botanical Wildflowers
Herbs Stencil
Window Ledger 9 Stencil
Ginger Jar
Play Everyday Swing


  • 2- 8”x8” x1.5”canvases (or journal)
  • Makeup sponges
  • Gloss Super Heavy Gel acrylic medium (Liquitex)
  • White archival glue
  • Acrylic paints-(I used Golden) Phthalo Turquoise, Zinc White, Naphthol Red, Cadmium Yellow, Green Gold, Micaceous Iron Oxide, Payne’s Grey, Iridescent Gold Fine
  • Ranger Distress Oxide and Distress Sprays- Speckled Egg, Evergreen Bough, Rusty Hinge, Fossilized Amber, Salvaged Patina, Blue Ribbon, Rustic Wilderness, Vintage Photo and Dylusions White Linen Ink Spray
  • Posca acrylic paint pens- Navy Blue and Red
  • Uniball pens- white and gold
  • Van Gogh calendar pieces
  • Vintage ephemera (& sticker, maps, sunflower wrapping paper, hand stamped organza...
  • Cyanotype print on vintage book paper using Play Everyday Swing Stencil
  • Ric rac- green

I begin my backgrounds often with spray inks such as Ranger Distress inks and Oxide inks. It’s a great feeling to get past the blank white page/canvas!

Next I begin choosing collage bits and stencils that speak to me- not overthinking, just grabbing intuitively. I began gluing (archival white glue and Liquitex Heavy Gel Medium) some collage elements such as the cyanotype on vintage paper using the Play Everyday Swing stencil (more on that in a future post), as well as some pieces of an old calendar (thanks Van Gogh!) and an old map scrap. I love to keep my scraps- you never know when they might be a perfect addition. The act of tearing is a great stress reliever too!

Adding Zinc White allows for a veil of white to soften the light coming through the arched ‘windows’ made with the Arched Aqueduct stencil by Caroline Dube. You can achieve a similar effect by adding water or acrylic matte or gloss medium to Titanium white.

I like repeating shapes to achieve a coherent composition, so this ‘doorway of opportunity’ using the stencil by Pam Carriker is great as it comes in 3 sizes (I have them all!) The micaceous iron oxide paint by Golden has a gritty, stony look and feel with a hint of glitter- perfect to imitate a solid ancient stone doorway.

I can’t resist using my favourite colour, Phthalo Turquoise, so here it goes for the smaller doorway...using the smaller version of the ‘Door to Heart stencil. I carry the colour around the parameter of the painting to give it an enclosed feeling and create a glaze of colour to give a unified feeling to the work.

This beautiful green spoke ‘growth’ to me and thought it paired well with the ladder- or is it a fence, a bridge, or a railroad? There are so many possibilities with this stencil! It’s one of my favourites, Carolyn Dube! It leads the eye up to the cyanotype of the girl on the swing = peace, joy. (Play Everyday Swing stencil by Cat Kerr)

I keep adding bits of mixed-media that catch my eye and enhance the images with Posca acrylic paint markers in navy blue and red. I love that they work so well over washi tape and plastic too! The green ric rac (a blast from the past), becomes another path to the destination.

Who can say it better than Robert Frost? “The Road Not Taken” is a poem that feels like it was written for this season in life.  I jot down a few excerpts, using my favourite gold pen as a nod to the sunflower (=hope) and light coming through the windows and doorways.

I love the versatility of StencilGirl stencils! Here I use part of my favourite vessel stencil (Ginger Jar by Jill McDowell) to create a focal point. It feels like a seal or a chop in Naphthol Red - a way to add excitement and tension to the predominantly green landscape.

I added a few more botanical stencils- why not!? There are so many to choose from! I like to outline them with markers and pens. I love the Botanical Wildflowers stencil by Rae Missigman and the Herbs stencil by Jessica Sporn especially.

Do you have a ‘road not taken’ in your life? What would it look like? 

I like to modify the stencils a bit to suit the way I work. I keep and use all of the bits I cut out as well.

Have a peek at another page in my Healing Journal where I use the Ginger Jar (Jill McDowell) and the Play Everyday Swing (Cat Kerr) in different ways. 


Michelle Vandyk has been passionate about light, shadows, colours, and the relationships between living and man-made elements for as long as she can remember.  Her mixed-media art reflects her belief that life is layered, textured, relational and meaningful.

Many years ago Michelle received her BFA in studio arts. After 16 years of teaching Middle and High School Art, she is adding a new dimension to her art practice by studying Art Therapy. Blessed to share her passion for many forms of visual art, Michelle teaches adult/teen workshops, women’s retreats, volunteers, and facilitates visual expression and healing through her new business, Abide Art & Therapy. 

Currently Michelle resides with her family and her grand-dog, Piper in Chilliwack, BC, Canada

Social Media:
IG- @michelle_vandyk
FB- Michelle Vandyk
Etsy- MichelleVandykArt


  1. I really like your work, Michelle. The double-arched painting described in the project details is lovely. I'm a little confused about one thing: Is the photo at the top of this column a separate artwork, unrelated to the project in the column?

  2. Hi Terry- thanks for your comment about my work 😊. In hindsight I should have been more clear about the first image. It’s a self portrait where I used the same techniques and (the ladder stencil), that I used in the project for the blog.


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