Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Little Stencil That Could



This was the state of the studio when I entered it on Monday morning. Shameful, isn't it? I heaved a big, self-pitying sigh and got to work cleaning it up. Of course, as soon as I finished and swept the floor, I launched right back into to messing it up, again. Such is the cycle of making.

After a couple of weeks of hard work, I completed a piece of art this morning that I'd like to explain to you but I'm not entirely sure I can without spending the next thirty minutes of your time describing its evolution. I'll just start by simply showing it to you.

(Writ Large, 22 1/2 " x 27", layers of multi-purpose fabric, acrylics)

This piece actually has its roots back in November of 2011. I had monoprinted some Stacked Journaling on a bit of fabric and then found myself fascinated with the way the letters and words connected to, and intersected with, one another. Snatching up a black Sharpie, I outlined the negative spaces created by those intersections.








Mindless fun, finding all the negative spaces and giving them definition. But I've never been much of a doodler and I didn't have a clear grasp of how these outlined shapes might move my work forward, so after a few minutes, I put it aside and forgot about it.

But then I ran across that little bit of fabric again last week, and an idea took hold- I could explore those negative spaces not just by tracing around them, but by cutting them out and making a stencil.

So I did.


Using a scrap piece of multi-purpose fabric and a thick Sharpie, I created a small text block of SJ. Then it was time for the sharp implements. I found the MPF particularly suited for stencil making because it's easy to cut and, as I've raved about before, doesn't fray.

The test stencil, only about 5" square, worked beautifully and suddenly I knew what this idea wanted to be... it wanted to be grown up.

I cut a large piece of MPF off the bolt and on one side of it, I Journaled in fluid acrylics. After finishing the text block, though, I realized that I'd overdone it- there was way too much text, the negative spaces were all rather small, and the whole piece just looked too busy. I was going for scale- size, dangit- so I flipped the fabric over and Journaled again, only this time with huge, swoopy letters and fewer words. That worked much better. Satisfied, I began cutting out all the negative spaces contained inside the connected letters.

The resulting stencil (you can see it sitting on the far corner of my large work table in the top photo) is what ultimately became the top layer of the work in the photograph at the beginning of this post.

So is it a stencil? Or is it an art piece? Well, as I began working with this huge stencil, it began to take on some lovely color and texture, and soon I was more interested in the stencil itself than in the fabric I was producing with it. It screamed for a background, though, a field of such contrast behind it that the stencil would be elevated to the status of an art piece.

Another large piece of MPF, painted with the stencil (in dark blue/green), became the background for the stencil (painted in hot oranges and reds.) I adhered the two pieces together with gel medium, trimmed the edges so the piece would be square, and it's now ready to hang.

Now for the comedy segment of our show... after cutting the stencil I was left with a bunch of oddly shaped pieces of fabric, and because I had done SJ on both sides, these excess pieces had some lovely painted marks on them. I started playing with them, moving them around, mixing and matching, and before long, figures began to emerge. Can you see them?


"Zen Master"

 "En Garde!"

"Peg Leg Joe"

"Power Walker"

Another piece of work will be coming out of this series and more will be created later as well, I think. Look for photos of those in the coming days!

In the meantime, and as always, happy creating!
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