I just got a great question via email and having sent the answer off, thought you might like to hear it too.
The question was about how to get crisp edges when using stencils and did I have any tips?
I’ll make an assumption that you’re having a problem with the edges when you use paint with a stencil – that’s the most common medium that causes problems. My experience has been there are two things that may be at fault: the application tool being too wet and the stencil moving around.
First, the application tool. Paint is inherently wet and stenciling is an inherently dry art form – thus the smudgy edges. I’ve found that using a sponge applicator (either a cosmetic wedge or special purpose sponge brush) is a better way to apply paint. Brushes are difficult to get dry enough and often “push” the paint under the stencil edges.
The trick with using a sponge is to dip it into the paint and then dab most of it right back off until the sponge is barely damp with paint. Then gently tap it onto the area straight up and down. Of course, it may take more than one coat to get the color build-up you want, but the edges will be crisp and, personally, I like the look of the differences in coverage – it gives the work a more lively quality.
Second, the stencil itself. If the stencil moves while you’re painting, the edges will smear. If you’re working on a project that allows, go ahead and tape the edges of the stencil down with low-tack blue tape. That will keep everything in place for the duration of the project.
But, if you’re like me and move that stencil around to get different angles, that won’t work. In that case, I hold the working area down firmly with one hand (up close to where I’m working) and apply paint with the other. One other tip with this is to gently twist your wrist as you lift the sponge so it doesn’t pull the stencil up with it. It takes a few times of practicing but it really does keep that stencil down so the edges stay secure. Finally, be sure to wait long enough before picking the stencil back up – it shouldn’t be long at all if the application was dry enough.
Now, this is just my experience and your results may vary – do you have something that’s worked for you?
I’ve been making art digitally lately and have (finally) settled into what I like to think of as a “style.” Making art digitally is art like any other – the same principles of design, color and composition apply. But, so does the learning curve for the materials!
Not so long ago, my response to using Photoshop was something along the lines of “No, I don’t work digitally,” and I knew almost nothing about that particular art supply. Well, curiosity finally got the better of me and I tip-toed in with Photoshop Elements. If you’re not up on the digital world, PE is a simper version of Adobe’s Photoshop with some of the functions semi-automated and others either hidden or stripped out. It’s aimed at the hobbyist and photo-editing market and is a great product in its own right.
After making some pretty bad art with this new fangled supply – because, you know you have to make bad, truly atrocious, things before you can make good work – I got the hang of it and saw how I could expand the reach of my creativity in ways that physical art can’t do. It didn’t take long to hone my skills to be ready to move up to the full Photoshop CS6 to gain access to the full feature set. It’s a lot like wanting to move up to the BIG box of crayons!
For now, I find myself drawn to digitally creating, of all things, paper. Specifically, old paper edges. I love the texture and complexity in making a digital piece of paper appear worn and old. I’ve compared my digital versions with actual old paper and the funny thing is that they evoke old paper without being identical to it. My versions are often more dramatic or exaggerated.
Combining these raggedy old papers with vintage images seemed like the logical next step. Since I have a fondness for the Regency through Victorian periods, these three Regency ladies are the result. They’re available as print-yourself downloads on Etsy or cards and prints at RedBubble.
I’m still exploring the possibilities of my new art supply so who knows what’s next. In the physical art world, I’m working on a watercolor painting video lesson – look for more on that soon!
So, what’s on your work table? I’d love to hear about you’re doing – digital, paint, crayons, whatever – so drop me a note!
This happy little fellow almost leaped off my painting table and I thought you might like to see a little of the “behind the scenes” parts of a painting.
I have a mild fixation on sun and moon faces and themes and tend to doodle them frequently. So, I wondered how one might turn out if I painted it instead. First, I drew the face on my paper freehand with a plain old mechanical pencil with a soft lead. Then, I lightened the drawing a bit and erased some of the outlines.
I chose Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Red, and Indigo Blue for my colors. It’s a variation of the Bright Earth pallet described in Nita Leland’s book(If you want some insight in to watercolor pigments and how to combine them in attractive color schemes – this is a great book!)
Time to start painting!
I make my first pass loosely with the background color (Indigo) and then go right back with the sunface color (QG and QR). After laying the paint down, it looks like this:
Really, it looks like a hot mess, but this is where painting with watercolor takes faith. The more you fiddle with it and try to make it look “right,” the worse it’s going to be. (See this tomato for an example of overworked paint).
When it’s dried to moist – no shine, but still cool and damp to the touch – I made the second pass where I painted in the smaller shapes like the mouth. Again, the trick is to get away and let the paint do its thing. It still doesn’t look all that impressive yet:
When it’s dried to moist again, I added those spatters that I love so much. They’re not as random as they look and let it dry to bone dry.
Finally, I go back to add some details and sharpen up the places that got lost in the painting. I use artist quality colored pencils (Prismacolor brand) for this part because I like the detail and the sharpness they bring to an otherwise very loose medium. After touching up some key areas and tightening the focal details like the eyes and mouth, he’s ready to shine:
Thanks for coming along with this painting. If you enjoyed this little mini-lesson, let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
This 5 x 7 watercolor is a prime example of what judicious cropping can do to salvage a less than successful painting.
Here’s the painting as planned and painted at 8 x 10.
It’s overworked in several places and the lines got away from me during the painting stage. Some of that could be corrected by a little colored pencil work, but overworked watercolor is, well, overworked.
As I was getting ready to pitch it in the drawer, I noticed that one section looked pretty good. So, I pulled out my 5 x 7 mat ( I like to use standard sizes whenever I can) and framed that bit.
Wow! What a difference! There’s still a bit of muddiness on the edge, but that version shows that luscious tomato off perfectly. It also makes the picture about the fruit itself and not so much about the plant. Overall, I like it much better in the smaller format.
As usual, I kept my color palette simple and used Winsor and Newton watercolors in Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Gold, and Indigo on a Canson Montval block I’ve had kicking around forever.
New Digital Art Work
In other art stuff I’m working on, I’ve started a new Etsy shop. It’s all digital: downloadable and printable for making your own tags, journals, and scrapbooking. If that sounds like fun, have a look:
More Watercolors on the Way
If digital isn’t your cup of tea, never fear, there’s always some paint meeting paper around here. I’ve got another painting almost finished and took process photos to show how it looks midway. Stay tuned for more on splashing paint around!
As always, I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments and experiences. Just drop me a note!