Stencil art experiment

I had a bit of a play with some stencil art this weekend. I built a piece based on a photo of my wife and me at the All Tomorrows Parties Festival at Mount Bulla in January this year. I loaded the image in the GIMP (a brilliant free alternative to taking out a home loan for a legit copy of Photoshop) , cleaned away a lot of the background and used the threshold tool to generate the basic stencil form.


The black sections of the image needed to be cut away so that the white parts were still connected (to avoid having to deal with floating components of the stencil) so I manually modified some of the image to create join points.


I then chopped the image into A4 size chunks, printed them off, taped them together and cut the stencil. Lacking a usable section of wall I decided to use the stencil on a small canvas I had floating around from another project. I then just applied basic black acrylic paint with with a sponge.

All in all it didn’t turn out too bad, but I did learn a couple of things from my mistakes:

  • It’s a lot harder to get a usable image out of your average photo than you might think – well composed photos are usually framed in such a way that they don’t translate well to being cut out and dumped into the middle of a big whitespace – I got around this by increasing the size of the image to let the canvas provide a natural frame, but it wouldn’t have worked on a wall.
  • Paper makes a crap stencil – it moves around too much when applying the paint and is too week to last much past a single use. Unfortunately, the thicker the stencil, the more difficult it is to apply detail. Next time I might try a picture with a more solid join points and maybe go with a bit less detail. Alternatively, as I’m pretty happy with a one off use, I might try using some stuff called mask, which like a very lightly stick form of contact which you can stick down to the  canvas and remove without damaging the paint. Not sure though, there’s a certain charm to the slightly messy effect from the paper stencil.

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