Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stencils! Stencils! Stencils!

In a long overdue post, and as promised, I wanted to put up a blog about how I made these stencils for the megalithic walls I had to do while at my internship this summer up in Vermont. The show was "The Hallow", a play by the oh so famous Agatha Christie.

So here we go!

When I met with the designer, he handed me a 11"x14" piece of paper that had the image on the left on it.

For the record, I personally think the hole in the top left is oh so classy, but I digress. Turning this into a stencil, I had to think about it all in layers. Like it's a photoshop image, and you're piling and piecing the whole thing together. How would you paint this? How would you collage this? This is how I had to step back and look at this. I had to break it down to layers, each layer being a different stencil, and another step. Now, I could have easily turned this into a 10 step stencil, but I realized that me and 2 others would be mostly doing all of it, so I had to simplify: basic shapes, base color, low light and highlight. That's how I did this.

Since we fell short of tracing paper (and a lot of other things), the TD gave me a roll of this ancient paper, that's on the right. We had no lightbox either, so I ended up taping the piece of paper ontop of the elevation, layed on the picnic table, and held it to the sun: the world's largest lightbox!

After I had it all drawn out, I figured out that I could do the whole thing in 5 stencils, so I grabbed 5 highlighters and broke it down that way.

I went to the local art supply store and bought sheets of 18" x 24" acetate (large pieces of transparent paper), which I have used before and they have worked brilliantly. (Also, if you can't find that, sneak down to the gel storage or bff an electrician and see if they'll give you an old sheet (or 5) of gel. Since I knew these poor stencils were going to be through hell and back with the amount of work I would have to get out of it, I decided to invest in some stencil paper too. It's like a super heavyweight yellow-ish colored cardstock (it kind of looks like a manila envelope color) which has an almost plastic film on it so it doesn't get ruined when wet. The only downside of this is that you can't see through it, which I found really difficult. Also, they were much harder to cut out and the acetate stencils pulled through ten times better then the stencil paper. I think the stencil paper would be good if you're doing a one step stencil, but for multiple step stencils, I would say go for the acetate, hands down.

I also taped out the size of the stencil on each one with gaff tape because I have learned that just drawing it out with sharpie, it will eventually disappear, and make your soul hurt.

The leaf stencil was the first step (mind you I took all these stencil pictures AFTER the project was over). All I did to transfer all these layers to the acetate was to lay it over the drawing I did and draw it out with a sharpie, and cut then out with my good friend Mr. Exacto.

After we did the first step (a 2 color scumble with 2 different colored greens, trying to pull the depth in the elevation without doing another stencil), we put the highlight green leaf color on. The paint smelt TERRIBLE! It was awful, but that's old paint for you. For this step we sponged it on because I thought it gave it more texture and depth to it like real leaves have.

Then, after the leaves came the base of the flowers, blocked out in their shapes. I learned that the blue flower on the middle right and the top yellow flower ended up being my favorite flowers to stencil. I have no idea why.

For this step and steps 3 and 4, I went to Michaels and bought a bunch of cheap stencil brushes at various sizes, and they worked great! I was able to get a bunch so when I had a couple of people helping me, we were able to have all the steps of the stencils going and have enough brushes.

Finally, Step 3 and 4 were the high lights and low lights. This step went the fastest, and I'm really happy it did because by the time this step came around we were all pretty tired!

The final product came out really well! I am really happy with the way it came out. I'm hoping to get some more final shots up soon. A lot quicker then it took for this one to come up--promise!


Mark Pariani said...

Wow, good job Loryn. I am very impressed, but then again I am always very impressed by your work. Two questions come to mind though. First, could you not find a window to use for a light-box instead of a picnic table? I tape things on windows all the time so I can trace them but it's all good. Your story sounds better. Second, I'm a little confused that you did the highlights before the lowlights. I would think it would be reversed but far be it from me to try and tell you how to do your amazing work. I was just wondering. You're amazing!