Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How To Apply Stencils in Weird Places

Using stencils with texture paste on a flat surface is pretty straight forward.  Using them on a rounded surface gets a bit more complicated.  Using them on an odd shaped uneven surface such as this skull is practically impossible.

I've already covered flat surfaces, so let's jump right to this round bottle. This wasn't horrible to stencil. I recommend using a little tape to keep the stencil in place. The hard part here was carefully removing the stencil without mucking up the texture paste, which I wasn't completely successful at but I don't think it's too horrible.  

Next I tried to stencil onto a skull. Mind you, I only tried just a small portion of the stencil on a relatively small smooth area of the skull. I didn't do very well.  I wiped it off and tried again a few more times and decided this was not going to work.  I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm sure there are Martha Stewart clones out there that can do it, but why bother when I have a much easier method.

Stencil onto thin paper and after it's dried apply it to your project.  Yep, it's that easy.

This is texture paste stenciled onto that thin paper they wrap around your fragile purchases at the store.  I'd call it wrapping paper but that make me think of gift wrap.  Although this would be a good way to reuse gift wrap too, as long as it's the thin paper type.

Here I've applied it to a pressed cardboard shoe form, but I think it's going to be a creepy rabbit someday.  Don't see it? Maybe the following helps.  Although sadly I think I'm going to have to  build up  a lot of papier mache over the stenciling to achieve the freaky rabbit in my head, which is not this guy who is temporarily adorned with random stuff from my craft table.

But now you can see the rabbit potential too, right? Just like any decoupage/papier mache it's always better to tear around the design, the edges are easier to blend. I use a half and mixture of glue and water to apply the stenciled paper.

Next I did this skull which has more nooks and crannies and a lot of it's own texture already.

I figured I needed to use something thinner, so I tried tissue paper.  I was a little worried the tissue paper would be too fragile, but it worked great.  Stenciling on it wasn't a problem, even using old wrinkle sheets. Although if you really want a perfect stencil, a fresh crisp sheet or at least ironing over an old one would probably be best.

The only caveat was I didn't trust myself to tear around the small sections that wanted so I cut around the stenciling.  That meant having to get creative with the texture paste later to hide the edges.

Also, you don't get any second chances applying tissue paper, once it sticks there's no adjusting without tearing it.

I added a few molded pieces later, they are a lot thicker than the stenciling. Not sure I'm digging that.  Overall I'm not really happy with this guy, something is off. I'll have to figure out what it is and fix it later. Here are some more details from another angle.

Even if I'm not crazy about my skull, the technique is solid and the pre-stenciled sheets were very useful at the annual craft party.  I have another skull and a faux pumpkin in mind for having another go at this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fun With Stencils

I finally bought some real stencils, just in time for day one of the annual Halloween Craft Party.  I say day one because this year I split it into two days.  One for playing with texture paste and one for painting and embellishing after everything has dried. More details on that after the final day.

I ordered a few Tim Holtz stencils from Amazon because there really wasn't much to choose from locally. If you are picking out stencils specifically for use with texture paste, keep that in mind.  I really liked the Clockwork stencil, but I realized the areas that I would want to be raised would in fact be recessed and I was afraid the fine details would be lost.  I also liked Gears and Shatter but didn't get them for the same reasons. Doing a search on "texture paste" and the name of the stencil you are considering should turn up some examples of how it will look.  If you only find examples using paints or inks that might be a hint that texture paste won't work well.

Above on the left is a 3 pack of mini stencils. From top to bottom: Gothic, Latticework and Blossom.  The dimensions given are 3-1/8 x 6-1/4 inches, but the actual design measures 2-5/8 x 5.  On the right is their regular sized stencil Flourish, again the dimensions given are 4.125 x 8.5 inches, but the design is approximately 3-1/4 x 6-7/8.

For the following examples I used the stencils on thick glossy junk mail. Later these pieces can be cut, torn or layered to use in an actual project. They are flexible enough that they could be wrapped around a bottle.
The texture paste I used was a mix of 2:1, paint and glue with enough spackle mixed in to make it fairly thick.

Exhibit A on the left was not thick enough and spread after the stencil was lifted.  
Exhibit B on the right was the result of adding more spackle.  

I spread the texture paste with a palette knife but anything rigid with a straight edge will work.  
With all the stencils I played with spreading varying thickness.  In my experience a layer of texture paste the thickness of the stencils, which are quite thin, gave the cleanest definition.  

Here side by side from left to right: the stencil, the stenciled texture paste and a print of the texture paste left on the stencil.  The latter definitely has more of a learning curve, but give it a try, beats just washing the stencil off.  I suggest always keep some extra stuff nearby to experiment on tags, packaging, junk mail, etc.    

This stencil was giving off a Haunted Mansion vibe so I painted it purple and black.  The one on the far right is the one with the runny texture paste, not perfect but still usable. I tend to give everything a black base coat, but hopefully you can see from the picture this isn't always the best choice.  In this case a white base coat is a better foundation for a deep purple.  Black or white all three needed two coats of purple for full coverage.  

The Flourish stencil seemed easier to work with.  I don't have enough stencil experience to say for sure whether it was the design or the larger size, but it always came out looking great.  Even the print (far right) of the dirty side of the stencil turned out really well. 

And here it is with a quick paint job.  

The Lattice stencil on top was the hardest to work with because the fine lines are not forgiving if you get sloppy.  This one definitely works better with an even thin layer of paste. The Blossom stencil is just blah in my opinion.  Above I laid the texture paste on really thick, which made it look even more chunky and blah, but even when I spread it thin I was still underwhelmed.  Neither resulted in a good reverse print.

And here they are painted. I don't love them like the first two stencils, but I can see where they could add interest to a project when layered with other stuff.
Stay tuned until next time when we apply stenciling to things other than perfectly flat pieces of junk mail.  

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fun With Texture Paste

In a little bit I'll show you how this started out as my most failed texture attempt so far, but first lets talk about texture paste.

For texture paste I have used approximately a 1:1 to 2:1, paint to glue ratio and then tried various thickeners. Now I haven't exactly gone about this scientifically, but as far as I can tell, at least in the short term, they all give the same basic results.

Spackle was the first thickener I used because I have some old stuff to use up and when that's finished I'll move on to the joint compound. Those sort of products definitely start to degrade before I use them up fixing walls so I might as well use them elsewhere. They also seem to make the smoothest texture paste.

I tried baking soda, that seemed to be another popular choice.  It felt gritty, which wasn't that noticeable if I made a thin paste.  Making a really thick paste resulted in an end product that had a rough, sand papery texture.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Talcum powder was another one I saw in a lot of recipes.  I couldn't find plain talcum powder.  But I had some old baby powder and now I remember why I never used it on my babies. I don't like the smell.  I don't like that cloud of fine particles that gets in the air no matter how gently you try to squeeze the stupid bottle.  It wasn't as gritty as baking soda, but I hate breathing that crap in.  I guess I could wear a mask, but it seems easier to just not use baby powder.

I also saw cornstarch and flour being used.  I'm sure they make a nice consistency but I'm always leery about their propensity to attract bugs so I didn't try them.

Moving on to fun things to do with texture paste.  Again these are all flat sample pieces but any of these techniques would work on bottles, skulls, pumpkins, etc.

You can use a paint brush to lay down some texture or the tip of the handle to add some dots. Do a search on relief painting for more ideas.  
You can try this freehand or print out an image and paint over it.

You can use the texture paste the same as you would decorator icing.  I purchased an inexpensive 4 pack of plastic piping tips and used a disposable bag.  I went with plastic because all my icing tips are metal so this way I know for sure they will never get cross contaminated.  I'm not good with icing and I sure wasn't any better with this.

I can do stars.  
Most of the stuff I did was so awful I just scraped it up right away and reused it. I'm hoping someone at the craft party with actual skills will give this a try.

I'm really am awful with a piping bag.  But I found that if I dragged the tip of a palette knife through my awful piping I could make it less awful.

Last year a friend had a henna party. It was so fun and I thought if I practiced enough I could come up with my own skull designs.   Except I really didn't practice much, so that didn't happen.  But I did learn that you can use thick lotion to practice on yourself. Which is great, all your mistakes can be wiped away and they moisturize your skin. Or you can use paint on paper. I also learned how to make henna cones out of cellophane.  And that's what I used here for some precision piping. You could also use a squeeze bottle with a very small opening.

I'm not much better with a henna cone than I am with an icing bag.  
Nothing I tried doing worked out as demonstrated above.  

On a whim after all that disappointment I made this boney arm, which I have to say isn't have bad.  And then I got cocky and thought I'd make a skull which ended up a complete mess.  I still don't know why I made the teeth recessed instead of the spaces between.  

Painting didn't help.

Just knocking off the bottoms of those horrible teeth and slapping on more paint helped.  I could have completely removed them and re-piped them properly, but I didn't want to invest anymore time.  And even though it's still a poorly done skull it can be layered with so much other stuff that you won't even notice.

Case in point right here. All those random failed doodles, that I probably would have scrapped but I liked the "Halloween" on the packaging cardboard.  So I slapped on more texture paste a few skull beads and plastic bugs and gave it a coat of paint.  I used some crappy fluorescent green paint that's never mixed properly no matter how well I shake it. 

The lesson here is that in art mistakes are like a dead body, 
bury them under enough stuff and no one will ever know.  

Since with the exception of the skeleton hand, everything I did was a fail I decided to get a little help from The Graphics Fairy.  I tore out the images after printing instead of cutting for a little added texture and then I glued them onto some old school folders for a bit more structure and tore around them again. 

The following have all been piped using a henna cone.  At some point these may get slapped on a bottle. It should be easy to add lettering in the center later with more piped texture paste. Or alphabet pasta is a cheap and easy way to add raised lettering.

Here I cheated and made the thin lines by dragging the paste with a toothpick. Cheating is never the answer kids. You can see where the lines are barely thick at all and downright disappear in places. 

     Rather than cheat, pick a thicker design until you hone your skills.  
The following two were pretty easy designs to do.  

This was a small pattern and I tried different approaches, but none of them really worked. I didn't finish so you can see the original pattern compared to what I did.   

Since the one thing I really had success with was hands I decided to use a Hand Bone picture. It worked really well.  I can't wait to try more skeletons.  

I had to make another freeform hand just to make sure the first one wasn't a fluke.

All the lovely bones together. 

This is an aftermath picture of the weirdest prostate exam ever.  No.  No, it's not.  It just occurred to me that not everyone paints the way I do so I thought I'd share my fancy high-tech method.

I use this technique for highlighting raised texture.  Squirt very small amount of paint in palm of non-dominate hand.  This hand can also be used to hold the object being painted, by the fingertips of course and the palm must be kept facing up.  Rub paint in a circular  motion with pad of index finger on dominant hand to spread it out.  With just a thin layer of paint left on index finger lightly rub across textured surface to pick up highlights.

The thin small amount of acrylic will dry very fast so you will have to repeat the process multiple times.

I prefer this finger painting method to a more tradition dry brush method because:
A) I can feel the thickness of the paint, which needs to be very thin
B) I can feel the wetness of the paint, it dries quickly so I know exactly when to reload my finger
C) Precision control over how much paint is applied.  The lightest touch will deposit only a small amount, more pressure will deposit more paint.
D) The pad of my finger is too big to fit into any little crevices, so I only get paint on raised areas. 
E) It may look messy, but it rubs right off once it's dried. (The picture above is messier than usual because I was highlighting multiple pieces.)

So there's my latest adventure with texture paste.  Tune in next time when I have real actual stencils to try instead of stuff I found laying around the house.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Wicked String Tree

This started out as another experiment in textures and grew into its own thing.  It's not unlike my wire tree, just more untwisting, than twisting involved.

True story: I once made a life sized wire tree, if by life sized I mean very small sapling.  Later it acquired the nickname Jingle Bell Tree. The bare wire tips were some times hard to see depending on the light, not to mention pokey, so I added a jingle bell to each tip so that it couldn't sneak up on unsuspecting victims. I loved that tree, but it was a menace.

It survived many years and two moves, but as a new mom I chucked it one day, because even with the bells it was still a menace and it took up a lot of space.  To this day I regret doing that even though I have no idea where we could have safely kept it.

I'm sure it would've eventually drawn blood and once these things develop a taste for human flesh there's no going back. But think how lovely it would have been to have a jingle bell tree with blood lust tromping through the neighborhood for Creepmas.

At least this tree wont poke anyone's eye out.  I didn't take many pictures of the process because it's hard to take pictures when your hands are covered in goop.  This ended up being a great way to use some of the little pieces of twine from when my spool was butchered in sacrifice for the Pomegranate Princess.

The process is easy, grab a bunch of pieces of twine, yarn, rope, anything that is comprised of twisted strands.  They can vary in length. If you're sifting through Pomegranate Princess carnage you don't have a choice. Just make sure some of them are longer than you'll think you need.

Gather them together side by side and apply a thick mixture of texture paste to what will be the base of your tree trunk.  Stack the twine together so they form a rounded trunk.  Divide them into smaller groups as you branch out applying paste as needed.  Once you are down to single pieces of twine I recommend stopping to let things dry.  And also so you can go wash your hands.  

With clean hands untwist the individual strands on each end of twine.  My twine was comprised of three strands, so some branches are two twisted strands that break off into single strands.  Add more paste as needed to keep things in place, but leave the tips of the branches free.  Go wash your hands... again and let it all dry.  

Add a bit of glue to each branch tip twist the strands so the ends are tight. This is the messiest part.  Every couple of branch tips I was peeling glue coated in twine fibers off my fingertips.  Some of the shorter tips I twisted and then pushed into place.  The longer ends I wasn't sure where I wanted them trimmed so I added glue to the whole length and then cut them at an angle after they dried. 

Wire trees are much less messy and don't stick to your hands, but I do like the bark-like texture of the twine and paste. I also like that the texture runs vertically up the trunk whereas with wire the twists are less organic looking. Not that I don't appreciate a good wire tree. I love that they look like they spun up from the ground in the vortex of a tornado.

It was only after I painted it that I decided it needed an owl.  Lucky for me I have an owl charm the right size and I've been playing at making my own molds.

I really liked the molded components that I added to my skull.  I have jewelry pieces that I think would work well with mixed media, but I don't want to only be able to use them once and I still have actual plans to use them in jewelry.  Enter silicone molding material to the rescue. I'm using Easy Mold Putty.  It's really easy to use, but I'm still figuring out how make a better mold and what mixture works best filling them.  Above is the original charm and a spackle mixture which ended up with a lot of air bubbles.  

This is the mold, above it is a painted piece I made using hot glue to fill the mold. These molds can  be used with just about anything, polymer clay, resin or even chocolate.  Although if you are going to use them for food they should never be used with non-food substances.  

I used the spackle owl for my tree, cutting it out with an x-acto knife.

I wish I would have thought of adding it sooner because it was hard trying not to muck up the existing paint job (which looks much better in person), but otherwise I think he looks right at home.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Skull Beads & Other Textures

Still playing around with texture, but this time it's nothing new,
 just a mix of things I've already tried.

The base is a large countertop sample 5x3.5 inches. I used a combination of thinner texture paste I made with black acrylic, glue and spackle and a thicker version of white latex and spackle.  

On top of a thin layer of texture paste I laid some practice tatting pieces. 

I said I was going to find other uses for those skull pony beads and I have. Honestly I wish I would have added a few more to this piece. I split them in half and pressed them into a layer of texture paste.  

The pony beads are really easy to split.  I set them on a hard surface and force the tip of my pliers down through the hole. I know that's tantamount to tool abuse, but I used a very old pair of needle nose that have teeth so they're not good for delicate work anyway. The pieces will go flying so I should caution you to wear safety glasses.  I kept my free hand cupped over the beads, but even still sometimes those suckers got away.  

I added some tea leaves mixed with paint to a few areas, I just love that texture.  Then I added a few faux pearls, flowers and painted it. 

This a small piece 2.5 x 1.75 inches.  Here are more skull beads, the corners are molded pieces and then center is finishing nails caged by small sections of staples.  Everything was squished into a layer of thick texture paste.