I have always maintained that stencilling is not really an art form in itself (though its great practitioners today have elevated it to that position), but simply a means to an end, a pattern made to help the painter produce something else, or at best, an early form of printing. Stencils were used by the Egyptians for their hieroglyphics and I have worked with a French illustrator who is perhaps the only remaining practitioner of medieval stencilling, as used to create multiple illuminated manuscripts. In both these cases, it is impossible to tell from the finished work that a stencil was ever used. That’s exactly the principle we set out to follow in this room.
The block of purple at the bottom of the room is solid and simply defined. Consequently, I felt a little uneasy about just painting the ceiling in another flat block of orange. Although effective in visually lowering the ceiling, it would have seemed a bit obvious and rather ungainly. The solution we found was to treat it in a decorative way, but it was important that the result shouldn’t look fussy and spoil the room’s strengths and the effect of the advancing colour. As a result, we went for a very graphic treatment, choosing a hanging tassel design that brought the orange down the walls and therefore lowered the ceiling even further, while implying a sort of decorative, exotic tent (a very 1920s or 1930s image). To keep it simple, the tassels were only painted in silhouette and given a very crisp edge by freehand painting after the stencilling. As a result, it was impossible to tell that the design had ever been stencilled at all.
- Offer a piece of paper up to the area in which your sign will appear on the wall and roughly sketch out proportions. Finish the design the table.
- Cut out the shape with scissors to make a template. Remember to cut or mark the points where the design repeats or makes contact with features in the room, such as the ceiling.
- Carefully draw around the template to transfer the design onto a sheet of stencil card. Alternatively, you may prefer just to stick down the design before the next stage.
- Using the scalpel or craft knife, cut out the stencil (use scissors for large areas). Put a cutting mat underneath and work slowly rather than applying strong pressure.
- Using the stencil brush (if you have one I always use a stiff decorating brush) stipple on the colour. You need to put very little paint on the brush. Remove the stencil.
- When dry, outline the design carefully with a fine artist’s brush. Although it needs care, you can complete this step remarkably quickly, and the result is excellent.
You will need: Paper, Pencil, Scissors, Sharp scalpel, Cutting mat, Craft Stencil card, A stencil brush or stiff short-5 brush for stencilling, Paint, Artist’s sable brush for outlining
Tip: To make your own stencil card, coat a sheet of thin card on both sides with boiled linseed oil and allow to dry for a few days. This will make it both waterproof and much tougher.