Image-making with stencils

I’ve been experimenting with stencils to create lines and textures in my work recently – the image above is one outcome, and it was all done using torn paper edges and charcoal (see below). I was fascinated during the process how you can create exciting marks and textures with such a simple technique.

The process seems to work really well using a smudgy/flowing medium with bold graphic lines. So here I used charcoal, but pastels, watercolour, gouache would all work well, I think.

Canadian artist Sydney Smith is one of my favourite children’s illustrators, and he uses stencils brilliantly in his work, and it was after seeing the video below that I decided to have a go myself. Here it is:

Stencils are a popular tool in digital drawing and illustration. Drawing a simple shape and filling it with a complex texture is widely used in children’s book illustration – Jon Klassen (another Canadian illustrator) uses this technique to great effect. Here he is talking about his work to a man and a group of (distracted!) children in Melbourne; it gives an insight into his process, and how he got to this point in his career:

I’ve submitted my drawing to Double Elephant Print Workshop’s “Riddle 57” project, based on an Anglo-Saxon riddle from the Exeter Book, a World Heritage Book kept in the amazing library at Exeter Cathedral, and I was lucky enough to have a look through the book when I was studying A Level English – mind blown!!

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