Nature as a Stencil

May 5th, 2009

Last week in my Intuitive Painting class, I was given two random colors on cards to work with. I mixed the colors and then used them to play with. I also had a few elements from nature to bounce off of. Truth is, I wasn't too excited about anything I created in class, but I knew that I could keep playing with the images and they were only beginnings. Back at home, I took one of the larger pieces and cropped it down to what I saw as the most interesting part of the painting (below). I'd done some work with texture and some hand-cut stencils to make the shapes there. I still want to play with it more.

intuitive art green

The two colors I randomly selected were orange and green. The green you can see above. In the piece below, I started with light layers of orange and green using the natural forms I'd chosen. Again, I wasn't loving it. But sometimes not liking something you're working on frees you up to do something drastic that you might not have tried. Sometimes making something you consider "ugly", gives you permission to let go and experiment and stretch yourself in new ways.

Back at home, I took a eucalyptus branch and put it down on the orange/green painting. Then, using a spray bottle filled with some water and a bit of payne's gray acrylic paint, I sprayed over the painting using the eucalyptus plant as a kind of 3D stencil. I loved the way that looked. I then played with layering thin layers of the payne's gray over the painting, emphasizing parts of the shape I created, and continuing to play until I came to what you see below:

intuitive art eucob

This can be great fun to try with any natural element. Try starting with a base of color, then lay down your natural element (try branches, flowers, leaves, grass, sea shells, etc..). Use a spray bottle (an old cleaning bottle could work or you can purchase a little spray bottle from an art supply store) and spray liberally over the surface, maybe spray more in some areas and less in others for variety. Lift up your natural elements and see what kind of shapes they left behind. You can use paint to emphasize or soften the shapes.

After, you could try putting the same items or different ones down in a new arrangement and spray again with the same or a different color. So many ways to play with this. See where it takes you!

Last night, I tried doing this on a white sheet of paper to start, spraying with the payne's gray again and then painting with a mix green-gold, white, and ultramarine blue. It feels very ethereal to me.

intuitive art eucb 

This another piece that could be cropped or maybe played with more or maybe is fine just as it is. I need to let it sit for awhile. Here's a detail:

intuitive art eucdetail

 I'm sure I'll be playing with natural elements as stencils again this month, perhaps in a new way. I'd love to see where it leads you, if you give it a try!

22 Responses

oooh, i LOVE these. i’ll have to try it sometime.

Awesome idea, Leah. I love the results.

this is so beautiful and not something i would have thought of trying….not i can’t wait to go out and pick some branches and get to it…thank you for the directions about the spray bottle, etc…I didn’t know you could do that with acrylic and an ordinary sprayer!!!


You got some magical results. The colors in the first piece are just fabulous.

That would make such a gorgeous fabric! Thanks for the inspiration, Leah. I love the theme for May, too.

oh my goodness. that is completely exquisite, sister.
i loooove it :)

I not only love your artwork but love the description of the process. Even so-called mistakes can turn out exquisite!
Thanks for sharing.

oh wow! These are great! I love the feeling that I’m getting from these works. Can’t explain it but I know I’m loving it!

Thanks guys!! glad you’re loving the idea and result. Definitely give it a try! It was a lot of fun.

Yay,they are so cool.;D
And i like it,thanks for sharing such a informative things on how to use painting tools.And i’m sure i need to try this too.;D Have a good day..=)

I love the idea: give yourself permission to create something ugly. I did that unconsciously when I started lampwork glass beads. I have some horrendously hideous beads. But, I read somewhere that you should keep your beginner beads. I’m so glad I remembered that. I have a large tray of bad beads and it’s in the worst of the beads that I think the greatest potential for “my voice” is hiding. I picked out about 10 that I want to “try again” and see what I can do now that I’ve developed more skill.

Oh those are lovely paintings.;D
Thanks for sharing it.Hope to see more of this.;D

These are great. I have been feeling the urge to do more nature inspired abstract. I’m a little scared, but when I browse art and chose what I am attracted to, I end up with pictures of ladies stepping out of stories to tell us something, and abstract landscapes.

I wonder what these urges will produce.

I really like these! They came out good!!!

those are lovley paintings. i think using a stencil of nature is great way to take a ho hum piece of fabric, my fav substrait, and giving it yetanother demension,often a surprise. some feathers from my chickens are fun to paint with and stencil about. thanks for sharing you experience in your class with the readers! Sonja

I really, really, really like seeing HOW you do what you do Leah. Thank you for sharing this. xo, O

This is a great technique! with wonderful results! I’m looking forward to printing with natural objects (since I’m a bit printing crazy at the moment!)but haven’t had much time yet. But this is such a great alternative, can’t wait to give it a go:-)

love the flowers. Sigh, spring is wonderful and brings out the artists in all of us :)

These are really beautiful! HOW FUN! Wonderful.

These are awesome! Thank you for the inspiration.

Hi Leah

These are fantastic!
I especially like the second one…it is great how you got the shape of the eucalyptus branch…and your colours are scrumptous!

Grate idea!!!


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