"A Faithful Attempt" is designed to showcase a variety of K-12 art lessons, the work of my art students, as well as other art-related topics. Projects shown are my take on other art teacher's lessons, lessons found in books or else designed by myself.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stencil Portraits

This is a really popular project with high school students because the get to a) use spray paint and b) use x-acto blades! We looked at the work of one of my favourite artists, the British street artist Banksy. His work involves alot of political and social commentary and is also very humourous (dark humour). 

Banksy, "Riot Flowers"
For this project, I had students choose a portrait to make into a hand-cut stencil. They could take an original digital photo themselves or use a picture of a famous person from the internet. 

Here is a step-by-step sample I did to show everyone the process:

 Upload any photo to an online photo editing program (Fotoflexer, Pixlr, etc.) If you know how to use Photoshop, of course that works as well. 

Turn your photo first into black and white (grayscale). Then fool around and adjust the contrast until you have a super high contrast image. 
Some photo editors might have a special feature for this (ie: 'ink stamp')
Below, I used Fotoflexer: I uploaded the photo, turned it to black and white, and then applied the 'ink stamp' feature. Easy peasy!

So here in the photo below I just fooled around with the contrast until I was pretty happy with the look of it. Print it out full size. If your photocopier or printer takes cardstock, print it out on that so you have a nice sturdy sheet of paper. If not, just trace the image onto cardstock.

So here it is below all traced out. I like to shade in the areas that need to be black and then cut those out using an x-acto knife and a cutting mat underneath.

These blades are super sharp- I always tell a really scary 'cutting accident' story before I let any students use these knives and then do a demonstration on how to use them properly. You know your class best and I would only do this project with a class that I trusted completely with using x-actos.
Here's a good thread on safely using x-acto blades with kids- some great tips there.
x-acto knife

Cutting mats

So here above is the stencil all cut out from a sheet of cardstock (it's black because I had used it already).  Because it's thick paper, it takes time and patience to cut it all out. But you can use it over and over again- it's quite sturdy. 
Now it's time to spray-paint. Do this outside, away from buildings, and in a large box to contain the over-spray. Tape your stencil down onto your good copy paper- use any colour you want.
I just buy cheap matte black spray paint at the hardware store.
Shake it really well beforehand.  

Spray a nice even coat- I spray down at the artwork lying flat so you don't get any massive drips.

You might try using a low-tack spray glue so you get all the little pieces of paper glued down; otherwise they flip up a bit and spray paint goes underneath as it did here in the hair and it's just not as clean and sharp.

So here's my finished piece. You can look at the design and then choose to mask out some areas of your stencil you don't like with masking tape, or cut more areas.

Here are some student samples- they love making these and many end up doing their own at home
with different colours.

c'mon baby light my fire...

Other hand-cut stencil examples from students in Grades 11-12:


Chesterbrook Academy Elementary said...

I checked Banksy's website and loved it.
I appreciate his sense of humor.

Your students as always did a fantastic job.

Thanks for sharing

Elle and Lou said...

I wish my students were old enough to do this, I just can't see my 30 ten year olds with an exacto knife- toooo scary.
A shame as the edgy street connections give this style of art a lot of cred with the boys. Looks great!

Miss said...

Thanks Chesterbrook!

Lynda: I agree about the x-acto knives! I'm nervous everytime I use them with students even if they're high schoolers. Knock on wood, I've never once had a student injury with them. I've had way more minor injuries during class with hot glue guns and lino cutting tools.

Dolunay -Alanayarts said...

benim öğrencilerim için de okula o bıçakları getirmek yasak ama makasla da çalışılabilir belki.harika örnek çalışma.teşekkürler paylaşım için...

Bob Rob Medina said...

I agree, kids love it, we did this as a print using color sep. if you want to see our results check it out. bTW love your art postings, may have to steal some ideas! http://schutzart.blogspot.com/2010/09/stencil-self-portrait.html

Buffalo Creek said...

I LOVE this! I wonder how it could be modified for elementary? Fabulous results! I want to make one!

rebeweezenerd said...

very cool project, want to try with my ninth graders next semester any tips on a good set of instructions for using the x acto? I have heard some teachers give students an x acto 'test' before they can start using them.

Miss said...

Buffalo Creek- I've never tried this with elementary--- maybe try making a stencil out of a paper snowflake (folding and cutting with scissors) and then spray adhesive it down to paper and then spray paint.

Rebeweezeberd- When using x-acto's with a class, I make sure it's a class I trust completely. I've had 8th graders I've trusted more than 11th graders! Once you've decided they can use it, I do a safety demo (free hand is always away from the blade's path, move the paper, not the blade, etc). Students come to me if they need a blade changed. I also always tell a scary cutting story (I make one up- heh, heh) and then I also say anyone caught being irresponsible gets the knife taken away and an automatic zero on the project. Kids love using these blades, so they behave as they don't want them taken away!! A test also sounds like a good idea!

Julia Mark said...

What do you do about the fumes from the spray paint? Do you have them spray it outside, or do you have a spray booth?

Miss said...

Julia: yes, we only spray outside. We use a large flat box which helps contain the overspray.

clareszyd said...

I love this project. I am doing something similar with my 11th/12th grade art class, and am concerned about the spray paint. How do you position the box? I was planning to have a large deep box on its side so students could reach their arm in and spray so the overspray would not foat up toward their faces. You say you use a flat box? how does this work? Thanks!

Miss said...

Hi clareszyd,

Thanks for your comment- we simply lay a large, shallow box outside and put the stencil (taped over the paper) flat inside. Everything stays horizontal, not vertical. And they spray lightly overtop, slowly building it up until it's opaque. Don't spray too close or too fast, otherwise the paint will be too thick.
*Don't spray near any school buildings as some of the overspray could come out and hit nearby walls (guilty!!)

Yes, some fumes/paint does float up, but it's only for a little bit and you could always buy them dust masks. I don't (lol). Imo, doing this once, for 5 minutes outside, isn't too bad. Having said that, I do tell the kids that graffiti artists, who work with spray paint everyday, wear respirators. I've even had students who've wanted to do their own stencilling at home go out and buy their own.

Also, students should wear latex gloves when spraying- the paint leaks out and stains the fingers. Hope this helps and good luck!

Jean Anderson said...

This is an awesome project. How long did it take your students to complete?

Miss said...

Jean- thanks! I have 80 minute periods with my students. So this probably took us 2-3 periods or so, depending on the complexity of the stencil.

Peter said...

Instead of exacto knives (I can't afford them) I just buy a bunch of those little thin box cutters. And overhead pages. And of course, those green cutting boards (self-healing). Then, depending whether white or black paper is used, they can spray them with a spray can (wearing a covid mask) outside. Wish I could include pics. Awesome!

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