Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 7: Stencils

I wussed out on yesterday, mostly due to the kind of sinus headache that makes it painful just to look at anything, but this is a Tuesday post, I swear. I finished this about midnight, even if it has taken me until 1 AM to get the pictures sorted out and post.

Today's (okay, Monday's) prompt was to make stencils and use them. I've never been good with stencils, no matter the size. I always end up with nothing but a big blotch when I pull them away. So of course I decided to be really insane and make teeny tiny stencils, which were probably doomed to failure.

On the other hand, what I made was supposed to look like an old carnival poster, probably screen-printed and mass produced. Flaws are acceptable. I have plans to color and weather/distress/age this, but not tonight. In fact, I have ideas for a whole big mixed-media painting of which this would only be a piece, so there may be a redux of all this at some future date.
For anyone curious, the stencils themselves were actually made by pasting some fancy decorative font characters, wingdings, and clipart into a document, printing it out on card stock, and cutting them out with an exacto blade. Some designs I had printed turned out to just be impossible to cut out at such small size, others I fudged on to make them work as stencils. I ended up doing the drawing all freehand, without much in the way of any sketch underneath, and it was done with a dip pen and india ink. I actually went through a phase in High School where I drew a whole lot that way, for a year or so, but I'm out of practice and my hand now hurts from the stippling. It took me pretty much all day, and obviously well into the night.

Tiny stencils doomed to failure.
Stencils had me thinking of simple iconic images, and somehow that led me to thinking of this book, 'The Manual of Detection'. There are a number of visual icons, and some of them are hidden in the poster here. It's a fantastically weird and kind of surreal novel, and I'm having trouble describing it at one in the morning. If there were a film made of it, then it would need to be directed by Terry Gilliam.
The setting is very film noir, kind of a bleak-sounding city, and the main character is a clerk who lives a life of dull repetition, although he actually seems very content with that. It's a detective novel, like the title would make you think, but it involves traveling in dreams and a lot of fantastic imagery, and the main threat to the city comes from a once-traveling carnival and its employees.
The character descriptions in the book are actually pretty loose, when it comes to practicals. It's one of those books where you've got no idea what most people's hair or eye color is, and even the central villain of the books is described as, I swear I'm not giving anything away here, 'squarish, dull, bored-looking'. Okay. That's not a lot to go on, for an artist. On the other hand I guess it gives you the freedom to imagine the characters however you want. The character descriptions might be vague, but there's a lot of other detailed imagery that sticks in my head, which is why I really do want to do a full painting. In the meantime, this first draft of the circus poster will have to do.
So. Much. Stippling. My hand hurts.

I owe this post to my friend Mel, who loaned me her copy of the book over a year ago. It took me a while to pick it up, but once I did I was sucked right in from the first few pages. When I asked her if she'd be willing to part with it, she made sad-eyes over the phone at me (don't ask how that works), so I had to return hers and buy my own copy. I'm glad I did. It's going on the shelf in a place of honor among my absolute favorites.
As soon as I'm finished reading it again, anyway...

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