Planning a stencilled design
In order to work on a large surface, such as a wall, stencils have to be in scale and carefully worked out. Tiny flowers will disappear in a freckled miasma, whereas bold sheaves of paeonies held together
visually by a heavy stencilled rope border will command respect. A carefully planned and organized all-over pattern looks better than little discrete motifs dotted about. And on a wall, a border or frieze will finish off a design and pull it together.
In the early days, wall stencils were often combined with a regular pattern of stripes or broken lines to emulate wallpaper, or were framed by painted panels and combined with freehand painting. As methods of organizing stencils, these are dramatically successful and confer dignity to the humblest repeat of leaf and tendril. It is all a matter of presentation – as with much decoration, the frame makes the picture. It is a good idea to try out designs on a sheet of lining paper before committing them to the wall or floor.
Skilful cornering Stencils often look best on a broken paint finish, particularly if they are not completely symmetrical, like this heraldic motif. The walls and ceiling here have a yellow oil glaze that has been rag-rolled: a gentle background for the subtle, stormy colours of the stencils, which come from mixing together purple, blue and brown.
Stencils can be applied to most painted surfaces. They look particularly good on a slightly broken surface, such as a colourwashed or sponged wall. The paint for the stencils needs to be quick-drying and not too liquid – artists’ acrylics are most suitable, or you can use signwriters’ colours or car spray paint.