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Monoprinting With Stencils

Sheree BurlingtonComment

I've felt the absence of my son Neal this past week more than usual. In the last days, I've spent a lot of time staring at old pictures of him - sweaty after riding dirt bikes in Maine, covered in first birthday chocolate cake, his long arm draped around my shoulder at Christmas. My favorite, and one that I incorporate into much of my design work, was taken in June 2012, just after his high school graduation. There are many others pictures of that day - him laughing, talking, hugging, reveling in this right of passage - the one that moves them closer to the door. But this one, his razor nicked faced stilled by a moment of contemplation, this is the one I turn to for comfort.

Neal Burlington | Sheree Burlington | Wing + Tree blog

I love the way the sun casts shadows across his eyes, the light on his brows, the curve of his lips - the single curl peeking out from his cap. It's a face I've kissed and wiped clean and held in my hands countless times and is deeply familiar. I've known it all of my lives. 

Neal Burlington | Sheree Burlington | Wing + Tree blog

So on Friday, after a long week of frustrating, unfulfilling days, I turned to this face again. After watching several videos on creating multi-layer stencils, I found one that made enough sense to follow. The basic steps are creating 3 copies of the image and simplifying each layer using image > adjustments > threshold. Threshold reduces an image to simple black and white. Dragging the slider left/right controls the amount of black/white. 

Neal Burlington stencil by Sheree Burlington | Wing + Tree blog

Each layer was printed on separate sheets then laminated for durability. The printed areas were then cut out with an exacto knife. On another take, I'll try a manilla folder and no lamination. I think it will allow me to cut in more detail and built up paint layers on the stencil will accomplish the same result as lamination. 

It was thoughtful work and I was happy to have a subject for the unpredictable monoprinting process. These ghostly images are the result. The image on the left is a print on deli paper. The one on the right, one of the two stencils. However obscure, I still see him - as familiar as a son and as distant as we've convinced ourselves our dead to be. 

Monoprint of Neal Burlington by Sheree Burlington | Wing + Tree blog

On a less serious subject, the print below was pulled using a piece of greenery found on the path near my house.  I picked it last week while walking as preparation for my trip to the Camino de Santiago. You know, before I scared the shit out of myself to the point where I barely wanted to get out of bed. Huh. I think I'm starting to figure things out. This art therapy stuff really does work. 

Gelatin print by Sheree Burlington | Wing + Tree blog