Guides

How to Make Stencil Art From Plants

Steve Hoskins

As part of our series of how to stay creative at home, Teva photographer and creative all-star Steve Hoskins sharpens his painting skills to make art in his backyard. Words and Photos by Steve Hoskins.

Being curious and finding ways to express myself is pretty important. Whether it’s through photography, painting or creating stuff, thinking about composition and light—all those things tend to help each other.

Normally at this time of the year, I’d be on location with Teva shooting the next campaign. Over the years we’ve rafted on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, rode camels in the deserts of Morocco, and rocked out at music festivals together, to name a few. While I’m sitting around waiting for our next photoshoot adventure trip to happen, I’ve been keeping sharp and creative by taking pictures of what’s around me: my family (we made a swimming pool out of a tupperware container) and the flowers, birds and textures in our backyard.

How To Make Stencil Art

I’ve been much more connected to the things that are growing in my surroundings over the past few months, seeing all the flower bulbs popping and noticing that the agave plants have these different textures. I wanted to think of an interesting way to capture this foliage beyond a photo of an arrangement. So I decided to dust off art skills that I haven’t used for a while (I got my degree in graphic design and have taken pretty much any kind of art class that you could take) to use pieces of nature and whatever supplies I had at home to build something new.

I created this art piece as something that anyone could make with whatever is available and just fill the canvas with textures from nature; using leaves as stencils. This piece is a nice way to mark and remember this time of connecting with the space and things growing around me. These moments have been more introspective and can be as special as an epic adventure to a never-been-to country.

Materials

SUPPLIES AND TOOLS 

*A piece of plywood. Mine was around 24 inches wide x 36 inches tall. (A smaller piece of wood makes it easier to create a nice final composition with 1-2 big leaves.)
*120 grit sandpaper or sander.
*4 colors of spray paint (I used Montana Black spray paint in Kicking Yellow, Hippie, Acid and Rust-Oleum general purpose spray paint in White)
*White acrylic paint. Example here.
*Paint brushes
*1 steel spring clamp
*4 types of foraged leaves, all different sizes (I used fern leaves, orange leaves, a bird of paradise leaf, and a calla lily leaf.)

Leaf stencil

Leaf stencil art

DIRECTIONS

1. Sand your plywood with sandpaper or a sander.

2. Forage for leaves and different materials in your backyard to use as stencils. Tip: leaves that are able to lay flat are much easier to work with.

3. Hold one of the leaf branches over the plywood and spray paint over the leaf in one color (Kicking Yellow). I started with a fern leaf branch, which had the smallest leaf pattern. Repeat all over the plywood to make an allover pattern of leaf stencils. After you’re done with this layer, let the paint dry.

Stencil art

4. After the paint is dry, take your next set of leaves (I used orange leaves), hold one of the leaf branches over the plywood and spray paint over the leaf in another color (Acid green). Repeat stenciling all over the plywood. After you’re done with this layer, let the paint dry.

Hurricane XLT2

Steve wears the Hurricane XLT2 sandals in Black. 

How to make stencil art

5. After the paint is dry, take your next biggest leaf (I used a bird of paradise leaf), hold the branch over the plywood and spray paint over the leaf in another color (Hippie green). Switch up the part of the leaf that you’re spray painting over: paint over just the tip of the leaf, portions of the leaf, or the whole length of the leaf. Repeat stenciling all over the plywood. After you’re done with this layer, let the paint dry.

How to make stencil art

6. Attach the biggest leaves onto your plywood with the clamp.

How to make stencil art

7. Spray paint just around the perimeter edges of the leaves with the white spray paint. Use your fingers to help hold the edges of the leaf down as your spray paint over the leaves. This will serve as your stencil outline. I was really careful and sprayed sparingly—you can’t undo very easily—spray just enough to provide guidance when filling in with acrylic paint.

8. Paint over the white spray painted areas with the white acrylic paint, following over the edges of the stencil to create an outline. Continue to paint from the outline towards the outside edges of the canvas until all of the surface around the leaf stencil is painted white. Let the paint dry.

Leaf outline

How to make stencil art

9. Hang your art up somewhere that you can enjoy it!

How to make stencil art

Steve Hoskins

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