Usage of Stencils in Pop Art

Dorian Whitmore

Graffiti is a popular form of pop art, with many artists displaying their works or ‘signatures’ across public spaces and canvas portraits alike. With pop art promoting quick reproduction of images for easy dissemination, stencils have grown in importance and usage. Blek le Rat is known as one of the early users of stencils. From using it for etching numbers and letters, stencils today can be used for creating impressions of people, animals and a range of other images also.

What makes a stencil
Stencils are made out thin materials like plastic, metal or even paper. The required image, numbers or letters are cut out on this material, either by hand or by using specific machines. These stencils vary in size, from being very small to extremely large life-like in size.

Stenciling technique
Also known as pochoir, the technique of stenciling involves placing the cut out stencil on the surface where the image has to be reproduced. Spray paint from aerosol cans or other relevant painting methods are then used to paint over the stencil. Once the stencil is removed, the required image is obtained. Details can then be filled in, if required, by the artist.

Popular pop art artists and stenciled impressions
Stenciling is popularly implemented in pop art. In fact, its usage started with Blek Le Rat, a well-known pioneer in the stencil graffiti pop art form. Jef aerosol, Banksy, John Fekner of New York are other artists known for using this art form. A few renowned examples of stenciling can be seen in the London underground system and also often on billboards.

Legal or illegal
An important question that comes up before many people is whether stenciling techniques are legal or illegal. Pop art artists often use this method at public places, to display contradictory views and make a quick getaway. Use of stenciling and graffiti becomes illegal, when it displays sensitive messages to the public without prior permissions from authorities. However, stenciling can also be used to beautify public places. It can also be used to create personalized images on home/office walls, canvas and other mediums. Then, its usage becomes legal.

Personalized stenciling
Today many online providers also offer personalized stenciling. Here you can avail of your stenciled image with a message just for you. Such images can be created on canvas or on other materials. While few providers offer computerized tools for stenciling, it is always better to opt for pop art stencils created by real artists. This way you can be sure of a good quality image.

Stencils are created in many ways to suit different needs. They are usually made from reusable materials, so that they can be used multiple times over days and months. In some instances, artists may also create one-time use stencils that are used for that painting session only. Digital artists may also create virtual stencils to get the effect. Some software is also available. If opting for stenciled art, go for reputed artist studios who can get you a good portrait, rather than third-party sellers, who often do a shoddy job.

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