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All Things Ampersand

Project: Make It Count

Though I taught drawing at The Corcoran College of Art and Design for many years, sometimes I just don’t feel like drawing. That’s when I reach for stencils. The same thought process applies: A basic idea for the outcome, a substrate, a color palette. I guess you could think of it as drawing with stencils instead of drawing with a pen or pencil.

I thought it would be fun to create a landscape but giving it a surprise twist. Initially, I thought that an oversized flower would be fun, but that seemed too obvious, so I went in a different direction.


Before you get out the paints, unwrap your Artist Panel and decide whether you want to orient it as a vertical rectangle or landscape-style. (I went with vertical.) This project will work either way.

Gather some stencils that you think will work together well, and then add in one that you don’t think goes! (I juxtaposed three stencils with botanical/natural themes with a mixed media stencil filled with words and numbers.)

Beginners: Experiment on paper to get a sense of the scale of the stencils and how they will look when overlapped. Follow my instructions if you want to duplicate the project as shown. Limit yourself to only three paint colors, making sure that one is darker than the other two.

Others: Use the same stencils or make substitutions, alter the color combination, add in collage papers and texture paste, work on an Artist Panel in a different size…In other words, use the project as a starting point but head in your own direction.


  1. Using a wide brush, cover most of the surface of the Artist Panel and all four sides with streaks of black gesso. Clean and dry the brush. When the gesso has dried, add streaks of Bronze Metallic acrylic paint as shown below – heaviest application toward the top, long vertical streaks below that area. It’s okay if a little bit of the unprimed wood remains visible.

  1. Using the Woodcut Blossoms Background Stencil Inverted and Teal Metallic acrylic paint, stencil the bottom half of the panel. Move the stencil as needed to fill the area. Don’t worry about being perfect, this area will be covered with additional layers of stenciling in subsequent steps.
  1. Now use the Nosegay Stencil to add tiny flowers with Ebony (Lamp) Black Acrylic Paint. Keep them distinct at the right and left sides of the Panel, allow them to be more mottled toward the middle.

  1. Center the Make it Count Stencil toward the top of the Panel. Stencil once with Teal Metallic acrylic paint, then again with Ebony (Lamp) Black. (Allow some of the Teal to show through the Black, creating a mottled effect, especially around the edges as this stencil is a ‘mask’ at the sides and around the numbers.)

  1. Turn the Dangled Pods Stencil upside down so the plants are growing upward rather than hanging downward. Use this stencil and Black, followed by Bronze Metallic Paint to create ‘plants’ toward the center, just below Make it Count. Apply the Bronze with a heavily-loaded brush to add a bit of texture. For more texture, mix paint with texture paste prior to stenciling.

  1. Brush additional color onto the sides of the Artist Panel. Optional: Continue some of the stenciling onto the sides (not shown).

  1. Beginners: Make sure to clean the stencils before storing them. It’s not necessary to remove every bit of paint, but make sure to wash away as much as you can.


  • The Artist Panel – 12” x 16” Unprimed Basswood (Ampersand Art Supply)
  • Black gesso
  • Stencil brushes
  • 3” wide paintbrush
  • Acrylic paints in Metallic Bronze, Metallic Teal, Ebony (Lamp) Black (DecoArt)
  • Stencils – L490 Dangled Pods and L335 Nosegay by Cecilia Swatton, S396 Make it Count by Seth Apter, L566 Woodcut Blossoms Background Inverted by Margaret Peot (StencilGirl Products)

This is part of our on-going series of projects with artist Judi Kauffman. Judi is a nationally known designer, teacher, writer and product developer whose expertise includes collage, stenciling, paper crafting, stamp arts, embroidery, needlepoint, knitting, crochet, weaving and fabric piecing. She has written and produced three videos and is the author of five books. Judi developed and taught college-level studio art and graphic design courses for over 40 years, as well as art programs in public and private schools (elementary through high school levels). Judi earned a BFA in printmaking from Cornell University and an MFA in fibers from Antioch University. She credits her parents (both artists) and her grandfathers (a tailor and a blacksmith) for encouraging her to pursue art and for being among her favorite teachers.


Ampersand’s The Artist Panel Unprimed Basswood Panels are on sale at for as much as 50% off for Winter Back-to-School! Gessobord, Encausticbord and Primed Smooth too! Check here for participating retailers

5 comments on “Project: Make It Count”

  1. Avatar Jean Marmo says:

    Love the colors and the use of stencils!! Such gorgeous texture.

  2. Avatar Denise says:

    Beautiful result. Love this style art. Thanks for sharing

  3. Avatar Paula Lewis says:

    More dry brushing. 🙂 love these.

  4. Avatar Quietfire says:

    Love this project!

  5. Avatar Seth says:

    I really love how this came out. Your color choices were phenomenal.

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