Adventures into Spray Paint Art: Much to Learn

Attempting spray paint art for the first time unlocked a sense of unbridled freedom from within. Coming from a place where my expectations were non-existent and I was partaking in this activity strictly for fun, I had a great time just making what felt good in the moment. That early win was enough to inspire another go around, but it also created a new level of expectations that changed the vibe around this latest session.

Having tried my hand at a few of the fundamental spray paint art techniques, I jumped ahead 10 paces and wanted to create pop art. I wanted to make the type of stuff that Nathan Salmon made for me back at Pretty Heroes. While I’m mostly happy with the way my work turned out, I realize in hindsight that I may not have been quite ready for showtime.

This time around, I wanted to incorporate stencils into my arsenal. These are crucial for creating very specific shapes. Prior to our painting session, I had ideas for creating pieces inspired by Tetris Effect, the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto skyline, and Street Fighter.

The first challenge to arise was the size of my printer paper. Maxing out at the standard 8.5 x 11, this proved to be a bit small for certain designs relative to my canvas. In certain cases, I worked around the smaller dimension. For the skyline, Steff helped me split the image in half, which would then get taped back together after the fact.

Furthermore, what I didn’t realize until it was too late is that there are at least two ways to approach a spray paint art stencil.

1. You can cut it as a standalone piece that can sit on your blank canvas and use as your first layer, like the Akuma one I created. This also allowed for the Kanji symbol to stay in the exact spot every time.

2. You can cut it as a “frame” that you’ll place down and use to paint the last layer, such as this Toronto Raptors logo. This allowed the shape to stay intact, versus cutting out eight pieces of the ball, assembling them on the canvas just so, and hoping none of them move along the way.

The method you choose will depend on what you’re trying to create, as well as the shape itself. In the case of example 1, I wanted to paint Akuma at the start, then paint around him while keeping the paint under Akuma intact. This stencil was the right approach for the job.

With the Toronto Raptors logo, it had to exist as the 2nd option, as you can’t really cut the original design to work in the same way that Akuma does. Though I thought I messed up by cutting this way, this actually proved to be the right way to do it. I would spray the galaxy first, then the logo on top. This allowed the galaxy to peer through the lines of the ball and the claw marks.

Then came the Tetris stencil. My vision was to create a galaxy painting inspired by the game Tetris Effect, where the board is essentially floating in space. This shape would have worked much better in the style of option 2, but I made it like option 1. More on that later.

I also started cutting my Toronto skyline in the style of option 1, which was a bad move. Due to the flimsiness of the CN Tower, the city skyline would have gotten wrecked as soon as I tried to lift it. Realizing that I was not ready to make that happen, I scrapped it for now.

One more thing. This was a massive mistake. For our canvases, we use glossy Bristol board. For our stencils, we used matte boards, as they were a bit cheaper and the store that sells them is a lot closer to our house. We’ll also get to that in a bit.

Enough about stencils. Let’s get into the art!

Painting 1 – Best Basketball Team in the Galaxy

For weeks now, I’ve been chomping at the bit at the thought of making something involving the Toronto Raptors logo. As recently as the night before, I thought this wasn’t going to work at all due to the way I cut my stencil. Thankfully, I saved the cutout, as it proved to be the right approach for this particular design.

First, I started with the galaxy. Spraying in a combination of black, purple, and red, I used a mix of the team’s current and classic colours to create the backdrop. Tried my best to create textures with magazine paper and plastic bags, but the hot weather dried my paint much faster than expected. The effect is subtle because of that, but I’m good with the end result.

With the galaxy completed, I let it sit for a while and worked on the Street Fighter one. This gave the painting enough time for it to dry, allowing me to place my Toronto Raptors stencil on top without the stencil negatively impacting the existing work. I probably could have done the shading a touch better, but this one had the cleanest execution of the work I did today. Really happy with the final product as well, as it turned out even better than what I initially had in my head!

Painting 2 – Die 1,000 Deaths

When it comes to super moves in fighting games, there isn’t one more iconic than Akuma’s Raging Demon. Teleporting forward and grabbing his opponents, the screen goes black and series of devastating hits are registered. Emerging from the darkness, Akuma is facing away from his downed opponent while the Kanji symbol for “heaven” appears in front of him.

My vision was to create a silhouette of Akuma standing in front of the heaven symbol. Also wanted to spatter blood throughout. I ended up murdering my first attempt at this painting.

Remember how I used matte Bristol board for the stencils? As I peeled Akuma away from my canvas, a lot of the paint stuck to the stencil, leaving ugly white blotches behind. When I tried to peel off the stencil for the symbol, even more paint came off. Each attempt at fixing it only made things worse, causing me to scrap that first attempt entirely.

The second time around, I was banking on the preexisting paint on the stencils to have dried, making it easier to peel off. While it sort of worked, the painting was still left with white splotches after the peel. Thankfully, I was able to fix everything the second time around. I want to revisit this idea with exploding streaks that often accompany the Raging Demon, but this is a solid first attempt! In particular, I’m proud of having executed on creating one thing in front of another thing. One new technique for the arsenal!

Painting 3 – The Effects of Tetris

With this one, I wanted to create a spacey backdrop for Tetris, similar to the ones found in Tetris Effect. Having seen Steff work around the matte stencil issue by not painting under the stencil, I used my stencil to keep the board white.

The problem here was that I didn’t have rocks small enough to weigh down the the thin side walls of the wells as I painted the space parts. As such, the side lines aren’t as solid as they should be.

I think the texture on the planet is my best yet and I love the colour combination of black and purple as the view in space. However, using the wrong type of stencil really bummed me out in terms of not being able to paint that a unique colour and not being able to create solid side walls. The end product still looks good and I’ll proudly display it, but I will revisit this idea again and make it even better!

Going forward, I am going to be more mindful about how I use stencils. Will also go back and further develop my spray paint art fundamentals, as I’ve yet to paint a number of foundational elements, such as buildings, water, mountains, and more. Not sure if we’ll get the chance to paint again in 2019 due to fall weather being what it is, but spray paint art is a hobby I will continue to pursue!

As I was making plenty of mistakes, here are some of my fave works from my spray painting crew!

My sister-in-law Michelle made this stunning piece of a pirate ship emerging from the fog.

Her boyfriend Jascha created this piece that prominently features a giant meteor.

Steff made this spooky piece where she incorporated Oogie Boogie into her clouds. Amazing!


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3 thoughts on “Adventures into Spray Paint Art: Much to Learn

  1. Tatterhood September 26, 2019 / 7:03 AM

    Awesome, looks like great fun x

    • Jett September 26, 2019 / 7:09 AM

      Thank you! Spray paint art is a ton of fun! Have you tried it before?

      • Tatterhood September 26, 2019 / 7:19 AM

        Not personally, but I would love to have a go!
        Thank you for sharing xx

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