Stencil Nation

Russell Howze has put together a collection of street stencils from around the world in his new book, "Stencil Nation".
Russell spoke at Powell's the other night and showed slides of images from his book. It was the first time I've ever seen the stencil community. It's usually a quiet, private surprise to come upon a stencil, tucked away somewhere, unexpected. But there were about 75 people gathered there, listening to Russell speak into a microphone about his adventures and the stenciling process. "Wow. Here they are." I thought.

I started stenciling in 1984. I saw my first political street stencils in France during my year abroad. Inspired by the elegance of the French stencils, I started refining my own work. I loved the idea of street art, and put my own stencils up in Poitiers, Paris, Amsterdam, and Oregon. I noticed other artists who would regularly stencil in all of the places I went in particular who painted large, human silhouettes. I saw his work in every major city I went to that year, including San Francisco, LA, and New York. One day I saw his work on bags and tee shirts, filling a small storefront window. I was IMPRESSED! He's making a living at it!

I continued creating street art stencils until the day I was caught by police. They decided to make me jump through every legal hoop they could and I was fingerprinted and given 80 hours of community service to serve. I served it, but in the meantime I started to put my stencils on large sheets of paper, and to frame them. I met the incredible artist VICTOR GASTELUM from Los Angeles who had also been stenciling for years. He showed me how to do multi-color stencils, and amazed me with his gorgeous, vibrant prints of Mexican wrestlers and hot cars. Check Victor's work here:

Stencils are a immediately gratifying form of printmaking. Colors dry instantly. You don't have to cut text out in the reverse, and there is a softness to the overspray, and a roughness to uncontrollable elements of spray paint that appeals to me greatly. You can really emphasize the elegance of line and the raw look of paint and stone or brick, or whatever surface you paint on. The only thing I'd like to change about it is the toxicity of the spray paint. Muse art supply has a new kind of non-toxic spray paint I'm going to try.

Here are two stencils I found the other day in Forest Park.

Vive l'art de rue!