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Young artist features street style stenciling

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When Austin Maxwell moved to Sacramento, he brought his stenciling skills to the art community. A budding artist, Maxwell focuses on recreating portraits of famous people or tourist hotspots into paintings through multi-layered street-style stenciling.

Maxwell’s stenciling is not traditional. Instead, he works with a form of street art stenciling that involves Photoshop and spray paint.

Maxwell, 19, said he will see if his stenciling appeals to people by going to shops and galleries and featuring works on his Deviantart page.

Clare Bailey, owner of Sacramento Art Complex, said she promotes spray paint as a positive medium.

“It is a creative outlet and the style has a voice. If (an artist) shows they can create a style of (street art) that can go in someone’s home, they can succeed,” Bailey said.

Maxwell said his friend in Oregon inspired him to try this form of stenciling, so he gave it a try.

“I was taking a computer class, and it was pretty much learn whatever you want, so I tried a couple of stencils out on Photoshop during that time.”

Maxwell said he stopped for awhile but started again several months ago because he didn’t know what to get his brother or father for Christmas. He decided to create a stencil of him and his father that was taken when Maxwell was four. He also did one of his brother from a picture on his Facebook.

Father and son

The pieces that Maxwell produces vary in subject.

“I kind of like getting the popular things that people might like: people, buildings,” Maxwell said.

He has done stencils of things like the Bay Bridge, 007 actress Barbara Bouchet, Kanye West and R2D2.

Kanye West

“R2D2 is (my) best stencil so far. I got really lucky on that one,” Maxwell said. “It was the first spray adhesive I’d ever done, and it turned out great.


Maxwell has produced over ten stencils so far.

“I didn’t really know much about stenciling before,” Maxwell added. “I just thought it was a type of Photoshop thing.”

Maxwell said his process for stenciling is pretty simple, but that time and effort are key.

“I’ll find either a black and white or color picture of what I want to do, and I’ll compile multiple images from Google or wherever and throw it on Photoshop,” Maxwell said. “I’ll work on contrasting so that image ranges are around five to seven layers of color.”

Maxwell said he can choose the number of layers by working on the contrasting in Photoshop, and that the number he chooses depends on how much detail he wants.

Maxwell added that it depends on how detailed a picture is, and that a piece could have eight or nine layers with shadowing.

The next few steps can involve several hours per section, Maxwell said.

“I take the picture and upload it to Photoshop,” Maxwell said. “Then, I’ll select each color and copy them individually onto new documents. Then I print it on stock paper, so when you see it coming out of the printer, it will be a single layer of one color. It can take anywhere from one hour to three hours trying to identify all of one color in a particular image.”

Maxwell added that he uses a regular computer printer for most pieces, but with the bigger works, he goes to a print shop.

Maxwell said that when he used to look at a picture, he just saw a layer of black and white, but once he discovered how to make different layers, he didn’t do just black and white anymore.

After printing he cuts out the color sections on each piece of stock paper. He said he does this by hand with an exacto knife and it could be another three to six hours, depending on how detailed the stencil is.

“When I’m cutting, I’ll just listen to music for a couple of hours. It’s just chill. I zone out I guess,” Maxwell said.

He said he will work his way from one corner to the other, otherwise the paper will bend from the body heat. He added that he will sometimes start with the bigger sections of the image, like hills.

Once the color is cut out of the stock paper, Maxwell said he sprays it down with spray adhesive on the canvas. He said it is imperative to line each layer up correctly, otherwise there will be a random section of color that does not go with anything else.

Maxwell said spraying could take an hour or more depending on how big the work is. He lets the layers dry between colors because the paint can stick to the stencil, taking chunks out of the work.

Maxwell said he mostly uses Montana Gold Spray Paint. He said that when he used to use Krylon spary paint, the color would drip more because of the water-to-paint mixture. However, with Montana, the pint s not watered down and does not run. He added that there is also a wider selection of colors.

“I used to use Krylon, but then friend told me about Montana Gold, and it was like love at first spray,” Maxwell said.

Right now, Maxwell said he is doing mainly 8 ½ x 11 inch stencils, but wants to create larger works.

“I haven’t taken a professional art class,” Maxwell added. “My idea is to take a drawing or something so I can tweak some of the images myself, but I haven’t done anything drastic, yet.”

“I never realized how many art galleries there were down here, or how much Sacramento was into art. I might check out some (galleries or shops) to see about showing my art.”

He said he has sold a couple and has made some for friends, but for now it’s just a hobby.

Austin Maxwell spray painting several layers of Barbara Bouchet stencil.

Austin Maxwell stenciling Barbara Bouchet from Elizabeth Orfin on Vimeo.

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