Friday, February 21, 2020

Using ATC-Sized Masks with a Full-Sized Mask to Achieve Unity

What's visual unity?  Is it important?  How does it work?  What's it got to do with ATC-sized stencils and masks that were inspired by full-sized stencils and masks?

Visual unity helps to make a painting "work."  It's a characteristic of artwork that pleases the viewer's eye and invites that viewer to spend time exploring the art.

One way to develop unity in an artwork is to build rhythm and repetition into it.

By repetition, I don’t mean repeating the exact same color, size and shape across the whole piece -- unless you’re trying to create a pattern.  Patterns can be beautiful and exciting or they can be boring, but that’s another topic; not what I'm addressing here.

When I say repetition, I mean that similar visual images (for example, loops and swirls) are repeated across the piece -- similar, but varying in some ways such as size, shape, color and/or texture. 

What thrilled me in creating ATC-sized images was the idea of developing miniature versions of some stencils and masks that I'd previously designed in 6" x 6" and "9" x 12" sizes.  I knew that I would be using these originals and the ATC sizes together.

My just-released ATCs differ from my originals not only in size, but also in other ways.  Yet even with these differences, the viewer’s eye finds enough resemblance for easy recognition.

How does this help achieve unity when creating a new piece of art?  

Today’s photos show my 9” x 12” mask Fantasia used with the ATC-sized Fantasia, as well as 2 other ATCs with similar loops and swirls – Ski Lift Works (from ATC Mixup 1which is derived from 6" x 6" Ski Lift Works  and, from ATC Mixup 2, Sprigs, derived from 6" x 6" Sprigs.  

I chose each of the above with the goal of image repetition (images of loops and swirls in this case) because repeated images -- with variety -- hold an artwork's content together.  These image variations reward the eye, enriching the visual experience. 

My first step was to cover a 12” x 12” stretched canvas with several layers of heavy-body white “pearlized” paint as well as heavy-body gold interference paint.  I chose these "metallic" paints because I like the way they glow thru alcohol inks.

At the start of each application, I used an art spatula to cover one edge of the canvas with big dollops of heavy-body paint. 

Starting at the edge with the dollops of wet paint, I scraped the paint across the entire canvas with a "taping knifefrom a home improvement store.  These knives come in assorted widths; I used my 12"-wide knife. ("Knife" is a misleading label, since the edge is not sharp.)

I wanted to end up with a nearly-perfect level surface so I did this spreading 3-4 times, allowing drying time between applications.

After the last layer had dried, I experimented with arrangements of the 9" x 12" and ATC-sized masks -- 

Once I'd settled on an arrangement, I started adding alcohol inks in drops, and spreading the drops with a fine-line marker bottle filled with rubbing alcohol (pictured below, middle left side.)

I continued to add alcohol inks and rubbing alcohol ....

 I left the masks in place while leaving the project to dry.  It's important to check a time or two during the drying period; if the inks get too dry, they will stick the masks or stencils to the "metallic" paints underneath.

After allowing about a half-hour of drying time, I lifted off the masks:

As you can see (above), repeated loops and swirls are visible across the entire surface, and while they share similarities, they differ from one another.  A scattering of straight lines are included to avoid monotony.

Size, color, texture and shape variance of related images cement an artwork's unity -- but unity alone isn't enough to fully entertain the viewer’s eye. 

Another important quality in a satisfying painting is value contrast.

When I reached the point illustrated in the photo above, I realized I wanted more light values.

I decided on two ways of adding light values; the first was to bring out pieces of gold foil giftwrap that I'd once painted translucent blue --

I turned the papers over, placed my 9" x 12"Fantasia mask onto the back sides, and used a Sharpie pen to trace some of the shapes.

To cut out the shapes, I could've used fine-detail-cutting scissors but I chose a plastic cutting mat with knife .

Below:  the artwork after I'd cut out my first set of shapes and added that reflective paper to the painting with Golden gloss soft gel medium.

After adding that first set of cut-outs, I opted to do more tracings with the Fantasia mask.  I cut out the second set and added them to the painting with the same soft gloss gel medium.

Even then, I wasn't satisfied -- my painting was limited to a minimum of light values (the yellows) and a maximum of medium values (magentas and aquas.)  I liked that uneven balance, but the art still lacked enough value contrast to please me.  I needed to add dark values.

My solution was to cut apart my dark-paint-stained pieces from the May2019 Stencil of the Month 3-piece set.  (Yes, cutting was emotionally painful!  But I told myself that stencils and masks were created to be used in creative ways.)

As you can see, I experimented thruout this project with turning the canvas and at the end, my decision was to turn it as shown above.

I was nearly finished, but my eye wanted just a tad more light-dark value contrast.  So I cut apart the 6" x 6" mask Puddlesdesigned by Rae Missigman, painted them yellow with acrylics, and added them (lower right below) as a final touch:

Thank you for stopping by my blog today!   To scroll thru the pages of my stencils and masks at, please start here.

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