Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Introducing Abstraction Composition Backbones Masks! What are they all about?

Yearning to try abstract art?  Or have you done it, but wonder what would happen if you come at it from a new direction?

I see abstract art as having a “backbone,” a structure that establishes visual logic…

… and builds excitement into key areas …

…. and creates a “light-path” for guiding viewers thru the artwork, visually entertained all along the path.

This visual roadway is the reason I’ve blocked out connected areas in 3 of my 4 StencilGirl releases of today, Abstract Composition Backbones Masks.






Mask 3 (s866) leans toward being an exception; it has fewer blocked-out areas, leaving more choices to be made the artist.  At times, I add bits of masking tape to Mask 3 to strengthen its "pathway" of blocked-out (solid) areas.  Since they aren't already built into the mask's design, I can tape off any areas I choose, so my path-of-"light" can change from piece to piece.

When using these masks as Step One in creating an abstract artwork on a white substrate, the artist can leave those blocked-out (solid) areas white, or subtly tint them to remain readable as “white.”

For example, consider the photo directly below that shows an abstract created using Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 2 s865 (with its 6" x 6" frame cut off.)    A future post will show the development of this artwork, step-by-step (without the arrows!)  But for now, notice the off-white areas nearly surrounding the dark-value focal area.  Altho my last step was to add white marker, it was the  mask that established these wide, near-white areas.  Their presence heightens drama in a specific location, with the goal of capturing the first glance of a viewer.  Notice also that the other shapes and lines -- also created by the mask -- act as pathways of near-white, taking the viewer thru the entire piece, giving evidence that this art offers something of interest everywhere, with the "climax" of interest happening in the focal area (marked by arrows.)

Above:  As you can see, these masks are designed so the artist can easily extend the image from 6" x 6" to a larger size. 

I've designed these masks with flexibility in mind.  Simply making one print with one mask can be a finished artwork!  Or that print can launch imagination into the stratosphere as you explore additions to the initial print.

Here are three ideas with optional variations: 

(Idea 1) You can use a “backbones” mask as your first step, but then continue development as the spirit moves you.  

One example appears below in 3 photos that show the progress of art that started with a print made using Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 4 .  Its substrate (background) had been painted pink in an earlier project.

Above:  The original print is still visible here, as I start using a Molotow Pump Marker filled with Golden High Flow Phalto paint, adding a line to accent the artwork.

Above:  I added more linework with the same marker as well as a thinner-tipped Molotow marker filled with Golden High Flow Titanium White acrylic paint.  



Above: the finished art, a mixed-media collage, makes use of papers printed with other stencils of my design, as well as other "catch-all" papers.

(1-A)  Or use that starter mask (or a different mask) over and over thruout your progress in bringing your art to a point that satisfies.  

If using a mask repeatedly on one artwork, you have the freedom, with each application, to change the position of the mask …

(1-B) … flip it horizontally…

(1-C) … or place it side-by-side with the original print (perhaps with a slight overlap of the two prints)…

(1-D)… or turn it upside down for one or more of the prints. 

Creative layering makes for a deliciously complex painting! People will ask you,  "How did you do that!?"

Below:  A finished piece created thru mask-rotating and layering--

Above:  I developed this foil-on-foil fantasy using Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 2 and Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 4.  With each application of metallic ink, I rotated the masks, opting to use only selected areas of the masks.  In my next post I will show step-by-step photos, with directions, detailing my progress from first step to last.

(Idea 2)  A totally different approach is to start your masterpiece by going wild and crazy with paints as your first step. (I use leftover acrylic paints to make these "catch-all" papers -- they "catch" all the leftover paints.) This blog will soon carry an entire detailed post on this topic, but for now I'll show one example of a wild-and-crazy background....


(2-A)  You can tame crazy-paper chaos with your second step.  Just lay a "backbones" mask over the whimsical background; then, with the mask and paint or crayons or pencils, organize that chaos into form -- either partial organization or complete organization.  You create a world of your own that has visual logic and structure, with a little or a lot of "chaos" to set a spark!

(Idea 3)  If you want to develop artwork larger than 6” x 6”, just use a mask over and over on a larger substrate; try side-by- side prints or a head-to-head (or flip-flop) repeat print.

(3-A)  Here’s a simple example of flip-flop printing on a substrate twice the size of 6” x 6”: 

Above:  Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 4 was used in one direction to make the top print.  Then it was cleaned, flipped over, and placed head-to-head with the first print to create a flip-flopped image with a second paint application.  This is the start of an artwork that can go in any direction.  Note:  The mask has been cut free from its original 6" x 6" frame.

(3-B)  The masks’ size was 6” x 6” when I started making my art samples.  Eventually I cut two of them out from their frames so I could more readily extend the shapes beyond their original 6” x 6” sizes.  And finally, before making my later art samples, I cut all four masks free from their frames.  This enabled me to more readily use all of them in combination.  Example:

Above:  This mixed-media art sample was developed using all four of my Abstract Composition Backbones Masks.  I will write more about the process behind this piece in an upcoming post.

If you hesitate to cut masks free from their frames, it may help to know that this is a way to make each mask an art-making tool that's uniquely yours.  Prints you make with them will not match anyone else's.

Today's closing photo:  A collage-and-acrylic artwork that I stared with a "catch-all" paper background.  Over that background, I used a pale magenta heavy-body acrylic paint with Abstract Composition Backbones Mask 3.  As my last step, I collaged the piece with assorted papers.

As I wrote earlier in this post:  You can use a “backbones” mask as your only step, stopping there with a finished work of art.
Or you can continue development as the spirit moves you.

Today's range of project suggestions will be explored -- with step-by-step photos -- in my upcoming posts, which will appear daily during the coming week.
Two sneak previews:

Lots of thanks for checking out my blog today!  Lots more examples of art made with my new masks will appear here in days to come.  To subscribe to these posts by email, please use that option in the upper right sidebar.  To scroll thru the pages of my StencilGirl masks and stencils, please start here.


  1. Cecilia, these are fabulous! Will definitely order ASAP. You are so talented! Thanks for sharing your talent with us through your great artwork and stencil designs.

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  3. Cecilia, these are fabulous! Will definitely order ASAP. You are so talented! Thanks for sharing your talent with us through your great artwork and stencil designs.

  4. These are great Cecilia! Definitely ordering these for my collection. Thank you for sharing your great artwork and stencil designs with us!