Masked Lines: Abstract Painting (July 2012)

This bright and vibrant painting project is a great way to teach children about lines and colour in abstract art.

To get some ideas for their own paintings, the children began by looking at photographs of artworks by two important abstract artists:

Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944) 

One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Piet Mondrian used lines and colour in combination to construct grid-like compositions that express harmony, rhythm and beauty.

Pictured to the left is Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow, Blue and Black painted in 1921.

Bridget Riley (British, b. 1931)

The lines in Bridget Riley’s paintings are dynamic, often taking the form of stripes that create optical sensations of shimmering colour, light or movement.

On the right is a typical example of Riley’s art from the 1960s. This screenprint is called Untitled (Fragment 1), 1965.

We discussed how straight lines can take different directions – vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight lines, zig-zags or chevrons – and that they can also form the outlines of geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles or triangles. I pointed out that the red, blue, yellow and white rectangles in Mondrian’s painting are actually the spaces created between vertical and horizontal lines as they cross from one side of the picture to the other.

Masked Lines

I showed the children how to stick lengths of masking tape onto a sheet of cardboard, before painting the spaces in between, being careful to brush just over the edges of the tape so that when it is removed a neat white line is revealed.

As well as being fun to do, this technique is perfect for teaching children about the abstract concept of ‘line’ as it enables them to focus on how to compose a picture with lines only, before introducing the next element – colour.

Once they had laid out their masking tape designs, the kids used Mondrian’s primary palette of red, blue and yellow, plus black, to paint the spaces in between the tape.

When the paint had dried, the masking tape was carefully removed, revealing neat white lines and some really dynamic abstract compositions.

I did this project with both of my age-groups, but gave each a different shaped support – large oblong sheets of card for the 4-6 year olds, and smaller circles for the 3-4 year olds.








The resulting paintings are so vivid and bold! The kids all created very distinctive designs using exactly the same materials. Proof of the power of line!

Please click through the gallery below for more striking abstract paintings:


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