The stencil technique is one of the oldest painting methods in the world. It’s one of the smartest tools possible to spread relatively complex imagery and ideas – for example on city streets using spray paint. This exceptional masking tool survived thousands of years and developed from being used for cave paintings to being used excessively within one of the current art forms (Street Art / Urban Art) going down in *art history again. Sebastian Schager uses highly complex stencils for some of his gallery work.

Initially and under a different name Sebastian Schager started to work with hand-cut stencils in 2005. He created work on thin paper to do paste-up’s in the streets of Vienna. Stencilling is a graphical technique and allows to do high detailed editions for a relatively low budget. Specialising in 1 coloured but complex stencils, he often combined a back “Key” layer with an original underpainting. Within the last five years he developed a fine art variant for gallery purposes and started to paint on canvas. Today he uses the technique to do relatively big paintings in small editions (2-5) each with an original underpainting on canvas as well as for bigger wall projects. The biggest full frame halftone stencil was about 3x15meters and was commissioned for the entrance area of a apartment building in Vienna. He uses halftone black and white stencils as a method, like screen printing or pochoir, in order to achieve photographic aesthetics and to reproduce and enlarge his digital collages and make them unique pieces of art at the same time – There is no physical way to reproduce a highly complex stencil without the counterpart, Its like key and keyhole. Today he uses cutting plotters to cut his halftone rasters to multiple separate paper sheets. Thus there is a lot of hand work, try an error, cleaning and adjustments to be taken care of during the process the high detail of the designs going up to 100.000 cutting paths a draft can’t be fully cut by hand anymore.

Technically islands (sections of material that are inside cut-out “holes” in the stencil) need to be connected to other parts of the stencil with bridges (narrow sections of material that are not cut out). These bridges for Sebastian Schager became an stylistic element itself. Artists within the urban art and street art movement using stencils in their work will always have to find a way to make bridges work in their favour – a great way for the trained collector to distinguish each artist within that art form from another.


The stencil technique was used in cave paintings dating to 10,000 BC, where human hands were used in painting handprint outlines among paintings of animals and other objects. This makes it one of the oldest painting techniques in the world but never the less this wide spread street art and graffiti technique still is relevant and will stay current within future developments in contemporary art.

The key advantage of a stencil is that it can be reused to repeatedly and rapidly produce the same letters or design. As needed in any political or environmental or any underground movement, graffiti stencils are a fast way to place ideas and messages in letters or icons in public space. It’s just a thin sheet of material, such as paper, with letters or a design cut from it, used to produce the design by applying pigment (spray paint) through the cut-out holes in the material. It’s the technical limitations witch force an abstraction and simplification – exactly what makes stencil aesthetics what they are. The combination of necessary abstraction, bridges and the foremost grubby painting process with all the dust around the edges and all the little happy drips and mistakes provokes a feeling of a light and fast painting style submerged in associations to a historical grown aesthetics of underground movements. Last but not least it’s the simplicity that matters to the artist, It’s a yes or a no. It’s black or white.

Process video

Born in Vienna, Sebastian Schager graduated in graphics and communications in 2007, is founding member of the artist group PERFEKT WORLD (2007-2016) and begun to study art history right after college. The group was exhibiting in New York, Berlin and Vienna, just to name a few. In 2016 the group splits and the association and gallery Jan Arnold based in Vienna was founded. Sebastian Schager form this point on works under the name Artis.Love, started an enterprise going by the name of LEAP – Limited Edition Art Prints offering small and affordable print editions.

Next to his work as an artist he also is involved in Exhibition making, takes care of the Q21 – Artist in Residence program for #Streetartpassage for which he periodically invites international street artists to stay and work a month within the renowned art complex MuseumQuartier (MQ) Vienna. Sebastian Schager is also responsible for the annual festival like exhibition “Living Studio” at the 500m2 large exhibition space frei_raum (MQ). Next to all projects Sebastian Schager works and lives as an Artist in Vienna since over 10 years.

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