Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pochoir and Parrots.

I'm a subscriber to David Bull's Japanese woodblock series, 'The Mystique of the Japanese Print'. Dave produces a new print for this series every month, each illustrating a different technique or style. It has been a fascinating journey, some I have loved more than others, but I have learned lots by being able to hold the prints and examine them close up. The latest arrived a week or so ago, and is called Parrot and Acorns,shown below:

Dave had this to say about it:
…..”It is clearly ‘modern’ in appearance, even somewhat abstract in the way the elements are depicted. Yet it actually dates from sometime in the late 1700! ...Just how is it that such ‘old’ work can look so new?….the story of the huge influence of Japanese prints on the artists of the west has been told many times. The basic design elements of this print - wide areas of flat colour, plenty of empty space, perfect balance of the parts of the design - were all standard practice for Japanese artists, but were ‘hidden’ from the rest of the world for many years..."

     I was surprised to see just how much the style of Japanese woodblock had influenced the work of Saude, Barbier et al in the early 1900s, which had in turn influenced my own work. The two images below are from the miniature book Qualicum Blue and are about a quarter the size of the Parrot shown above.
Woodblock and pochoir have many similarities in the way they are made. For both, the complete image is first drawn

or painted, and colour separations worked out. For woodblock, multiple blocks are carved, one or more for each colour. For pochoir stencils are cut, one or more for each colour. In woodblock sometimes the block is reprinted, selectively inking up with a slightly different colour for shading, (see parrot's head and wings) or maybe using a different block, and in pochoir the stencils can be re-used to apply shading, or a new stencil is made (see jay's feathers, leaves and wings of butterfly). With pochoir it is not possible to achieve the stand-alone 'white line' Dave has used here for the leaves - at least, I should say I haven't found a way.
     Both methods build up the image with flat layers of colour, which can be quite subtle. The Pochoir artists of the early 1900s used a similar colour palette to Japanese woodblock. Woodblock is perhaps more versatile, there are certainly things you can do with woodblock that you can't with a stencil. Both methods allow the artist to create coloured prints, and require a degree of muscle and skill. 
To see more pochoir images, the Smithsonian has a great online gallery, with lots more info on pochoir. Dave Bull's woodblock site is brimming with interesting and beautiful pics. A great contemporary pochoir artist is Walter Bachinski.

No comments: