Pochoir is a method of illustration that incorporates stencilling with more traditional watercolour techniques. the results are characterized by clean/hard/graphic edges on objects that are otherwise painted with the softer and often looser qualities of watercolour. Stencilling as a method has been used throughout art history, from cave painting to the decoration of cloth in any number of cultures, notably in japanese Katazome, an Edo-period method of decorating silk. More recently stencilling, in the form of Pochoir, was used extensively in the Art-Nouveau and Art Deco movements of the 1920's.
Here, we use the technique to create graphically arresting images of birds. Students place clear frisket film over watercolour paper, then using a sharpie marker are asked to draw, as accurately as possible from selected photographs, the silhouette of an image of a bird. The silhouette is then carefully cut out and peeled off, leaving the watercolour paper exposed in the shape of the drawing. Students then paint the bird in watercolour, focusing on building depth of colour, value and detail through patient layering, while simultaneously maintaing a loose style, allowing the brush and the paint to do a lot of the "work". Despite some early problems with "bleed under" we were very pleased with the results.