17 February 2009

Illustratively Speaking

About a year ago, Wolfville artist Jack McMaster spent some time under the sign of the g, creating illustrations for a 12-page limited edition accordion book, Tim Bowling’s Refrain for Rental Boat #4. Tim’s poem describes a frustrating day salmon fishing on the Fraser River Delta. We asked Jack to tell us a bit about “pochoir,” the stencilling technique he used to create the water motif that runs through the book. Here’s what he had to say:

“When Andrew first approached me about illustrating Rental he had an idea as to how it would be produced:

The finished book would be an accordion fold with each page being 8" x 8." It could be opened as you would any book to a two-page spread (8" x 16") or opened fully (8" x 96"). The illustrated portion consists of four two-page spreads which are 8" x 64" when fully opened.

He felt there should be an illustration of a handrail or boat that would be printed letterpress on the title page with a water motif that would follow (flow) through the remaining pages using a pochoir technique.

Pochoir is the French word for stencilling. It had its heyday in Paris in the 1920s. Books were also produced in London, New York and Florence.

Stencil sheets are placed over the page to be coloured. Using a brush of coarse, shortly cropped animal hair, paint is dabbed through the stencil. Traditional paints were watercolour (transparent) or gouache (opaque). I've used printing ink in the past with some success. However, drying time can be an issue here.

When colouring Rental I choose watercolour as I wanted to run some of the coloured lines through text. The more transparent the colour the more water you have to add. To give the colour more body so that it wouldn't seep under the stencil I added gum arabic to the mix. Calligraphic lines were used to represent flowing water, as I was worried that the paper would buckle if the areas to be coloured were too large. The stencils were cut from clear film, which allowed for better visibility and control of registration.

Fortunately I was able to produce the piece at Gaspereau Press which had space to accommodate the spread we were dealing with. As for the company …”

For more information about this title, or to obtain a copy, please visit the Gaspereau Press website.

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