close up of a chinese paper cut out
On my recent trip to China I found a lot of paper cut out art. It’s vivid contrasting color against a white background and sharp lines make for a strong image. The technique is really really old and dates back to the origins of paper in the 6th century. Although originating in China, many cultures have a form of their own. The Polish Wycinanki style is particularly interesting. In japan they call it kirie (切り絵細工).
a painting I am working on
I decided to experiment with paint and see if I could replicate the contrast of the paper cutout. The use of a vivid color on white works well but there is no way such a sharp line can be produced as we see in the paper cutouts.
I noticed in kimono design, patterns and most of the design that extends from tradition styles, have similarities. Clean lines and defined shapes used in great contrast. Even some fabric dyeing techniques use paper cut out stencils as the relief. Similarities in style can be seen in this kimono pattern making technique.
hand painted kyo-yuzen steps of fabric dyeing
1. pattern drawing with ink and brush
2. lines are cleaned up using a paste to create a fine line
3. colors are painted in by hand
4. colored areas are masked using a paste
5. the background is dyed leaving the masked areas untouched
6. the fabric is washed and then steam smoothed
The result is a high contrast, very vivid and detailed image. No wonder these are expensive items to buy. It is just my observation, but could it have some influences from the paper cutout? If you are interested in paper cut out and a more modern interpretation check out Bob san’s super paper cutting video on youtube. I was lucky enough to talk to him about his work. He told me he loves the crisp lines you can get with a blade and paper. There is certainly nobody doing anything like this guy with paper. He doesn’t sketch ideas first. Straight from the mind and all done freestyle with the blade.