Time for a Chooey Inspiration Blog, in which I showcase the stuff that pings me off on a new creative path. Today: Czeslaw Wielhorski, whose work I happily stumbled across one day on Pinterest.
If you're at all creative and you're not a seasoned Pinner, please, get on there now. It's been a revelation for me – hours/days/weeks of my life can go there to die as I ping around from board to board like a pinball, leapfrogging from one topic to another at random, discovering images and artists old and new I never knew existed. And yet unlike other social media platforms, Pinterest never leaves me feeling that I've just wasted a large chunk of my life that I'll never get back – I generally come off there fizzing with inspiration.
(Note: It's also quiiiiite frustrating when you see your own stuff that's made its way there via 15 random tumblr accounts with no credit or link back to your website, so if you see uncredited Choo stuff on there, please let me know, thanks.)
(Er, another note: If you'd like to see the fruit of many dedicated hours of procrastination, you can visit the Pennychoo Pinterest boards here.)
Anyway. I was on there one day, no doubt doing some urgent and necessary admin avoidance, when I discovered the work of Czeslaw Wielhorski. More specifically, I discovered the illustrations he did in 1961 for a Polish cookbook by Zofia Czerny.
While the cover (above) is a riot of folk art colour, the illustrations inside are two colour (screen?) prints and these are the ones that I love.
There's something quite brutal about the simplicity of them – the flat planes of colour, reminiscent of Matisse's paper cutouts, are overlaid with heavy, inky black textures: hatching, scratches, scuffed textures, doodles, dots, marks... There's something unmistakably 1950s/1960s about them – they're reminscent of assembly hall curtains and the kinds of murals that you'd see behind the butchers' counter in a supermarket in the mid 70s...
The fact that these illustrations feel so contemporary shows just how much this 1960s aesthetic has gained traction in recent years – the peacock illustration in particular wouldn't look out of place on a card in any branch of Waterstones.
I think you can see the influence of that era pretty strongly in the fantastic work of Jane Ormes:
... and also to a certain extent in the work of San Fransisco creative team Lab Partners in terms of the the simplicity of the shapes and the motifs, if not the strong textures:
Feeling inspired myself by these cookbook illustrations, and feeling that my right hand may be fixing into a permanent mouse-shaped claw, I was inspired to get the inks, black paint and sugar paper out and spent a happy few hours creating some textures of my own. (I'm not saying this was in any way nostalgic, but I did fish out my spill-proof water beaker and stopped mid afternoon for milk, rusks and a nap...)
I scanned in these marks and textures and incorporated them into some simple illustrations – you can see some of the results below in a few designs from the Midwinter range of Christmas cards. While they lack the extreme simplicity of Wielhorski's originals, they do (I hope) tip their hat to his style in terms of their flat shapes, limited colour palette and use of texture, without simply imitating it.
Having really enjoyed this way of working, I've used it again in a new range of cards, Primavera, although being a Spring occasions range, I've toned down the heavy blacks in favour of a lighter, fresher palette:
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- Tags: 1960s, 1960s aesthetic, 1960s illustration, book illustration, Czeslaw Wielhorski, flat colour, illustration, Jane Ormes, Lab Partners, Matisse, Midiwnter, paper cutout, peacock, Pinterest, Poland, Polish, Primavera, print, San Fransisco, screenprint, texture, vintage cookery book, Zofia Czerny