Friday, June 3, 2011

Another artist term author's may not know ... What is a Pochade?

by Aidana WillowRaven

Many artists draw a sketch with pen, pencil, charcoal, or some other 'dry' medium (although ink is technically wet), when planning an illustration. Generally it's monochromatic (one color), and is intended to capture form, shape, and composition. This is commonly accepted knowledge, even by non-artists.

A term most non-artists, or even many working artists, may not know is pochade.

A pochade is a french word for a sort of sketch, traditionally with paint, rather than a 'dry' medium. It's usually small, often pocket sized, but can also be a full sized version, based on the final work's planned size. The main reason for an artist to use a pochade vs a sketch, is a pochade utilizes color, tone, and shades, though in more of a rough manner, than the final piece will be. Sort of like a storyboard, but in color.

Painters will often create a pochade when painting a landscape, or some other subject, that can't be controlled and brought into the studio. Say the artist wants to paint a sea scape, where the setting and lighting changes by the second? Today, most would use a camera as their pochade medium. But before camera's, what they'd have had to do was capture the essence of the scene, the mood, colors, hues, and tones, in a rapid way. Then take it home and allow the mind's eye to remember the rest for the actual work.

As an artist, I have experienced a magnificent sunset that I had hoped I had captured with my camera, only to find the colors to be dulled and lifeless, once developed. Even today, a pochade would have done me more good than a camera.

Known more commonly is a pochade box. It's an artist's tool that folds open into an easel, while carrying a modest amount of paint and supplies, intended for use in the field.

Here is a question to make you ponder, though ... 

If an artist, while planning a painting makes a small, colored pencil or marker version of the final piece, is it a sketch or a pochade? In my opinion, if the intent is to capture the various colors and tones, more so than shape or perspective, I'd say yes, even though it's a dry medium.

What's your opinion?

Art Director & VP of Operations
4RV Publishing


  1. I had seen the term and heard it before, but I didn't understand until now. Thanks, Aidana.


  2. I am happy to add to your vocabulary. I have found many authors know it as an art term, but not really know what it is.

    I have found many artists not know what it is, other than in relation to the portable easel ... lol.

  3. New to me too although I have seen the portable easel you describe I never knew the term. I am not nimble enough to handle lots of colors when I sketch outdoors. I take a sketch book and pencils everywhere, keep them in the car or in my tote and try to remember the camera as well. I sometimes forget and have to commit scenes to memory until I get home.

    In a future article I would LOVE to read about the process you use in creating your work. The characters and their surroundings are always so interesting. *:)

  4. You're really adding to my vocabulary, Aidana. Such interesting stuff. I'm looking at illustrations in a totally different light now.

  5. Well, Ginger, the idea is to only take few colors for the pochade. Only the base hues you expect to need. So in a sense, if you're taking colored pencils, in my opinion, your following the tradition, if not the tools and medium.

    I'll try to really analyze how I come up with my scenes, for a future post. I really rely on the story, of course, but a lot is organic, too.


  6. Thanks, Beverly. That's sort of the idea ... to help authors understand what the heck their artists are talking about ... lol.

    I also believe it's just as important for us to know the writing lingo.

    I think we'll work better as a team if we study all aspects.