Sunday, January 27, 2008

Even More on Gouache

Well, here's the finished gouache, although I'm still not particularly happy with the player's left hand.

Gouache, it turns out, is versatile, provides high chroma and true reproduction, and isn't very complicated for a beginner if you have some knowledge of water media. But it's also clear that there's a world of possibilities that I haven't come near to tapping. There's a website at Virtual Gouache Land that shows you much more of what can be done with this paint. A friend of mine, a professional illustrator, says that anything you can do with oil paint you can do with gouache, and many times do it better. Lovely soft edges, subltly graded tones, etc., can all be done with gouache. And the best part is it can be reworked. But be warned--reworking makes muddy color, just as it does in oil techniques. Luckily, if you're painting on a smooth surface like bristol or hot-press watercolor paper, you can mist the paint, soften it, and wipe much of it off. That's pretty much what I did with the player's left hand, muddied it up badly, dampened the paint, wiped it off, and tried again. But you lose the freshness and brightness of the color if you've got a muddy surface underneath, as you can see.

Nevertheless, I'm going to do more gouache. No reason not to. People may look down their nose at gouache, saying it's not permanent, etc. Well heck, it's not much different than watercolor, and you can always choose permanent pigments for your painting. Bottom line: gouache is fascinating, fairly simple to begin doing, and has real possibilities.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More on Gouache

I'm finding gouache a considerably more interesting medium than I originally thought. Although a clerk in an art supply store once said to me that nobody uses gouache any more, I can't understand why not. Maybe it's the advent of acrylics, or maybe it's that gouache isn't "fine art." Whatever the reason, I think it's a fine medium for painting. For one thing, the "rewettability," if that is indeed a word, while perhaps making the paint layer impermanent, also allows better edge control. And the matte quality of the paint means better reproduction, even when using digital cameras.

The images shown here represent a couple of steps in my first gouache--well, actually the second; my first went into the burn pile. As you'll see when looking through these images, the colors are bright and clear.

This is about 20x15 on illustration board, a copy of a Harley Brown pastel that I found striking. It is not for sale.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A New Still Life

Here is another small still life, intended for the February show. This is also 6x8 on gessoed panel.

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I'm still exploring gouache, but not ready to post anything yet. Still, I find it intriguing because of how easily it's manipulated. The color shift is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. All in all I'm enjoying it. And it's easy to clean up--a bonus.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I've begun some investigation into gouache. In fact, I'm trying some Winsor and Newton Designer Gouache and several tubes of M. Graham gouache as well.

I know, if you're an artist reading this you're probably thinking "nobody uses gouache anymore." And you're probably right. Mostly acrylics have replaced gouache and besides, gouache was once the medium of illustrators because it reproduces well owing to being matte once it dries. And since it was an illustrators' medium, a lot of fine artists turned their noses up to such a plebeian medium. There are others who decry the paint because it may be impermanent. And it is pretty impermanent. One reason is mostly because it was never intended to be permanent, so certain colors aren't rated as lightfast as most oil colors which are generally quite lightfast and likely not to color shift very much.

Anyway, gouache is interesting. It dries very very quickly--sometimes it seems faster than acrylic paint. But the good news is you can rewet it and manipulate the paint layer very easily--you can mist the layer and smooth out brushmarks, blend, or even wipe off excess paint and redo a spot. It's opaque, which takes some getting used to, given the water-based nature of the paint. What I mean is, the opacity is highly dependent on having the right thickness of paint. If you paint too thinly (here I mean spreading out the paint too much, not thinning it excessively) they're pretty transparent. Still, applied properly, the opacity of gouache is quite satisfactory, even when painting light over dark. Mixing gouache--say getting a precise green from mixing--seems harder than it is with oil paint. Part of the reason is that gouache shifts color quite a lot when it dries, so experience with each color combination is essential.

One thing I've liked about gouache is that it gives a bigger sense of freedom than I've felt using oil paint. I think the reason might be a sense that "what the heck, it's just a gouache." After all, it's done on illustration board, usually, or some other smooth surface like hot press watercolor paper, with water-based and potentially fugitive colors. You can always whomp up another one, with less trouble, expense, or emotional involvement. It's only a gouache.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Happy New Year

Where does the time go? It was November just the other day. I'm posting three new, small pieces I finished in the last few days. They're each 5x7 on panel. I'll be showing in an indoor festival here in Iowa in about a month and unless these sell before then they'll be available. In the meantime, I have several portrait commissions in progress. More on those in other posts. Meantime, I hope you enjoy seeing these.