Category: Gouache

Values

I just recently realized that I can use Photoshop to help me create shades of grey in a photograph. This is particularly useful when trying to render a portrait into a painting. Portraits are very difficult to produce with any reliability as a painting because the face is subtle in construction, and thence, subtle in gradation. My skills are lacking in this arena.

To begin, I found a portrait on Pixabay. From there, I imported it in PS and applied an “artistic” filter, using the “cutout”, keeping defaults. I then printed out the photo, sized to 5×7, and gridded it out to a correspondingly sized piece of paper.

Once done, I chose gouache as the medium to use – already out on the desk, and easy enough to use without making myself crazy. First done was all the darkest values on my drawing.

I just lay down the black in most of the areas that looked darkest to me. I missed a few areas, but since gouache is able to be applied over previous layers, I was not too worried. Also, as this is the first time I have ever done this, I was not too concerned about perfection – the experience was more important.

From there, some white was mixed in with the black to produce the second darkest shade. Truthfully, I did not mix in enough white as it was nearly the same shade as the black when it dried. That is the nature of gouache – it dries darker than it goes on. I had to lay on a second and third layer.

Next, the third shade of grey. This I tried to push into being lighter than I thought I needed. From there, the highlights as light as I thought I needed. Again. the white was really a light grey that dried rather darker than expected.

Finally, I increased the white, using titanium white instead of zinc white (the former being more opaque than the latter) and did some touching up and adding of detail.

This is the final image. The paint is cracking a bit as it is really thick in some areas. Given this is 5×7 or less, the detail is not too bad, but I wouldn’t like to have this a portrait of myself! The goal of doing values is what is key here – light to dark, catching the face. Much room for improvement, but what I set out to do – a value study – worked out.

I plan to use this method with PS to do more portrait studies. Tools like this aren’t cheating – they help you see what is in front of you more clearly. Gridding the photo onto paper helps keep proportions relatively correct. I would like to do this on a bigger surface with acrylic, perhaps limning in only the white and black values, and from there adding the different shades of grey before moving into a final white.

Winter at Jalama Beach

Where have I been these last several weeks? Busy with online classes in drawing as a prelim to painting and hand sewing 18th century stays. So, I have been doing things, but have had so many other distractions that I have not been too active online here. So, today, a gouache, just because paint needs to be used to feel like a normal person.

Jalama Beach is in San Luis Obispo County along the central coast of California. It is a strange, remote beach. Winds blow the sea foam onto the sand, and it can look like very dirty snow. The first time I came here was in my teens – a long, long time ago. Then you could get abalones just by picking them up, and the beach was littered with their shells, big ones easily 8-10 inches in diameter. (Tasty critters, I will say.)

Winter time brings erratic tides, scudding clouds, and wind that can blow fierce and cold. Sandpipers and gulls wheel overhead as the wind beats you back. The wildness of the place is something that anyone who has been to a lonely beach can understand. I think I caught it (for myself at least) here.

Water Thaw – 4 (Final Version?)

Water Thaw 4 – Final Version??

The end! Or is it?

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, more blue in the lower front, some other touches, and then let it sit overnight.

This morning I took another look at it, and the only way I can describe what I did was to refine it. I increased contrast in some areas to create harder edges. Other things were designed to lead the eye toward the center of the painting, toward the whitish rock at the top of the water. I also looked for areas that just didn’t look right, somehow too symmetrical or distracting. In the end, little bits here and there made it better to my eye. But – that was during morning coffee when I was trying to wake up!

I have never worked on a painting – a watercolor – for this long a time period. Total time is probably 8-10 hours. Time was spent laying down frisket, colors, letting things dry. Then frisket was rubbed off. Water was sprayed at different times and salt sprinkled. Rubbing alcohol was also sprayed on. I think the last round of frisket took about 30 minutes to rub off, along with salt. The result, though, are transparent layers of color which I could not have accomplished otherwise.

While the perspective seems a bit off – or maybe we are looking down into the water from above? – I like this painting. It’s a new adventure for me in watercolor, and while bright, I don’t think it is overly so. I deliberately did not use any orange!! New ideas are coming to mind for painting in a transparent medium. Mood and impression work here for me – not realism, but suggestion. So, spring thaw, melting ice, new leaves.

In this final version, I cropped it and changed the perspective a bit in Lightroom. Post-processing artwork is much like post-processing a photo, an din the printing industry it is done all the time. You can see the uncropped version in the gallery below.

Arches 16×20 140# CP, acrylic, gouache, watercolor.

A Slice of Paradise

This is a tribute to the African-American painters of Florida known as The Highwaymen. Some of their numbers include Sam Newton, Alfred Hair, and so many others that I cannot name them all. In a time of racial unrest in the U.S., these painters somehow managed to thrive despite the Jim Crow laws of the South, and unfortunately, their work was not appreciated as it should be. However, today we know more about them, and can enjoy their work – the internet is so helpful in that regard.

I love bright colors and cheerful landscapes, and the tropics beckon. Palm trees are alluring and the brilliant light of these areas make colors more alive and intense. The Caribbean is filled with islands and azure seas, trade winds, towering clouds. States such as Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and down along the coasts of Central and South America have such beauty in common.

The Highwaymen were not untalented amateurs. Some were self-taught, others learned from A.E. Backus. Each painter in this group sought an income otherwise denied them, as well as perhaps a way in which to express the beauty around them. Read up on them – they are a fascinating slice of art history.

As with the painting I last did, “Swamp,” this one is done with watercolors mixed with gouache on 16×20 inch 140# CP Arches paper. I used more gouache this time than I did with the last painting, and it was quite a challenge. I started out with bright colors and a totally different idea of a painting, but as I started blending the gouache with the watercolor, the gouache became a driving force. However, all color represented is simply toned with white or black gouache.

These artists worked in oil on masonite. Oils lend to blending colors more so than does acrylic paint, and I found that the gouache and watercolor worked similarly. I may try to do something similar in acrylic, and expect it will be a serious challenge as acrylics dry so quickly. Often The Highwaymen sold paintings still wet!

This is perhaps the most fun I ever had with a painting. I referred to paintings by some of the artists to see how they used color, photos from the internet of palm trees and Floridian sunsets. The composition is similar to a number of seaside ones, and I attempted to emulate the colors used by the painters for sand, sea, sky, and palms. I hope I caught some of the liveliness and spirit of The Highwaymen. I know I will be back to visit them, and Florida, again soon.

Swamp

Swamps are amazing ecosystems. They are forested wetlands and often serve as a barrier between a large body of water – such as an ocean – and the land. Many of the Southern states are home to a number of swamps, such as the Everglades and the Atchafalaya Basin. Unfortunately, we have lost a lot of what they once covered through changing the land with drainage, building of levees, and such. The value of these wetlands has been seen with the massive flooding and storm surges during hurricanes when waves travel miles inland, across former swamps now denuded of trees and other plants. Heavy damage to the land occurs, with homes lost, pig slop and sheep dips overflowing into water sources. With the land clearing, wildlife diversity is also lost. The swamps provide a wall between the sea and the higher, drier land, as well as add to the overall health of the planet and wildlife diversity.

Here, an impression of a swamp in Louisiana, specifically the Atchafalaya. Once more, I worked wet-into-wet. And, I added gouache, which I am beginning to find is a nice mix with watercolor. The gouache works especially well over the transparent pigments, giving solidity and depth where needed. Arches 140# CP, 16×20 paper was used.

The Atchafalaya Basin, or swamp, is the largest swamp in the US. It is home to bald cypress. over 200 species of animals, marshland, grasses, and a resting place for migratory birds. In the 1700s, after le Grand Derangement, the French settlers of “Acadia were forcefully resettled elsewhere. Many landed in Louisiana, creating a cultural enclave of Cajuns, Creoles, assimilating English-speaking peoples who married them, and now, Cajun music is to be heard worldwide. Acadian became Cajun – and if you know your French, you’ll see the linguistic change.

So, in doing all this wet-into-wet, I am having a lot of fun, loosening up, and by bringing in gouache, I am adding a different element to my painting. Combining them is worthwhile as there are qualities in each that add much to a painting.

This painting pleases me enough perchance to be framed and hung up!