Tag: Gouache

Abandoned in Winter

Well, this one sure had me going for a while! The idea was to avoid angles, and look squarely into the building, and so I did . . . and then came along the Esposo who said, “Nay! This does not work!” And, damn, if he wasn’t right! So, I had to pull out some gouache to overlay a roof on the tree in the background, and make the roof look rather beat up and weathered, with beams and such visible. Sort of a success.

And, I wanted to paint falling snow. Falling snow in a photograph varies from white, sharp dots to elongated shapes. Time to experiment. I used some gouache, diluted, and applied some streaks – I wanted a sense of wind blowing from upper left to lower right, with snow pushed by the wind. It was okay. So, I got a fan brush and made a wet mess of the white paint and splattered and splattered and splattered. I even got it my coffee. Luckily the paint isn’t poisonous, so I shall return.

Overall, this is not a great success as a painting, but it was fun. I rather like the composition with the tree in the very front of the painting. The barn is w-a-a-y off as far as believable perspective, but such is life. But, I have been sticking to my snow themes, and perhaps it is time to do one more and then move to a different season different subject, or put it away for a few days and get back to sewing or doing photography. I can now hobble forth on my partly healed broken toe.

Arches rough, 140#, 10×14. Watercolor with a splash (well, several splashes) of gouache.

Negative Painting

Negative painting is painting around a shape. Positive painting is painting an actual shape. The first is hard to do. The second less so, but the skill of negative painting is necessary and can produce some pretty dramatic results. It is also a skill if you don’t want to use liquid frisket to block off areas to keep white. Positive painting sounds easy, but it ain’t. (My flower paintings are evidence of this!)

A common exercise to show the learner how to do negative space is to paint a tree, paint around it in a light wash, draw another tree on the colored wash, and then paint around this, until you have a lot of trees ranging from white to the varying values of the wash. Sterling Edwards has a lengthy but very good video about this method:

While I know about negative painting, and have stated it as one of my goals, along with flowers (which benefit from the skill of negative painting), I thought this was a good one of the many I watched. What I liked was how he blends his paint inward.

Anyway, I did trees. Rick Surowicz is also a master at negative painting, and if you look at Edwards’ paintings, and those of Surowwicz, you will see both apply the same techniques. In my painting, I used Arches 140# CP, 9×12. I outlined the tree, and then painted around it. At some point I was frustrated and decided to do some painting with white gouache, on both the primary tree and then adding others.

Overall, I rather like the effect, particularly after adding the gouache. I think it enhanced the painting rather than making it just another annoying experience! I used to be quite rigid about not using gouache, much less gel pens or diluted acrylics in my watercolors, but rules exist to be broken, and I expect purists would call this “mixed media” – but that no longer bothers me as much as it used to. Watercolors they are (water soluble), so watercolors these remain.


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.

Birch Trees

Birch Trees – from a photo in Module 2 of Andy Evansen’s Class

If you have been following me for a bit, you know that I have enrolled in a lot of painting classes. This is a study from my watercolor class, online with Andy Evansen. His work covers a lot of subjects, but I like his ones of the natural world the best. So, lazy me, I stick with his photos of the wilds, but will, at some point, take the dive and do something with buildings and people, and maybe even cars.

I used frisket to create the hard edges of the birch trees and the snowy areas of the logs in the foreground. The other white areas, the snow, is plain paper, no frisket. After the frisket dried, I did the sky, sunlit mountain, and dark background. Then, a bit of the foreground. Finally, the frisket was removed.

When the frisket was gone, I worked left to right, creating the shadows of the birch trees. Upon those shapes I added heavier paint to create the blacks characteristic of birch trunks. Various other details got worked in. White gouache came in handy to clean up some of the birch tree trunks as well as to create the fine branches of the trees toward the top of the painting.

The only thing I have some issues with is the very large birch tree on the right, the one which stretches top to bottom. It is not quite right, but that is something for correcting later on. Despite that, I am pleased with what I am learning, and creating, with all these classes. Painting and drawing and artwork is in the forefront of my mind these days, and it is beginning to show in more “successful” paintings from my viewpoint.

9×12 CP 140# Arches paper; primarily watercolor with a touch or two of gouache. (Maybe 3 or 4 or more….)

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.

Keep Dreaming

Another “fantasy” (hence “Keep Dreaming”) painting. Another mixture of gouache – white and black only – and watercolors. As before, 16×20 CP 140# Arches paper.

Using a mixture of watercolor and gouache, with color coming from the watercolor and opacity and darks from the gouache, there is an ease of painting which acrylics cannot touch. The reason is that acrylics dry quickly, and I don’t really seem to have a lot of success with retardants.

I guess I should try acrylics mixed with a retardant a few times more than I have and give them a chance. Experience is the best teacher. The combination of gouache with the watercolor lets me remix my colors later (gouache can be re-wet) and gives an opacity that is not possible in watercolor. I like this combination but still think I should work a bit more with the acrylics. I am also considering trying oils once more. With oils, I know it would be a way to have the colors remain wet long enough to allow reworking areas. Odorless mineral spirits add to the allure of oils.

Anyway, I am having a lot of fun with these fantasy paintings. We all have a tropical isle of some sort to which we would like to escape!

Another tribute to the dreams of the Florida Highwaymen.