Tag: Gouache

High Desert Creek

More gouache, which I really get a lot of satisfaction in using. Here in the west, there are dry bed creeks which fill with water when it rains, creating a potentially dangerous situation with flash floods and scary fast waters. This is a bit of a calmer situation, but with the monsoon season, the potential threat is there.

Gouache, 8×10.

Somewhere in the Mountains

I went to Pixabay looking for snow and shadows and cold weather. The painting is of the photo below, done in gouache, 7×10.

The challenge here is depth of field – details – not too many details – simplification – and most fun of all, the shadows on the snow. I really enjoyed looking at the photo, imagining myself in it, and wondering where it is I am. In the photo, the white snow on the bare tree branches is really easy to see, but with gouache I always find my whites are never bright enough. Always interesting to compare a photo to a painting!

Up a Cobbled Lane

More gouache, this time on toned paper – tan specifically. The tan paper seems to give an extra warmth to the colors applied over it. Besides using toned paper, I am trying to venture into different areas – here I am doing a totally urban scene. One thing nice about painting old buildings is that standardization wasn’t quite like it is now, so my door don’t all have to be the same size, nor my windows! Heck, even the cobbles are rather rough.

I like painting in gouache, but there are times when it gets to be a bit tricky as it re-wets and it is easy to pull up lower layers of color. To help prevent this, you need to start with thinner paint and add the heavier colors later. If a drop of water falls off our brush, you can make a bit of a mess in the area it lands. Most people when they use thicker gouache paint smaller paintings – it is not a paint that spreads out generously and stays opaque. The charm and challenge!

Gouache, Strathmore tan toned paper, 5×7.

The Hill

I’ve spent the last two afternoons following along with an online class in gouache. It’s been fun. The main focus has been skies and their moods as shown by clouds and color and time of day and weather. For some reason the dark and stormy sky stayed in my mind’s eye, and visual memories of days of yore came back.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in California where I am, the clouds are seldom domineering and frightening like they can be in the tropics or midwest. I remember one day when I was about 9 coming home from school and the sky was nearly black with clouds. It was still daylight, but it was in the fall of the year and cold. It was eerie and scary and beautiful. All the colors in the surrounding fields and meadows and trees were brighter than usual, almost to the point of being unreal.

That is what I have tried to catch here – intense light, strange light and colors, a wildness waiting to happen.

Gouache, 9×12, CP cotton 140# paper.

A Bit of Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in south central Colorado. It is, as the park site states:

The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Stay on a moonless night to experience this International Dark Sky Park’s starry skies.

I never ceased to be amazed by the beauty of the natural world.

9×12 hot press Arches, 140#, 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….)