Learning A New Medium

If you have been following my art journey for very long you know that the majority of the time I tend to paint in watercolor. Watercolor is a very translucent medium, this means that when you paint over an area you can see all the layers that are underneath it. When mixing colors in watercolor you add water to make them lighter and rely on the white of the paper instead of adding white to make the tint. This is part of the reason why working with watercolor is very different from all other types of paints. The way you mix colors and layer them has to happen in a unique way.

Two eye study using gouache. I had difficulty making smooth blends on this piece.

Well I recently decided to learn a new medium called gouache. It’s a type of opaque watercolor, which acts like a cross between watercolor and acrylic paint. I originally bought some gouache to work on the Family Legends painting but I got frustrated working with it and ended up doing the using tinted ink in the sections I had planed on using the gouache for.

First paintings using only Gouache

After that the paints sat on my shelf unused while I caught up on the holiday rush of commissions.I hate when good paint go unused especially, when I spent good money on them. I also knew that that my struggles with the paint was 100% user error given that I bought a highly recommended artist grade paint and had seen beautiful artwork created with it.

So after the rush of Christmas and later Valentines Day calmed down I spent time learning how to use gouache. I watched YouTube videos teaching how it works and how to mix it. Those videos really helped me understand why I was struggling with it and how to work around those issues. I realized my biggest issue was that I was using the wrong kind of white for mixing. I was using titanium white for mixing and given that its so opaque It would quickly make my colors to light and dull. I also had to be even more cautious of how wet my paintbrush was so I wouldn’t disturb the paint underneath. I typically work with staining watercolors and can usually add lots of water to my paper without disturbing the paint underneath. Another thing I learned about paintbrushes and gouache is that even though it is a cousin to watercolor it tends to work better with a slightly stiffer brush than what you typically use for watercolor. This helps to prevent too much water from getting on your brush and it allows you to more easily mix the paint.

A profile study I did that I wanted to keep loose

Once getting used to the unique characteristics of the gouache I learned to enjoy working with it and what I love about it. I found it so freeing being able to add highlights over the top of a dark instead of constantly stressing about preserving the highlights. I love how it rewets so I can easily take a small pallet with me when I am in public and do some plein air and urban painting.

My goal with this painting was to see how realistic I could get the Gouache.

I can’t wait to learn and experiment more with this medium especially with portraiture and figures.

A 20 minute landscape study using gouache



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