Monday, February 21, 2011

Painting In Gouache

I don’t see many tutorials on painting in gouache. As a matter of fact I see a lot of misunderstanding about the medium. The use of gouache dates back to the middle ages when artists added white to watercolors to make it opaque. In the renaissance it was used by Albrecht Durer, his famous watercolor “The Large Turf” was actually painting in gouache. It was also used by Rubens, Van Dyck , Poussin,Turner, Degas, Sargent, Sorolla, the Pre-Raphaelites and many other Masters. Yet, today it can be excluded from watercolor competitions. Some watercolorists consider using opaque white with watercolor a sin regardless of the fact that some of those great watercolorists they hold up are listed above.
The shame of this confusion is that what gets lost is that the art is in the image not the medium.
That being said, I see so few tutorials on painting in gouache and very few books on this medium even though its been used by many great artist and illustrators.

Here I offer some images which show the progression of a gouache portrait.


First I started out by making a
charcoal drawing of the subject.
I wasn't entirely happy with this
drawing, and as a matter of fact it
was my second attempt. How it did
help was in my coming up with a
plan as to how I would simplify the
image in the painting.

I drew this outline on the
paper I would paint on and
I also made a tracing of this
drawing in case I would need
to reestablish some information
I painted over.

Here in my initial lay in
I try to keep the forms simple
and cover the whole page
so I can begin to work in

I work pretty much the same way
I would work in oils, trying to establish
the big shapes and let them lead me to
the more specific details, working from
dark to light.

 I used both a loaded wet brush
and a dry brush as I layered the
paint and worked towards final image.

Here is the finished painting. I continued
to refine the image with a dry brush,
smoothing out transitions all over the face and
correcting the drawing. These are increasingly
subtle changes since all the big areas have
been planed and worked on from the beginning.

Most of what I’ve painted in the past few years has been in both opaque and transparent watercolor. I set aside oils 11 years ago because I did not want that medium around my children, (but I do miss painting in oils). Today my kids are older but I don’t have the space to work in oils, watercolors are faster to set up and put away. They are also more portable and gouache allows me to paint in a way similar to oils.