Well, check Doodlewash on Monday for my review of the beautiful Mary Roffhandmade sketchbook that I recently bought and you’ll find those first three little, lost sheep.
I love painting sheep, and hubby gets tired of getting them in his lunchbag, so I decided this was going to be my book for Counting Sheep. There are 40 pages and I’ve already started painting, but I’m going to try and make it a weekly thing. Forty weeks of counting sheep – I hope that gives me plenty of sleep!
Oh, and Zwartbles is a breed of Dutch sheep, if you were wondering about that word.
Yesterday’s post discussed the difference between watercolor-based gouache and acrylic-based gouache, and I showed you a background that I did using the acyrlic gouache. Which I’ll show you again …
Why so many streaks? The brush used was really cheap (like 25 cents on a bargain table). I knew that most of it would be covered over.
The watercolor sketchbook I’m painting in is devoted to sheep (more about that later this week). When, I saw this reference photo, I knew I wanted to do a stylized version of it, and decided to use the acrylic gouache background for it.
This was the first time that I painted over acrylic gouache.
What did I like about it most?
I was able to get some fabulous textures! The surface is especially good for dry brushing.
What did I like about it least?
It was hard to get good detail because the brush drags on the surface and the paint didn’t want to move.
So, in essence, what I liked the most about this medium is also what I disliked the most. The acrylic medium creates a surface that is rough enough to create interesting textures, but also makes it hard to get detail.
Most of that background above was covered over, because I kept trying to fix things (kind of like the hair-stylist who keeps clipping your hair to even things out). However, the background colors did subtly enhance the finished painting.
I wish I hadn’t chosen to do this painting in my Mary Roff sketchbook. It is filled with Fabriano Artistico, which has beautiful properties for a watercolor paper. Those properties were wasted because the acrylic gouache.
Will I use this method again?
Oh yes. Now that I know how it reacts, I’ll plan accordingly. The acrylic gouache replaces whatever surface a paper naturally has – so I’ll choose a cheaper paper (or wood or cardboard or whatever) to paint on. When I paint over it – whether with either kind of gouache or watercolor, I’ll use paint fresh from the tube that will spread more easily.
So now you know what I know when it comes to acrylic gouache. I’m looking forward to learning more!
This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.
Before You Start
Okay – this was one of those paintings where life and art collided a bit.
I thought I had scanned the pencil drawing, but I didn’t evidently. Note also that the pen drawing is minimal – almost unfinished. That’s because it’s unfinished.
It would be nice if you could always plan what you want and get the result you want. Sometimes though, you just do the best with what you’ve got.
I was interrupted when I was doing the pen drawing, and life got crazy for a while, and I didn’t get back to it for a couple of months. Who knew what I had planned at first. In the end, I made my decisions at the point where I was adding paint and they were partially dictated by the fact that I had left masking fluid on the paper for too long. I’ll explain why later.
I’ve written elsewhere about using color in shadows. In that write-up, I talked about the intense blue and purple shadows that can give a real sense of light.
With this painting, I wanted a much more subtle effect. I don’t know if you see it on your screen, but on mine, this cat has subtle hints of violet. It’s pretty subtle, but that’s one of the things you start looking for when you are more experienced.
I also had some colors that I don’t use too often, and I wanted to play with them. So I did.
Oops! No pencil scan. The shapes are fairly simple though, so I know I freehanded it, mostly just blocking in the shapes, placing the facial details and making sure everything fit the size of the card.
Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.
The light blue on this scan is masking fluid. There is a lot of white on this cat, much of it interspersed with other colors so I decided to reserve it before drawing with the ink. As mentioned above, I was delayed in painting this and the masking fluid came back to bite me for two reasons.
You shouldn’t leave masking fluid on paper for very long because it will be harder to remove.
You shouldn’t use masking fluid on rough paper because it can seep into the wells of the paper and be harder to remove.
You get the theme of this? Harder to remove. More about that later.
When I came back to this drawing after a couple of months, I knew at this point that the masking fluid was going to be a problem, to the point where I might have to throw the whole thing away, so I didn’t draw any further.
Daniel Smith is known for colors made from unusual pigments. Often, these seem to be so close to other more common colors that people wonder why bother.
The difference often has to do with characteristics – the unusual pigment might granulate more, or be more intense. Sometimes, the main difference might be the way in which the color mixes with other colors.
It was the mixing qualities and temperature I was exploring with this piece. The colors I used were:
Note that I used watery mixes for all of this. I wasn’t trying to capture the exact correct color of the fur, but I wanted a subtle sense of light shining on fur.
I started by painting the sky with Phthalo Blue and dropped in touches of Wisteria here and there.
Many animals have an off-white color in their coat, especially when it is ticked or mixed with other colors. Buff Titanium is a good color for it, but I’ve found it easily leads to green if you add blue to your shadows. Monte Amiata is a yellowish color, but can take a little blue without going green. In a light wash it looks similar to Buff Titanium. Not giving up the Buff but Monte will be used more often.
For the shadows, I wanted to punch up that subtle hint of violet and turn it more towards purple so it would be warmer (look up purple vs violet if you are confused by that) so I used Wisteria.
In essence, I wanted the fur to reflect my background, which was Phthalo Blue with a little bit of Wisteria, so I add some Phthalo Blue to my Wisteria shadows, especially at the top of the head.
Rose of Ultramarine is an interesting granulating color. It’s a mix of Quinacridone Rose with Ultramarine Blue. It’s a purple, but the blue granulates – settles into the wells of the paper so the rose comes forward. (And yes – you could mix your own if you have these two colors-though getting the right mix might be a challenge).
The cat’s fur has a variation of color – more of a charcoal & brown with cream in real life giving a textured look to the fur. I added a darker mix of the Monte Amiata to give a feel of the real color, and then used the Rose Of Ultramarine for the rest of the darker fur, as though the light was hiding the real color from the eye. I let the Monte and Rose run together slightly.
The granulation doesn’t show well in the scan, but is there in real life.
And now for the masking fluid. I did get most of it off, but not all of it, and it left a muddy greenish stain in a few areas. Fortunately, that doesn’t show very well in the scan, either.
Should you run out and buy these colors? Only if you are at the stage where characteristics like opacity, staining, temperature, granulation, and other qualities of color pigments have started to make sense. The reason for this post is to help you get to that point, but there are other similar colors among the standards that are cheaper and easier to use for the beginner to intermediate watercolorist.
Whew! Sorry that turned out to be a longer post than I intended.
Note: Gouache IS watercolor – but it isn’t as processed as long as the paint labeled as ‘watercolor’. To keep things simple, when I say watercolor, I mean non-gouache watercolor.
Wet Paint Art has a sale on a set of Holbein gouache paints at the moment. I’ve been wanting to try professional gouache and decided this was the time to get some. I haven’t had too much time to play with them yet, but I thought I’d show you the kind of play I do to test a new kind of paint.
I’m not much on making mix charts. I’d rather play. I’m playing but I’m also having a close conversation between just me and the gouache. I choose paper & brushes that I’m very used to – I know what they’ll do and can kind of ignore them. It doesn’t matter in the least how the finished page looks – this is a ‘getting to know you’ session, completely free form.
Gouache is generally not used with lots of water and not for loose flowing effects. So, of course, the first thing I do is soak a piece of Britannia watercolor paper and drop the paint in to see how it flows. I kept dropping in more paint as the first application dried.
It does very well – I can’t see any difference from the way watercolor would perform. Except – see down towards the lower left? Those are stripes of white gouache that I applied after the paint had almost dried. You wouldn’t get those white stripes with watercolor.
See the red fish-like thing toward the right bottom? I dropped in that red – wet into damp and I did get some spiking. Same with the pink in the middle. But I didn’t get any large blossoms – those rings of texture you often get with watercolor.
This painting will end up as the base or background for another painting someday.
My second test was to see how the colors blended with heavier applications of paint, wet on dry paper. I also play with layering paint, and lifting color – both while the paint is wet and later once it is dry.
All that lighter texture was achieved by tapping the edge of damp flat brush and lifting color. Wet or dry, the color lifted easily. Almost too much so. I know this is partially the paper. Hahnemühle Britannia is a good paper for lifting, but I wouldn’t be able to lift watercolor this easily – not even on this paper.
Now to the black paper.
It’s almost too easy to just get lost in the vibrancy of the color against the black! I just had too much fun swooping and swirling. I’m not sure I learned anything – I was having too much fun.
Okay, I think I must have learned something, because this painting just almost painted itself. This time I had a reference, though I only used it loosely.
I love the marks that a splayed flat brush makes with gouache on black paper and it really didn’t take much to turn those marks into ocean foam.
Truly. I just made swipes in the direction I wanted. Swop, swop, drag, swop, across the page. I dabbed with the tip for the flowers, and dragged the color downward for the rocks. Swop, swop, swop.
I kept adding more color on top of color, testing for opacity and how the colors mixed. I fussed longer than I should, deliberately, to see if I would get mud. I didn’t.
I’m trying to come up with an idea for a gouache tutorial that will post on Doodlewash. Perhaps something like this ocean scene? Or would something on white paper be better?
Note: I’ve been extremely disappointed with WordPress Premium and decided not to renew it. It ends today, and I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to go online, so I apologize for any wonkiness on my blog that occurs before I get the chance to clean things up.
I get the occasional insomnia, and sometimes I do artwork because it helps stop my brain from firing on all pistons. The results are often peculiar.
Finding a page in my Cappuccino book that I had started drawing on, and abandoned, I covered it with gouache. The little that showed through suggested buildings, but cast shadows that didn’t go in the right direction.
I decided to just go with it. It’s peculiar, but who cares at 2:00 am?
The steps were pretty much the same, though I used Lemon Yellow for my first wash, Burnt Sienna and Ponceau (Acid Red) for my mid-tones and purple for my shadows (the purples are vibrant in the original, but the scan shows them as more so).
With the hummingbird, I was playing with gouache’s opacity and trying to get the flat, velvety look. For this camel, I kept my colors more transparent by using more water. The purple is the only color that I applied opaquely.
I also played with lifting color. The Cézanne cold press is a very robust paper so I could lift and add more color several times. This can lead to muddy colors, but it can also give your work a subtle light effect and add texture by showing particles of the color beneath.
The gouache lifted easily. This is in part due to the paper, but I found that even the most intense colors lifted more than I would have expected.