I actually painted this a while ago. It was one of my first test with Da Vinci’s gouache. I had to try that brand. Their tubes come in 37 ml tubes and are priced much the same as the 14-15 ml tubes from other brands.
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?
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.