View Full Version : Gouache Nature Study

04-12-2012, 10:11 AM
Gouache on illustration board, 5x7.

Something I struggle with is creating contrast with gouache, particularly with tints and shades. I suppose it has to do with the nature of darks drying lighter and lights drying darker, but I usually have to lay several layers before I get it right. Any tips for this?

04-15-2012, 11:24 AM
I can't give you a helpful answer since I'm new to this medium, but I paint with it thinly in layers and on watercolor paper. I notice you painted this on illustration board. I have NO IDEA if that makes a difference, but I wanted to mention this as a possibility. :confused:

I also look forward to hearing advice on this question from the more experienced posters. Good question and I'm glad you asked.

04-15-2012, 02:18 PM
I always premix my colors in piles and let them dry on a palette. Then choose from those. It's easy to see what the color will look like when dry this way. I find this method also avoids the overuse of gouache paint and you don't have to feel the need to frantically use it up before it dries.

Of course you have to get the hang of reactivating your paint piles, paying attention to water to pigment ratio and all that to gain control of your strokes.

Some people like to establish their mid tones first with light transparent washes, while preserving the white of the paper in the strongest highlight areas, then add dark accents in select places to build contrast. So you could try building up your painting from light transparent washes and then accenting with a little more opaque strokes where you want to place some emphasis and build contrast. I quite like this because it slows down the process a tiny bit and allows form to build up and around objects naturally. Of course gouache is still watercolor, so it can still progress rapidly if you want it to.

Other people build up contrast by starting with darkest darks right away. I'm not fond of this method though. It may work fine on illustration board, I've not tried that support. I normally use watercolor paper.

Hope this helps,

Deborah Secor
04-18-2012, 06:40 PM
Michael, I think you should simply take this one farther and add more lights. I'd lighten the entire flower, using some orange, yellow and white into the pinks. Then make an almost white pink for the highest value. Lighten up the value and dial up the saturation of the color with mixes. Maybe something like this:


The illustration board can take it. In fact, I think it works pretty well, since the paint at this point will sit on top. Use a little more impasto paint, too, and see where it goes. I've found when I get the lights a bit too dark, it takes a bold use of mixes and lighter values to jazz it up, but it's doable... IMHO.

I like this one, but I think you could also go for it and see what happens! Hope that helps.

04-19-2012, 05:14 AM
I appreciate the help Deborah. I guess that brings up another question. Since gouache will crack if too thick, how thick can you go with impasto? I think this fear of paintings flaking is another thing that keeps me from pushing the color.
Thanks again!

04-19-2012, 08:52 AM
Do you think it is polite to ignore my post when I was trying to help you? I can guarantee you I know what I'm doing.

Deborah Secor
04-19-2012, 01:00 PM
fxoflight, how long have you worked with gouache? I'd love to see some of your work. We have a Gouache Corner thread over in the Watercolor Studio where we share our paintings. Come on over and take part--we'd welcome your expertise and advice. Tell us what paper(s) you work on and show us how you go about the process of one of your paintings, too. :)

I, too, often reactivate my gouache as you describe, although not exclusively. I like the freshness of out-of-the-tube gouache, from time to time--often when I want to lighten my colors, as above. I have a butcher's tray and let my paint dry on it, so that I can see the colors when dry on a white ground. That does make it easier to change values when I need to, of course, but I think over time you also begin to know how the colors will shift when dry--and naturally you have to account for layering colors and how that will affect the mix, too.

Michael, gouache that's applied too thickly can crack, true. However, I haven't found it to be much of a problem if the layers are slightly thinner and built up, such as adding lights to the flowers, AND if you aren't working on a surface that's too flexible. Illo board would be ideal, since it tends not to bend easily. I guess we all have to experiment. I've had some cracking when I used thick paint almost directly from the tube on paper that was flimsy. Oddly, when I re-wet it and thinned it down with more water it seemed to heal up, but the thin paper always made me suspect it would happen again. If you play further with this one, show us what results... :)

04-21-2012, 08:42 AM
Do you think it is polite to ignore my post when I was trying to help you? I can guarantee you I know what I'm doing.

I didn't mean to ignore you fx. Sorry for any offense. What you wrote was helpful and I appreciate it. I meant to respond, but I was just making a quick stop at WC when I first saw it and when I replied to Deborah later, I had forgotten. My wife delivered our daughter two days ago and I'm managing my classes as the end of a semester approaches, so I'm a little scatterbrained right now (and I'm usually scatterbrained to begin with!). Again, I apologize.

Deborah Secor
04-21-2012, 10:09 AM
:D Congratulations, Michael! You'll be in a rosy fog for a month, but enjoy.

04-21-2012, 10:16 AM
Thanks, no worries. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter!