View Full Version : Chicago Skyline - Gouache

03-11-2007, 11:38 AM
Well, here's the landscape. It's my first, and I'm really not happy with it. At least I tried.

This is Sennelier hot-pressed cotton watercolor paper. It's some weird size, roughly 9.5x4.5". I love the hot press surface! It held up really well and didn't buckle (it came as a block).

Please criticize; let me know how to improve it. I can't put my finger on *why* I don't like it, so help me if you can!



03-11-2007, 03:45 PM
The colors all go well together, not sure what you don't like. But my idea of a city includes lots of pollution, not something this clean!

03-11-2007, 05:44 PM
I like it, for pollution the cloud could perhaps be a a bit greyer if thats what u wanted. I think the clouds seem to 'hug' the buildings a little, specially the tall on on the far left. I relaly like the colours and I'd be pealsed with this!

03-11-2007, 06:33 PM
Thanks for your comments!

Connie, I'm glad you like the colors. I wasn't sure if they were working. But I *had* to use blue and orange, for the Chicago Bears. :D And as soon as you mentioned pollution, I realized that it was strange... but none of my reference photos showed smog! They were all clear, blue days at dawn, though... and Lake Michigan generally keeps the smog from getting too bad in this lovely city.

Rikc, I think you're right about smog colors. I could add a bit of grey-brown near the horizon. As for the clouds, I wasn't really going for clouds per se, I just laid the color down in uneven washes to see what kind of textural effects I could get, like Ralph. I used vertical brushstrokes, and that's probably why the white areas "hug" the buildings. It is distracting, composition-wise, and I hadn't noticed it. Thanks for pointing it out! Next time I'll be more careful about the sky's contribution to composition.

03-11-2007, 07:24 PM
It needs a kangaroo somewhere...

03-11-2007, 07:36 PM
Ha! You know, my boyfriend looked at it and said, "It's sorta boring. It could use a falling station wagon full of Illinois Nazis." You know, from the Blues Brothers? I was really tempted... but it wouldn't be more than a tiny speck in the sky.

Old Tex
03-11-2007, 08:44 PM
Hey there, Meg. Was out of town over the weekend, so haven't had a chance to look until now. I haven't done any structures yet, so you're ahead of me.

I like it! I really like the colors in the buildings. And I like the sky colors. Next time, lay your sky strokes down in a more random pattern (random directions) & try to avoid strictly vertical or horizontal strokes... and maybe shorter, quicker strokes. I like the fact that you played with it. Keep it up!

03-11-2007, 11:53 PM
Old Tex, what an interesting observation!!

03-12-2007, 09:42 AM
Meg, I love hot press watercolor paper in block form for gouache too! Just be sure to keep it flat to decrease the risk of cracking. I usually mat them right away to keep them stable.

I like this piece a lot. The color complements are really working for you in the light and shadow, and you threw a little of the green onto the buildings to unify the color. Good job with that!


Old Tex
03-12-2007, 12:13 PM
Marie... We've talked a bit about different brush work for skies in gouache to fight the streaking effect. Hopefully you (and Meg) understood it as a positive suggestion.

03-12-2007, 05:59 PM
Did that come off as sarcastic? I hope not, as it was sincere! I get so caught up in other things - composition, making shapes, choosing/mixing colors etc. that I forget about brushwork. Which is interesting, becasue if I was working in oils it would be on my mind all the time.

03-12-2007, 06:24 PM

I like your painting. :thumbsup: The colors are a nice blend. They make Chicago look warm, which, I know that's not the case in the winter. I like the crispness of your lines. I'd go crazy trying to paint that. I prefer the complete chaos of landscape painting or maybe I should say the chaos I create painting a landscape, both theories work, here.

However, I'm fascinated by the thought of a carload of illinois nazis falling from the sky. It's a great idea and it did work well in the Blues Brothers. You might think about the possibility of incorporating the idea into a future painting? :D


03-13-2007, 06:27 PM
Ralph - I'm glad you like it. I'll definitely try your sky suggestions next time! I'm interested in how the short, random brush strokes work in both washy and opaque application. I'm guessing with the wash, it'd end up more even overall. Can't wait to try both flavors - smooth sky and chunky sky. :D

Jamie - Glad you like it too! The green in the buildings started out as an accident. I overlapped the blue and orange, and got green. ;) And this piece stayed nice and flat because I weighted it down. I'd love to mat it... but this must be a standard European size?? (24.5cm x 10.5cm) and I don't know where to get a mat that fits, unless I get one custom made. Any suggestions?

Marie - I know what you mean about having so many things to remember. If I tried to remember everything while painting, I'd never be able to even start. I guess I'm just going to have to learn the lessons the hard way, one at a time.

Janice - Glad you like it as well! This was definitely a summer scene - I needed something warm. And next time I do a Chicago scene, I'm going to have to put a Blues Brothers homage in. I've always liked that weird-looking Picasso sculpture...

Thanks everyone! I feel a bit better about this one now - can't be as bad as I thought if you all think it's OK. :D And when I showed my Chicagoan family, the first thing they said was that it would sell... as opposed to, say, kangaroos playing soccer.


03-17-2007, 02:41 AM
Meg I really like it. I've never tempted to paint this type of skyline before.
I think it's beautiful.
The only thing I question is-should you be able to see just a bit of sand for the shore line. It appears the grass & water are together. IMO
Can I ask what kind & form of water color you used?

03-17-2007, 12:16 PM

Thanks very much! About the sand - the various parts of the Chicago lakefront have rocks, concrete walls, and marinas, but very little sand. You have a good eye, because there was a marina in the ref that I left out. Mostly because, at my current level of execution, I didn't think it would add anything (aka it looked hard and I thought I'd mess it up). Next time I'll give it a try.

I used artist's gouache - Holbein, Winsor & Newton, and Schminke. The application was very washy, with lots of water added. My main colors on the buildings were Prussian Blue, Raw Umber, and a hint of red (can't remember which).


03-20-2007, 05:36 PM
did you paint on dry paper ?
with severla layers ? or spontaneously?

03-21-2007, 08:58 PM
Friesin - for the sky, I wet the paper first. For everything else, the paper was dry. I had a rough underdrawing in pencil, and most places have more than one layer... but since the gouache dries so fast, I did it in one sitting, and didn't really keep track of the number of washes.