Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gouache Paintings

Berkshire Sunset, Winter, 8x10, gouache on board

I love water media. I do a lot with watercolors in my sketchbook and ever since I made the switch from oils to acrylics back at the end of 2007 my interest in various water media has only grown. I'm definitely not a traditional watercolorists, like say Edgar Whitney, though I admire his work greatly.  While traditional watercolors can be incredibly well done, transparent paint on paper just doesn't have enough oomph for what I need to say as an artist. I need opacity as well as transparency and I need a paint surface that I can build up.

Eagle View Pine, Gouache on board, 8x6

Gouache is such a lovely medium capable of a variety of applications and effects. I like to work on Arches hot pressed board, which is perfect for both plein air and studio works. It's also a wonderful medium for sketchbooks.  Right now I am using Winsor & Newton Gouache, but I am itching to try M. Graham and Sennelier, even though I've been warned that the honey content in M. Graham is likely to attract bees when used outdoors!

The Carrying Place, Gouache on board, 8x10

According to the Jerry's Artarama website Gouache means "water paint" or "splash" in Italian, [and] is a type of paint in which the pigment is suspended in water. Gouache is different from watercolor in that the particles are larger, there is much more pigment, and a white pigment such as chalk is also present, which is how gouache retains is amazing velvety, opaque, reflective qualities.

 Winter Harbor, Gouache on board, 8x10

Gouache paintings are usually matted and framed under glass like a watercolor. The paint itself dries to a velvety, matte finish. I, however, like to do something very nontraditional with my gouache paintings. I spray varnish them, with a few coats and then apply a final layer of brush on varnish. It's just what I prefer to do. I dislike having to put my artworks under glass unless absolutely necessary. Like many others I feel that the glass creates a barrier between the viewer and the work. Second, while a matte finish can be lovely I always feel that the piece is not finished until it has a glossy coat of varnish on it. This is probably due to 20 years of being an oil painter! I feel the same way about impressionist works I see in museums, they often seem as if they're not quite finished. Many of the impressionists shunned varnish (because it wold yellow over time and change the bright, high key colors in their paintings). Some wrote specific instructions on the backs of their paintings warning future owners not to put a layer of varnish on the pieces. Sometimes that was ignored and dealers and collectors went ahead and varnished the works anyway. I also feel that varnishing the gouache paintings brings them into a closer relationship with my acrylic and casein paintings, thus creating a greater coherence among the various water media I work in.

Eagle View Garden, Gouache on board, 4x10

Gouache has been around a long time. From the Wikipedia article on gouache...

Its quick coverage and total hiding power mean that gouache lends itself to more direct painting techniques than watercolor. "En plein air" paintings take advantage of this, as do works of J.M.W. Turner and Victor Lensner. It is used most consistently by commercial artists for works such as posters, illustrations, comics, and for other design work. For example, comics illustrators like Alex Ross use mostly gouache for their work. Industrial Designer and Visual Futurist Syd Mead also works primarily in gouache. Most 20th-century animations used it to create an opaque color on a cel with watercolor paint used for backgrounds, and gouache as "poster paint" is desirable for its speed and durability.
As with all types of paint, gouache has been used on some unusual papers or surfaces.[3]
One variation of the medium is gouaches découpées created by Henri Matisse, cut paper collages. His Blue Nudes series is a good example of the technique.

"Guazzo" was originally a term applied to the early 16th century practice of applying oil paint over a tempera base.[4] The term was applied to the water media in the 18th century in France, although the technique is considerably older. It was used as early as the 14th century in Europe.

You often see gouache used in drawings, and sketches from landscape artists like Constable, Turner and others. 

 Sorrento Harbor Boats, watercolor and gouache

This is an example of watercolor and gouache used together, along with pen, painted outdoors.

Bookstore cafe, gouache in sketchbook

This is an example of an interior done on the spot in one of my sketchbooks. And below four sketchbook pages that all use gouache as the primary medium.

 So by now I hope that you are beginning to be inspired by the many and varied uses of gouache. From quick plein air sketches in a sketchbook, to studies, to completed plein air pieces to studio work gouache has much to offer. 


Roxanne Steed said...

Thanks Jan! These landscapes are some of my favorite paintings of yours. Hehe, I feel like you've written this article just for me!! Last night I just ordered a few more tubes of paint that I was lacking- cant wait to give this medium another shot!

Jan Blencowe said...

Yes indeed our email conversation prompted this blog post! Can't wait to see what you do with gouache!~Jan

Bill Kassel said...

Love your work, I too like to use a varnish on my gouache paintings, but I still mat & frame under glass