Gouache In The Wild
Painter and illustrator James Gurney shares some of the skills that help him create brilliant paintings on location
Painter and illustrator James Gurney shares some of the skills that help him create paintings on location.
James Gurney is famed for paintings that show either imaginary or, in the case of his dinosaur pictures, longsince-vanished phenomena. This second video from his In The Wild series (following Watercolour In The Wild, reviewed in issue 115) showcases one of the key techniques James employs to make the fantastic appear so real in his work. Put simply, he takes every opportunity he can to paint outdoors, observing and recording the world around him.
James shows here why gouache is his preferred medium for certain situations and locations. Its facility for laying down flat colour, for example, makes it a natural choice for rendering man-made objects like the neon sign he finds during one visit. The video alternates between teaching sessions that discuss the basics such as materials and core methods, and on-location films showing James tackling a variety of different subjects.
Everything is presented in a relaxed manner and with the high production values it makes the video a delight to watch. It’s so pleasing on the eyes and ears you don’t realise how much you’re learning, which goes far beyond the technicalities of gouache.
As he paints the neon sign, for example, James talks about the difference in colour temperature between areas in sunlight and areas in shadow, and how he adapts the hues to communicate it. This study reflects a broader theme in the video of how to deal with light that’s changing faster than you can paint. For the fixed sign, James comes back the next day to finish the picture. In a rural location, he anticipates how the scene will broadly look after the sun has set, so that he can focus on important details when the relevant moment arrives.
If you’re keen to raise your own work to a higher standard, this hour-and-aquarter with a master of the craft will set you on the right track.
Other media such as coloured pencils combine well with gouache, as James captures the detail in this gas station scene.
This rural scene needs a lot of preparation, but this frees up James’ limited time at sunset
to capture important detail.
As he paints a neon shop sign, James uses his experience to get a solid result despite the ever-changing light.