how to cre­ate colour­ful gra­di­ents

Bao Pham uses the wet-into-wet ap­proach to cre­ate a serene yet colour-rich image

ImagineFX - - Inspiration Books - Bao lives in Iowa, US. Paint­ing and draw­ing with a va­ri­ety of me­dia, he cre­ates con­tem­pla­tive and in­tro­spec­tive imagery fea­tur­ing var­i­ous plant forms and rich colour pal­ettes. You can fol­low him at­sta­ baot­pham

Last win­ter, be­cause it was too cold to paint out­doors and I couldn’t use oil paint in­doors, I started us­ing gouache. I fell in love right away and it quickly be­came my main medium. I love its opac­ity and min­i­mal prepa­ra­tion time. I have a small stu­dio space, so I have been fo­cus­ing on smaller works, and gouache of­fers the com­pact ver­sa­til­ity that I need. Also, I work with min­i­mal shapes and its rich colours help me add vis­ual in­ter­est and cre­ate ef­fec­tive moods.

Gouache is best de­scribed as opaque wa­ter­colour. It can be re­ac­ti­vated with water, al­though it is a bit dif­fi­cult to blend af­ter the paint has dried. How­ever, since it’s not per­ma­nent, stor­age and cleanup are a breeze. One un­pre­dictable thing about it is that dark colours will ap­pear lighter when dry and light colours ap­pear darker when dry. This makes it hard to judge the value of a colour as you work, but that can be sorted out by pre­mix­ing and test­ing colours be­fore­hand. Gouache is not only easy to use and set up, it also has a beau­ti­ful matte fin­ish, while the colours stay rich and vi­brant when dry.

In this work­shop, I will fo­cus on us­ing wet into wet tech­niques with gouache and wa­ter­colour. Wet into wet is sim­ply paint­ing while the sur­face is still sat­u­rated with water. I first learned this tech­nique with wa­ter­colour and I’ve found it’s very ef­fec­tive with gouache as well. It en­ables me to cre­ate smooth tran­si­tions be­tween colours and val­ues. It’s best used in a sin­gle pass, con­sid­er­ing that adding sub­se­quent lay­ers will re­ac­ti­vate the paint un­der­neath and can cause mud­di­ness.

I pre­fer us­ing wa­ter­colour for soft and del­i­cate de­tails, with gouache for more vi­brant and bold colours. I highly rec­om­mend do­ing colour stud­ies first be­fore work­ing wet into wet. It will cut down your guess­work and let you fo­cus on the ma­nip­u­la­tion of the paint.

Here, I’ll cover the var­i­ous ways I work with washes, start­ing with break­ing up sec­tions of the paint­ing to keep large ar­eas more man­age­able. I’ll also show you how to tran­si­tion from one colour to the next to cre­ate a smooth gra­di­ent, and how to blend colours with­out lift­ing paint that has been laid down.

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