How to achieve great results in gouache
Inspired by a recent sailing trip, Laura Bifano works up an idyllic river scene using gouache, which she describes as a finicky but very versatile medium
Laura Bifano tames this tricky medium to paint an idyllic riverside scene.
Last summer I did a boat trip up Lemmens Inlet in Tofino, Canada. It’s basically this crazy inland channel full of tiny islands and cobbledtogether houseboats, one of which I was lucky enough to be invited to stay on for a weekend. It was pretty inspiring seeing such a different way of living, and I’ve been daydreaming about it ever since.
While I’m not going to be moving on to a houseboat and enjoying a morning coffee by the water any time soon, I thought it would make a nice subject for a painting.
I’ll show you how I created this painting, beginning with thumbnails, tonal and colour comps, and how I used some simple, widely available tools to control the paint.
Here’s something to remember about gouache: the darker values dry a shade lighter, while the lighter values dry a shade darker. Keep this in mind when mixing your palette, to avoid the image falling too far into the mid-range values. I also restrict my use of Titanium white to very bright highlights in a scene, because using it to control values dulls the colours and the final product can end up looking chalky.
Note that gouache also has a tendency to lift off the paper and mix with subsequent layers. It’s also advisable to work fat over lean and preserve the white of the paper, in instances where you’re planning on laying down lighter values.
I used an Epson P600 printer to transfer my line work on to watercolour paper. In the past I used to do carbon paper transfers, but I’ve found that printing the image directly on to your painting surface can save days of work. It’s also helpful to soak your watercolour paper for at least ten minutes before and then making sure that it’s welltaped in place. This will stretch the paper and keep it from buckling when you lay down your first wash.
Finally, a good soaking improves the absorption of the paper itself. Laura is an illustrator and production artist from Vancouver, BC. She’s worked in film, TV and children’s books. She says that gouache, her medium of choice, is a fickle one, but good to work with once you get used to its idiosyncrasies. See her art at www.laurabifano.com