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

ImagineFX - - Contents -

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.lau­ra­b­i­

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