Get to grips with gouache

Gouache! What even is it? Join artist and il­lus­tra­tor Laura Bi­fano as she de­mys­ti­fies the medium in this four-part series

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Join artist and il­lus­tra­tor Laura Bi­fano as she de­mys­ti­fies the medium, in the first in­stal­ment of this four-part series.

G ouache is a won­der­fully ver­sa­tile medium and is used in ev­ery­thing from fine art, con­cept de­sign and an­i­ma­tion back­ground paint­ings. You can achieve a num­ber of ef­fects from soft gra­di­ents, tex­tured dry­brush, to painstak­ingly de­tailed fine lines.

That be­ing said, it does have some idio­syn­cra­sies that of­ten put peo­ple off. For ex­am­ple, lighter val­ues of­ten dry darker and darker val­ues be­come lighter, mak­ing work­ing over mul­ti­ple ses­sions a bit of a chal­lenge. In ad­di­tion, if the paint doesn’t dry com­pletely be­tween ap­pli­ca­tions, bot­tom lay­ers can even lift and muddy the colours ap­plied on top!

But don’t let this dis­cour­age you – gouache also has many ad­van­tages. Num­ber one for me is that its matte fin­ish and vivid colours means that it re­pro­duces eas­ily, mak­ing it the medium of choice for any­one work­ing in il­lus­tra­tion or de­sign. It’s also por­ta­ble, fast dry­ing and has great opac­ity, which is why many artists also choose to use it for paint­ing out­doors. Un­like oils, which re­quire the use of abra­sive sol­vents, gouache is wa­ter-sol­u­ble, easy on your brushes, and per­fect for work­ing in smaller spa­ces.

Gouache is also in­cred­i­bly vari­able and can be wa­tered down and used like wa­ter­colours. Yet un­like wa­ter­colours it can be built up in thicker, painterly lay­ers.

In my opin­ion, it’s ver­sa­til­ity and porta­bil­ity far out­weigh its finicky na­ture. True, this medium comes with some chal­lenges, but I promise the end re­sults are worth the ef­fort.

1 Get­ting started

Pic­tured here is is my ba­sic setup. I have a few dif­fer­ent pal­ettes that I like to use: a small, por­ta­ble one for travel; a medium pal­ette for work­ing on smaller-sized pieces; and fi­nally an open tray for mix­ing larger quan­ti­ties of colour. And of course, I al­ways keep a pa­per towel, rag or sponge handy for con­trol­ling the mois­ture on my brush and pa­per.

2 Choos­ing your brushes

There are thou­sands of brushes to choose from. Since most painters work coarse to fine de­tail, it makes sense to have a va­ri­ety of brush sizes. For wa­ter-based medium it’s good to use soft, nat­u­ral hair brushes such as sable, although many syn­thetic brands are good, too. A stiff brush such as Hog’s Hair will be hard on your pa­per and won’t hold paint as well as a softer brush.

3 Pal­ette ba­sics

I keep a fairly limited pal­ette when work­ing. I like to use a cou­ple of vari­a­tions on pri­maries. Cad­mium yel­low is a deeper, richer shade, com­pare with the high chro­mac­ity of Cad­mium yel­low light. This en­ables more vari­a­tion when mix­ing greens. I use a lot of Prus­sian blue when mix­ing shad­ows and Pri­mary blue when paint­ing sky pan­els.

I gen­er­ally try and keep my pal­ette or­gan­ised ac­cord­ing to warm/cool light/dark, but they can some­times wind up look­ing like a bit of a dog’s din­ner. This ex­am­ple pal­ette isn’t in­dica­tive of how I work – rather, it’s an ex­am­ple of the vari­a­tions you can achieve with limited pri­maries.

4 Choos­ing a suit­able paint­ing sur­face You can work on lit­er­ally any flat sur­face you want. I’ll of­ten use a sturdy ma­sonite draw­ing board, some­times a clip­board or even the sur­face of my desk. Right now I’m us­ing an ad­justable draw­ing easel, which I can set up any­where in my stu­dio.

I find mask­ing tape works just fine for stretch­ing wa­ter­colour pa­per. I’ve never had an is­sue with buck­ling or tear­ing, and it’s cheaper and more widely avail­able than artist tape. The smaller roll of liner-tape is fan­tas­tic for mask­ing out ar­eas on the paint­ing, sim­i­lar to frisket pa­per. Blot­ting ma­te­ri­als. Larger travel pal­ette (also good for stu­dio work!) Gouache is pig­ment bound in an emul­si­fier, usu­ally gum ara­bic or dex­trin. When­ever pos­si­ble, avoid stu­dent-grade paint, be­cause they of­ten con­tain talc, cal­cium car­bon­ate or mar­ble dust that add opac­ity but re­duce sat­u­ra­tion. I use M. Gra­ham & Co and Wind­sor-New­ton gouache, which ob­tain their opac­ity from pig­ment rather than fillers.

Once I have my colours blocked in, I do 90 per cent of my fine-tool­ing with this brush. It holds a sur­pris­ing amount of paint and still comes to a fine point. I use a pal­ette knife to mix colours when­ever pos­si­ble. This keeps paint from get­ting into the fer­rule of my brushes and spread­ing out the bris­tles. When an im­age calls for an ex­tra fine amount of de­tail, it’s time to bust out the liner brush. Ideal for paint­ing eye­lashes on a back­ground fig­ure, or the rim light on a cat’s whiskers. This is what I do the brunt of my paint­ing with. The flat edge of­fers good cov­er­age for broad ar­eas of de­tail, while I can still use the nar­row end of the chisel for a finer line. When paint­ing clouds or soft gra­di­ents, I’ll some­times use this big softie to blur edges. I use a two-inch flat sable brush to lay down my ini­tial wash and block in large ar­eas of colour. Large flat brush Soft sable Chisel brush size 0 sable brush Liner brush Pal­ette knife

mix us­ing my blues and red. I add my black to tone things down. I’ve mixed a “pure” green from Cad­mium yel­low light and Pri­mary blue, with a warm and cool mix­ture to the right and left of it. I can then work off these three blobs, mix­ing in my sub­trac­tive black. I keep a worn-out brush handy for mix­ing colours that have dried on the pal­ette. I do use one sec­ondary colour in my pal­ette: Ma­genta! This is more vivid than I would be able to Or­ange is a mix of Cad­mium red light and Cad­mium red. I’ve also added the black mix­ture to lower its in­ten­sity. with my black to tone it down. I can use this mud mix­ture with my pri­maries and sec­on­daries to cre­ate dif­fer­ent un­der­tones. I use Prus­sian blue, Ma­genta and Cad­mium yel­low to cre­ate a neu­tral black. I test out the mix­ture on a sep­a­rate piece of pa­per, lay­ing it on trans­par­ently to make sure that it’s not lean­ing too far over into the warm or cool spec­trums. The idea is to make neu­tral dark tone that I can add in to my sec­on­daries. This warm brown is a mix­ture of Cad­mium yel­low, Red and Prus­sian blue. I also mix it in

Hav­ing proper light­ing is im­por­tant too, es­pe­cially if you’re in a po­si­tion where you have to paint at night. Most light bulbs cast a warm, yel­low light that can make achiev­ing ac­cu­rate colours tough. Here I’m us­ing an LED day­light bulb, which casts a cool, neu­tral light. The most im­por­tant thing when work­ing in a wa­ter-based medium is to make sure you’ve prop­erly stretched your pa­per be­fore­hand. I use Arches 300lb wa­ter­colour pa­per, which needs to soak in wa­ter for 15 to 20 min­utes be­fore tap­ing it to the easel. Then I let it com­pletely dry be­fore I wet it again and start paint­ing. I keep a cou­ple of rulers handy for paint­ing straight lines. I’ll some­times use a mask di­rectly on the sur­face, but as you in­evitably build up thicker lay­ers, tape and frisket pa­per will flake off the paint. Run­ning your brush along the edge of a ruler is a quick and easy way to pro­duce nice, crisp edges. Do­ing a colour comp be­fore start­ing a paint­ing saves a lot of de­ci­sion mak­ing. Since you’ve done all the brain­work be­fore­hand, you can fo­cus on craft and ex­e­cu­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.