I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Taking a run at GOUACHE

Red Evening  Gouache  on mdf 8x10

Working in gouache for plein air sketches has become more popular in recent years.  There is some great work done by Scott Christensen Kathleen Dunphy  and Carol Marine to name a few. In this time of Covid, with no workshops and little gallery activity, I am finding time to play and try new things. So why not try gouache.

I worked in gouache at the Watts Atelier in California a decade ago. A gouache class was recommended before working in oils - as the gouache can be reactivated and blended making a good first step in portraiture etc. I can remember enjoying the medium. Today my interest would be in plein air landscape, working with a fast drying medium requiring a limited amount of equipment.

My grand daughter using gouache at the Watts Atelier a decade ago
So I explored what others were using for supplies and equipment. I tried a variety of approaches. I still had a selection of tubes from my Watts days that felt OK. In the end I settled on working with gouache in dried form in a small watercolour palette. I dug out my 9x12 Gorilla box which I had not used in a decade and found I could carry everything I needed - paint tubes, paint palette , mixing surface, brushes, drawing needs, water mister and water bottle and a mix of 6x8 and 8x10 painting surfaces. If I could make the medium work I had the makings of a small, light, self-contained system with only a tripod to add. Great for easy carry and quick set up.

My next issue was the surface and the general need to frame the pieces behind glass. Most would be simple sketches on watercolour paper but hoped that I could work on surfaces and seal them to avoid the need for glass. I worked on mdf board, illustration board and terra skin ( stone paper). Each was a unique experience with a unique result. The paint reactivates immediately on contact with water. I first tried lightly brushing an isolation coat (a sealing coat used on acylic paintings) with a soft brush. Seals well but cannot avoid activating some of the paint. Also results in a semi gloss finish which is not what a lot of gouche painters want - they like it flat. I , on the other hand , I like some degree of finish.  So then I tried hair spray ( what I use to secure a graphite or charcoal sketch).  One spray reduced the activation but two or three make the paint more secure. With that I could apply an isolation coat without difficulty - so I had an option for hanging without glass.  I also tried an acrylic based varnish spray wich worked well - but even in an open garage was difficult to cope with. But at least I know that I have choices if I wish to hang without glass.

Sketch with acrylic marker  working on illustration board 8x10

What really pleased me was how well it worked on mdf board coated with gesso. So I had an archival cheap surface with the possibility of securing the finish - but accepting that it would be semi gloss - not the "true" flatness of the medium.

I also tried adding "tooth' to each of the surfaces using a layer of Liquatex Clear Gesso - which leaves a grainy finish I quite like.

So now to paint. Had the box out a few times and also tried a few pieces in the studio.  It is a mark-making layering medium, much like how I paint with acrylics - so I think I might like it. It is very fast to work with - less than half an hour on each quick sketch. Great for travelling.

Gorilla box, water colour palett with dried gouache, carried by bike trailer 

Plein air sketch 6x8 on Terra Skin paper - drawing with Sharpie - Gouache did not cover it

So what have I got.  A small light plein air kit that contains all I need and using dried gouache to be reactivated on use. Simple, cheap, easy.  I think I like it. Will see how it goes.

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