Gouache, by Gosh! Part I

Looking at my paintings it is rather obvious that I am not a water-colorist. Secretly, down deep I would love to be able to control and manipulate this most elusive of painting mediums, bend it to my will, delight in its winsome ways. But alas, my hand is heavy, my paint is strong and thick.  But I have tried; bought watercolor magazines,  technique books, checked out the blogs and tried to get it from head to hand to paper. Unfortunately watercolor loosened on to the thick creamy white watercolor
paper, just goes BLAH as in really BLAH! I forget to leave the white of the paper until last, or to work backwards. Converted long ago to oil and acrylic techniques, I forget I can’t just pile the watercolor onto the substrate!

A number of years ago I discovered a marvelous painter, Charles Sovek. I devoured every word and picture on his website,  ordered his technique books. And after two years of yearning to take a workshop with him,  I got up the courage to sign up for his class in Provincetown, Cape Cod. Cape Cod home to so many painters of light, home to the ocean breezes and sweet smells, home to the eccentrics and I was going to  study for one week with Mr. Sovek. I would pour over his paintings, his very generous website full of free information, downloads and books he had written. I was so excited. With a room and car secured, I had four weeks to wait. 

 One spring day the phone rang and it was PAAM the arts organization calling about the workshop. With tears in the caller's voice she relayed the information that Charles had died very suddenly. No this wasn’t possible!!   Like Mozart and van Gogh he had years more to paint and share with the world. No No No ! But it was true and I carried remorse for a long long time in my heart, wrote to his wife, even though she didn't know me, and was grateful for what I learned from Charles through his website and generosity.

Charles encouraged painters to learn from the best artists,  studying and copying their techniques. I have an art journal filled with his inspiration...I would add my own painting  to his work, try to copy, or improvise....it was a great learning experience.

Now why do I share this story when we are talking about  being a watercolor misfit? Simply this: Charles could paint in EVERY PAINTING MEDIUM and they were all supreme-o, filled with light and energy. His composition skills are without question among the best. As he grew older his work became more and more loose, but it was right on! When you view his website his paintings are listed by the following categories:


Why his gouache looked just like oil or acrylic. I studied his  examples, I painted some of his examples, I had to try  ….buy the gouache paints, mess around, experiment. I could feel Charles behind me…well that is a little dramatic, but it is a nice thought. A door seemed to open.

Here is my palette…messy and wonderful….also my sketchbook full of experiments and full paintings. This is how I came to love Gouache, by Gosh!!!

For this  blog on painting with gouache, I am using a sketchbook that is dedicated to Asian motifs....most everything is painted in gouache.

Materials that I use include:

Watercolor sketchbook (90#) or (140#) block of watercolor paper. Sometimes I put a thin coat of colored gesso on the paper then sand very lightly. You don't need this step but I prefer a colored background.

Pencils, water-soluble pencils, markers whatever you like to doodle with.

Some of my sketchbook pages have collage paper glued in random positions.

Watercolor brushes synthetic--flats, fitch and oval. 

Gouache: many brands available. I use tube color and love Holbein.

Techniques used for this particular Art Journal include:

1. Sketching a series of Asian children and women.  

Keep it simple.  Start with pencil, then over-draw, correcting shapes with thin waterproof pen

THE BIG SECRET!!!!! Gouache has WHITE in every color making it opaque. Ah, that is the secret ingredient that made it possible for me to paint. It dries and you can paint over it without lifting...pure magic.

2. Lay in  colors with thinned gouache, adjust  with water.  You can also use water soluble colored pencils and sketch in color, use small amount of water to blend with a brush.

3.  Paint gouache full strength, creamy like thin sour cream and brush rich, lush color. The painting will come alive!!!  Make sure the bottom layer is dry before adding more color, or the bottom layer will bleed into new color. Avoid really thick paint as it will crack with time. Just experiment and have fun!  It is just paper!

Here is a view of the use of collage, using Asian newspaper and decorative papers, applied with mat medium at any time in the painting process.

Some of the paintings I drew over the completed painting with thinned black gouache or thicker marker pen.  This gives a more illustrative effect to your design. 

Gouache paintings have a unique mat finish, just like velvet. You can use a spray sealer but they are lovely left with no finish.  Like watercolor they do well under frames with glass.  In a journal this isn't an issue. 

 A few more Asian images from my Art Journal.

I recently traveled to New York and Chicago with a small carry on with all I needed to paint when the opportunity presented itself.

Thank you Mr. Sovek. We imagine you hiking the clouds, paper, canvas,  paints, brushes and easel in your back pack searching for rainbows to capture in your unique style.  Maybe someday we will meet and I will get to take a heavenly workshop!

Note: Charles Sovek's books are available at his website and some are available on Amazon.  Website on side bar.
Peggy his beloved wife runs the website now, posting his paintings for sale, DVD's, and the original site as Charles set it up. 

Plein Air, Painting the American Landscape - Cape Cod, Taos, Trinidad episodesPainting IndoorsOil Painting: Develop Your Natural AbilityCatching Light in Your PaintingsPainting IndoorsOil Painting: Develop Your Natural AbilityCathcing Light in Your Paintings

1 comment:

  1. Sharon:
    You are so talented. Thank-you for your instruction... I'm inspired to give it a try.
    I can learn so much from your bloging.
    I wish you the best in all that you do.-Alisa


Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you take to say hello. Warmly, Sharon