I bought a gouache set about 3 years ago and played with the medium a few times before ultimately getting frustrated and putting it away. But lately, for some reason, I’ve been drawn back to it. I dug out the gouache set and some of the tubes had dried up, but most of them were still fine. So I sat down in my studio and just played, trying out the different colors and playing with mixtures, and just doing page after page of swatches to see the range of colors I could get.
I can’t mix colors with gouache in the same way as I do acrylics. You use a much smaller volume of paint, kind of like with watercolors, so you can’t really take a palette knife and mix big batches of paint on a palette. Instead, you get a moistened paper towel and put it on one side, and squeeze your colors out onto that…the moistness keeps the colors from drying out. Acrylics dry fast, but gouaches dries SUPER fast.
Once you have the colors out, then you use your brush, usually, to take bits of the colors you want and then mix them on another surface, with a little (not too much) water. It’s frustrating because you have to mix the colors as you go, and I’m not used to that—plus whatever you mix dries so fast you have to keep mixing the same thing over and over again. But as I’ve been experimenting and getting more used to the dynamics of gouache, I’m finding my way. As with any medium, I’ve found you have to be willing to feel a bit wasteful, and give yourself plenty of paint to work with. Everything’s much easier (and the look is richer) when you allow yourself that freedom.
I love the intensity of the colors with gouache. I also like the fact that it’s always rewettable, so you can go back in and fool with it (to some extent; you can’t do too much or it gets muddy).
After playing with mixtures and painting swatches for awhile, I wanted to try something more adventurous, so I dug out some old sketches that weren’t good enough to show, but for some reason I hadn’t thrown out. They seemed like they’d be perfect for experimentation with gouache—and they were. Here you can see the results of a couple of days of playing. Playing, and learning!
All of this playing is giving me more confidence with gouache and I’m finding it’s been worth it. Now I think I’m ready to start creating some more considered, finished works. Watch for those!