Along The Gouache Road

I’m continuing my experiments with gouache, trying to figure out how to use it effectively.  I’m also learning how many basic concepts of painting I don’t know at all.  Giving up my fountain pen approach to capturing objects makes me feel lost.  But I feel (unsure?) that I’m learning those concepts more quickly than if I’d stuck with a pen/ink/wash approach.  In the end I think my gouache experiments will improve my pen and ink drawing and certainly my watercolors.

When I posted a lemon portrait recently, my first real gouache painting, I said that “gouache is not opaque watercolor.”  A couple people took me to task about this statement and I should have clarified what I meant and what my motivation was for saying it.  The motivation came from the many watercolorists who have said (on the internet) that they tried gouache and had trouble and the fact that I got the same problems

People try to use gouache like watercolor.  Of course you can do this, but NOT if you want to take advantage of its opaque characteristics.  You can use gouache in thin washes as you might watercolor, but it’s not nearly as good as watercolor when you do so.  It doesn’t spread, blend or mix as well as watercolor.  It lifts previous layers more easily than watercolor.  So if that’s the way you want to use it that way, you’re going to use it as a poor substitute for true watercolor  Nothing wrong with that but it’s really better to use true watercolors and then throw in a dose of white gouache at the end.  Many people do this.

If you want to paint opaquely, however, you need to approach gouache more like oil painters do (I have never done oil paintingl but I’ve watched some on YouTube :-).  They don’t lighten tones by adding solvent.  They use it to control viscosity.  They mix colors to lighten/darken tones.  They also work in layers that start thin (lean) and move to thicker layers (fat).  We sort of do the same with watercolors because we use a “tea, milk, honey” approach.  So, using water to control viscosity and color mixing for tone allows the use of gouache as an opaque medium  Anyways, that’s what I was talking about.  I make no claims to knowledge of anything so if you disagree, that’s fine.  You’re probably right (grin).

When I do gouache I sometimes wonder whether I’m learning, floundering or just creating personal embarassment.  I am having fun, however, and with the current state of things, that’s enough.

I went off the deep end the other day and did a simple landscape painting in gouache.  There was no under drawing.  There was no planning.  And most of all, there was nothing to look at because we’re buried in snow here in Quebec.  I NEVER DO STUFF like that.  Maybe it’s the cold I have or maybe it’s the “self-isolation” and “social distancing” I’m doing but I did it and here is the result.

Gouache (3×7), Stillman & Birn Beta

I also wanted to work on my ability to manipulate gouache to render an object so I painted this soup cup using only burnt umber and titanium white.  I sort of messed up the top rim of the cup but, as I said, there’s a certain amount of embarrassment that goes along with trying new things.

Hope all of you are safe and have settled into your own self-isolation.  At least we can draw.

 

Road Trip To Montreal – Part Two

I met Marc Taro Holmes on day two of my Montreal trip at the Pointe a Calliere.  This is primarily and archeology museum, built on top of a large excavation of early Montreal habitations.  We were there to sketch in a natural history exhibition that’s going on now.

I admit that I was tired from the day before.  Now that I’m officially old I don’t hold up like I used to but I was excited to sketch some animals. We wandered around, looked at everything and then I started drawing this spoonbill.  It was a magnificent specimen.  I tried the ‘draw fast’ approach and that cost me some accuracy but I was pleased by the result.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black

I was getting tired and Marc graciously agreed to walking across the street so I could sit, drink some coffee and have a muffin.  That was fun and I needed it, but eventually we headed back to capture some more of the museum.

I decided to press the ‘draw fast’ method even more and tried to capture a bunch of birds on one page.  I felt I’d went too small and I certainly drew too fast, but I had fun doing these quick captures.  Maybe this will help me sketch pigeons on the street this summer.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black

Unfortunately I was running out of gas and just couldn’t bring myself to start another sketch.  I decided at that point that I was done for the day and so I said goodbye to Marc and headed off to meet my daughter.  I’m not sure that ‘draw fast’ is for me.  Maybe I’m destined to forever be a slow sketcher.

Road Trip To Montreal – Part One

The last time I left home on a sketching trip was in 2017 when I went to meet Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel for the best sketching day of my life.  Since then health issues hobbled me (quite literally) for nearly two years, part of which I couldn’t hold a pencil, let alone draw with one.

So, it was no small thing for me to head to the bus depot and head down the road, thanks to my rheumatologist.  I was going to Montreal to see my daughter but also to meet up with Marc for a couple sketching sessions.  There would be lots of chatting involved as well since we hadn’t seen each other for so long.

The bus was to depart at 5AM so, a bit bleary-eyed I sat at the bus station at 4:45.  What’s a guy to do but draw.  I did a couple quick sketches before they started loading the bus.  Here they are.

I’m a look-y-lu when I travel and don’t have to drive.  I can’t wait to see the sights as we whiz along the highway.  Once the sun started to come up I saw turkeys, deer, a couple ravens, some ducks and a lot of landscape and architecture.

When I arrived in Montreal the first thing I had to do was coax my bum leg to climb a significant hill to get to my daughter’s apartment, and I did, albeit slowly.  The two of us had breakfast and then parted as I headed to meet Marc.  After a bit of a snafu (sp?) about which Starbucks we were going to meet in, we used the magic of our cell phones to find each other.

The day was amazing for the beginning of March in Quebec.  It wasn’t bitterly cold.  In fact, it was sunny and about 2C and for crazy sketchers, that’s sketching weather… almost.  Marc and I decided to draw the top of a large cathedral that’s downtown.  There’s a park right next to it, too close to draw the cathedral from, but we decided to find a bench and draw.  We found benches but they were covered in snow so we sat on the backs of a bench and drew.

This turned out to be an experiment on more than a leg-testing level.  Marc is always suggesting that I draw too slow.  It’s hard to argue because molasses runs downhill faster than I draw.  My problem is that if I start drawing fast I lose control of the proportions, leave important stuff out, etc.  Still, I was determined to try and, truth be told, I had to do this to keep up with Marc, who does magnificent drawings in mere minutes.

And so I drew two of the domes quickly, trying my best not to distort them too much.  It suited the winter weather conditions to sketch quickly.

With that sketch done, we started looking for something else to draw.  This was hard because of all the snow and the need to sit in the sun.  It was also starting to get breezy so we decided to go into the cathedral.  I made several quick sketches but when a church service started both Marc and I felt like interlopers and so we decided to leave.  Here’s one of my sketches.

Strathmore Mixed-Media (184lb), DeAtramentis Brown ink

Marc directed us to an observation area in, I think, the Bonaventure Hotel where we looked out over the city and the same cathedral we drew earlier.  Maintaining my frantic (for me) sketching pace, I quickly sketched a lot of the roof tops of the cathedral.  Something of a strange view but one, I’m sure, is familiar to the resident pigeon population.

Strathmore Mixed-Media (184lb), DeAtramentis Brown ink

I never did complete it because I also wanted to draw another church nearby.   We both were getting hungry so we headed for a nearby food court and spent the afternoon talking art and solving the world’s problems.  With the world’s problems solved, we headed to Marc’s house where I spent a spectacular evening with Marc and Laurel.  In spite of a lot of walking my leg held up pretty well.  Some limping did occur but it was not extreme.

This post has gotten pretty long so I’m going to stop here.  I’ll show you what I did on day two in the next post.  As Tigger says, Ta, Ta, For Now.

I Love Cupcakes, Don’t You?

I’ve always been a fan of cupcakes.  They always look so good, with their creamy frosting and nifty little pleated dress.  I also like their size.  Just right for a snack.

I decided to draw one because the word of the week from our sketching group was “patisserie.”  The French have far more imagination when it comes to pastries and I seem to love all of them, but I settled on a cupcake.

I decided that I wanted to use gouache, trying to produce that creamy look of frosting.  As I don’t know how to use gouache that might not have been a great idea but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I started with an ink drawing, followed by some watercolor washes.  Then I started adding gouache to the light side of the frosting.  I had to add a couple layers of gouache to get a fully-opaque look.  I’m not sure how well this integrates with an ink drawing but here is the result.  I need more practice to figure out gouache but I wasn’t displeased by this result.

Strathmore 184lb Mixed Media paper, watercolor/gouache

Domestic Sketching

Urban sketching is a popular topic on the internet and in the summer I love to spend my time, on location, drawing pretty much anything.  When winter comes, however, I’m always at a loss because snow and cold prevent those activities.

So, I turn to “domestic sketching,” the act of drawing stuff that’s laying around the house.  For me it doesn’t matter what it is as it’s the process of drawing that’s important to me, not what the product is.  On this day I drew a shoe.  I spent a lot of time blocking in this drawing because I wanted the proportions to be right but the ink drawing went pretty quickly once the locations of all the major parts was determined.  Maybe I’ll draw its brother next.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document black