Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Painting with Gouache Tutorial


Melly here

I love working with gouache which is an opaque form of watercolor. I love the opacity and I love it's ability to function like transparent watercolor as well.  I have created this loose tutorial on how to paint using gouache, where you will come along for the painting ride, while listening to my thoughts on how to evaluate the inspiration and approach painting a bird, in this case a Red Breasted Nuthatch.

The photo I am using was taken by Gerry Sibell (and I am using it with permission). It was originally published on the Birder's World forum and then picked up by the December 2010 issue of the magazine.

I am using M. Graham gouache, though your need not run out and purchase a whole set, you can use whatever paint you have on hand and utilize just the techniques and ideas present in video and word. I am workin on 140lb. watercolor paper, whose manufacturer I have forgotten, though I am pretty sure it is hot press which means the paper has a flatter, smoother surface.

And here is my secret: I strive for every page to be perfect. Every-single-page, page-after-page (there are some crappy pages here and there). I will not apologize for this. BUT. I will tell you that this has taken me years and years of practice. This is not inborn talent. This is trial and error and a lot of swearing and acceptance and page turning. And you too can put the time in to creating beautiful pages. Remind yourself that your shoes are unique, talented and directed on a path that is as unique and individualized as you are.

When I first started working in a journal I was turned on by the freedom and spontaneity of Sabrina Ward-Harrison and she came to my hometown for a book signing. I brought my book and sat through her talk and waited to have my book signed. When there was a question answering period I asked if every page, one after the other was as nice as seen in the pages of her book. Her answer was, 'No!' I swore to myself to make every page of my journal as pretty, intense, artful as I possibly could. Silly as this may seem, this is where the drive started.

I use my journals as inspiration for further exploration in fiber. I will often work on a single image mutiple times, so after this Red Breasted Nuthatch is complete, I might trace him, glue him onto another page and reinterpret his figure in another light- who knows, I might work with the idea of creating a Klimt-like interpretation, highly decorative with geometrics, or I might try collage with trace paper overlay. The point is that I will work with the image until I truely understand the bird, it's gesture, color and line. It's fun.

I hope you will keep checking in for more installments in this series. I have yet to complete my Highly Prized page but will soon.

14 comments:

  1. This just made me smile as I want every page in my journal to 'work' and I feel this holds me back sometimes, I should just treat it all as an 'experiment'. So just going for it and accepting that some pages don't work is what I have to work on, sounds like the opposite to you!!! The other opposite is I'd start with the bird, rather than the background - all very interesting. Thanks for the really informative video :)

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  2. Enjoyed your video Melly, learned a lot!

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  3. I'm already enjoying this tutorial series immensely! I especially like your write up, where you say it took you years and years of practice - I think readers "know this" but we don't always think about that when we go to sit down and do it ourselves only to get angry and frustrated with ourselves - because it looks so effortless for you! :)

    In short, you and your posts just make me sublimely happy! Thanks Melanie!

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  4. I'm interested in trying gouache. Any recommendations for a fairly inexpensive beginner set that is decent quality? All the ones I've seen online are tubes, not the pans that you are using.

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  5. Thanks for the tutorial! Watching someone work makes all the difference. Stephanie's comment reminded me of a similar issue: there is a lot of things that I "know" about art making, but I've finally realized that it's not until I sit down and try it myself that I really can start to understand it. It's funny how easy it is to forget something as obvious as this, and to feel overwhelmed by something without even having tried to do it. Watercolour is one of these things that have always intimidated me. I have read about it, looked at images, but haven't really sat down to figure it out for myself. It's time to do it now.

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  6. Wow, so cool to see the process... thanks for sharing!

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  7. I think I will try the gouache, I have done some work with watercolors, many pieces with acrylics, gouache sounds and looks interesting, will have to try it. Thanks for the video.

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  8. I really enjoyed watching this, Melly! I can't wait to see the next parts.

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  9. Helen, Try a Pelikan Opaque Watercolor set, they come in 12 and 24 colors. You can find them from 15 to 25$ Sharen, use the watercolors that you have! No need to buy new. Sarah, I have no qualms with gessoing over a page I cannot stand! I make the rules because I want to enjoy doing this. And thank you everyone. This will be fun.

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  10. Beautiful to watch and it gave me oodles of ideas!

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  11. Melly- your videos are the best! Your explanations are so clear and seeing the action is so helpful. Thank you!!

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  13. Jeanette, it was to be simple! It's about learning.

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