Gouache can be Gauche, but also Great!

IMG_0745Last year I taught myself how to use gouache, which is an opaque watercolor. Unlike regular watercolor,  gouache will wipe off the paper if you get it wet. That means once you put your mark down, it is fairly difficult to rework. Muddy, messy and miserable is the consequence of an indecisive  gouache painter. Colors  also have the nasty habit of changing as they dry and they dry in seconds. I find the whites dry darker and more blue. Since white is  ubiquitous in paintings, this change effects the whole piece. Meanwhile, the darks appear to dry lighter. Working with this fickle medium is kind of like dancing;  you need to anticipate your partners moves in order to stay on your feet.

I picked it up with the hope that gouache  would bring a new facet to my oil painting.  With oils, I tend to work slowly in layers, glazing color over color. Working “indirectly”  is a methodical approach and requires planning and forethought. Bold or spontaneous  mark making has not been my way.  With gouache, you simply cannot glaze or refine as you can with oil. It needs a dictator, not a diplomate.  Practicing with gouache, I hoped, would translate into more expressive oil paintings.

Despite the inconveniences that I mentioned earlier, there are some real benefits to using this medium.  If you are painting outside, the gear is light and easy to set up. The paintings are completed quicker and clean up is a breeze.  I also believe gouache is much less toxic.

IMG_0741 I painted in gouache last fall, but when the paint started freezing on the palette I switched back to oils. Now it’s warmed up and the painting above is my reintroduction to gouache.  I’m surprised how excited I am to be using it again. I actually like that little dance you do with the colors and the authoritarian way I’m forced to make marks. Hopefully you will see many more of these as the summer progresses.

I’m even thinking of offering a workshop for other artists who might like to try their hand with something new and difficult…(oops) I mean different.

 

The deep dark woods

 

IMG_5110 The other day I was reading about how coyotes have been spotted all over my neighborhood. They are nomadic and travel in groups. Today’s coyotes are considerably bigger than the little 35 pound variety that lived here 20 years ago. These new coyotes are closer to 60 pounds. I never thought twice about a walk in the woods at dawn or dusk in the past, but after seeing a few of these big boys in recent years I have taken pause.  Hearing their frantic and fearsome howling prior to “the kill”, the screaming of the victim and finally the silence of the feast,  I have reconsidered my evening strolls. You see, I don’t run as fast as a deer and I’m smaller…. I know coyotes have not yet attacked people….but there could be a first and I would rather not be it.  I can see the headline now, ” Breaking News: World Famous Artist Eaten by Pack of Hungry Coyotes”   artists are known to have active imaginations….

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But then, dusk is a lovely time to paint. The low warm light is just beautiful on the bay and surrounding areas.  So on the same day I heard news about coyotes in the area I went to a spot along the bay I have been wanting to paint…in the evening.  That area is only accessed by land though the woods, about a fifteen minute walk. About the same distance Little Red Ridding Hood had to travers to get to Grandma’s. I was late too. Trying to finish up some studio work before heading out. I know the area is popular with dog walkers, so I had expected more people to be around. Maybe they had read the same article I had.

As I sat on the beach painting , my mind kept wandering back to the woods; to the sun getting lower, to the lack of human company; to that headline.

At least I got a start on the painting, slapped down some base colors and shapes and started thinking about bribes to get my husband to come with me on another evening to finish it up. Then I packed up and beat feet back though the woods all the while looking for climbable trees. The only wildlife I spied on my trek out was this lovely lady who apparently has no worries about coyotes, or me for that matter.IMG_5138

Since I didn’t see a single coyote, let alone get attacked by a pack of them, I felt pretty silly about my concerns. Not silly enough to avoid sharing them with the world however.

Who knew that painting required such intrepid fortitude?

Look for the next installment of Adventures from the Imagination of a Bay Painter coming soon!