Left: Cherry Valley Creek, ©2003 Thomas Paquette (used with permission). Look at the shadows criss-crossing this creek. Anyone who has ever taken a walk in the woods during late fall or a dry winter has seen this light. All this sense of space and light is captured in a painting 1-3/4 x 2-3/4 inches!
Whoever suggested to oil painter Thomas Paquette that he work in gouache is a friend to us all. Now we have an absolutely essential book of his gouache paintings available: Thomas Paquette: Gouaches, 2007, Eyeful Press.
Paquette is a landscape painter who typically works on large canvases (80 x 60 inches for example). According to the introductory essay in his book of gouache paintings, his helpful friend made the suggestion to use gouache to free Paquette “from his habit of overpainting.” You can read Paquette’s artist statement and understand that the searching and developing he does in his oils has become an integral part of his approach to gouache. (Once you have entered his website look under “artwork” for gouache paintings to view several examples.)
What Paquette creates are enticing, balanced, glowing images which don’t look overworked or fussed over at all. They look rich, filled with light, and are composed in such an eye-pleasing way that the viewer can’t help but want to wander around inside them.
RIght: Near DM's, Stonington, ©2003 Thomas Paquette (used with permission). In this 2-1/2 x 3-1/4 inch gouache on paper painting Paquette captures the bulk and substance of a northern shore and pines.
And so here’s the surprising thing, that knocked me over by surprise, Paquette’s gouache paintings range from 2 x 1-3/4 to 5-1/2 x 7-1/4 inches! For me that means they are “bijou,” and if you had seen me after I walked out of the miniatures collection at the Victoria and Albert you would know I can’t think more highly about any painting than to describe it so. Into these tiny “frames” Paquette has packed forests, mountain ranges, the infinity of a reaching road, and the intimate companionship of an enclosed garden.
I don’t care if you don’t like gouache (actually I do care, and very much, and we will have to straighten you out on that at some point), but if you paint, you need to have this book to learn how to SEE. What makes something worthy of the attention of a painting? What captures an artist’s eye? How does an artist compose what he sees? How does the artistic eye edit the massive variables in a landscape? The answers take shape in this selection of paintings. And all the while you get a wonderful visual tutorial on mass and light and how to define form. You could study one a day until you had gobbled them all up. Then, talk of the Impressionists and the Fauves would start to make sense to you viscerally instead of intellectually.
Left: Pearl Trees, 2004 ©Thomas Paquette (used with permission). In this 1-1/8 x 3-1/2 inch gouache painting on paper the artist uses non-representational colors creating a totally convincing and inviting reality.
Do yourself a favor, if you like to look at landscapes as an artform get a copy of this book. If you paint landscapes, get a copy of this book. If you love color, composition, and you want to take a visual trip, get a copy of this book. (You get the idea.)
People are always asking me to recommend a book on painting with gouache. I’ve never found one, until I opened up this book. There isn’t any text on how to apply paint and mix colors, there’s just image after image for you to study. (The book is essentially a record of a traveling art show that would have been great to have seen in person.)
Maybe if we are all very lucky indeed, the same friend who told Paquette to start working in gouache will tell him when he retires that he needs to write an instructional book about gouache or make a video so we can enjoy watching the painting process and take the journey step by step with him.
Until then we have this delightful book (with an elegant design that creates the perfect holder for these images). (Prints of some of the gouache paintings are also available through the artist's website.)
Finally, if you are in New York City, or going there before May 6, be sure and check the group exhibition: Adirondack Art Today, at D. Wigmore Fine Art. Paquette has 15 oil and gouache paintings celebrating Adirondack Park, in this exhibit.