A Dog, Gouache, and Collage: Having Fun and Learning at the Same Time

September 19, 2011

Above: Page from my 9 x 12 inch Venezia studio journal, turned on edge—the gutter is at the top of the image (the facing page was notes).Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch OVER two strips of paper previously collaged onto the page. The papers were a commercially printed purple floral patterned paper and a strip of watercolor paper I'd painted and had left over after binding books. (Papers are visible below the dog's eye sockets, and run the full length [actually height if the book is open properly] of the page.)

Sometimes, late at night I want to sketch. I have my photos of dogs that I can work from off my computer (since I no longer have a live-in model). This dog sketch was all about the pen over the collaged paper, and the movement of the paint. I wasn't trying to get a finished likeness, hence the eyes were left blank from the start (which is where I typically start a portrait.)

I'm posting this because I think it's fun to see the texture of the paint, and because I want to encourage you to experiment, whether or not you have decorative or painted papers on your page already. 

In this painting you can see translucent washes of gouache (paw on left) through to heavy applications of gouache: cobalt blue in the foreground.

I didn't start this sketch with a plan and so I think it might interest you to know the process, just so you can play on your own. The purple I was using was a mix left on my palette. When I used it on the dog I lost good demarcation with the foreground where I'd also applied some. So I squeezed out some fresh chalky (cheap) blue paint and covered the area in front.

I hated to see the yellow and red strip of watercolor paper disappear beneath the paint, but I loved the new bright contrast the blue paint made with the muzzle portion of that strip of paper which still showed.

Up until this point I had been working with a 3/4 inch filbert. It encourages me to be messy in my paint application. A bit of smearing and rubbing of the washes as I go along (using either my hand or a paper towel) adds to the mess.

Working with a large brush can be a great thrill of joy. It can also get you away from micro fussing—the laying in of multiple tiny strokes, which is sometimes a necessary thing but can lead to more second guessing. (Of course you can fuss with any brush, but when you fill a whole area in one stroke your inclination to fuss can move on to other areas.)

Just before I packed up for the night I took a no. 10 round brush and dipped it in an orange red Holbein gouache (no tube left) and wrote the date and time. I loved the way the red echoed the red from my watercolor paper strip I'd stuck down before arriving at this page. With the brush still full of the red paint I outlined other areas with red.

Is this a good painting?


It's a fun painting from which I learned a lot.

Have some of your own fun today!

  1. Reply

    I don’t know about good, but I know what I like and I really like this!

  2. Reply

    Caatje, thank you for you kind words. I have to say that the painting is growing on me. Not wearing my glasses and being messy is beginning to appeal to me. It sure is a lot of fun!

    • Carolyn
    • September 25, 2011

    The fun shows through. I enjoy this image, it’s vibrant yet gentle.

    • Mary
    • September 25, 2011

    I really like how you integrated the collage with the drawing…I have been noticing a new pizazz in your work…tis great!

  3. Reply

    Well, thank you Mary, it’s called “Not wearing your glasses and using large flat brushes!” Thanks for reading!

  4. Reply

    Thanks Carolyn. I am finding it interesting that the un-finished eyes don’t bother me. In fact I just did another dog sketch last night while winding down, and left off the eyes too.

  5. Reply

    Great work, it is interesting on playing colors to your artwork. 😀

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