More Gouache on the Gutenberg Paper

December 23, 2011


Above: Profile sketch with Faber-Castel Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen covered with gouache washes, in a 6 x 8 inch handmade journal using Gutenberg paper.

The thing about sketching directly with pen is that sometimes your line zigs when it should zag and it's there. Gouache of course can cover a lot of this, but in practice sessions like this it simply becomes a matter of continuing to build areas instead of a likeness. I can still learn something while doing that build up of areas—all stuff that I can apply the next time I attempt a likeness! I've posted today's image, sketched while watching a TV character look down at his cell phone, so that you could see some of the build up of paint and texture of the paper. And it's in keeping with my end of year running theme "to keep practicing and to find the learning in unsuccessful pieces" as well.

111215NoseEyesMouthLeft: Close up of today's image, showing detail of strokes at the nose, eyes, and mouth.

If you look at the enlargement of the full image you can clearly see the laid texture of the Gutenberg paper (which I mentioned in my Pigeon post on Wednesday). You can see at the edges of the red background how the paper breaks up the dry-brush strokes, but if you look into the face you can also see how it worked with layers of paint, wet and dry.

In the first detail image of the profile you can see the paper texture really doing its work in the eyebrow area and in the shadow area below the eyes and the lower lip. You can also see how it gives texture to what would otherwise be a pretty flat background color (look to the left of the face in the red and you can see the vertical lines of the laid texture).

111215EarLeft: Close up of the ear portion of today's image. Click on the image to view an enlargement and to see better the texture of the paper and the strokes of gouache.

I painted this sketch using a 3/4 inch filbert. It was an inexpensive watercolor one from Princeton. For acrylic paintings and for gouache on boards I use stiffer filberts like the Silver Bristlton, but I find that I get so involved in playing with the paint that the stiffer brushes start to tear up most papers which I use to  make journals so the softer watercolor brush hairs and fibers are more useful on these papers. I do need a bit of spring and bounce back though.

I like filberts because they help keep me from getting fussy and going in for really tight details. Also I can do broad sloppy strokes and get a lot of coverage. Alternately I can use the shape of the brush flatly and get strokes as broad as the brush and more controled.

But the best thing about a filbert is that I can dance over to the edge of it, essentially tip it on its side, and get thin lines for edges. Or if you look at the stroke at the top of the ear in the second detail image, I can get a stroke that starts sort of fat and ends thin. It's like a calligraphy nib on a pen.

Anyway, it's way too fun. So much fun that ultimately the likeness matters less to me than the individual strokes. Getting a likeness matters to me in the long run, but in the meantime I intend to have as much fun as possible. Enjoy every stroke.

(This sketch was made with Schmincke Gouache and M. Graham Gouache. That is PB60 from Schmincke Gouache's Dark Indigo, that you see in various areas. I mix it with its complement to get my dark neutrals because I don't like black paint. I'd like to say I NEVER use black paint, but I know as soon as I write that I'd find some instance in which I would use black paint. You get the idea—I prefer mixed neutrals and darks.)

  1. Reply

    Merry Christmas Roz… did you mix the skin colors? If so what colors did you use.. I struggle to find a way to represent the rich chocolate brown of the black people here in SC… your portrait is very close to the color I need to figure out how to do.

  2. Reply

    Yep Capt. Elaine the colors are mixed throughout. I was working with a red (Napth. Red, M. Graham), blue (Dark Indigo which is PB60, Schmincke) and yellow (gamboge from M. Graham or Indian Yellow from Schmincke; I’m sorry the palette has since been cleared and the book isn’t in front of me so I’m just looking at the piece on the screen trying to remember which yellow that was). I also used some Schmincke Purple Magenta. (That last particularly in the darker areas of the under eye, middle of the nose, and lower lip.)

    With any skin color I look for the colors I see underneath so to speak. Black skin is particularly beautiful, holding red or blue or purple tones, each unique to the geographic area of origin.

    On this particular day I wasn’t trying to get a match of colors in the skin to the actual person (or I would have put out different pigments) but instead was just using what I had on my palette to get some values down.

    Everywhere pretty much there was yellow and red mixed with a little bit of blue to make a warm light brown. Then in shadow areas more blue in the mix to make a more dark chocolate brown. In the highlight areas I was using the purple magenta in various combinations with the colors to mix a warmer, pinker color which was turned into a tint with the addition of a bit of white.

    Hope that helps, but in general my best advice is to look at the individual you’re sketching and really look for those hidden colors you see in their skin, e.g., Dick is Irish/Finnish/German and is very pale pinkish with lots of blue or magenta showing as blood comes to the surface in various areas. Some people have lovely golden tones emerging and so it goes. In looking for those colors you can then plan a mode of attack that will create blends that not only harmonize but reflect that unique skin.

    Charles Reid has an interesting approach to skintone rendering across races and you might want to check out his book on figure painting to read about it, experiment with his colors to get a handle on things and branch out from there.

    Have fun seeing the colors.

    • Linda
    • December 25, 2011

    Roz these books are beautiful! Wish I could make one’s like this. I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year. Thank you so Roz for this blog and the time you put into it for us. I have learned laughed and enjoyed so much coming here. For someone who is teaching thereselves this blog and your advise means so much.
    Hope your new year brings you many state fairs, good subjects to sketch, nice days for rideing your bike,

  3. Reply

    Thanks Linda. I’m glad that you enjoy the post on books I made at the end of December 2011 and I’m glad you find the blog helpful. I am looking forward to many more state fairs! Maybe several in a year if I can organize myself!

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