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Even More Bad News About DaVinci Gouache

May 24, 2013

130520MichaelKitchensPhoto7958Left: Sketch of Michael Kitchen as DCS Foyle in "Foyle's War." Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper hardbound journal, 11 x 14 inches. DaVinci Gouache over Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch.

On May 15 over on the Official International Fake Journal Blog I posted an update to my review of DaVinci Gouache. "Beware."

I mentioned that I was working in a Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper journal and the moisture from one painting reactivated the paint on the previous spread.

(My original review of DaVinci Gouache appeared on that blog on April 24, 2013. I had lots of reservations about it even then.)

Today I've posted the painting that was dry and then reactivated by painting on the next page. This has NEVER happened before to me with this paper or any other of the papers I use to make my journals. It was a shock. 

I knew the paint reactivated when I put PVA on the back of my paintings that were done on thin pieces of graph paper for my fake journal, but this took me by surprise.

In the above photo you can see across the gutter to the left hand page and underneath the glassine (which was added after the fact now that I know this can happen) you can see how some of the paint from this right-hand page lifted off and "printed" on the facing page. This of course means that the painting as I left it is no longer as I left it!

Well if that weren't bad news enough this past week we've had some very humid days. I went to type a transcript of my 2013 fake journal because the handwritten text is not readable in the video I shot. (You can read the text from my 2013 fake journal here.) Happily, because I have not had the pages photographed yet (it's too large and cumbersome, and deformed, to fit on the scanner) I had placed pieces of glassine between the pages. As I turned the pages while typing I discovered that just the humidity in the air was enough to ACTIVATE the gouache and make it tacky—gouache that had been dry for weeks had been reactivated. It actually stuck to the glassine! Nothing sticks to the glassine.

130512_MichaelKitchens

Right: A scan of the painting which has been color corrected to match the actual painting. Cropped to what would fit on my scanner, which is about 11.5 x 13 inches. I only wanted to make one scan and not patch things together.

What you may not know, or remember if you read earlier posts about my 2013 fake journal, is that it is so over stuffed with stuff that it is impossible to close it. It yawns open at about 9 inches. In order to avoid putting pressure and strain on the binding I elected to store this journal open at the center, "flat," in an archival box. (The box has arrived, but I hadn't put it in the box yet.) It has been sitting half open on a table so there has been no pressure on any of these pages, pushing them into each other to facilitate sticking. 

There was just simply some humidity in the air causing the components of the paint to reactivate and become tacky again. Which in turn resulted in the paint sticking to glassine in some areas.

So while DaVinci Gouache may have little problem with cracking (and frankly I have little problem with cracking when painting with my two favorite gouache brands: Schmincke and M. Graham, so that's kind of a moot point) this is pretty much a deal breaker for using these paints in a journal: the fact that the previous page's work will reactivate when you work on the next spread, and the fact that weeks later changes in humidity can reactivate the paint.

130512_MichaelKitchensDetail

Left: Detail from the Michael Kitchen sketch. The cheek area did not sustain too much damage from the reactivation process (that's deliberate dry brushing going on there breaking up the paint), though there are problems with the nose especially in the white highlights which were the last layer to go down. I'm unclear whether certain colors tend to pick up more than others or it's simply a matter of how much moisture comes through the paper. When I was using PVA to glue paintings into my fake journal it seemed to me that all colors lifted off equally, but then I was dealing with a lot more moisture applied to the back of the entire image uniformly in the gluing process. I just wouldn't trust any color in the line.

I can't recommend this paint for anyone working in a visual journal anywhere on the planet, unless you're in the middle of an arid desert where there is never a rainy season!

While you may enjoy aspects of working with this paint (I've discussed them in my review; and I admit there are some fun things about this paint) I really urge you to use it only on flat paintings that will be framed. I caution you from using it in either a bound journal or a loose-leaf journal (in which your paintings are stacked in a box for instance; pages or loose leaves will end up sticking together). 

If you've started in gouache with this brand, let me tell you that you don't know how much of a joy working with a great brand of gouache can be. I urge you to try either Schmincke or M. Graham gouache brands as soon as your budget allows. (And you can read why all over this blog but the Gouache Compendium will get you started.)

I forgot to mention that for this painting I worked with two filberts, one rather large (about 1 inch), and the other about a 3/8 inch wide. I'm able with the filbert to go on the side of the brush and create thinner lines of paint. Sometimes for end details I'll go in with a very fine (1, 0 or even 000) round brush, but on a quick sketch like this I never bother changing brushes just as I don't bother putting on my glasses. The small filbert I used had been severely damaged using this sticky, tacky paint in my fake journal so there are a lot of errant hairs causing a broken line. Also DaVinci gouache doesn't have a PB60 in its line so you'll notice that my darks are mixed differently from my usual palette creating blacks that I think tend to green (which I don't care for).

  1. Reply

    WOW… thanks for sharing this experience. Don’t know if it will work on your ruined brush or not, but it does work on brushes ruined with frisket… is Goon Gone (I got a little bottle at Lowes home improvement store).. check the hardware stores.

  2. Reply

    CaptElaine, do you mean Goo Gone? I used to use that to get gum off my running shoes (funny when I had to stop running years ago because of a non-running ankle injury I stopped getting gum on my shoes). I think I still have some of this—so you put it on and leave it there for a bit? So the bristles can “refind” their original shape?

    Let me know. I just love the sweet little brush that got ruined. Nothing else wants to hold it back into shape. Thanks.

    • Margo
    • May 24, 2013
    Reply

    Well what a drag! Great portrait, loved that series and didn’t sketch enough when I watched it. May have to watch it again, with my toned sketch book in front of me. I think I’m going to go toss my cheap gouache, not DaVinci but I don’t really like working with it.

    • Caroline
    • May 24, 2013
    Reply

    2 years down the track I am still using W & N gouache, because I still have it and my artist grade alternatives locally are acrylic gouache, and I am glad I persisted! I accidentally let some dry out on a palette, then re-activated it weeks later, and this seems to work much better with our Aussie climate. It takes some effort to get it re-activated when its in a dried out solid lump, but it stays where I put it on the paper without wandering off onto other pages!
    I’m using it as I would a pan watercolour, though this would frustrate a lot of people and I don’t get as much paint down onto the paper as I would using another brand, but it works fine with my watercolour sketches. I could not do a large painting this way.

  3. Reply

    Caroline I’m glad the W &N works for you. I cannot tolerate the smell or the paints shortcomings.

    I have always made pans of both my Schmincke and M. Graham brands of gouache. Both of these gouache brands reactive well in the pans, ready to paint lovely juicy colors. I just spritz the pan palette that contains my gouache with a little waterbottle before sketching and it’s good to go when I’m ready to paint.

    I’m sorry neither is available readily for you to try. I think you would enjoy them.

    And I have never had any problems with the paint on the page reactivating and ruining the previous page with either of these brands so I feel very happy indeed.

    You can see my large and small gouache travel palettes on the right side of the photo in this post—http://typepad.rozwoundup.com/roz_wound_up/2008/10/travel-palettes-for-watercolor-and-gouache.html

    I also carry a little Schmincke calligraphy gold gouache on all my palettes because you never know when you might want a little bit of bright sparkly. (It also reactivates really well from the “pan” state.)

  4. Reply

    Margo, the series shots are often very dark so I don’t sketch from thise series often, but I do enjoy watching it. It would be particularly fun if I was interested in 1940s clothing styles! Sketching from it on toned paper would be a great idea because of the darkness and drab colors, you could do something fun on the toned paper.

    I don’t know which type of gouache you have. You say it’s cheap so I’m assuming it’s something like Reeves, Lukas, some stuff in tubs from Russia (that I don’t recall the name of), or Pelikan palettes. Maybe you’ve found something else.

    But if it doesn’t have a high pigment load and it’s full of opacifiers and it isn’t fun to paint with, yep, you need to move on. Try 3 or 4 tubes of M. Graham or Schmincke Gouache and see how you like them. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The other great thing about them is that the rewet well if you make your own pans. So I have a gouache palette full of empty half-pans which I’ve filled with M. Graham and Schmincke gouache. I take this “dry” palette with me out sketching and it’s fantastic as I can have gouache with me all the time.

    Good luck on your gouache adventure.

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